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Simon Peter

Recently we have talked about how our Lord viewed the world as a vast Harvest Field of mankind who “were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36) The harvest in the world is great for the Kingdom of Heaven but the workers are few. (Matthew 9:37) We spoke of a story told by S. D. Gordon of a fictional conversation between Jesus and Gabriel after Jesus’ ascension to Heaven in which Jesus revealed His plan to spread the Gospel message to the uttermost ends of the earth. How the plan rested on the chosen Apostles and if they failed there was no other plan. That His plan was secured by His prayers to the Father in Luke 6:12 where the Father gave Him the twelve.

The plan of Jesus was first the initial calling in John 1:37:51. Jesus then called then to a full time ministry to follow Him as we see in Matthew 4:18-22. Then in Matthew 10:1 He gave “them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness,” and sent them out in an internship by twos to experience the ministry under His supervision. (Matthew 10:5) Their mission was to preach (Matthew 10:5-6) and to heal. (Matthew 10:7) Finally on the Day of Pentecost they were sent out with the Power of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:1-2)

This is the plan of Jesus, to pray for workers, Matthew 9:38, to call them, to train them and to send them out to the harvest field. In turn they would train new disciples who would repeat the process. Today we can testify that this plan is effective and successful as if it were not Christianity would have faded into the annals of history. This is the mission of the Church, the body of Christ. (Matthew 28:18-20)

For the next few weeks we are going to look at the identity of these twelve men who turned the world upside down. In the four listings of the disciples in the Bible, (Matthew 10:2-4 Mark 3:16-19 Luke 2:3-4 Acts 1:13) Simon Peter is always listed first and Judas Iscariot last. Simon Peter is first because of the twelve he is foremost. The word first in Greek is “protos” and means foremost, before, beginning, best, and chief, first of all, former. This is the same word that Paul used to describe himself as being the chief sinner in 1 Timothy 1:15. We learned that the disciples were called and identified in three unique groups. Each Group had their leader Group 1 was Simon Peter, group two was Philip, and group three was James the son of Alphaeus. Simon Peter was not only the leader of his group but was the foremost of all the disciples. Simon Peter was the leader of all of them.

Jesus saw in Simon Peter the leadership characteristics needed for the plan that Jesus was implementing. Of the twelve Simon Peter had initiative. First Simon Peter was the one who would ask the questions. While the other disciples would say “we understand” if Simon Peter didn’t he would ask. In Matthew 15:15 Jesus had given them a parable and Simon Peter didn’t understand and asked the Lord to explain it. It was Simon Peter who said “we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?” in Matthew 19:28-29. Simon Peter wanted to know about the fig tree that Jesus had cursed and withered. And it was Simon Peter who wanted to know about the end times in Mark 13:3. When Jesus told Simon Peter that he would be martyred he asked what about John? (John 21:21)

Second Simon Peter also answered questions as well. When Jesus asked Simon Peter who he thought Jesus was he answered, “Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16) When other disciples were leaving Jesus He asked Simon Peter if he was going to leave also and Simon Peter said, “Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.” (John 6:68) When Jesus asked His disciples who they thought He was Simon Peter answered, “And He continued by questioning them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered and said to Him, “You are the Christ.” (Mark 8:29)

Third Simon Peter was always in the middle of the action. When the disciples were in the boat on the Sea of Galilee and saw Jesus walking across the water Simon Peter called out to Him and asked if He come out to Him. Jesus bid Peter to come and Peter walked on the water. Yes, Simon Peter took his eyes of Jesus and sank but the other eleven never even got out of the boat. (Matthew 14:28-30) It was Simon Peter who denied Jesus in the courtyard of the High Priest three times before the cock crowed. (John 18:25) Still, as bad as that is, at least Peter had the courage to be there while the other nine disciples had fled. When John and Peter had learned that Jesus had risen from the grave it was Simon Peter who was first at the tomb. (John 20:3-4)

Peter was a man of action, as all great leaders are, He is all over the place in the first twelve chapters of Acts. In Acts 1 Peter led the rest in choosing an Apostles to replace Judas. Acts 2 Peter preached the first sermon after the empowering of the Holy Spirit. Acts 3 Peter healed the lame beggar and delivered the second sermon. Acts 4 Peter and John were arrested and then released. Acts 5 Peter presided over Ananias and Sapphira when they stole from the Church and stood before Gamaliel’s Council. Acts 9 Peter healed the paralyzed man. Acts 10 Peter converted the Gentile Cornelius. In Acts 11 Peter stood before the Church Council in Jerusalem. And in Acts 12 Peter was again arrested and released after the martyrdom of the Apostle James.

Simon is known by three names. Simon, Peter and Simon Peter. Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter which means stone. (Matthew 16:18) Though Simon had the leadership qualities that Jesus saw and developed in him still he was an impulsive person which may be viewed as shaky. Perhaps Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter (stone) in order to give him a name to live up to and cause him to become more stable in his judgment. Through the gospels all three names are used. Simon is used when Simon was involved in secular things or sinning. As Peter became spiritually mature he was more often referred to as Peter by Jesus. In the Gospel of John, John always referred to him as Simon Peter. Probably because John didn’t know which name he was acting on at the time, sinful or holy.

Peter was always the closest to Jesus, he was always in the shadow of Jesus and Jesus invested much of His time in Peter. When Peter was in tune with his Master he was capable of great things. Because of his impulsive nature Simon Peter could be Peter in one moment and become Simon in the next. By Peter’s confession we hear these great words of faith. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.” And also, “We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69) In Matthew 16 we see when Jesus ask who he thought Jesus was he answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16) Based on Peter’s confession he is given the Keys of Heaven. “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19) This power is not only for Peter but for the Church of Jesus Christ. If we are walking in the Spirit of Truth and waling in faith in God’s Will, then through prayer we as members of His body have this ability. Then Peter being Simon rebukes the Lord. Jesus was foretelling the disciples of His death and Peter takes him aside. Can you imagine that? Peter telling the Lord what a minute. We need to go off to the side while I straighten you out on some things. In regards to His death Peter, now Simon, said, “Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” (Matthew 16:22) To which Jesus replied, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” (Matthew 16:23)

Simon Peter had lessons to be learned. Peter told Jesus that he would never forsake Him in Matthew 26:33 and then in Matthew 26:39 denied Him three times. Peter wept bitterly but the relation was restored when the angel told Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus at the empty tomb to go and tell the disciple and Peter too. (Mark 16:7) Peter when he had disobeyed the Lord and led some of the disciples away from Jerusalem to go fishing Jesus met them at the shore and it was Peter that Jesus gave the lesson of feeding His sheep through love. (John 21:15:17)

Jesus taught Peter by giving him the right lessons. Jesus taught Peter submission in Matthew 17. The last thing Peter was concerned about was paying taxes to the Romans. Peter was now involved in the Kingdom business and felt no need to pay taxes. Jesus sent Peter out to catch a fish and in the mouth of the fish was a coin to pay the tax. “However, so that we do not offend them, go to the sea and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for you and Me.” (Matthew 17:27) We are to submit to the authorities who God has established. Jesus taught Peter humility at the washing of the feet during the Passover Supper. (John 13:5-16)

Peter learned his lessons from Jesus and went on to teach that which he had received from the Master. Peter learned to submit, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.” (1 Peter 2:13-15 Peter teaches that the life of Christ is our example, “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:21-25) Peter teaches us to rejoice as we share in the sufferings of our Lord. “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner? Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.” (1 Peter 4:12-19)

Peter served his Lord and Master to the point of death. Tradition says Peter requested not to be crucified in the same manner as Jesus. Peter said he was not worthy to die in the same way as his Lord. So the Roman soldiers crucified him upside down. Tradition also says that it took Peter three days to die upside down. Death in the ordinary position of crucifixion causes suffocation but one does not suffocate when hanging upside down. There are stories that the soldiers attempted to burn Peter crucified on his cross but he did not die. After three days he is said to have been beheaded while hanging upside down.

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, April 20, 1914

Durant Bible College

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