Tag Archives: Peter

PETER, AN APOSTLE

PETER, AN APOSTLE

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with His blood: Grace and peace be yours in abundance (1 Peter 1: 1-2).

Who wrote this letter, Peter or Paul? It sounds a lot like Paul, doesn’t it? But it wasn’t Paul; it was Peter, the fisherman.

When we read these letters, we read them as inspired writings rather than as letters written by human beings who must have been in contact with one another and influenced one another in many ways. These men were apostles and leaders in the early church. They had a profound influence on the believers and would have spent time together whenever they could so that they would speak with one voice.

Peter had been with Jesus for more than three years. Paul had his three years in the desert of Arabia, communing and learning the message he was to take to the world from the Holy Spirit whom Jesus promised, would lead him into all truth. They learned from the same Master and taught the same message wherever they went.

To whom did Peter write this letter? To believers scattered throughout Asia Minor, modern-day Turkey. How can one write a letter to people scattered all over the place? Perhaps Peter made many copies and had one of his compatriots drop them off as they travelled from place to place. We can send e-mails anywhere simultaneously simply by adding an address to our list of addressees and pressing ‘send’. In a flash, through technology we use but do not understand, our recipients can read our letter within seconds.

Peter’s way of communicating was tedious and took many months to reach his readers but his message was permanent, preserved on material that has survived thousands of years. What happens to our messages on computer? They disappear as fast as they were sent simply by pressing ‘delete’. Unfortunately, we often dismiss God’s word from our minds as quickly as we delete our e-mails from our computers, instead of saving them on the ‘hard drive’ of our hearts.

Peter’s greeting was in itself a short but profound summary of his message to these scattered believers:

Who were they? They were God’s elect, unknown and unnamed people as far as the world was concerned but, as far as God was concerned, known and chosen to belong to Him before the world was even created. From the world’s perspective they were exiles, aliens, rejected by the world, refugees living in foreign lands, not belonging anywhere in this world but, nevertheless, citizens of the heavenly kingdom, their true homeland.

What a contrast! Rejected by the world but belonging to God. Their identity was not rooted in the world’s favour. What did it matter if the world did not want them? They were God’s chosen, chosen by Him and identified with Him. That made them secure for time and eternity. And it was a God-thing from beginning to end. Why? The triune God is involved in their election.

Firstly, God the Father was behind the choice of every individual who made up the elect. They did not happen to be in His kingdom by chance. They did not stumble into it by accident. They were there by the Father’s choice and for a purpose.

Secondly, the Holy Spirit was involved in their election. He made it all happen. He wooed and won the heart of every person who was called ‘elect’. He drew them to Jesus, opened the eyes of their understanding, brought them to faith and set them apart for God.

Thirdly, Jesus was also involved in their election. He was the object of their faith and the reason for their salvation. It was through His blood that they were forgiven, cleansed and made fit to be citizens of God’s kingdom and members of His family. It was for obedience to Him that they were chosen and called. This was ultimately the evidence and the outcome of their election.

If you are a citizen of God’s kingdom, you are also ‘elect’ of God, unknown and unwanted by the world, but belonging to God and set apart for him.

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

THE GOSPEL OF MARK – GUILTY BUT NOT GUILTY

GUILTY BUT NOT GUILTY

53 They took Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the law came together. 54 Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire.
55 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any. 56 Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree.
57 Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with human hands and in three days will build another, not made with hands.’” 59 Yet even then their testimony did not agree.
60 Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 61 But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.
Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”
62 “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
63 The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. 64 “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?”
They all condemned him as worthy of death. 65 Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, “Prophesy!” And the guards took him and beat him. Mark 14:53-65

Peter is such a lovable character; larger than life, always in the thick of things, always willing to stick his neck out, first to try anything new! He fled with the rest of the disciples but he was soon back among the servants, trying to appear anonymous but desperate to find out what they were doing with Jesus. Where were the others? Probably hiding somewhere, waiting for Peter to come back to tell them what was going on.

Meanwhile the court had assembled and the trial began. What a fiasco! According to the Jewish High Court, Jesus had already been found guilty. Now they had to dig up legitimate charges against Him to make their verdict stick so that they could pass sentence and dispatch their “thorn in the flesh”. But it wasn’t that easy. What charge could they lay against Him that would be punishable by death? Their hatred of His flawless life and His exposure of their hypocrisy by contrast, was no legal reason to have Him executed.

They tried the “pulling down the Temple and rebuilding it in three days” one but that was a pathetic charge. Jesus didn’t even bother to respond. Then the High Priest tried his biggest weapon – a charge of blasphemy. He was elated when Jesus responded in the affirmative. “Yes, I am.” What more did they need? He had condemned Himself.

But this is where their whole justice system went horribly wrong. They assumed that Jesus was claiming to be what His life did not confirm.  All their witnesses were hostile. Did they genuinely desire to find out the truth? No! Where were the disciples who could bear witness to what they had seen and heard? Where were the crowds who had listened to His teaching, eaten the miraculous meals He had provided and received a fresh start in life because they had been forgiven and healed? In this company Jesus had no chance.

But they still had a problem. How could a charge of blasphemy get past Pilate? He had no interest in their religious quarrels. It had to be something political.

Strangely enough, the charges they eventually laid against Him were actually true, confirmed by His own mouth. He said he was the Son of God – blasphemy, if it were not true. He said He was the King of Israel – treason, if it were not true but…the Sanhedrin made no attempt to test the evidence. Guilty from their perspective? Yes, but guilty from God’s perspective? No! And three days later He would prove it.

 

THE GOSPEL OF MARK – NOT ROME BUT RELIGION

NOT ROME BUT RELIGION

31 He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. 32 He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.

33 But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Mark 8:31-33

This incident shows us how influential Peter was in this group of disciples. He vocalised and the rest of the disciples tended to follow what he said. At this point in his life, where he was unstable in his thinking and still vulnerable to deception, he was a dangerous man in the group and needed to be tamed and brought to heel by Jesus before He could risk allowing him out into the world with his power to influence and persuade. He was a valuable ally but a dangerous enemy.

Jesus was never afraid to offend people as long as it exposed what was on the inside. Peter must have smarted under Jesus’ rebuke. We can imagine him withdrawing from the group, humiliated and angry. He knew Jesus was right but he resented the exposure in front of the other disciples.

It was necessary for Jesus to correct Peter’s wrong thinking and to douse his influence over the other disciples. He could see that they were wavering and He jumped in to put that fire out before it spread. He had introduced them to the necessity of His suffering and death and nothing must detract from the centrality of that because it was the heart of His victory, not over Rome but over sin and death. Rome still had a part to play in helping to form His church through suffering and, ultimately Rome was not the issue.

The greatest threat to Jesus’ mission was not Rome but religion. It was religion that would crucify Him and His victory over religion would be the final victory over the devil because the devil’s most deceptive disguise is religion. People will kill to protect their religious beliefs because religion influences every part of their lives. The Jewish leaders hated Him because He exposed the emptiness and hypocrisy of their religious system.

Religion is power because it holds people in slavery. Satan wields his power through religion and through religious leaders. It is his favourite disguise to keep people enslaved by fear.

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE- THE ROOSTER PULLED THE TRIGGER

THE ROOSTER PULLED THE TRIGGER

“Arresting Jesus, they marched Him off and took Him into the house of the Chief Priest. Peter followed, but at a safe distance. In the middle of the courtyard some people had started a fire and were sitting around it, trying to keep warm. One of the serving maids…noticed him…and said, ‘This man was with Him.’

“He denied it, ‘Woman, I don’t even know Him.’

“A short time later someone else noticed him and said, ‘You’re one of them.’

But Peter denied it, ‘Man, I am not.’

“About an hour later someone else spoke up, really adamant: ‘He’s got to have been with Him! He’s got “Galilean” written all over him.’

“Peter said, ‘Man I don’t know what you are talking about.’ At that very moment, the last word hardly off his lips, a rooster crowed. Just them, the Master turned and looked at Peter. Peter remembered what the Master had said to him…He went out and cried and cried and cried.” Luke 22:54-62.

Would Peter ever forget that night? Every time a rooster crowed, for the rest of his life he would remember.

I guess that many thousands of sermons have been preached on this passage of Scripture over the centuries, mostly focusing on Peter’s denial and Jesus’ forgiveness. After all, it’s a message of grace that everyone needs to hear.

But God’s grace comes to us in many different ways. Sometimes we identify God’s grace as His direct intervention in our lives; miraculous healing, forgiveness, times when we cope when we have no strength of our own.

At that moment in Peter’s life, I am sure he would like to have killed that rooster because it triggered a memory that brought him to utter despair. What if Jesus had not warned him in advance that it would happen? Would the sound of the crowing rooster have had as much impact on him as it did? Probably not.

He would have felt bad about denying Jesus but, because of the warning, every time he heard the rooster, he would also have heard his own retort at Jesus’ warning, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with you to jail and to death.’ It was not Jesus’ words that haunted him as much as his own.

Peter did not know himself. He had no idea of his weak and cowardly heart until the crowing rooster pulled the trigger! He had a long journey ahead and a lot of growing to do before he could say those same words and mean them.

The rooster was only being a rooster but, for Peter, his voice was a forceful reminder of his fallible humanity and his need for God’s grace because he could not do it on his own. It was his failure that caused him to be aware of his constant need of God and caused him to rest in the power of Jesus to give him strength to stand under testing.

Peter could not have penned the words in his letter to believers under pressure had he not experienced what he did on that terrible night. Only tested faith can come out pure, like gold that has gone through fire. Had Peter not fallen that night, he could have claimed victory through his own will-power, but his crash was the best thing that ever happened to him.

The sound of the crowing rooster was a trigger, not of failure and despair but of hope, a reminder of God’s grace that forgives, restores and gives another chance to those who discover, through experience, how weak they really are, and who learn to rest in the strength that God supplies.

THE BOOK OF ACTS – HEROD’S STICKY END

HEROD’S STICKY END

“At daybreak the jail was in an uproar. ‘Where is Peter? What’s happened to Peter?’ When Herod sent for him and they could not produce him nor explain why not, he ordered their execution. ‘Off with their heads!’ Fed up with Judea and the Jews, he went for a vacation to Caesarea.” Acts 12:18-19 (The Message).

Judgment on Roman soldiers who didn’t do their job was swift and sure. No commission of inquiry, no lengthy probing into the reasons why Peter had disappeared; the soldiers failed and they must pay for their neglect. Of course they had no answer for Peter’s disappearance. It was a supernaturally orchestrated escape, outside the power of the soldiers to understand or prevent.

In typical ‘Herod’ fashion, because his plan to entertain himself and his Jewish subjects by murdering Peter was thwarted, sixteen innocent Romans had to do instead of Peter. To cool his anger he took off for Caesarea for a breath of sea air!

“But things went from bad to worse for Herod. Now people from Tyre and Sidon put him on the warpath. But they got Blastus, King Herod’s right-hand man to put in a good word for them and got a delegation together to iron things out. Because they were dependent on Judea for food supplies, they couldn’t afford to let this go on too long. On the day set for their meeting Herod, robed in pomposity, took his place on the throne and regaled with them a lot of hot air. The people played their part to the hilt and shouted flatteries. ‘The voice of God! The voice of God!’

“This was the last straw. God had had enough of Herod’s arrogance and sent an angel to strike him down. Herod had given God no credit for anything. Down he went. Rotten to the core, a maggoty old man if ever there was one, he died.” Acts 12:20-23 (The Message).

God’s cup of wrath finally spilled over. Herod’s curriculum vitae was filled with acts of violence and arrogance that clearly indicate who he worshipped – himself! There was no-one quite like him in his eyes. He was so blinded by his self-importance that he didn’t even realise that the people of Caesarea were mocking him, not praising him. He absorbed their flattery like a sponge and displayed like a peacock.

How many times had God given Herod an opportunity to repent? He had had numerous encounters with God through Jesus and through His people but he was so filled with self-importance that he missed every one of them. Just one encounter with Jesus should have been enough to shake him off his pedestal. He was too blind to see his opportunities.

Others in Jesus’ earthly ministry had been transformed by their meeting with Him; Mary Magdalene, Zaccheus, Nicodemus, the dying thief, a multitude of unnamed people who had been healed, the Samaritan woman, the woman caught in adultery, and even the Apostle Paul en route to a mission of destruction in Damascus had met Jesus and never been the same again.

Herod’s meeting with Jesus when He was on trial for His life had left him untouched – just as arrogant, blind and wicked as before. Why? He was too enamoured with himself to need another God to worship. When he foolishly accepted the title of “God”, it put the signature of God Himself to his death sentence. In one swift action, God showed him who was God.

How many times does God give us opportunity to repent and how many times do we miss it because we are too full of ourselves to recognise God’s grace. Pharaoh had at least ten opportunities and he threw them all away. The list of Bible characters who signed their own death sentence is endless.

But others saw and seized the chance to lay hold of God’s mercy. One man immediately comes to mind — David. In spite of a list of heinous sins; lust, adultery, trickery, murder and lies, his immediate response to the prophet Nathan’s challenge was: ‘I have sinned!’ He could not escape the consequences of his choices but he was restored to fellowship with God who was more precious to him than life itself.

What opportunities to experience God’s forgiveness and grace are we missing because we are blinded by arrogance or no sense of need? We must be careful that, like Herod, we do not miss our last opportunity to repent and the hammer falls!

“Meanwhile the ministry of God’s word grew by leaps and bounds.

“Barnabas and Saul, once they had delivered the relief offering to the church in Jerusalem, went back to Antioch. This time they took John with them, the one they called Mark.” Acts 12:24-25 (The Message).

Barnabas and Saul — up to this point Saul was still the learner. Barnabas had been the teacher and initiator and Saul the follower. His apprenticeship would soon come an end and he would become the strong leader of the missionary enterprise that would take the gospel into the heart of the Roman Empire – the very household of Caesar.

Barnabas and Saul fulfilled their commission to take help to the church in Jerusalem. They quickly returned to Syrian Antioch which was fast becoming the new centre of the church, away from Jewish persecution and far more open-minded than the Jerusalem church which was still Jewish at heart.

Another character enters the story — John Mark, a relative of Barnabas. His name has already popped up in Luke’s record, as though he was known to his reader. Who was John Mark? Traditionally he was the unknown youth who fled naked into the dark during Jesus’ arrest. His mother’s home was a gathering place for the church in Jerusalem, where they prayed when Peter was in prison at the hands of Herod.

 

He was also traditionally the author of the second gospel, having at some stage either accompanied Peter or laid his hands on a copy of Peter’s memoirs which he used as a basis for his gospel story. He had a chequered career as a companion of Barnabas and Saul for a short time on their first missionary journey, and a quitter who was the cause of a serious rift between Paul and Barnabas. Paul and Mark were later reconciled and he became a valuable asset to Paul in his ministry.