Peter

Lesson 6

by Jackie Alston

Words spoken by the disciple Peter who denied knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; not once, not twice, but three times. Peter, the disciple born Simon, whose name was later changed by Jesus to Peter, a name meaning a "rock". You may wonder, could Jesus have made a mistake naming Simon a "rock"? It seems a more appropriate name would have been one that meant "a dry, crumbling piece of dirt!" But that's how little we know or ever hear about Peter. The only things I ever heard about Peter are:

We know Jesus makes no mistakes so there had to be more to Peter than we realize, especially for Jesus to say, "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church," making Peter such a very important part of the foundation of His church. In my story, we're going to find out a little more about Peter, the headstrong disciple who would often leap before thinking, but one whom Jesus called "Rock".

How often does a younger brother lead an older brother to something or someone? Usually it's the other way around. In this particular case, Andrew, Peter's younger brother led him to Jesus. Andrew said, "I've met the Messiah, and I want you to come and meet the man." And upon meeting Peter, Jesus said, "Thou art Simon, the son of Jonah, but thou shall be Cephas (Peter)," a "rock". "Thou shall be Peter, a "rock", meaning you're not a rock right now, you're just a lump of clay that I'm going to mold into a rock." And as we've often heard, Peter was the only disciple who dared to question or call himself rebuking Jesus. So Jesus had His hands full in molding Peter into the "rock disciple" and martyr that he would later become.

According to the Gospels, only Jesus' name is mentioned more often than Peter's and Peter's name always heads the list of disciples. That lets us know that Peter was an important figure in those times. He was also a great fisherman. He made his living fishing and often he'd go out and catch schools of fish. But the Master Fisherman, Jesus Christ, knew that Peter was fishing for the wrong things. I can imagine Jesus thinking, "Instead of you fishing for fish schools, I need you fishing for men's souls.

Peter didn't immediately follow Jesus. It took two, maybe even three attempts before he completely followed Jesus. After all, it was a lot to ask, to drop everything you have to follow someone you hardly knew. With no food, clothes, shelter, or money, that was a big request. And although Peter was very impulsive, among a lot of other things, he had reservations about doing this one. I imagine Peter thinking, "I was impressed with Jesus when I first met Him and I'll follow Him occasionally, but I can't give up my fishing business." So Jesus had to prove to Peter that he was indeed in the wrong business, and what better way to do that than to meet Peter on his own turf. Jesus demonstrated to Peter over and over again that He had power over that part of nature which Peter knew best, the sea.

One morning after fishing all night, Peter had nothing to show for all his hard work. Jesus told Peter, "Launch out into the deep; and set your nets down for a draught." I imagine Peter thinking, "Come on Jesus, you're no fisherman. I'm the fisherman and I know better than to fish once the sun is shining on the sea. If I do what you say, it's going to make me the laughing stock of all those people on the seashore. But, nevertheless, I respect you so I'll do what you say"....... And you know the story, Peter caught so many fish it filled two boat loads to sinking. But that still wasn't quite enough to totally convince Peter. Peter had a problem with the personal pronoun "I". He was too self-confident and self-centered. He had to quickly learn "not I, but Christ". A short while later he did learn the "not I" part when he found himself struggling with his boat in a raging storm while Jesus lay asleep in the back of the boat.

But Peter still didn't know the "but Christ" part because he went to Jesus rebuking Him, demanding, "How can you sleep at a time like this, don't you even care that we are about to die?" I can imagine Jesus thinking, "Wait a minute. You're calling yourself rebuking me? You can't rebuke me. I rebuke you, and not only you, but I rebuke this wind and sea you're so afraid of. "Peace, Be Still. You still don't know who I am! But let me tell you. I am the man who will allow you to walk on the water if you just keep the faith. I am the man who will tell you the exact spot to catch a fish with the exact amount of money in its mouth you'll need to pay taxes. I am the Master of the earth, the sky, and the seas. I, Peter, am the man who's telling you, you're about to change occupations. "Follow me and I will make you a fisher of men."
Needless to say, Peter forsook all and followed Jesus.

Peter, along with the other disciples, became Jesus' pupils and they had a lot to learn before the high standards of Christ were met. They had to learn and learn well because they were the ones chosen by Jesus to be witnesses to His Life, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension. They were going to tell His story.

Peter proved to be a very difficult student. He was very bold, cocky, eager, outspoken, and impatient, so he had a lot more to learn. He had to learn love, humility, grace, sacrifice, courage, and most of all, restraint. But through daily contact with Jesus, Peter's character was strengthened and he later possessed all those attributes plus he became the leader and spokesman for the twelve apostles.

After about two years or so with the disciples, Jesus wanted to see if they had grasped the truth of the gospel and His kingdom. He asked them a question, "Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? Making a quick mental comparison to some of the saintly heroes they answered, "Some say John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets." Jesus really didn't care who the others were saying, He was opening the door for His next critical question. "But whom say ye that I am?" Jesus knew the disciples had to know who He was themselves before preaching to others about Him. Peter answered, "Thou are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!" I can imagine Jesus thinking, "Hallelujah! Oh what a revelation! You finally know who I am!" "Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood has not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in Heaven! Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall never prevail against it."

I know Jesus Christ knows everything but I have to wonder if even He knew how grossly misinterpreted that phrase would be. Many people believe that St. Peters in Rome is located on the spot where Peter died, and was buried. So they believe the church is built on Peter like Jesus said. Jesus never meant His true church to have a visible center concentrated in one place and in one person. The rock on which Jesus would build His church is not Peter but the "Rock" which Peter had just confessed--that Jesus is Christ, the Son of the Living God. Not on Peter, but on Peter's faith in Jesus' Deity and Messiahship. Throughout the Old Testament, the word "rock" was never used symbolically of a man, but always of God. Peter was a rock-like disciple who had found the "Solid Rock" and that rock is Jesus.

Now that the disciples knew Jesus as the "Messiah", He began to explain to them what being the Messiah really meant. He explained He would suffer, die, and rise again on the third day. Of course, they didn't understand. And Peter, out of love for Jesus said, "Don't say that, Lord. That will never happen!" Peter, who only a short while earlier had been called blessed got the most severest rebuke ever given to him. Jesus turned to Peter and said, "Get thee behind me Satan!" In Jesus' sight, Peter had become a spokesman for the devil, suggesting like Satan that Jesus take the easy way out. Jesus could not get the crown without going to the cross first. It was His Father's will.

Six months later during a conversation at the Last Supper, Jesus prayed for Peter's faith because He knew that soon Satan would tempt Peter again. He also told the disciples that during that night, they all would be offended because of Him. But Peter vowed he would never be offended in Him. Jesus told Peter, "Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice." Peter answered, "Though I should die with thee, I will not deny thee."--Peter was not a hypocrite; he meant what he said. He just overrated himself. He was unaware of his own weakness.

When confronted in the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter was quick to defend the Lord against a mob of soldiers but later denied knowing Jesus three times before he was even aware of it. But the crowing of the rooster made him conscious of his quilt. Luke tells us that the Lord turned and looked upon Peter. If looks could talk, the words wouldn't have been, "I told you so" but, "I still love you, I forgive you." But still that look broke Peter's heart and he went out and wept bitterly...Those bitter tears were the beginning of a repentance that never ended.

I'm sure during the days after Jesus' crucifixion, Peter was haunted by the denials and the sound of that cock's crowing echoed in his ears. But with the news of Jesus resurrection, there came a special message. "Go tell His disciples and Peter...." Although Peter had repented, Jesus knew he would need assurance that he was not disqualified as an apostle. After Peter's visit to Jesus' empty tomb, he left restored and recommissioned as a mighty "rock-man" for his Master. After receiving the Holy Spirit, which Jesus had promised, Peter became the Rock Apostle who preached the most vital sermon ever preached in the history of the church. In that sermon, Peter boldly charged his listeners with the sin of all sins: rejecting and murdering Jesus Christ. That sermon was so overwhelming that about three thousand people repented and were baptized that day and became a part of the church which Peter was establishing in the name of Jesus.

Peter also performed the first apostolic miracle after Jesus' Ascension, in which a man born lame, and still lame after forty years was healed. Every day the lame man was placed at the gate of the temple to beg for money. But one day he asked Peter and John for money and Peter answered, "I have no silver and gold, but in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk. Instead of coins, the man received a cure.

Peter continued to preach the Word of God and he performed many miracles in Jesus' name, including the miraculous death judgment of Ananias and Sapphira, who had lied to the Spirit. He cured Aeneas, who had been bedridden for eight years and he raised Dorcas from the dead.

Peter remained steadfast in his witness to the risen Lord for over twenty-five years until cruel martyrdom closed his lips. There are many legends concerning the death and martyrdom of Peter. One concerns his wife who was said to have been martyred first. As she was led forth, Peter comforted her with the words, "Remember the Lord!" And why wouldn't she? Hadn't Jesus miraculously healed her mother many years earlier? When Peter was brought to the cross, he made the request, "Not with my head up; my Master died that way. Crucify me head downward. I die for my Lord but I am not worthy to die like my Lord! " In this way, Peter made amends for the memory of his fall and denials.

Peter denied our Lord and Savior three times but later became the greatest soul-winner in the early church, thus fulfilling Christ's promise to make him a "fisher of men". I mentioned at the beginning of this story that I only knew a few things about Peter. But the main thing we all need to know about Peter is that by his life, work, and two epistles, he is still casting his nets into the sea of the world and bringing in an unending haul of disciples to Jesus. And as long as we have Peter's faith, we too can be "rocks" in the Church of Christ.






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