“But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8)

I am intrigued by the Apostle Peter. Peter before he met and followed Jesus the Messiah given to the Jewish nation by God was named Simon the son of Jonah. Peter was an outspoken man and I see him as a bold and courageous man as Joshua from the Old Testament. Peter came from humble beginnings and was born around 1 B.C. and lived to around 67 A.D. In his beginnings he was known by the name Simon but Jesus changed his name during the time of his ministry with Jesus to Peter. Peter in Greek was the word Petros and meant Rock. Peter along with his brother Andrew lived in the town of Bethsaida. Peter was a married man and along with his brother were fishermen. Before meeting Jesus Peter was a follower of John the Baptist. Fishermen of the time were usually gruff and unkempt folk. Like a lot of working class people of any age, he was shabby in dress and often used vulgar language. And like men of labor Peter was a man’s man. Peter was a man full of vigor and had a boisterous temper.

Peter and his brother Andrew were friends with fellow fishermen named James and John, who were also brothers. And they too had the reputation the same as Peter and Jesus referred to them as Sons of Thunder. “James, the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James (to them He gave the name Boanerges, which means, “Sons of Thunder”).” (Mark 3:17) The four of them together fished on the Sea of Galilee and because of its quick storms was a physically demanding occupation. They must have been fearless men as well to navigate the temperamental sea. Storms on the Sea of Galilee could come up quickly and catch the fishermen by surprise and the danger was that the twenty to thirty-foot boats would capsize.

Peter being outspoken often engaged his tongue before engaging his brain. The understandings of Peter were not always wrong and when he and his brother Andrew were told by Jesus to follow Him they left everything and went after Him. (Luke 5:9-11) We have to consider the fact that everything meant their fishing boats, fishing nets, and all the accessories that came with their trade. That was a very spontaneous decision on their part and I do not think it was a move in faith as much as the dynamic personality of the Lord Jesus.

Prior to this command from Jesus, the crowds that had been following Him had pressed Him up against the Sea of Galilee and Peter and Andrew were there after a time of fishing. They were cleaning up their nets and Jesus asked them to take Him out away from the shore. They knew of Jesus as He had already captured the attention of the people through His ministry. So Peter and Andrew took Jesus out from the shore possibly not because He commanded but because they knew He was searching for some space. Once away from the shore Jesus told Peter to let down the nets for a catch of fish.

Peter and Andrew had been fishing all through the night and had caught nothing and Peter told Jesus so. But Peter told Jesus that at His word he would let down the net as commanded. When the net went into the water it filled up with so many fish that the net began to break. The brothers called another fishing boat to come and help them haul in the fish. When this happened Peter spoke to Jesus, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!” In my small mind, I would have certainly been amazed. I would have been most thankful. I would have asked if Jesus would come often and direct the fishing. But then I can’t think that anyone could be in the presence of Jesus and not be overwhelmed. I really can’t judge why Peter would ask Jesus to leave except that he knew that he was in the direct presence of a deity, a holy man, and one whose righteousness was far superior to any other that he had known.

I come to this conclusion because of the reaction of the Prophet Isaiah in the Temple when he had realized that he was in the presence of the Lord. “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:5) Both Isaiah and Peter realized their complete unworthiness before a Holy God. I cannot say that Peter knew Jesus was the Messiah but he did know that he was in the presence of someone far bigger than he or any other he had been with. Even as Peter had told Jesus to go away from him, still he was overwhelmed that Jesus would command him to follow Him. His brother felt it two, as they both dropped everything and went with Him.

Peter and his brother Andrew were the first disciples that Jesus called. One positive statement that can be said of Peter is that he had a special insight into Jesus’ identity. When Jesus asked who Peter thought he was his answer was a revelation that could have only come from God. “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) Others of the disciples gave good answers as to what the people were saying. Some of the people were saying that Jesus was John the Baptist, the Prophet Elijah, or one of the great profits. But Peter gave the right answer that Jesus was the promised Messiah.

When fishing on the Sea of Galilee and taking Jesus out in the boat to teach the people Peter was told to drop the nets for a catch of fish. From the result of that Peter knew that Jesus was a dynamic person with powers. (Luke 5:6-8) Jesus knows the hearts of people and called Peter to be a disciple of His. Peter may have been intrigued by the proposition of becoming “Fishers of Men.” (Matthew 4:19) But now after the feeding of the four thousand men Peter’s recognition of Jesus had grown from that of a powerful prophet to the promised Messiah.

Of all His chosen disciples Jesus knew which ones would remain faithful to Him and who would desert the ministry. It is interesting to note that when Jesus came and chose His disciples He did not go to the religious leaders of the day. They and the scribes were the theological scholars of the day. To be a Pharisee one would have to know the first five books of the Bible by heart is known as the Torah. They may have been Jesus’ logical choice for disciples. But the Pharisees were based on perfect obedience to God’s law which is not possible for any man. Jesus knew they would not accept the precepts of God’s free gift of salvation through His grace. As a result of that and other reasons, Jesus and the Pharisees and scribes were in constant conflict. Jesus chose the humble in spirit who could be taught the gospel message and had simple childlike faith in His Word. It was a faith that the poor and uneducated could believe in and trust.

Peter grew to become the foremost of the disciples and His name is always mentioned first in the listing of the Scripture. Jesus had divided His disciples into four groups of rank and Peter, Andrew, James, and John, all fishermen were in the inner group. It was Peter, James, and John, who were privileged to witness the Transfiguration on the Mount. There Jesus took on a glorified body and was joined by Elijah and Moses. All of the disciples of Jesus witnessed the mighty works, miracles, and wonders of Jesus’ ministry.

A disciple us a student and follower of his teacher and that is what Christians are today, learners and followers of Jesus. Peter and the remaining eleven were specifically chosen to be the disciples of Jesus. Jesus had many other disciples but the twelve were His chosen.  The meaning of the word Apostle is a delegate or an ambassador of the Gospel, he is one who is a commissioner of Christ who is sent forth as a messenger. Peter and the remaining ten Disciples of Christ were commissioned as Apostles by Jesus Himself. “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20) An Apostle of Christ had to be with Jesus during His earthly ministry while he was training them or having seen the risen Christ as Paul had.

The last thing Jesus told His disciples was just before He ascended to heaven to be with His Heavenly Father was this. “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” (Acts 1:7-8)

On the day of Pentecost when the power of the Holy Spirit fell upon the Apostles, it was Peter who preached to the crowds in Jerusalem and three thousand responded and committed to following Jesus. This is known as the birth of the Church of Christ to this very day. Peter was the bold and courageous Apostle and along with the other Apostles suffered persecution, imprisonment, beatings, and rejoiced that he was worthy to suffer for His Lord and Savior. “So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.” (Acts 5:41)

Peter, a man of humble beginning who was arrogant and cocky, the man known for his boisterous temper, and a man who often spoke before engaging his mind. Now Peter had grown as a humble man who was a willing and obedient servant of His Lord even to his death. The man who had denied his Lord now rejoiced that at his crucifixion he soon would be reunited with his beloved Lord. Peter had spent thirty-three years of his sixty-five years of a life devoted to proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. Peter was a lowly fisherman who became a mighty fisher of men. Peter changed the shape of the world forever with a message that would turn the world right-side-up. Delivering a message of the gospel of Jesus Christ that to this day is still being delivered.

How did the man’s man become the Lord’s man? How did an unruly, uneducated, and quick-tempered man become one who helped change the world in the enrichment of their souls? By submitting himself to the power of the Holy Spirit and never looking back to what he had been, he looked forward to what he would become. Peter came from the image of a fallen man and was transformed into the image of His Lord and Savior. “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, November 28, 2018

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