Change Leadership: Jesus Restores and Empowers the Apostle Simon Peter

A Socio-Rhetorical Analysis of the Gospel According to John 21:1-25

Introduction

When a top level recruit commits a sheer act of disloyalty to his new organization, what should the leader of the organization do? Should the leader demote, release or even prosecute the defender for breach of contract and unethical misconduct? Or, should the head of the company forgive and overlook the offense, reconcile and restore the offender; and show tolerance and patience trusting his/her original instincts and decision to develop the recruit as planned? If the leader chooses the latter, how does he prove to the newly hired top talent that he (the leader) truly believes in the recruit’s abilities and that the recruit can still have a bright future with the organization?

This was the awkward situation between Jesus and one of his top disciples Simon Peter who (on the night of Jesus’ arrest and subsequent crucifixion) abandoned his confessed Lord to the point of denying three times that he ever knew him.

In the last chapter of the Gospel of John, the author provides an account of how Jesus handled this troublesome situation with his top disciple Simon Peter, and how Jesus acted as a positive change agent to restore and empower Peter to shepherd Jesus’ burgeoning flock[1].

This hub examines the events found in John 21 by (a) employing the first aspect of socio-rhetorical textual criticism (namely inner texture analysis) in order to mine pertinent information for analysis of Jesus’ actions as a change agent in Simon Peter’s life; (b) examining the life of Simon Peter in light of Horney’s social unconscious point of influence regarding the tension between real self and ideal self[2]; and (c) showing how Jesus’ effort as a change agent in Simon Peter’s life was an example of what current leadership scholars call transformational leadership. The examination begins with an overview of socio-rhetorical criticism.


[1] The NRSV Notetaker’s Bible: New Revised Standard Version with the Apocrypha (New York: Oxford University Press) 1476-1477.

[2] Morley Segal, Points of Influence: A Guide to Using Personality Theory at Work (San Francisco, California: Jossey-Bass Inc., 1997) 111-139.

I. Socio-Rhetorical Criticism: An Overview

Robbins (1996) wrote, “Socio-rhetorical criticism is an approach to literature that focuses on values, convictions, and beliefs, both in the texts we read and in the world in which we live. The approach invites detailed attention to the text itself, moves interactively into the world of the people who wrote the texts, and into our present world[1].” The aim of this type of criticism is to build an environment for interpretation that provides interpreters with a basic, overall view of life as observers know it and language as they use it[2]. In order to gain a comprehensive understanding of a given text, the socio-rhetorical method employs five different angles of analysis to explore multiple textures of the text including: (a) inner texture; (b) intertexture; (c) social and cultural texture; (d) ideological texture; and (e) sacred texture[3]. This paper explores the text of John 21 by concentrating on the first type of texture which is inner texture analysis.

Inner Texture Analysis

When applying socio-rhetorical criticism to a particular text, the first step is to make observations of the text itself i.e. to examine words and sequences of words and phrases in the given text in order to ascertain the message the author is attempting to communicate. In socio-rhetorical criticism this stage of analysis is called inner textual analysis and is broken down into six kinds of textures identified as (a) repetitive; (b) progressive; (c) narrational; (d) opening-middle-closing; (e) argumentative; and (f) sensory-aesthetic[4]. This section of the paper utilizes the first two aspects (i.e. repetitive and progressive) of inner textual analysis in order to take a deeper gaze into the exchange between Jesus and Simon Peter presented in the narrative discourse of John 21.

Repetitive Texture

The repetitive texture of inner textual analysis mines a given text for repeated words or phrases in order to discover the central characters and themes presented in the narrative discourse[5]. While this type of analysis cannot reveal precise movements within a narrative, it can provide insight into the overall picture of the text examined. Table 1 (provided in the Appendix at the end of this report) shows a breakdown of major characters and topics highlighted by the author in John 21. A look at the table reveals that amongst those mentioned Jesus and Simon Peter are the principal characters in the narrative with a band of other disciples standing in as extras and “the disciple whom Jesus loves” playing a supportive role. Prominent topics unfolded through the repetitive word analysis are (a) fishing and fish; (b) breakfast; (c) Jesus reviewing Simon Peter’s love and commitment to him and then bidding Peter to take care of Jesus’ flock; and (d) how Peter and “the disciple whom Jesus loved” would end their lives[6]. The overriding premise of this paper is to show how in John 21 Jesus worked as a change agent in Simon Peter’s life by restoring and empowering him to “shepherd his flock” (lead Jesus’ new religious group). This initial inner textual study of repetitive words and phrases has unfolded Jesus and Simon Peter as the two main characters in the John 21 narrative, and Jesus’ call to Simon Peter to tend and feed Jesus’ sheep as one of the main emphases of the passage.

Progressive Texture

The second texture examined through the inner textual analysis step of socio-rhetorical criticism is progressive texture which aims to identify how particular words and phrases in the text interrelate or progress from other words or phrases in the text. Robbins wrote:

Focusing on progressions with repetition adds more dimensions to the analysis. First, it may lead to observations about progressive texture in the entire work. Second, it may exhibit phenomena that function as stepping stones to other phenomena in the text. Third, it may exhibit a sequence of subunits throughout a span of text[7].

Two interesting word or phrase progressions observed in John 21 are (a) how the author alternates the names of Jesus and Simon Peter throughout the narrative discourse[8] and (b) the movement from Jesus providing physical food for the disciples in the first part of the narrative to Jesus calling and empowering Simon Peter to provide spiritual food for his flock in the middle section of the chapter. First, the inner textual analysis of progression reveals an alternation of the names of Jesus and Simon Peter. Jesus is mentioned first in verse one, then Peter in verse two; Jesus is highlighted again in verses 4-6; then Simon Peter in verse seven; Jesus was lifted up in verse 10; then Simon Peter in verse 11; once again Jesus spoke first to Simon Peter in verses 15, 16 and 17; followed by Simon Peter’s replies in the same verses. Second, the analysis of word and phrase progressions reveals a movement in the John 21 discourse from the present provision of physical food by Jesus to the disciples to the future provision of spiritual food by Simon Peter to Jesus’ sheep (or other followers). This movement of progression from provision of physical food to delivering of spiritual food is revealed in the phrases “cast your net on the other side” (verse six); “net full of fish;” (verse eight); “bring some fish” (verse 10); “come have breakfast” (verse 12); “when they finished breakfast” (verse 15); and “Feed my lambs…sheep” (verse 15 and 17)[9]. A third progression of phrases could be found in verses 15 through 17 when three times Jesus asked Simon Peter if he loved him to which Peter answered in the affirmative and Jesus ended each sequence by empowering Simon Peter with the words, “Feed or tend my lambs and sheep.” From this second analysis of inner textual observation, the evidence mounts further that this passage is about Jesus being a change agent in Simon Peter’s life by moving him from thinking primarily about physical food and provision to concentrating primarily on being a source of spiritual food for others.

The first two aspects of inner textual analysis have aided the discovery that Jesus and Simon Peter are the central focal point of John 21 and that Jesus attempted to empower Simon Peter to be a shepherd of the new Christian movement. An inner texture analysis of the full Gospel of John could shed more light on what may have led to this encounter between Jesus and Simon Peter.

Inner Texture Analysis of the Full Text of the Gospel of John

An extension of the inner texture analysis into the first 20 chapters of John revealed pertinent information concerning the personality of Simon Peter and his relationship with Jesus. In the full text of the Gospel of John, the author mentioned Simon Peter by name in conjunction with seven events recounted in chapters one through 20[10].

1. John 1: Simon Peter was introduced to Jesus and Jesus changed his name to Peter which means ‘rock.’

2. John 6: Jesus asked the disciples if they wanted to leave him like other followers; Simon Peter declared him to be the Holy One of God who possessed eternal words of life.

3. John 13: Simon Peter refused to allow Jesus to wash his feet; Jesus told Peter he could not be Jesus’ disciple unless he received the washing; Peter overreacted by asking Jesus to wash his whole body.

4. John 13: Jesus told the disciples that he would leave them soon and they could not go with him; Simon Peter said he would die for Jesus; Jesus prophesied that Peter would deny knowing Jesus three times before the end of the night.

5. John 18: Simon Peter attempted to protect Jesus from arrest by the Jewish officials and used a sword to cut off the ear of one of the official’s slaves.

6. John 18: When accused to be a follower of Jesus, Simon Peter denied knowing Jesus three times as Jesus had prophesied earlier in the evening.

7. John 20: Simon Peter and the other disciples were their hiding place; Mary Magdelene entered and told them Jesus was alive; Simon Peter and “the disciple whom Jesus loved” raced to see the empty tomb.

This analysis leads to one question drawn from the incident in John 1 when Simon Peter first met Jesus: why did Jesus choose to change Simon’s name to Cephas? Cephas is an Aramaic word that in Greek translates to Petros (Peter in English) and means ‘rock.’[11] Neither Jesus nor the author of John gave a reason for the name change, but “Jesus’ designation of Simon as Rock…corresponds to the biblical tradition in which a new name signals a new reality e.g. Jacob becomes Israel (Gen. 32:22-32), Abram becomes Abraham (Gen. 17:1-8), Sarai becomes Sarah (Gen. 17:15-16). Simon is not yet a rock; Jesus renames him for what he will become.[12]” That Simon Peter was not yet a rock could be seen most specifically in John 18 when (while Jesus was on trial before the Jewish Sanhedrin) Simon denied knowing Jesus three times[13]. The purpose of this inner textual analysis of the full gospel of John was to attempt to uncover whether Jesus had a reason to approach Simon Peter in a special way as Jesus noted in John 21. This analysis has revealed that Simon Peter’s denial of Jesus gave such a reason for Jesus to come to Simon Peter in such a way and moreover shows that Jesus had not only a reason to empower Simon Peter but also to restore him from his recent failure. In tying the two events together, Richards (1991) offered this explanation about Jesus’ encounter with Simon Peter in John 21: “Jesus gently confronted Peter and asked, ‘Do you love Me?’ three times – once for each of Peter’s denials. That same morning Jesus restores and re-commissions (or empowers) Peter, charging him to ‘feed My sheep[14].’” In that Jesus initiated an encounter with Simon Peter in order to restore and empower (re-commission) him to lead the new Christian movement demonstrates the major premise of this paper, which is: Jesus acted as a change agent in Simon Peter’s life. It also showed that Jesus assisted Peter to become a ‘rock’ as Jesus foresaw when they first met. Current leadership theory might identify Jesus’ actions as indicative of a transformational leader, however before moving to a further explanation of transformational leadership, one more question plagues the mind about Simon Peter which is: what possible rationalization could there be regarding Simon Peter’s inconsistent behavior? Perhaps, Horney’s social unconscious point of influence[15] concerning the battle between real self and ideal self can help provide some understanding of the issue.


[1] Vernon K. Robbins, Exploring the Texture of Texts: A Guide to Socio-Rhetorical Intrepretation (Valley Forge, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International, 1996) 1.

[2] Vernon K. Robbins, Exploring the Texture of Texts: A Guide to Socio-Rhetorical Intrepretation (Valley Forge, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International, 1996) 2.

[3] Vernon K. Robbins, Exploring the Texture of Texts: A Guide to Socio-Rhetorical Intrepretation (Valley Forge, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International, 1996) 3.

[4] Vernon K. Robbins, Exploring the Texture of Texts: A Guide to Socio-Rhetorical Intrepretation (Valley Forge, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International, 1996) 7.

[5] Vernon K. Robbins, Exploring the Texture of Texts: A Guide to Socio-Rhetorical Intrepretation (Valley Forge, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International, 1996) 8.

[6] The NRSV Notetaker’s Bible: New Revised Standard Version with the Apocrypha (New York: Oxford University Press) 1476-1477.

[7] Vernon K. Robbins, Exploring the Texture of Texts: A Guide to Socio-Rhetorical Intrepretation (Valley Forge, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International, 1996) 9-10.

[8] The NRSV Notetaker’s Bible: New Revised Standard Version with the Apocrypha (New York: Oxford University Press) 1476.

[9] The NRSV Notetaker’s Bible: New Revised Standard Version with the Apocrypha (New York: Oxford University Press) 1476.

[10] The NRSV Notetaker’s Bible: New Revised Standard Version with the Apocrypha (New York: Oxford University Press) 1450-1476.

[11] The NRSV Notetaker’s Bible: New Revised Standard Version with the Apocrypha (New York: Oxford University Press) 1451.

[12] M. E. Boring, and F. B. Craddock, The People’s New Testament Commentary (Westminster John Knox Press, 2004) 293.

[13] The NRSV Notetaker’s Bible: New Revised Standard Version with the Apocrypha (New York: Oxford University Press) 1472-1473.

[14] Lawrence O. Richards, The Bible Reader’s Companion, (Wheaton, Illinois: Victor Books, 1991) 698.

[15] Morley Segal, Points of Influence: A Guide to Using Personality Theory at Work (San Francisco, California: Jossey-Bass Inc., 1997) 111-139.

II. Horney’s Social Unconscious Point of Influence

The inner texture analysis performed on the full text of John’s Gospel revealed that Simon Peter demonstrated some inconsistent behavior while following Jesus. One might ask: what possible rationale could there be for this type of behavior by Simon Peter? The author of John does not answer this question either explicitly or implicitly, but perhaps Horney’s social unconscious theory can offer one possible explanation for Simon Peter’s actions.   Before turning to a discussion of Horney’s model, the following lays out a more thorough review of Simon Peter’s inconsistent behavior as found in the Gospel of John and the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.

As already discussed, the narrative discourse of John’s gospel reveals Simon Peter’s inconsistent behavior through (a) an incident reported in John 13 in which he both thoroughly rejects and then completely accepts Jesus’ overture to serve him by washing his feet; and (b) his proclamation that he would die for Jesus (also reported in John 13) contrasted by his complete denial of ever knowing Jesus just a few hours later (as reported in John 18). The Gospels of Matthew and Luke also reported the incident of Simon Peter’s denial Jesus in their respective accounts. In his account Matthew added that Simon cursed before the third denial; Luke’s account added that, after realizing he had done exactly what Jesus predicted, Simon Peter was distraught and wept bitterly. Beyond those accounts, the author of Matthew offered further evidence of erratic behavior by Peter. First, in Matthew 14, the author tells the story of Jesus walking on the water. When Peter realized it was Jesus, he became gung ho and asked Jesus to call him out on the water too. Jesus called him out of the boat and Peter began walking on the water when suddenly he took his eyes off Jesus and sank because he was frightened by the crashing waves. The second incident the author of Matthew mentioned was when Jesus asked the disciples who the crowd thought him to be and then asked the disciples the same question. Peter spoke up as a spokesman for God and boldly declared that Jesus was the Christ and the Son of God. Ironically, immediately afterward Jesus told Peter he was a spokesman for Satan when he attempted to discourage Jesus from speaking of his pending persecution and death. Therefore, by the testimony of the authors of John, Luke and Matthew, Simon Peter is depicted as a person who was impulsive and unstable, vacillating in his commitment to Jesus. What could be a possible explanation of should erratic behavior? Horney’s social unconscious point of influence theory which postulates an inner battle between real self and ideal self may provide such an explanation of Simon Peter’s personality.

 

Horney’s background

            Karen Horney was born in Hamburg, Germany, in 1885; became one of the first women in Germany to earn a medical degree; and also one of the first females to practice psychoanalysis[1] thoroughly trained in orthodox Freudian style. She continued to employ the Freudian style until findings from her own research led her to question Freud’s theory of penis envy among women. After immigrating to the United States in 1932, Horney joined with an innovative group of thinkers and writers which aided her in the discovery of (a) “the positive force for growth and development that she termed the real self,” and (b) a negative force that can thwart growth and development that she termed the ideal self.

The Real Self vs. the Ideal Self

            According to Horney, the real self is “that central inner force, common to all human beings and yet unique to each, which is the deep source of growth.[2] What determines whether the real self develops is what Horney called ‘conditions of safety’ which include and “an atmosphere of warmth that provides freedom to have one’s own feelings and thoughts, guidance, encouragement, and healthy friction with the wishes and wills of others.”[3] Furthermore, Horney believed that “to become a healthy and mature individual the child grows ‘with others in love and friction’ and in accordance with ‘his real self.’”[4][5] When a child lives in conditions that are less than ideal, Horney observed that they adopt one of three defensive stances which are comprehensive positions toward the rest of the world that shape attitudes, feelings, and behavior;[6] they are (a) moving against people; (b) moving toward people; and (c) moving away from people. Moreover, she determined that strict adherence to one of the three stances means a loss or denial of part of the real self which causes a person to make peace with the compromise by replacing the real self with the idealized image of the self.[7]

            The idealized self is an unrealistic and grandiose image of the self that the individual believes he or she should be and fills in the void left by denied aspects of the real self that leads to justification of the need to adopt the limiting stance of one of the three defensive movements listed in the above paragraph[8]. The idealized self is functions as if it were a separate individual with its own life, claims upon the world, proscriptions to itself, pride and identity, and even its own internal conflicts. According to Horney, the individual “becomes a hero, a genius, a supreme lover, a saint, a god.”[9] When the individual cannot live up to this grandiose self-image they project upon themselves, they become overwhelmed with grief which, according to Horney, leads to the despised self, “who because of impossible goals accomplishes little and is therefore an object of disdain,” causing a condition of self-hatred.[10] So, how does Horney’s discovery of the battle between the real self and the ideal self offer one possible explanation of Simon Peter’s inconsistent behavior?

            Although the Gospel accounts do not tell us about Simon Peter’s childhood experiences, there must have been some extenuating circumstances that led to Simon Peter’s inconsistent behavior which ultimately resulted in his denial of his confessed Lord Jesus Christ. As in Horney’s point of influence model, Carroll attempted to reach back to the apostle’s family history “to suggest some sort of generational disconnect between heart and spirit[11].” While there is not any corroborating evidence of that, the accounts show that Simon Peter could not live up to his own grandiose self-image which is indicative of Horney’s social unconscious point of influence. Indeed, Simon Peter often failed to live up to such grand gestures; most notably his proclamation that he would die for Jesus when in fact only a few short hours later he cursed and denied knowing Jesus. That Simon Peter broke down and wept is further evidence of Horney’s model in that Peter went from “ideal self” to “despised self”[12]. Although it may not be the exact explanation of Simon Peter’s inconsistent actions, Horney’s theory does offer one possible reason for Simon Peter’s erratic behavior. With the conclusion of the short digression, this analysis turns again to Jesus as positive change agent in Simon Peter’s life which is indicative of what modern leadership scholars call transformational leadership.


[1] Morley Segal, Points of Influence: A Guide to Using Personality Theory at Work (San Francisco, California: Jossey-Bass Inc., 1997) 113-114.

[2] Karen Horney, Neurosis and Human Growth: The Struggle Toward Self-Realization, (New York: W. W. Norton, 1950) 17.

[3] Morley Segal, Points of Influence: A Guide to Using Personality Theory at Work (San Francisco, California: Jossey-Bass Inc., 1997) 115.

[4] Morley Segal, Points of Influence: A Guide to Using Personality Theory at Work (San Francisco, California: Jossey-Bass Inc., 1997) 115.

[5] Karen Horney, Neurosis and Human Growth: The Struggle Toward Self-Realization, (New York: W. W. Norton, 1950) 18.

[6] Morley Segal, Points of Influence: A Guide to Using Personality Theory at Work (San Francisco, California: Jossey-Bass Inc., 1997) 116-118.

[7] Morley Segal, Points of Influence: A Guide to Using Personality Theory at Work (San Francisco, California: Jossey-Bass Inc., 1997) 118.

[8] Morley Segal, Points of Influence: A Guide to Using Personality Theory at Work (San Francisco, California: Jossey-Bass Inc., 1997) 118.

[9] Karen Horney, Neurosis and Human Growth: The Struggle Toward Self-Realization, (New York: W. W. Norton, 1950) 22.

[10] Morley Segal, Points of Influence: A Guide to Using Personality Theory at Work (San Francisco, California: Jossey-Bass Inc., 1997) 118.

[11] “Bookshelf: Jeff Carroll, ‘The Existential Jesus,’” Popdose.com, Jeff Giles, December 2008, 8 June 2009 <http://popdose.com/bookshelf-john-carroll-the-existential-jesus/>.

[12] Morley Segal, Points of Influence: A Guide to Using Personality Theory at Work (San Francisco, California: Jossey-Bass Inc., 1997) 118.

III. Transformational Leadership

Earlier in this examination, it had been determined through socio-rhetorical inner textual analysis of John 21 that Jesus had shown evidence of being a change agent in the life of Simon Peter by his action to both restore and empower (or re-commission) him to become a leader of the new Christian movement. That Jesus acted in this way is an example of transformational leadership[1]; here is a brief description of transformational leadership and how it corresponds to Jesus’ actions towards Simon Peter.

The emergence of transformational leadership as an important leadership theory began with James Macgregor Burns’ work titled Leadership (1978)30. In that book Burns’ distinguished between two types of leadership: transactional leadership and transformational leadership. Transformational leadership refers to the process whereby an individual engages with others and creates a connection that raises the level of motivation and morality in both the leader and the follower30. Yukl wrote: “With transformational leadership, the followers feel trust, admiration, loyalty, and respect toward the leader, and they are motivated to do more than they originally expected to do.”[2] As such, transformational leadership is concerned with the performance of followers and developing followers to their fullest potential[3]. Northouse identifies four factors that are associated with transformational leadership; they are:

1.      Idealized influence charisma

2.      Inspirational motivation

3.      Intellectual stimulation

4.      Individualized consideration[4]

In the John 21 narrative discourse, Jesus reached out to Simon Peter to restore and empower him as a leader within the new Christian movement, believing that Peter could overcome the mistakes of the past in order to do something more than Peter himself could imagine at the time. As described above, Jesus’ actions as a change agent in Simon Peter’s life are indicative of transformational leadership.


[1] Peter G. Northouse, Leadership: Theory and Practice, (Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications, 2004) 170.

[2] Gary Yukl, Leadership in Organizations, 6e, (Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2006) 262.

[3] Bernard M. Bass and Bruce J. Avolio, The implications of transactional and transformational leadership for individual, team, and organizational development, Research in Organizational Change and Development, 41 231-272.

[4] Peter G. Northouse, Leadership: Theory and Practice, (Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications, 2004) 174-177.

Conclusion

This analysis began with a question about what a leader should do if his top recruit displayed a clear act of disloyalty to the organization as Simon Peter did to Jesus and the new Christian movement. While the answer may vary on a case by case basis, Jesus did not reject Simon Peter, but rather, as shown in John 21, reached out to restore and empower him to be a shepherd of his other followers. In this way, Jesus demonstrated that he was a positive change agent in Simon Peter’s life which is indicative of transformational leadership theory.

More by this Author


Comments

No comments yet.

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working