Wineskins Archive

February 4, 2014

Book Review: “The Fragile Stone” (Aug-Sep 2004)

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by Laura Oldenberg
August – September, 2004

The word “no” is expected from a two-year-old but not from a devoted disciple to the Messiah.

In Michael Card’s newest book, The Fragile Stone: The Emotional Life of Simon Peter, he offers several instances where Simon Peter said “no” to Jesus.

This intrigued me. As Peter is changed by Jesus, this story shows him to be more fleshed out, less one-dimensional. With each familiar event, Card asks penetrating questions of the reader that involve honesty as we look at Simon Peter. What, for instance, is my response as a believer and God follower? Where do I say “no” to Jesus? And in the process we may even recognize ourselves in Simon Peter.

Card unfolds this internal journey of Simon the fisherman—passionate and impetuous, given to bold statements of loyalty. He is a disciple who is broken, fearful and despairing yet emerges as an Apostle and preacher who is bold, fearless, fiery.

Simon’s foundation of belief as a Jew is shaken by this one who, “breaks himself as bread.” Simon Peter says “no” or “never” to Jesus in order to prevent Him from doing what Simon believes is wrong for the Messiah, and Jesus confronts him to look deeper. Jesus repeatedly asks Simon questions, rebukes him, and stays with Peter in some of his best and worst moments.

Simon seems to confuse the accepted traditions of who and what the Messiah is supposed to be with the actual words and actions of Christ. Simon Peter glimpses glory yet misunderstands and despairs during the shared events of walking on water, the transfiguration, the agony of the cross, and the call of Jesus to “feed my lambs.” In Card’s profile of Peter, we see the struggle of Simon Peter to make sense between what he has been taught about the Messiah and what he is experiencing through real relationship with Jesus.

In each chapter, Card asks the reader to do the same thing. Poignant and provoking comments by the author demand that the reader look anew at Simon Peter and therefore at the reader’s own preconceived ideas of the Messiah and our response to Him.

Card explores the religious history and myth about Peter’s primacy in the church. As he delves into known and ancient sources, Card offers refreshing insights into the Old Testament. He says Cephas is an Aramaic title, a description rather than a name, and this story demonstrates Simon’s growth into that title as he becomes Peter. It will take a transformation to give Simon not just a new name but a new identity. Again Card asks if our identity has been transformed by Jesus, as Simon Peter’s was. If Simon and Jesus are friends, then how does their friendship define Simon?

Card reminds us it is the prayer of Jesus for Simon as he is about to be sifted like wheat, that makes Simon strong. Finally it is the look of Jesus that convinces Peter. That look is given by Jesus to Peter at the moment of denial and on the shore after resurrection. It is a look from soul to soul. And this look is a hammer which shatters completely Simon’s fear and despair and bewilderment.

Peter emerges as the fragile stone held together only by the love of Jesus. His fragile stone comes from the cornerstone which is Jesus.

This fragile stone becomes the rock that leads the new church into the way of the kingdom of God.New Wineskins

Laura Oldenberg is an RN and is currently working in home care. She is constantly seeking ways to use God’s gift of compassion and care for others in a world of vanishing resources. Laura was born in Tennessee, raised in Michigan and currently lives in Abilene, Texas. She has been married thirty-five years to a very supportive and patient man, and they have three daughters and six grandchildren. Laura worships and serves at Highland Church of Christ in Abilene. For the past four summers, Laura has served in medical missions in Zambia. Email Laura Oldenburg at [].

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