In the gospel reading from Luke 5, we find the famous “fishers of men” narrative. In that passage, there’s a revealing emotional moment: Simon (later renamed Peter) drops to his knees after the second (and successful) fishing expedition and says to Christ, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” This is one of many examples that reminds me why I am so endeared to Peter.
Apart from Judas (obviously), Peter is possibly the most flawed of the apostles. Often, he is a total screw up, but he is also the apostle with the biggest heart, which is why, I think, Christ picked Peter to lead the apostles. Most of us likely would have chosen John, who, on the surface, seems far less flawed. However, Christ saw the heart of Peter much in the same way that God saw the heart of David and preferred him to his siblings.
It’s Peter’s rich and complex emotions that appeal to me, such as in the walking on water scene that I artistically tackled in the painting featured in this post. In the story, the apostles are out on the boat when they see Christ, walking on water, approaching. Peter gets out of the boat, begins walking on water also, and approaches Christ. However, Peter takes his eyes off Christ, looks down at the water, and begins to sink.
I depict Peter under the threat of horrific drowning, locked in terror and fear, yet peering through all that, seeking to be saved. He was afraid, and when he began to sink, he cried out. Haven’t we all found ourselves in a similar situation at some point? Can we not find ourselves in his gaze?… The model of Peter is ultimately an edifying one: if this frequently sinful and stupid man can seek and be granted redemption, then we all can.
As a child, I recall hearing a sermon on this in the white evangelical church I was raised in. The preacher was very critical of Peter, reminding us that Peter lost faith (bad Peter), but even then I noted that Peter was the only one of the twelve who had guts enough to even get out of the boat. As I relayed (albeit fictionally) in my novel, Brother Cobweb, I was forced to read the gospels. That wasn’t very smart of my Sunday school teachers because I actually did read them, found them to be rich and satisfying narratives, but I also found that the church folk were, by and large, raging hypocrites because they didn’t model any of these, nor did they follow Christ (as he instructed).
Many of us who were raised in the religious right evangelical church have anticipated the coming of Trump’s America since childhood because we were all too aware of their lust for a self-fulfilled apocalypse. I understood, even as a child, how they distorted the biblical message. What we saw then, we see today on an epic scale. If you want to understand the evangelical empowering of Trump and today’s horror, if you want to go to the roots and subvert their Evangelical Apocalypse, then sit in the pews of a white Pentecostal church 50 years ago. Start the journey with Brother Cobweb…
About Alfred Eaker:
Alfred Eaker is a prolific fine arts painter and muralist, an award-winning filmmaker and film critic, and a traditionally-published author. Following on the success of his debut novel, “Brother Cobweb,” Eaker is currently collaborating with Todd M. Coe on the related Graphic novel: “The Brother Cobweb Chronicles.” It will be available in the spring 2021. The audiobook version of Brother Cobweb is also being produced, and will soon be released too.
As an inquisitive American artist, he has always been deeply engaged in social, religious, and political climates. Eaker is currently working on a mural painting entitled “Elvis: An American Hymn.” Through it, Eaker is trying to bring affirming answers to issues of race, integration and hope so desperately needed at this moment in America.