Continuing the study of God’s “Comeback Kids,” I’d like now to consider Simon Peter. The verses below recount his first meeting with Jesus (as far as we know.). Jesus was beginning His public ministry, and dealing with the important task of selecting a “supporting cast.” You can draw your own conclusions about the choices He made. You know them AFTER He’d exerted His influence on them. Based on what you can see and imagine at the beginning, which of these would you have picked? Which would you have chosen FIRST and relied on so heavily to carry out such an important mission?
Matthew 4:8And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishers. 19And He said unto them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20And they straightway left their nets and followed Him.
Lately, I’ve gone back to get better acquainted with Simon Peter, the big fisherman. For someone so “ordinary,” there are lots and lots of things I can learn about the man. And from the man.
I’m living now on Topsail Island on the North Carolina Coast. Our next-door neighbor, just across the high rise bridge and on the mainland (Sneads Ferry), is home to many serious commercial fishermen. We have, as well, the piers and the surf fishing, clamming, and seasonal “wannabes.” I see these guys all the time. In fact, I bought myself a pair of their “Sneads Ferry Sneakers” to go get oysters, clams, and mussels. Their efforts to get fresh seafood to your table are demanding, and not always adequately rewarded financially. They labor in all seasons, always against adversity, as well as the strong currents and the wind and tides. They struggle for their existence daily as they try to compete with the loosely or totally unregulated foreign industry and try to stay abreast of increasingly difficult government regulations. They are decent, honest, hard-working, loveable folks.
That was the kind of man Simon Peter was. When I consider that, I can get a pretty good idea of the kind of person he was. No pretense. He was rugged, self-reliant. Had no degrees. Didn’t wear cologne and never had a tuxedo. Just a common man. Unimpressive, unless you were looking for brute strength and an expert knowledge of tides and weather and the habits of fish. When you get that picture in your mind, may I suggest that you read the first chapter of the first letter in the New Testament, which bears his name? And let me know if you know any fisherman (or for that matter, any “intellectual” who handles such profound ideas so skillfully!
He’d be the first to agree with his friend (Paul the apostle) that his change and his contributions were “not I, but Christ who dwells within me.”
Now, this isn’t “preaching.” Really. In my opinion, it is simply a matter of looking at some facts and drawing some logical conclusions. In this case, it was Jesus, not Peter, who was responsible for such remarkable change. Turned him from an impetuous, possibly boastful, blustery blowhard braggart turned coward into a courageous, profound thinker and a Christian leader for the ages. You can follow the path of his life and see that for yourself. What I pray you don’t miss is this: If Christ could take that kind of unimpressive, crude, material and make him into the ROCK which he became…Doesn’t it sound reasonable (and likely) that He could do the same thing with you? With me? (That took some effort on my part.).
The conclusion I’ve drawn is simply: God in Christ can (has done it before with others and will do it again) change your life into one filled with promise. Power. Purpose. Joy. Victory. Peace.
Consider “Pete’s”strengths. (Forgive me, my esteemed Roman Catholic brothers and sisters. I’m speaking of a simple fisherman, long before he was considered “The Rock” upon whose confession of faith the Church was founded.) He was just a common, ordinary guy. Like most guys I’ve known, he loved the sea. He loved to fish and knew how to do that like a pro. My grandson, Luke, would have loved him and Peter would have loved Luke. It was the way he earned his living. Two other brothers (James and John, also fishermen, who were asked to drop their nets and follow Christ) had apparently earned a reputation and were respected and feared by nickname: “Sons of thunder.” But if that were the case, you could probably call Peter “Lightning.” With a trigger temper, he’d mix it up with you in a New York minute. If you ever got mixed up in a bar fight, he was the one guy you wanted on your side! Toughened by toiling with his nets and boats and oars and the sea, seasoned and tanned by the sun, he wore the look of his vocation. Red hair blowing in the constant wind, ruddy complexion made and kept that way with a permanent semi-tan, hands calloused by handling the line, you could never have mistaken him for a sweet, soft-handed intellectual.
It’s worth noting that, when Jesus called him to become a “fisher of men,” Peter immediately dropped his nets, left his career, and accepted the invitation. Obviously, Peter was very decisive. That’s a good trait to possess.
When asked a question, he seems to have answered quickly, directly, sometimes without really completely comprehending the truth of what he was saying. In one case, Jesus asked Peter what other people thought of Him. Then The Lord asked Peter for his own opinion. His answer, “off the cuff” yet utterly profound, is an utterance which assured him a name engraved like granite in the annals of Church history. * (See the Scripture reference below).
He was also very impulsive. That’s putting it mildly. There was no pretense about him. You weren’t ever left to wonder what he thought, or how he felt about you. His impulsiveness was certainly one source of his prideful downfall. As you read the account of Jesus in agonizing prayer in that Garden, you can probably hear Pete snoring in the background, Peter was only dimly aware of the approaching soldiers led by Judas the traitor. He was awakened abruptly. Startled, and perhaps only half-awake, with swift, instinctive angry skill he unsheathed his sword and sliced off a Roman soldier’s ear.
I’ve apologized for Peter for that act on several occasions. I feel I now know him well enough to tell you he did not mean to slice off the soldier’s ear. He meant to split his skull! Wide open!
Jesus took control of the situation, corrected it, and commanded Peter to put his sword back in its scabbard.
Something I’ve observed which may be worth your further thought: Sometimes a person’s great strength can also become their greatest point of weakness. If someone has a “gift of gab,” that “gift” can become the Achilles heel which leads to a downfall. An above average beautiful lady or “too handsome” guy, has more than once allowed that to lead to unjustified pride which almost always leads to destruction.. Of one sort or another, and sooner or later if allowed to run its course unchecked. As surely as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west!
In this case, Peter’s zeal is obvious and admirable. It is, indeed, a great trait and one too sadly missing among many current Christians, “Light half-believers of casual creeds who never deeply felt or clearly willed; who hesitate and falter life away and lose tomorrow the ground won today.” ** Even those called to minister are sometimes “Mealy mouthed, mild mannered men telling mild mannered men how to be more mild mannered!”*** Whatever faults Peter may have had, lack of zeal was not one of them. There could be no question about his loyalty at this time.
Let’s consider briefly how he fell. Jesus had warned Peter on at least a couple of other occasions. On the evening when Jesus had his “farewell” supper in the Upper Room, He was aware of the approaching end. The seriousness of the events weighed so heavily on Jesus’ mind, but the Disciples all were oblivious to his obvious suffering. In fact, as they’d done before, they were in a wrestling match with words over who’d be “top dog” when Jesus ushered in His new administration. He was trying to tell them something very important. With their own selfish agendas, they were “jockeying for position.” Jesus broke it up before the verbal bout erupted into a fistfight. Look at what he said to Peter.**** THAT IS ONE OF THE DEFINING MOMENTS IN PETER’S LIFE. It was a while before the impact of those words which Jesus spoke really registered, but I can assure you Peter heard them many, many times in the days and years ahead. Evidence which developed later showed The prayer worked.
As you read Matthew’s accounts of these incidents, you can almost hear the soldiers as they gather, then make their way with lighted torches to Gethsemane that very night, when Peter had just boasted, “I’ll never betray you. I don’t know about these other guys, but You can count on me. For sure.” Jesus, who knew Peter better than Peter did, cautioned him against such arrogant pride. “Before the rooster crows in the morning, you will have denied me three times.”
You know the rest of the story. Under pressure, under hostile scrutiny by the “enemy’s campfire,” Peter waffled. He didn’t simply quietly deny any association, he denied it vehemently. Three times for emphasis. In the final denial, when he swore defiantly that he ever even knew Jesus, he successfully convinced everyone there he didn’t even know the Man! Even back then, people had the notion that a real follower of Jesus of Nazareth wouldn’t blister the air with blue epithets. Just a casual reading of this makes me sort of feel old Peter had earned a Ph D in cussing during his fishing days!
AT THAVE VERY MOMENT, it wasn’t simply a coincidence that the rooster on a fence post somewhere close by cocked its head back and crowed loudly announcing the arrival of dawn. Instantly Peter remembered what Jesus had said just a few hours earlier. He was crushed. His boastful arrogance had set him up for just such a humiliating fall. And, wouldn’t you know? At a time when he’d liked to have just disappeared under a rock nearby, his eyes locked with Jesus. And Peter remembered. It was a memory which he’d never forget.
Disgusted with himself, Pete threw his hands up and announced he was “going fishing.” That’s not just a brief, pleasant way to escape his embarrassment and frustration with himself. He’s announcing that he’s going back to the “old life.” So much for his high hopes of a Kingly Messiah. So much for the dreams and hopes that had been raised so high and dashed so cruelly on the rocks of reality.
I encourage you to read on, but feel I should also warn you: If you think carefully and deeply about this kind of truth, it can dramatically alter your life!
See you again, soon.
God’s servant, your friend, brother, and fellow student ~donkimrey.
* Matt. 16:13 When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” 14 And they said, “Some say that Thou art John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” MATT 16:15 He said unto them, “But who say ye that I am?” 16 And Simon Peter answered and said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father who is in Heaven. 18 And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19And I will give unto thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven.”
** ” A bit more detailed quote: “Thou waitest for the spark from heaven! And we, Light half-believers of our casual creeds, Who never deeply felt, nor clearly willed, Whose insight never has borne fruit in deeds, Whose vague resolves never have been fulfilled; For whom each year we see Breeds new beginnings, disappointments new, Who hesitate and falter life away, And lose tomorrow the ground won to-day.” Matthew Arnold (1822-1888), “The Scholar-Gipsy,”
*** Dr. Vance Havner, a great old-time evangelist, humorist who’s gone on home. I had the pleasure of knowing him and once introduced him to a group of ministers as: “The Winston Churchill of Evangelism. Or perhaps Sir Winston was the Vance Havner of statesmanship.”
****We’ll talk in more detail about this conversation later. I wish you’d read the entire account in Matthew leading up to the Last Supper, Gethsemane, the arrest of Jesus and the denial by Peter.