God is calling us to love Jesus. In His Word, He tells us about people who learned to love Jesus. Little by little, they learned to live the Jesus life – less living for self and more living for Jesus.
We can learn so much from the life of Peter. At the heart of his life, there is the life-changing experience when, three times over, Jesus asked him, “Peter, do you love Me?” Three times, Peter said, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.”
The story of Peter is a story of growing love for Jesus. At first, Peter had a lot of love for himself, and not quite so much love for Jesus. Peter’s love for Jesus was so changeable. Sometimes, it was strong. Sometimes, it was weak. In one way or another, Peter learned to make it less of self and more of Jesus.
There are three parts in the story of Peter.
* (a) the Gospels – Little by little, Peter is learning to love Jesus.
* (b) the first half of Acts – Peter’s love for Jesus has grown strong, and he is being greatly used by the Lord.
* (c) Peter’s letters – These complete the story. Here, we see Peter, the mature Christian leader, loving Jesus and loving the people of God for Jesus’ sake.
Peter’s story begins in John 1:35-42. It begins with the Andrew – Peter’s brother.
* (i) “Andrew … heard what John had said” (John 1:40). What did John say? – “Look, the Lamb of God” (John 1:36). Faith begins when the Christ, who died for us, is preached to us.
* (ii) Andrew “followed Jesus” (John 1:40). The first thing he did was this: He gave his testimony to his brother, Peter. What a humble beginning to Peter’s story! Before the great honour of Christian leadership, there was this humble beginning – a man leading his brother to Jesus. From these small beginnings, great things would come. Peter became a great servant of the Lord. When we remember Peter, we must make sure that we do not forget about Andrew. From Andrew, we learn a very important lesson: “There’s a work for Jesus , ready at your hand. ‘Tis a task the Master just for you has planned. Haste to do his bidding, yield Him service true. There’s a work for Jesus none but you can do.”
* (iii) “You are Simon. You will be called Peter (rock or stone)” (John 1:42). A change of name pointed to a new future. Before Simon could really become Peter, two things had to happen. Peter needed to have a deeper view of his sin (Luke 5:8), and he needed to have a deeper view of his Saviour (Matthew 16:16)
Later on, Jesus said, “You are Peter” (Matthew 16:18). What, He was saying was this: Now, you are what I said you would become ((1 Peter 2:4-5).
What about your future? What about my future? None of us knows what the future holds, but we do know this – when Jesus is at the centre of our future, it will be a great and glorious future.
Peter was a fisherman. His life was centred on the water. We’ll look at two incidents. They teach us the importance of repentance and faith. We need both if we are to make good progress in our new life in Christ.
* “In repentance and rest is your salvation” (Isaiah 30:15).
Repentance is not just for the beginning of the Christian life. It’s for the whole of our Christian journey.
The redeemed of the Lord are to walk in the Way of Holiness (Isaiah 35:8-9). If we are to walk with the Lord in the way of holiness, we must walk with him in the way of repentance. Again and again, we must join, with Peter, in saying, “Lord, I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:8).
Knowing ourselves as utterly lost is the first step towards knowing God through Jesus.
Peter’s experience of knowing himself was a first step towards knowing Jesus. His experience can be compared with Isaiah’s experience in Isaiah 6. It was an experience of the glory of God and the love of God.
First, there’s the glory of God (Isaiah 6:3). Then, there’s Isaiah’s confession of sin (Isaiah 6:5). This is followed by the love of God and the forgiveness of sin (Isaiah 6:7).
We look at Peter, and we see this again – the glory of Jesus and the love of Jesus. Peter has seen something different in Jesus – something special, something beyond the ordinary. He sees the glory of Jesus. He calls Jesus, “Lord” – and he confesses his sin – “Depart from me, Lord, I am a sinful man.” When Peter looks at Jesus, he sees love. Peter asked Jesus to depart from him. Jesus refused to depart from Peter. This is love. It’s the greatest love of all – the love of Jesus, our Saviour.
Jesus will not depart from those who confess their sins and seek forgiveness from Him. He died for us, and He will not depart from us. How can He who died for our salvation depart from those who seek salvation from Him?
* Faith is not just for the beginning of the Christian life. The whole Christian life is a journey of faith. We need faith every step of the way.
We see Peter, walking on the water. Our Christian life is to be a walk with God. We are called to walk by faith. We are to walk in the Spirit.
If Peter was to walk on the water, he needed to look beyond the wind and the waves. He needed to look to Jesus. If we are to walk by faith, to walk in the Spirit, we must keep looking to Jesus. We must keep on praying that Jesus will become ever more precious and glorious in our eyes. The nearer we get to Him, the bigger He becomes.
Faith means looking to Jesus. Going on in faith means keeping our eyes fixed on him. Faith is not a constant, always at the same high level, always shining brightly. There are highs and lows in the life of faith. there are times when faith is strong. There are times when unbelief threatens to overwhelm us.
We began with Isaiah 30:15 – “In repentance and rest is your salvation.” Let’s return to this idea of faith as resting in the Lord.
What does it mean to rest in the Lord?
We have been “redeemed” by the Lord (Psalm 107:2). While we are on this earth, we are “wandering in desert wastelands.” We’re travelling towards the “city of God, but we’re not there yet (Psalm 107:4). We are resting in the Lord. This is not the same as resting on our laurels. We rejoice in the Lord. We thank Him for His love. We thank Him for leading us in His way – but we are not fully satisfied. We know that there is more. We hunger and thirst for more – more of God, more of His glory, more of His love. We are resting in the Lord – but we are still restless. We have not completed our journey. We have not arrived at our destination. Resting in the Lord must never be confused with complacency. We must not delude ourselves into thinking that we have made more progress than we really have. We haven’t arrived. We’re still travelling. We’ve a long way to go. The Lord has so much more to teach us. He’ll teach us to rest in Him – and He’ll keep on challenging us to walk more closely with Him.
Repentance and faith – This is the way in which the Christian life begins. Throughout our life, we are called to keep on walking with the Lord in the way of repentance and faith. How can we do this? We need the power of the Holy Spirit. Without Him, we will fail. Day-by-day, we must seek His help. Often, we will fail Him. He will never fail us. Many times, we will “grieve the Holy Spirit” – but He won’t give up on us. He will keep on coming to us. He will come to us as the Spirit of love. He will call us back from our sin. He will call us back from our wandering. He will call us back to repentance, back to faith, back to walking in the Spirit.
In the Christian life, sometimes, we are up, and, sometimes, we are down. In the love of Christ, there is no downside. He loves us all of the time. When our love for Him grows weak, His love for us remains strong. There is no love like the love of Jesus. It’s the best love. It’s perfect love.
We emphasize how much Jesus loves us. There is something else we must emphasize. Jesus hates our sin. He rebukes our unbelief – “You of little faith … Why do you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31). Jesus rebukes our unbelief – but He does not stop loving us. His rebuke is full of love. When He rebukes us what is He saying to us? What He is saying is this. There is no reason for you to doubt Me. There is every reason for you to trust Me. Why does he rebuke us? It’s because He wants us to keep on walking with Him in repentance, in faith, in salvation.
Peter begins so well. He is, for us, an example of faith in the heart, accompanied by confession with the mouth. This faith does not start with the wisdom of God. It begins with the power of God (1 Corinthians 2:5). Peter’s confession is followed by Jesus’ commendation – You are blessed. You are a new man with a new name. Now, you are what I saw in you the first time I met you.
As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that Peter is still a bundle of contradictions. In Peter, we see the basic conflict which lies at the heart of every believer’s life: the conflict between the Spirit and the flesh. Peter had confesses Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God. Soon afterwards, he was trying to put the Lord right. Here, we have the conflict between the new man and the old man, the conflict between the Spirit and the flesh: “the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is contrary to the flesh” (Galatians 5:17).
Behind this conflict, there is Satan. Here, Peter is Satan’s tool. There is more to this than drawing Peter away from faith in Christ. There is something else. Satan is trying to get at Jesus. He’s trying to turn Jesus aside from going to the Cross as the Saviour of the world. As we consider Peter’s fall into sin, we must rejoice that Jesus didn’t fall into sin. Peter was tempted. He fell into sin. Jesus was tempted by Peter – Satan’s tool. Jesus did not fall into sin. He overcame the tempter. He won the victory over temptation. He went on to the Cross. He became the Saviour of the world.
How are we to understand the activity of Satan in this story of Peter? What can we learn from this – to help us in our battle against Satan?
Peter’s fall into sin comes so soon after his confession of faith in the Lord. How sad it is to see this happening – a confession of faith followed by a fall into sin. This kind of thing often happens. When we are on a spiritual ‘high’, we are particularly vulnerable to Satan’s attacks. When we are in a time of spiritual blessing, Satan is particularly active, seeking to bring us down with a thud.
Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness came immediately after his baptism in the River Jordan. At His baptism, there was the voice from heaven. In His temptations, there was the voice from hell. What a difference there is between the voice of God and the voice of Satan.
Here,we listen to the voice of Peter, and we hear both the voice from heaven and the voice from hell. In Peter, we see both the new man and the old man. The new man speaks from God and for God. The old man speaks from Satan and from Satan.
When Peter confesses Christ, he speaks with the voice of the new man. Jesus said to him, “My Father has revealed these things to you.” When Peter tempts Christ, he speaks with the voice of the old man. Jesus said to him, “Get behind me, Satan.”
What can we learn from Peter’s fall into sin?
Here are six lessons:
(i) Guard our will against Satan. Say to the Lord, “Not my will, but Yours be done.”
(ii) Guard your tongue. Don’t let it become an instrument of Satan.
(iii) Read the Word of God. Deepen your understanding of the Cross of Christ.
(iv) Let Jesus love you. Let His love for you increase your love for Him.
(v) Let Jesus strengthen your faith in Him.
(vi) Rest your faith in the faithfulness of God.
* How can we learn these lessons from Peter’s story?
(i) Guard your will.
Although Peter was used by Satan, he didn’t speak against his own will. Temptation is not sin. It only becomes sin when we give in to it (James 1:13-15). Let it be “not my will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42).
(ii) Guard your tongue.
Peter confessed Christ. Peter tempted Christ. Speaking for the Saviour and speaking against Him – The basic contradiction between the two is described, for us, in James 3:9-10a. What does God’s Word say about this? – “My brothers, this should not be” (James 3:10b).
(iii) Increase your understanding of the Cross of Christ.
Faith needs to be accompanied by understanding. Peter confessed his faith in Christ, but he did not understand the Cross of Christ. Jesus said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan.” This was not the first time Jesus spoke these words. He spoke them in the wilderness. He spoke them to Satan. There, the temptation was the same, and the answer was the same. Satan was trying to stop Jesus going to the Cross. He was trying to stop him becoming the Saviour of sinners. Jesus resisted Satan in the wilderness. Jesus resisted Satan, when he spoke to him through Peter. Satan was defeated in the wilderness. Satan was defeated at the Cross. Satan failed. Jesus went to the Cross. He went there for us. He died for our sins. Has Satan given up? No! He’s still trying to defeat Jesus. How does he do this? He tries to stop people trusting in Jesus and being saved by Him. He doesn’t stop there. He sees that we have trusted Christ. He sees that Jesus has saved us. What does Satan do? He attacks us. He tries to stop us growing in Christ. What are we to do? Let us read the Word of God. Let us pray that God will give us a deeper understanding of the Cross of Christ.
(iv) Let Jesus love you.
Jesus said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan.” This is a righteous rebuke. His words are spoken in holiness. They are spoken in love. Why did Jesus speak these words? He was banishing Satan from Peter’s life. He was seeking to convict Peter of his sin. He was seeking to bring Peter to repentance. Why did Jesus speak such strong words? He loved Peter. Let Jesus love you.
(v) Let Jesus strengthen your faith.
Jesus is “the Author and Finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2). He starts us off in the life of faith . that’s not all that He does. He sustains us in our faith. He strengthens our faith. He will perfect our faith – when He brings us to His heavenly and eternal glory. We begin the Christian life in faith. We are to go on in faith. We are to keep on living by faith in the Son of God (Galatians 2:20). Let us keep on looking to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith.
(vi) Rest your faith on the faithfulness of God.
Peter’s faith was a wavering faith. Our faith is a wavering faith. The faithfulness of God is very different. God is completely reliable, entirely dependable and absolutely trustworthy. However wavering our faith may be, may God help us to say from our hearts, “Great is Your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:23).
* Before we leave this part of Peter’s story, we notice how much Jesus loved Peter. After Peter had failed Jesus , what did Jesus do? Did Jesus give up on him? No. He didn’t. Jesus had to speak strong words to Peter: “Get behind me, Satan!” Was that the end of the road for Peter? No. It wasn’t. Peter was one of the three disciples who were with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1). This is wonderful love, amazing grace and undeserved mercy. How good is our God. How great is his love. Praise the Lord. Give glory to Him.
At the washing of the disciples’ feet, Peter was conscious of the Lord’s holiness without really appreciating His love.
Peter’s words, in John 13:8, “No … you shall never wash my feet” (John 13:8) echo his words, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:8) and His words, “Never, Lord! … This shall never happen to you!” (Matthew 16:22).
What do Peter’s words – “No … you shall never wash my feet” – tell us about his understanding of Jesus – who He was and why He had come to our world?
There seems to be a kind of humility about Peter’s words. It’s a false humility. It’s a proud humility. Peter appears to be humble before the holiness of our Lord Jesus Christ, yet he is too proud to accept the love of Jesus. This is a false humility. It is based on a misunderstanding of who Jesus is and why He came to this world.
Jesus did not come only to proclaim himself as Lord. He came to be our Saviour. He did not come only to make us bow before His holiness. He came to lift us up by His love.
* What is the difference between false humility and true humility?
– False humility tries to honour the Lord in its own way – “Lord, You’re too holy to wash my feet.”
– True humility honours the Lord in this way. It honours him by letting him humble Himself in His way – the way of the Cross, the way in which He bears the guilt of our sin, the way in which He washes us clean from our sin.
– False humility has a one-sided view of the holiness of Jesus. It has no real understanding of the love of Jesus.
Peter tells the Lord what He should do and what He shouldn’t do – “Lord, You’re holy. You need to depart from me. I’m too sinful to come to You.”; “Lord, You’re too holy to think about the Cross. Lord, You’re too holy to wash my feet.”
– True humility stops blurting out its own ideas, its own opinions, and starts listening for the voice of the Lord – “Lord, what do You want to teach me about Yourself – who You are and why You came to this world? What do You want to teach me about Your death on the Cross? What do you want to teach me about the forgiveness of my sins?”
* What does Jesus say to Peter’s false humility and our false humility? – “Unless I wash you, you have no part in me?” (John 13:8).
Peter’s refusal to let Jesus wash his feet indicates something more serious – a refusal to let Jesus wash away his sins. He tells Jesus to depart from him, a sinful man. He tries to talk Jesus out of going to the Cross to die for our sins and our sins.
We need to be washed in the precious blood of Christ. This is the deeper lesson of the washing of the disciples’ feet. We must look beyond the washing of the disciples’ feet. We must look from there to our spiritual experience of being washed in the blood of the Lamb. This is the gospel – “There is power, power, wonder-working power in the blood of the Lamb.”
* How can we move beyond Peter’s misunderstanding of Jesus – who He is and why He came to earth?
We must emphasize both the holiness of God and the love of God. His holiness keeps us from taking His love for granted. His love keeps us from being overwhelmed by His holiness.
Peter sets himself above the other disciples – “Even though they all fall away, I will not” (Mark 14:29). He had a superiority complex! He trusted in his own strength.He didn’t seek the strength of the Lord. The Christian’s safety net is the knowledge of his own weakness. This sends him to the Lord for have a strong sense strength. Peter had still to learn this lesson. Behind Peter’s superiority complex, there is the activity of Satan. In Peter’s words, “I will not fall away,” we hear an echo of Satan’s proud boast, “I shall be like God.” What happened to Satan? – He fell. What happened to Peter? – He fell. “Pride comes before a fall.” “Let him who thinks that he stands, take heed lest he falls” (Proverbs 16:18; 1 Corinthians 10:12). People with a superiority complex are very dangerous. They can do a great deal of harm.
What are we to make of this superiority complex? Remember Paul’s words, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the chief” (1 Timothy 1:15). Paul was deeply aware of his own sin. He was deeply appreciative of God’s grace. There was no place for boasting. All the glory belongs to the Lord.
How did Jesus react to Peter’s superiority complex? He loved him. He prayed for him (Luke 22:32). What love Jesus had for Peter! Jesus knew that Peter was going to deny Him three times. What did Jesus do? He said to Peter, “You will be converted. You will strengthen your brothers.” After he had denied the Lord, Peter was filled with anguish and despair. Think of how Peter must have felt when he remembered Jesus’ words, “You will be converted. You will strengthen your brothers.” Jesus had not disowned him. He was not cut off from the Lord’s people.
Jesus didn’t hammer Peter. he loved him. This is mercy. This is grace. Peter was restored. Jesus changed him. He took away the superiority complex. He replaces it with “a sincere love of God’s people” (1 Peter 1:22). Peter learned to love God’s people. By the power of the Holy Spirit, he was able to strengthen many people. On the Day of Pentecost, three thousand people were brought to faith in Christ through Peter’s Spirit-empowered preaching (Acts 2:41).
What changed Peter? – Love, the love of Jesus. Love lifted him. He experienced the love of Jesus.He knew that he was loved. He learned to love others. He learned to share the love of Jesus with them.
The love of Jesus – This is what will change us. This is what will make us what God wants us to be. May God help us to receive the love of Jesus. May He help us to share the love of Jesus with others.
In Peter’s life, there were both high and lows. Here, we look at one of his high points. Jesus fed the five thousand (John 6:1-15). After this, He gave teaching concerning Himself as “the Bread of Life” (John 6:25-59). After He had given this teaching, “many of His disciples said, ‘This is a hard teaching. Who can accept i?’” (John 6:60). This led to many of His disciples turning back and no longer following Him (John 6:66). Everything seemed to be going so well after the feeding of the five thousand (John 6:14). Nevertheless, the alarm bells were already ringing (John 6:15). Jesus is concerned about the misunderstanding. He seeks to correct it (John 6:26-27). He emphasizes that there is a difference between “the manna in the desert” (John 6:31) and “the true bread from heaven.” Jesus says, “the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (John 6:32-33). Jesus preaches the Gospel (John 6:35,37,40,51). The Jews cannot understand Him (John 6:52). This is a repeat of Nicodemus’ failure to understand: “How can a man be born when he is old? … Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!” (John 3:4). Jesus is speaking about the work of the Holy Spirit – “the world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you know Him, for He lives with you, and will be in you” (John 14:17). Paul makes the same point in 1 Corinthians 2:14-15 – “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned … But we have the mind of Christ.” Why did Peter keep on following at a time when other people were turning back? It was because he knew that he was loved with an eternal love. Jesus spoke words of eternal love as well as words of eternal life (Ephesians 1:3-6; Revelation 13:8). We keep on following the Lord because we know that He keeps on loving us. Behind the death of Christ, we see the eternal love of God. Through the death of Christ, we receive eternal life with God. His love keeps on We keep on going, and it keeps us going. We have Christ’s promise (John 10:28). It keeps us looking beyond this world to the heavenly world (2 Corinthians 3:16-18). Christ’s promise assures us that He is keeping us in the pathway that leads us on to this better world (1 Peter 1:3-5). Peter confessed his faith in the Lord Jesus: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that You are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-69). Here, we have “the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1). Jesus says to us “Believe the Good News” (Mark 1:14). It’s the Gospel of God. It’s the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel comes to us from God. Jesus comes to us from God. Jesus is the Gospel. This is Good News. Jesus has come to our world – and He has died for sinners (1 Peter 3:18). He has died for us to bring us to God now, to keep us with God forever.
Questions asked by Peter
I comment briefly on two questions and, then, focus on a third question. In the two brief comments, we note how practical and challenging Jesus’ answers are. This is emphasized when we look at the third question.
(a) “Lord, does this parable apply to us, or do you mean it for everyone?” (Luke 12:41).
Jesus says, “Much is required from the person to whom much is given; much more is required from the person to whom much more is given” (Luke 12:48).
(b) “Lord, if my brother keeps on sinning, how many times do I have to forgive him? Seven times?” (Matthew 18:21).
Jesus says, “seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:22).
What is 70 X 7? It’s 490. If you’re still counting, you’ve missed the point!
(c) “Look, we have left everything and followed You. What will we have?” (Matthew 19:27). To see this question in its context we need to read the story of the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:16-30). Those who give themselves to the Lord discover that God’s giving to us far exceeds our giving to Him. We receive far more from than we can ever give to Him.
Often, Jesus’ teaching is given in response to questions. He encourages us to ask questions. He says, Ask, and it shall be given to you” (Luke 11:9). Bring your questions to the Lord, and let Him give you His answers – answers which will make you want to seek Him more. His answers do not send us away with a smug ‘know-it-all’ attitude. They send us to Him, strengthening in us the faith that Christ is the Answer. To know that Christ is the Answer does not mean that we have all the answers to every question.There are times when we will have to say, “I don’t know the answer to your question.” There is something else we must also say, It is this: Christ is the Answer. Find Christ, and you will not need to have all the answers to a,, the questions. You will know that Christ is the Answer. Where questions seem to be unanswered, you will be content to leave them with the Lord in the sure confidence that He is the Answer of God’s love, God’s Answer to our every need.
Peter’s questions lead us to think about our giving and God’s giving.
* We learn to give to God, as we learn to appreciate how much we have received from Him, how much we are loved by Him.
* We learn to respond to God’s generous love as we learn to appreciate how much we have received from Him, how much we are loved by Him.
* We learn to respond to God’s generous love, and we are changed, becoming more Christ-centred and less self-centred.
* What happens when we don’t take time to respond to His generous love? We become shallow people, too preoccupied with ourselves and insufficiently aware of the presence and purpose of God.
* We need to be changed by the Lord. It needs to be more of Jesus, and less of self. The world says, “More, more, more … ” for self, but the world’s way does not lead to fulfilment. Happiness is not the result of getting “this, that and the other.” Happiness is god’s gift to us, given to us in Christ. Happiness comes to us, as we seek God, not as we seek happiness itself. Search for happiness, and what do you find? – The more you get, the more you want, and so the dissatisfaction continues. To search for happiness in things is to settle for less than God’s Best – true happiness in Christ.
* Some people are materially rich – and spiritually poor. According to the world’s standards, they are successful. In relation to God, the word ‘failure’ is written all over their life. The cost of success is too high when it has a negative effect on our relationship with God.
* When things are going well, we need to ask, “How much is too much? Some get ‘too much too soon’, and their life is ruined. They fail to give the glory to the Lord. Their material prosperity is not matched by spiritual progress.
* There is something wrong when there is too much getting and not enough giving. We need a healthy balance between the two.
What a great difference there is between godly silence and guilty silence!
* Godly silence – “Be silent before the Lord” (Zephaniah 1:17; Zechariah 2:13; Habakkuk 2:20). Peter found godly silence difficult.
* Guilty silence – failure to confess Jesus as Lord. We are not to be silent before men and women. We are to confess Christ, our great Saviour.
How are we to overcome our guilty silence? We need more godly silence. We are to wait upon the Lord and renew our strength (Isaiah 40:31).
* In Jesus, we see godly silence – “Jesus was silent” (Matthew 26:63). Jesus refused to protest His own innocence. He was bearing our guilt. Jesus was bearing our sin. He was suffering as our Substitute. He was taking our place. He was drawing near to the time when He would give Himself in death for us.
* Peter was so different! He broke out of godly silence and into ungodly speech. Peter is a warning to us: “the tongue is a fire” (James 3:6). Peter was speaking out his own ideas. He should have been listening to the Word of the Lord.
* Peter’s ungodly speech becomes godly speech. On the Day of Pentecost, his tongue is set on fire by the Holy Spirit. He speaks the word of God with power and love.
* The story of Peter can be told in terms of his names – (a) Simon; (b) Simon Peter; (c) Peter – (a) the old man; (b) great difficulty in learning to live as the new man; (c) living, more truly and more fully, as the new man.
* Peter’s denial – The hand of the Lord is on him (Luke 22:32). nevertheless, there is a great deal of self in him. The letter “I” lies at the heart of the word, “sin”. Peter has still to learn that it is to be “not I, but Christ” (Galatians 2:20). He has still to learn that he must decrease, while Christ increases (John 3:30).
Before Peter’s denial, there are alarm bells ringing.
* Luke 22:33 – Peter is too confident in himself. Immediately, Jesus tells him that he should not be so confident in himself (Luke 22:34).
* Even though he had been warned, “Satan has desired to have you” (Luke 22:31), Peter, together with the other disciples, had lost his alertness. The disciples had been told to “pray” (Luke 22:40). When Jesus returned, all of the disciples, including Peter, were “sleeping” (Luke 22:45). Jesus rebuked them. He called them to “rise and pray” (Luke 22:46).
* Peter acted in retaliation (Luke 22:50; John 18:10). Jesus had to rebuke Peter. Jesus had to reverse the effect of Peter’s sinful action.
This is the background to Peter’s sinful denial: (a) He says that he is ready to be imprisoned. He says that he is ready to die for Jesus (Luke 22:33); (b) He cuts off a soldier’s ear. He thinks that he is doing the Lord’s will. He is wrong. He’s denying the Lord.
* A true confession of Christ is more than empty words. It is more than misguided actions, which speak of self more than they speak of Christ.
* As we move into the foreground of Peter’s denial, we find that the alarm bells are still ringing.
“Peter followed at a distance” (Luke 22:54). How do you and I follow Jesus? at a distance?
“Peter sat among them” (Luke 22:55). Should he have been there? Are there not places where we should not be, unless we are intent on inviting spiritual disaster?
Three times, Peter denies the Lord (Luke 22:56-60).
* We must not end with Peter’s failure. We must focus our attention on Jesus’ love. In Luke 22:61, we read about the look of love, which speaks the language of love. Love has been offended. Peter weeps (Luke 22:62). This is the beginning of repentance and restoration.
In Mark 11:1-11, we read the story of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. As we read on, we read the story of a fig tree (Mark 11:12-14,20-21). The fig tree was “nothing but leaves” (Mark 11:13). It “withered” (Mark 11:20). The fig tree had had its day. It had outlived its usefulness. This is a parable for today’s Church.
It is significant that the ‘fig tree’ incident is followed by the cleansing of the Temple. Before there can be fruitfulness, there needs to be cleansing. This cleansing takes place as God’s people pray (Mark 11:17), and as they receive the Word of the Lord (Mark 11:18). These are to be the great priorities for God’s people in every generation – prayer and the Word of God.
The story of the fig tree continues in Mark 11:20-21. Here, Peter enters the story. Peter’s words are more than words about fig trees. They are about the necessity of God’s blessing. Unless God sends his blessing from above, there is nothing of any real value. If God withholds his blessing, everything is in vain.
* How can our work for God be fruitful? It will be fruitful when it is done “in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). If we are to work for God, He must be at work in us.
– He works in us, as we pray. We receive the Lord’s strength in answer to prayer.
– He works in us, as we receive the Word of the Lord. His Word strengthens in us the resolve to live a life of faithfulness and fruitfulness.
The story of the fig tree is followed by Jesus’ words about faith removing mountains. there are mountains which need to be removed if the work of the Lord is to move forward more fruitfully.
Let’s return to the story of Peter.
In his case, there was the ‘mountain’ of pride. Peter’s pride may be compared with the pride that is expressed in the words from the story of the Tower of Babel – “let us … make a name for ourselves” (Genesis 11:4).
Peter was trying to do what he thought was right – but his pride carried him in directions that were more about Peter getting his own way than Peter walking in the way of the Lord. He seemed to have a burning desire to be the No.1 among Jesus’ disciples. He even wanted to put Jesus right!
There are two levels of pride here – (a) wanting to be the ‘lord it over’ other people; (b) wanting to ‘lord it over’ Jesus.
The first is bad enough. What about the second? Trying to put Jesus right – This is pride of the most extreme kind, It is, however, closely connected to the first kind of pride. Our relationship with God is affected by our relationships with other people. This is the point of Mark 11:25. If our lives are ruled by human pride – trying to impress other people by being better than them, we will have big problems with receiving the Gospel of God’s grace. The ‘mountain’ of pride will get in the way. It will need to be removed. If we are to be fruitful in the service of the Lord, we must learn the lesson of the ‘fig tree’ incident. We must get rid of the ‘Tower of Babel’ way of thinking. There is only room for one No.1. it’s not you. It’s not me. It’s Jesus.
We must concentrate on what God has given us to do. We must pray. We must receive the Word of the Lord.
Note, especially, the words, “and Peter” (Mark 16:7).
Why Peter? Was there something special about Peter? Was he superior to all the others? No! That’s not the reason. Peter had failed the Lord. He needed to hear the Good News. Peter had failed the Lord. He needed to be assured that the Lord hadn’t given up on him. He needed to know that Jesus still had a wonderful plan for his future. Peter may have thought that his past had disqualified him from having a significant role in the in Jesus’ plan to bring salvation to the nations. Jesus was saying to Peter, ‘We must get rid of that kind of thinking. I have a great plan for you. You will be mightily used by Me – to bring many to faith in Me.’
The words, “and Peter”, speak to us about putting our past behind us and moving forward into God’s future.
What were the women to say to Peter? – “He has risen” (Mark 16:5). Jesus is no longer dead. Jesus has risen. Jesus is alive. This was the marvellous message that turned Peter’s life around. The resurrection of Jesus – This is what made all the difference in the life of Peter. This is what brought him out of his failure and into God’s fruitfulness.
How were Jesus’ disciples to know that He had risen? – They would not see Him in the tomb (Mark 16:6). They would “see Him.” How would they see Him? – “He is going ahead of you… ” (Mark 16:7).
“Going ahead of you” – How wonderful is this! The future was no surprise for Jesus. He was preparing his servants for all that lay ahead of them. Jesus’ appearances to his disciples were more than a demonstration of His power – ‘Look at me. I have risen from the dead.’ He was preparing them for His future – a future that would be full of the blessing of God.
The old life is over. The new life has begun. This is what Jesus, the risen Lord, was saying to his chosen servants. The forty days of Jesus’ appearances were a time of learning to let the past be the past, a time of moving forward, with Jesus, into His future. This was a very important time in peter’s spiritual development. The Lord Jesus was putting Peter’s life back together again. Soon, there would be a new Peter. Soon, there would be less pride. Soon, there would be more power. the pride of Peter would be replaced by the power of God.
Together with the other disciples, Peter had so much to learn. At the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, there was, for Peter, sadness, sin and shame. Now, he was being prepared for the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2). That would be a great day – great joy for Peter, great salvation for thousands, great glory to God. Out of the resurrection of Jesus came the raising of Peter. Jesus was raised from the dead. Peter’s life was renewed. Out of Peter’s renewal came revival. What wonderful days of blessing these days were!
What about today? God is calling us to live in the power of Christ’s resurrection. He’s calling us to move out of the old life and into the new life. He’s calling us to continue in the new life. He’s calling us to grow in the new life.
The power of Christ’s resurrection in the Christian life – Peter grasped this truth deeply. He expresses it so well in 1 Peter 1:3-9.
(1) The foundation of the Christian life is found in the fact of Christ’s resurrection (1 Peter 1:3).
(2) Through the power of Christ’s resurrection, we begin the new life – the “new birth” (1 Peter 1:3).
(3) Through the power of Christ’s resurrection, we are kept in the new life (1 Peter 1:5).
(4) Through the power of Christ’s resurrection, we are brought to the completion of this new life – “the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:9).
These are the lessons Peter was learning during his ‘forty days’ of preparation. These are the lessons he kept on learning throughout his journey of faith. They are lessons we must learn well, if we are to make real progress in the life of faith.
With the resurrection of Christ, we take a huge step forward in the Gospel story – and a huge step forward in Peter’s experience of the Gospel. In this part of Peter’s story, there is, for us, a great Word from the Lord concerning the life-transforming power of Christ.
We have read about Peter’s backsliding (Luke 22). We have read about the look of Jesus – the look of love, which speaks the language of love (Luke 22:61). Peter knew that he had let Jesus down. Peter knew that Jesus loved him. Peter “wept bitterly” (Luke 22:62). This was the beginning of Peter’s repentance – but his restoration was, still, incomplete. Peter had sinned – and he “wept bitterly.” This was genuine repentance. This was very different from Judas – “he was seized with remorse … Then he went away and hanged himself” (Matthew 27:3,5).
This was weeping with regret. It was not hopeless despair. The look of love gave Peter a glimpse if hope. It was a glimpse of better things to come. Jesus still loved Peter. Jesus wasn’t going to give up on Peter.
The revelation of Jesus’ love was going to increase. It was to be combined with the revelation of His power – “The Lord has risen, and has appeared to Simon” (Luke 24;34). Jesus had a special love for Peter – and a special desire to reveal His power to Peter: “and Peter” (Mark 16:7).
The transformation of Peter, and the other disciples, has a great deal to teach us regarding the increase of our faith.
(1) We begin with wondering, – “What is this all about?”: ” Peter went away, wondering to himself what had happened” (Luke 24:12).
(2) We move on from there to believing without understanding – “John saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)” (John 20:8-9).
Wondering, and believing without understanding – this is just the beginning. Where do we go from here? How does the Lord lead us into a stronger faith?
* Wondering what happened was, soon, to become declaring what had happened (Acts 2). We must be patient with those who are still wondering. They may turn out to be great witnesses for Christ. Jesus was patient with Peter. He’s patient with us. We must be patient, as we look for faith, developing in those who are still wondering.
* Believing without understanding: When people don’t understand something, they are afraid to speak about it. On the Day of Pentecost, we see the new Peter. His preaching was full of faith and understanding (Acts 2). How did he grow in understanding? – “from Scripture.” Peter’s preaching was Biblical preaching. He was expounding the Word of God. He was proclaiming Christ as the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy.
What a great contrast there is between Peter in the time of Christ’s earthly life and Peter after the resurrection of Christ.
* Wondering involves asking questions, seeking instruction from the Lord. In the time of Christ’s earthly life, Peter was too busy, giving his own opinions. Now, he was changing. He’s being trained as an evangelist.
* Understanding grows, as we listen to the voice of God, speaking to us through the Scriptures. Stop talking, and start listening – This is what Peter had to do. This is what we must do if we, like peter, are to speak with power.
At the time of Christ’s crucifixion, Peter’s situation seemed hopeless He had denied his Lord. He was dejected. With Christ’s resurrection, everything was turned around. Christ revealed himself to Peter. In love, Jesus came to Peter. The whole situation was changed. Jesus’ love changed everything. He filled Peter with hope – the hope that life could be altogether different.
Peter was changed by the love of Jesus. Jesus is asking Peter, “Do you love Me?” He’s saying more than that. He’s saying, “I love you. Do you love Me?”
– The Gospel says to each one of us, “Jesus loves you.”
– The Gospel calls for our love, “Do you love Jesus?”
What is the mark of love for Jesus? – Obedience: “Whoever has My commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves Me” (John 14:21).
This was true in Peter’s life. It is to be true in our lives.
Peter was given the command: “Feed My sheep.” In Acts, we see Peter, obeying the command of his Lord.
Here, we have a story of transformation. Peter’s story had seemed to be a real disaster story – but, now, it has been turned around. This is the message of Acts 1-2. Peter had been a man with a problem. Now, he is a man with a mission. What brought about this change in Peter? The answer is “The Holy Spirit.” We need, however, to ask another question: How did the Holy Spirit change Peter? This needs to be followed by a third question: How does the Holy Spirit change us?
In Peter’s story, we must note the importance of prayer and the Word of God. In Acts 1, we see Peter praying. Together with the other disciples, Peter is praying. In Acts 2, we see Peter preaching. His ministry is full of understanding of the Scriptures. He has taken time to learn from God’s Word. Now, he is bringing God’s Word to the people. He is explaining to them the message of Scripture. He is speaking to them of Jesus, the Saviour whom God had promised, the Saviour whom God has sent.
The Holy Spirit was mightily at work in Peter’s life. He was mightily at work through Peter’s preaching. The work of the Holy Spirit, in and through Peter, begins with prayer. In Acts 1:13-14, Peter is the first name on the list. He was a spiritual leader. Their prayer was grounded in a promise (Acts 1:4-5). Their prayer was directed towards witness (Acts 1:8). As the disciples gathered together for prayer, Peter emerged as a spiritual leader. He was a leader in the Church (Acts 1:15 … ). He was a leader in evangelism (Acts 2:14 … ).
As a spiritual leader, Peter spoke with power. His powerful preaching was marked by (i) clarity of exposition (Acts 2:14-36); (b) boldness in exhortation (Acts 2:37-42),
What happened when Peter preached? Three thousand people came to Christ. What a transformation! It was three denials. Now, it’s three thousand conversions!
God did something wonderful with Peter. He can do something wonderful with us, if we – like Peter – will say to Jesus, “Yes, Lord, You know that we love You.”
“Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer” (Acts 3:1) – Here, we see togetherness. We see the importance of fellowship. Our fellowship is more than fellowship with one another. It’s fellowship with God.
Acts 3:3,6 – The man was looking for money. God gave him something better. the world tells us that there’s nothing more valuable than money. the Word of God tells us that it is more important to be in fellowship with God.
Acts 3:11-12 – “The beggar held on to Peter and John.” Peter ask, ‘Why do you give the glory to man?’
Acts 3:13 … – Peter preaches the Gospel.
Acts 4:3-4 – “Peter and John are put in jail.” “Many believed, about five thousand.”
Acts 4:7 – “By what power?”
Acts 4:8-12 – Peter preaches the Gospel.
Acts 4:13 – “the courage of Peter and John”, “they had been with Jesus.”
Acts 4:18-20 – Obedience to God
Acts 4:23-30 – Prayer
Acts 4:31 – The effects of prayer
The remainder of chapter continues with this theme: the effects of prayer. It also links up with the story that is told in chapter 5.
When we read these chapters in Acts, we find ourselves asking, “Is this the same Peter that we read about in the Gospels?” In one sense, the answer is, “Yes. This is the same Peter.” In another sense, the answer is, “No. This is a very different Peter.”
What does this say to us?
* The same Peter – You and I can be used by God. Don’t think, “God must be looking for someone else.”He wants you. He wants me. He wants to take us and make us His faithful and fruitful servants. He wants to be glorified through our witness.
* A different Peter – You and I can be used by the Lord, but it will not be the same old you, and it will not be the same old me. It will be a different you. It will be a different me. It will be a changed you. It will be a changed me. The Lord will change us. He will make us new men and women. When God is going to work through us, He will begin with working in us. He wants us to bring change to others, but this is not His starting-point. He starts with us. He changes us, and, then, He turns His attention to the people who will be changed through our witness.
Acts 5:1-11 – the story of Ananias and Sapphira; Acts 5:3-4,7-9 – Peter’s part
What does this say to us, as we come to the Lord’s Table? – We must come honestly. We must confess our sin.
Acts 5:12-16 – “signs and wonders” (v. 12); “Peter’s shadow” (v.15) – There seems to be an element of superstition here.
As we come to the Lord’s Table, what is the Lord saying to us? Don’t settle for a superstitious view of the Lord’s Supper: somehow, the blessing might just happen to reach you. Seek to draw close to the Lord, and stay close to Him.
vs. 18-21 – “In prison” (v. 18); released by God’s power (v. 19), with God’s commission (v. 20); obedience to God (v. 21).
vs. 29-32 – This is Peter’s testimony. Peter and the other apostles obeyed God (v. 29). We are to obey God (v. 32).
What is the Lord teaching us, as we come to His Table? – We are set free by the Lord so that we might live in obedience to Him.
The name of Peter doesn’t appear in the last part of Acts 5. We may move beyond one individual, Peter, to find a more general lesson for today’s Church.
The lesson is found in vs. 40-42. Following the wise advice of Gamaliel (vs. 33-39; especially vs. 38-39), The apostles were “ordered …not to speak in the Name of Jesus” (v. 40).
This is very contemporary. The world still tells us not to speak in the Name of Jesus. They will let us do our own thing in our own places of worship, but they will try to silence our Christian witness in the wider society.
The apostles were not silenced. Their witness grew stronger. This was a Church on the move. It was a Church, moving forward. It was a Church that refused to be silenced. There was no stopping the advance of the Gospel.
How does the Gospel advance? – Through people who, like the apostles, are determined not to be silenced, determined to go on “teaching and proclaiming the good News that Jesus is the Christ” (v. 42).
As we consider what Christ has done for us, can we refuse to be such people?
Acts 8:20 – “the gift of God”: God gives; we receive. It’s never we earn; God rewards.
Acts 8:21 – “Your heart is not right before God.” the sin of trying to earn God’s favour is in direct contradiction to the Gospel of grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). Note that Ephesians 5:10 – we are called to do good works – comes after Ephesians 5:8-9 – we have been saved by God’s grace. It’s never works, leading to grace.It’s always grace, leading to works.
Titus 3:3-8 – Note, especially v.3: This is our starting-point. We are sinners. We need to be saved by the grace of God. Our situation is hopeless. It is the grace of God that changes everything. He turns everything around for us. This great change takes place “not because of righteous things that we had done, but because of His mercy” (v. 5). This wonderful change – “the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit” (v. 5) – takes place in us because of God’s generosity (v. 6), His grace (v. 7). Once this change takes place, we are to be careful to devote ourselves to doing what is good” (v. 8). Notice, again, the order. The Christian life is based on the gift of the Holy Spirit. It’s never, the Holy Spirit is ta reward for those who have lived the Christian life.
Acts 8:22 – “Repent.” The sin from which must turn is the sin of pride. We must reject the self-centred attempt to earn God’s salvation as a reward for our own good works. This is the sin which keeps men and women “full of bitterness and captive to sin” (v. 23). We see the “bitterness of proud unbelievers, e.g. Pharaoh’s reaction against Moses (Exodus); the Pharisees’ reaction against Jesus (the Gospels). Such men are “captive to sin.” Outward appearances can be deceptive. Pharaoh appeared to be in control. He was more a captive than the people of Israel. He was “captive to sin.” The Pharisees appeared to be in control. They were far from God. they were “captive to sin.” Can such hardness be changed? Yes – by the Lord (v. 28).
How can this great change take place in the hearts of men and women? – Through “the Word of the Lord, through “the gospel” (v. 25).
Give your testimony, proclaim the Word, preach the Gospel.
“Peter travelled about the country, he went to visit the saints in Lydda” (Acts 9:32).`
Peter was a travelling evangelist. He was not a ‘hit and run’ specialist. He was God’s peoples concerned to strengthen the faith of “the saints” – all of God’s people, not an elite group.
Acts 9:33-35 – Peter’s healing ministry was part of his ministry of the Gospel. As a result of the healing,people “turned to the Lord” (v. 35). Notice that it wasn’t Peter who healed the man – “Jesus Christ heals you” (v. 34). Peter draws attention to Christ. Men and women were drawn to Christ.
Acts 9:36-43 – Peter’s ministry became even more extraordinary: the raising of the dead – Tabitha (Aramaic) / Dorcas (Greek).Again, two distinctive features of his ministry are emphasized.
(a) This was God’s work – not Peter’s: “he got down and his knees and prayed.”
(b) This miracle led to conversions – “many people believed in the Lord” (v. 42).
What a great contrast with the Peter of the Gospels!
(i) In the Gospels, he’s in great need of strengthening. Here, he is strengthening others.
(ii) In the gospels, he is so self-centred. Here, he is so Christ-centred. In the gospels, he spoke to the Lord in protest. Here, he speaks to the Lord in prayer.
(iii) In the Gospels, he seemed to be so useless. He failed his Lord when he was called upon to witness for his Lord. Here, he’s being mightily used by God. There’s the healing. There’s the raising from the dead. there’s so many people coming to faith in the Lord: “All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord” (v. 35); “This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord” (v. 42).
Peter had grown spiritually. Let us pray for spiritual growth.
We consider Acts 10 in the breadth of its teaching rather than focusing too narrowly on what it tells us about Peter.
It will be helpful to think of Acts 10 as a turning-point.
It may be viewed as a turning-point for (a) individuals; (b) nations; (c) generations.
(a) The individuals – Peter and Cornelius
For both, there is a ‘before’ and ‘after’ element.
(i) Peter – ‘before’: an evangelist to the Jews, but not yet an evangelist to the Gentiles
He had seen God at work, but he was yet to see God, even more mightily at work.
‘after’: an evangelist to the Gentiles also. He never quite became ‘the apostle to the Gentiles’ that Paul became. Nevertheless, there was, for Peter, a turning-point, a broadening of his outlook, a widening of his ministry.
(ii) Cornelius: ‘before’ – a good man; ‘after’ – a saved man
The turning-point – conversion. Even good men need to be saved.
(b) nations – Jews and Gentiles
(i) ‘before’: Jews – the people of god; Gentiles – heathen
(ii) ‘after’ – “but also the Greek” (Romans 1:16): the Gospel going to Rome (Acts 28)
(c) generations – The church and the world
This was not only a turning-point for the Jews and the Gentiles of that generation. There is a message for every generation. Acts 10 can be a turning-point for us today – turning beyond the church, turning toward the world.
These are three ways of reading Acts 10 – changes in individuals; changes in the history of nations; changes in us, today.
We come now to the conclusion of the story told, in the Gospels and Acts, about Peter. This is not, however, the complete New Testament picture of Peter. To complete the picture, we need the letters, written by Peter.
In Acts 12:5, we read about Peter in prison. In Acts 12:7, we read about him being set free.
This is Peter in the place of restriction and the place of freedom.
When we read Acts 12:17 – “Then he departed and went to another place, we may ask, “Where did he go? What became of Peter?
This thought of Peter, moving out of the place of restriction and into the place of freedom may be a helpful way of introducing the third New Testament phase of Peter’s story – his letters.
In John 14:12, we have the promise of “greater works.” Jesus had been restricted to one place and time. Through His people, the Gospel would go to every nation and every generation. The Gospel going to the Gentiles, beginning with the story of Peter and Cornelius, was part of the fulfilment of Jesus’ promise concerning “greater works.”
This idea of “greater works” can be applied to the third phase of Peter’s story.
The first two phases tell us about the things done by Peter during his lifetime. The third, his letters, present us with Peter’s voice, speaking to the church and the world in every nation and every generation.
“He died, but through his faith he is still speaking” (Hebrews 11:4). These words were written about Abel. They can also be applied to Peter.
“Then Peter departed and went to another place” (Acts 12:17). Scripture speaks about “a broad place where there is no cramping” (Job 36:16). Peter went to “a broad place.” The scope of his ministry was extended. We do not say, “That’s the end of Peter’s ministry.” We read on. We come to his letters. We say, “This is an extension of his ministry, This is Peter, speaking to every nation and every generation, to everyone who cares to read the Bible in whatever language, in whatever version.
In 1 Peter, we learn about the great blessings we have received in Christ (1 Peter 1:3-5; 1 Peter 2;9-10), how we are to live as Christians (1 Peter 2:11-12; 1 Peter 4:7-11) and the trials we will face as Christians (1 Peter 4:12-14; 1 Peter 5:8-11). In 2 Peter, we learn about true knowledge of God (2 Peter 1:3-5; 1 Peter 1:20-21), warnings against false teachers (2 Peter 2:1-3) and the second coming of Christ (2 Peter 3:8-13).
In 2 Peter 3:18, we have Peter’s final words to us – “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.” This is the “broad place” into which God is leading us.