My life alongside God's word, volume 3. 'Bible characters' section.
Peter was not looking to meet the Lord Jesus Christ, but the Lord was looking to meet Peter. This Galilean fisherman was happy enough simply fishing for his living, Matthew 4:18 – something he had been brought up doing. He did not know that God had a different, greater purpose for him. Just as truth is still truth even when we don’t think it is, Peter needed to learn that God’s plans are always the best!
I’ll lead and you follow
“Come, follow Me, Jesus said (to Peter and Andrew), and I will make you fishers of men”, Matthew 4:19. Verses 19, 20, 22 and 25 all use the word “follow”. A follower is somebody who pays attention to what someone else is doing or saying. Accepting the master’s leadership, they may all then become companions, taking the same direction through life. On that one day in Capernaum, Peter’s life began to be changed. The Carpenter from Nazareth would shape the new fisher-of-men, remaking Peter into one of God’s men. To get the most out of life, we have to let God have His way continually. “At once they left their nets and followed Him”, Matthew 4:20.
Transformed and then sent
Notice how Peter introduces himself in his letters: “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ”,
1 Peter 1:1, and “Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ”, 2 Peter 1:1. It was Jesus who had “designated apostles”, Luke 6:13-14 – the word meaning a person sent forth or commissioned for a clearly defined job. Our Lord Jesus used His three-plus years of ministry to transform Peter from a man of the world into a man of the Word (the Bible). Peter was born anew, 1 Peter 1:3, and he encouraged others to be born again, 1 Peter 1:23. He treasured his Bible as the “word of the Lord”, 1 Peter 1:24-2:2, and the teaching our Lord Jesus invested into Peter’s life produced Christian fruitfulness in the fisherman. Then through Peter’s teaching, the Lord was reproducing this in many others.
What God wants us to know and do is found in His Word. Read it, learn it and do it always!
Sent to serve
The word “servant” in 2 Peter 1:1 is actually the word “slave” – the lowest of servants. Peter was not boastful about being an apostle. Rather, he saw himself as an average shepherd, 1 Peter 5:1-4), accountable to the Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ. By influencing as many people as he could for the Lord Jesus Christ, Peter was storing treasure up in heaven.
We need to have our hearts and eyes fixed on the eternal rather than the things of this earthly life. Christian priorities in life show how sincere we really are. The British preacher C.H. Spurgeon thought that many believers were like shop windows – attractive and bright outside but empty on the inside. Spurgeon felt that such individuals were pretending to be what in reality they were not.
The most moving experience of all
Peter wrote: “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honour and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory saying, ‘This is My Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased’. We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain”, 2 Peter 1:16-18. The word “majesty” (Greek: megaleiotetos) means the highest divine honour. Peter’s eyes therefore feasted on the highest divine honour of the Lord Jesus!
Sharing his heart, Peter recalled our Lord’s transfiguration (Gk. metamorphoo – from which we get our English word “metamorphosis”, meaning “a major change that makes someone or something very different”. Along with James and John, Peter saw the glory of God radiate through our Lord Jesus. It was a highpoint in their learning from God about Himself. The man they were following, Jesus, was none else but God! The Lord Jesus did not change here, but He did give a special revelation about Himself, causing these three witnesses to be determined to follow Him.
Seeing is believing
Three transfiguration accounts are in the New Testament: Matthew 17:1-8, Mark 9:2-8 and Luke 9:28-36, while John adds his witness of the Lord’s glory in John 1:14 and 1 John 1:1-3. Seeing the glorious Lord Jesus Christ transformed Peter. Having heard the Father say, “This is My Son, whom I love. Listen to Him!”, Mark 9:7, Peter could not flee from the throb of God’s heartbeat, so to speak. It was like a rhythmic African drum:
“I am pleased, well-pleased, oh so pleased with My Son.
I am pleased with My Son, only Son, beloved Son.
I am pleased, well-pleased with My one and only Son.”
Peter walked accordingly the rest of his life. It took him through his many highs and lows, for he knew God loved him and was his Saviour – and he knew his Saviour pleased God and was God.
Life lessons that challenged Peter
Peter learned by watching and listening to the Lord Jesus. Today we can learn from reading these six narratives found in the Gospels and Acts:
1. Seeing Jesus walking on water Peter climbed over the boat’s side and began to walk towards Him. Taking his eyes away from the Lord, Peter began to sink. But the Lord’s strong hand rescued him, Matthew 14:22-33. We must keep our attention firmly focused on our Lord Jesus.
2. Challenged by Jesus to say who they thought He was, Peter declared, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”, Matthew 16:13-20. God disclosed to Peter deep spiritual truths about salvation and the Saviour. Let us keep our testimony about the Lord Jesus pure, remaining useful in God’s service.
3. Immediately after this high point came a really depressing experience – Peter rebuked his Lord who was teaching about going to the cross, Matthew 16:21-28. The fisherman needed to learn there was “strength of weakness” which God would use to defeat sin and Satan. Fighting with force is the world’s way, not the Word’s way.
4. As the crucifixion drew near, Peter refused to believe the Lord Jesus when He said, “You will all fall away on account of Me”, Matthew 26:31-35. He had too much confidence in his own ability, causing him to disrespect even the word of the Lord Jesus. Matthew 26:69-75 records how Peter distanced himself from his close Friend and Teacher by denying Him. All Christians must be careful here.
5. After the resurrection the Lord Jesus talked to Peter about this incident. The lesson was about repentance and love; and the Lord desired to restore His servant. Peter, who had bitterly cried immediately after denying the Christ, Matthew 26:75, was challenged over his love for the Lord Jesus. The link between those three denials and these three questions, John 21:15-19, is deliberate. For believers, failure does not lead to automatic disqualification for with our Lord there is always a way back. Peter could still look forward to glorifying God, John 21:19. In spite of so many disastrous failures in my past, I thank God that I can look ahead, seeing myself joining millions of others in giving worthy praise to the impressively majestic, Almighty, Creator God in His heaven, Revelation
6. Peter, the first preacher recorded in the Church, Acts 2:14-41, spoke powerfully in the Holy Spirit about what God had done and was still doing. Verses 22-24 are key: “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through Him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing Him to the cross. But God raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him”.
Peter spoke from his personal experience with the Lord Jesus – what he had seen and heard. I’m sure he had given these events much thought and probably had long discussions about them with the other disciples. Now he wanted others to “Repent and be baptised”, Acts 2:38. As his own life had been turned right around, so he wanted others to be converted as well.
Perhaps some in the crowd were looking to meet Jesus while others had seen and heard but not yet trusted Him. Peter saw his job to be winning as many as possible to the Christian faith – born into saving faith through our Lord Jesus Christ. This is our God-given task too, Matthew 28:16-20; Acts 1:7-8.
Life changing for you?
In these six examples we can see something of the deep and lasting impact of the Lord Jesus on Peter’s life. It was life changing for him and for some of those he met! We must regularly check our own lives to make sure we keep on “keeping on” – following our Lord Jesus closely, going in the right direction stepping in step with Him. His purpose must always be ours, every moment of every day!
First published in Grace & Truth Magazine, May 2015.