(Image courtesy of http://www.wikimedia.org.)

Butterflies do not start out as butterflies.  This we all know.  They start out as a small caterpillar, devouring leaves, trying not to get stepped on or eaten.  After a while, change is called for, and the caterpillar transforms into a chrysalis (or cocoon).  Inside the chrysalis, the caterpillar goes through yet another
transformation, finally emerging as the wonderfully majestic butterfly.

In John 18 and the following chapters, we see the stunning transformation of Simon Peter.  He goes through three stages of change, and there is something I believe we can learn and grow from as well even today.

Stage 1: The Caterpillar

In John 18, we find Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane with His disciples.  Judas Iscariot, the betrayer, comes to the Garden with a detachment of soldiers to arrest Jesus.  Peter, however, will have none of it.
"Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples.  So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees.  They were carrying torches, lanterns, and weapons.
"Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, 'Who is it you want?'
"'Jesus of Nazareth,' they replied.
"'I am he,' Jesus said.  (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.)  When Jesus said, 'I am he,' they drew back and fell to the ground.
"Again he asked them, 'Who is it you want?'
"And they said, 'Jesus of Nazareth.'
"'I told you I am he,' Jesus answered.  'If you are looking for me, then let these men go,'  This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: 'I have not lost one of those you gave me.'
"Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's servant, cutting off his right ear.  (The servant's name was Malchus.)
"Jesus commanded Peter, 'Put your sword away!  Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?'" (John 18:2-11).
 What we see here is Peter's starting point.  When Peter is next to Jesus, he is strong and bold.  Peter is willing to die for Jesus.  He even pulls out his sword to protect Him.

And I imagine Peter wasn't aiming for the servant's ear.  I don't think Peter thought to himself, "I know how I can best protect Jesus from this angry mob with swords and spears: I'll cut off a guy's ear!"  I believe Peter was trying to cut off the servant's head.  But as any man with sense would do when a sword is swung at your head, you try to dodge it.  That is exactly what the servant tried to do.  He almost succeeded; he only lost his right ear.

The point is, Peter was zealous, resolute, bold, and unashamed when he was with Jesus.

But the story isn't over yet.

Stage 2: The Chrysalis

We pick up this next part of the story of Peter after Jesus has been arrested.  Jesus is now standing in the court, being tried for blasphemy.  Peter, along with one other disciple (John), is waiting in the courtyard outside the temple court warming himself by a fire.
"Simon Peter and another disciple were following Jesus.  Because this disciple was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus into the high priest's courtyard, but Peter had to wait outside at the door.  The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the girl on duty there and brought Peter in.
"'You are not one of his disciples, are you?' the girl at the door asked Peter.
"He replied, 'I am not.'
"It was cold, and the servants and officials stood around a fire they had made to keep warm.  Peter also was standing with them, warming himself.
"As Simon Peter stood warming himself, he was asked, 'You are not one of his disciples, are you?'
"He denied it, saying, 'I am not.'
"One of the high priest's servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, 'Didn't I see you with him in the olive grove?'  Again Peter denied it, and at that moment a rooster began to crow" (John 18:15-18, 25-27).
We come now to the second point in this transformation of Peter.  Peter, now that he is physically away from Jesus, grows unashamed and even denies his Leader three times.  Where has the boldness gone?  The boldness left Peter when he was no longer in close relationship with Jesus.

Peter has now denied Jesus three times, where only hours before he was trying to kill people in order to protect Him.  Peter, when he is away from Jesus, grows ever increasingly ashamed and weak.

Yet there is still one final (and glorious!) transformation to take place.

Stage 3: The Butterfly

Jesus has now been found "guilty" of the sin of blasphemy and has been sentenced to death on a cross.  But what His accusers didn't know was that God had a greater plan in mind and that this death was planned from the beginning of time.

Jesus, by now, has been crucified and has risen again, appearing to His disciples several times.  Before His ascension into Heaven, however, Jesus meets with Peter and a few other disciples one more time.

As Peter, Thomas, Nathaniel, James and John, and two other disciples are fishing off the shores of the sea, they look up and see someone standing on the shore.  Before long, Peter recognizes this figure as Jesus and swims back to the shore, leaving the other disciples to haul in the fish and bring the boat to shore.  Once on shore, Jesus and the disciples share a meal together.
"When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, 'Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?'
'Yes, Lord,' he said, 'you know that I love you.'
"'Feed my lambs.'
"Again Jesus said, 'Simon son of John, do you love me?'
"He answered, 'Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.'
"Jesus said, 'Take care of my sheep.'
"The third time he said to him, 'Simon son of John, do you love me?'
"Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, 'Do you love me?'  He said, 'Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.'
"Jesus said, 'Feed my sheep.  I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.'  Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God.  Then he said to him, 'Follow me!'" (John 21:15-19).
We have now come to the final transformation: Jesus recaptures Peter and brings him back stronger than ever as a devoted, bold, courageous follower of Him.  This is the beauty of the redemptive work of Jesus Christ: He can take an ashamed follower and make him bolder than before.  Peter goes on to proclaim the name of Jesus to the far reaches of the Middle East, leading many to the Savior with boldness and shamelessness.

What's the point?
The point of this entire transformation of Peter is quite obvious.

Think of a time when you were closest to Jesus.  Maybe it was at a summer camp you went to.  Maybe it was at a youth group revival.  Maybe it was in your car, singing praises to God.  Or maybe it was during church last Sunday.  When you feel close to Jesus, you will do anything for Him.  You feel unashamed, bold, courageous, and unafraid.  You feel as Peter felt in the Garden when he was close to Jesus.

But, just like Peter, when we fall away from Jesus, we begin to deny him.  We begin to lose the warmth and closeness of an unashamed relationship with him when we begin to entertain the world.  Peter left the warmth and closeness of Jesus in the Garden for a cheap, worldly counterfeit of a fire in the courtyard.  When we begin to substitute closeness with Jesus with things of this world (i.e., money, clothes, boyfriend/girlfriend, television, video games) we lose our boldness for Him.  The things of this world will provide only very brief periods of warmth.

Let's be honest: we've all been there.  It is very difficult to remain in complete oneness with Jesus all of the time.  Would we like to?  Of course.  But not even Peter could do it.  Which is why the last stage is the most hopeful.

Just like Peter was recaptured and reinstated by Jesus on the shores of the sea, so can we be brought back to Jesus if we only surrender to Him again.  Peter surrendered to Jesus on the shore of the sea around a meal of fish.  We also need to surrender to Jesus wherever we are in our lives.  Thankfully, Jesus is ready any time we are.  And once we do surrender (hopefully daily, even hourly!), the Spirit of Power through Jesus Christ rises inside of us, giving us double the boldness we had before.

Take heart today, O Christian!  There is hope in the saving blood of Jesus!  Surrender to Him even now!

Be bold!  Be strong!  For the Lord your God is with you! (Joshua 1:9).