Today’s reading: Acts 3:16-6:15
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them… Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. Acts 4:8 & 13
Being with Jesus, well, it changes you! Look at Peter! His story starts in Matthew 4:18-22 he’s peacefully casting his fishing net into the Sea of Galilee when this Rabbi walking along the shore shouts out to him, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Most of us today would laugh at a suggestion like that. We’re busy typing away at our computers at work, when a pastor we’ve only ever heard of, walks by our cubicle and says, “Hey, come travel the world with me and you can save many souls for the kingdom. You won’t get paid much, if anything, but we’ll be doing great things!” We might consider his offer, but let’s be honest; most of us wouldn’t actually drop everything and just go with him into ministry. We would go home and at least pray about it for a week or two! But not Peter! It says that he immediately dropped his net and followed Jesus. He’d just been offered the opportunity of a lifetime and he wasn’t about to pass it up! In that culture, to be a Rabbi was the height of position. Every boy went to school to learn the scriptures but only the best students went on to study them and actually become Rabbi’s, the rest of the boys went on to do the family trade. The fact that Peter was a fisherman tells us that he had not made the cut in school to become a Rabbi or even a Rabbi’s student. But then here was this new young Rabbi that everyone was talking about and he was offering Peter this position of honor to come be his disciple, Peter would have been crazy not to accept it! So he jumped right out of his boat and went to Jesus’ side to follow Him throughout the country and preach the word of God.
In Matthew 14:22-33 we watch Peter step out of yet another boat to follow Jesus, yet this time it is much more dramatic. The wind is roaring, the waves are crashing and Jesus is standing atop of them beckoning Peter once again to follow His example. And Peter does so fearlessly. While the rest of the disciples are terrified that Jesus is a ghost, Peter speaks up “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. Now I ask you my friend, if YOU were out in the middle of a lake and saw your pastor walking on the water and everyone around you thought he was a ghost, would the first words out of your mouth be “Hey, if it’s really you, tell me to come out there and stand on the water with you!”? I’m guessing no… but then again, Jesus wasn’t a Rabbi like all the other Rabbi’s either. But still, even after seeing all the miracles they had already seen up to that point I still don’t know that I would have asked to go out there too.
Through the story of the gospels we learn that Peter is an outgoing disciple. When no one else is brave enough to speak up and answer Jesus’ question of who they think He is (Matthew 16:13-20), Peter is the only one to pipe up with “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God“. Again, while all the other disciples are struck speechless Peter is brave enough to speak. You kind of start to get the feeling that Peter really didn’t care what anybody but Jesus thought about him. Hmmm… there’s a heavy truth right there.
But then later we get to the last few hours before Jesus’ crucifixion, and He tells His disciples that they will all “fall away” from Him in the coming hours. There’s Peter again, the first to pipe up “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” (Matthew 26:30-35) Yet Jesus explains to him that indeed, he too will deny Jesus. And lo and behold, a few short hours later, although he was one of the few that followed Jesus to His “trial” he still denied knowing Him, not once or even twice, but three times. Peter was so overwhelmed by the reality of what he had done to his Lord that he left the courtyard and “wept bitterly” (Matthew 26:69-75). After all this time of following Jesus, Jesus had become so much more than a mentor and teacher to Peter; He had become his role model, his friend, his brother. Peter loved this man with all his heart, soul and mind. At this point Peter was closer to Jesus than anyone else on the face of the earth and he had just denied that relationship three times! Not that it’s quite the same, but, it would be like if my husband was wrongfully arrested, beaten and was being unjustly tried and I stood there and said, “Nope, don’t know the man.” right within his ear shot. It would break his heart! And I suggest to say that although Jesus knew that he would do it, Peter’s denial broke the heart of Jesus as well. And if Peter’s story ended here it would be a terrible ending! But there’s good news, his story doesn’t end here.
Peter went back to fishing after his denial of Jesus in an obvious effort to lay aside that life of ministry. The pain he had caused himself was too much for him to bear. But God is merciful and just and oh-so-loving. We find this part of the story in John 21 where Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James, John and two other disciples go fishing and are once again in a boat together out on the water. They fished all night but caught nothing… until a man came walking along the shore and asked them if they had caught any fish and then suggested that they cast their nets out on the right side of the boat. Now, if they’ve been fishing all night, don’t you think they’ve tried that already??? But they did it anyway without a word of doubt and what-da-ya-know, fish! At this point John turns to Peter and says excitedly “It’s the Lord”! Peter, without a doubt in his mind, doesn’t walk away from the boat, he doesn’t step out onto the water in faith, he throws himself into the sea! He flings himself toward the lover of his soul without a moment’s hesitation. Second chances like this don’t come along very often, if ever, and he certainly wasn’t about to miss this one! The rest of the disciples bring their haul of fish to the shore where Jesus and Peter are waiting for them with breakfast. After breakfast Jesus turns to Peter and says
“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to Him, “Lord, You know everything; You know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This He said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me“.
Three times Peter denied his relationship with Jesus and three times Jesus asked him “Do you love me?“. Jesus gave Peter the opportunity to repent from each denial. Jesus followed each profession of Peter’s love with a command, “Feed my lambs”, “Tend my sheep” and “Feed my sheep”. The Lord Jesus was leaving soon and He knew it. So He was asking Peter to take over for Him in the ministry, to spread the good news of Jesus and to make disciples of all the nations. Jesus asks us the same question, “Do you love Me?” and if we reply “Yes Lord” then His command to us is to feed and tend to His children. He is asking us to get out of the boat! To get out of that familiar place of comfort and to leap into the sea with faith and trust in Him that He will not only catch and carry us, but that He will go before us and do all the heavy lifting. The Christian life is a hard life, it’s not easy or painless, but it is one-hundred percent totally worth it!
In Acts 2:14-41 Peter delivers his first recorded sermon. He has obediently waited on the gift of the Holy Spirit to come down on the disciples and what is the first act of business for Peter, a sermon to his peers to explain what on earth is going on. This man who loved Jesus so passionately and was so bold in his faith from the very beginning is the one who is again the first to speak up and explain to the crowd what is happening around them. He explains to them who Jesus is and why that should be a big deal to them.
In today’s reading we find Peter speaking again, this time it’s because he’s under arrest for healing a lame beggar. In chapter four verse eight it tells us that Peter was “filled with the Holy Spirit” while he was delivering his speech to the Sadducees and at the end of his speech they looked at him and saw that he was a fisherman. They knew that he had not gone through the education and training of a normal Rabbi, and yet the profound words that came out of his mouth and the power-filled deeds that came from his hands suggested otherwise. There was something different about this man called Peter… he had been with Jesus. It’s the only explanation. Jesus changes us, He just does. Time with Him changes us. We may be common simple people, stay-at-home moms with no formal theological training, but time with Jesus changes you. It transforms you to be something that even you couldn’t have imagined. On the outside, you may still be that common everyday mom, but on the inside, you’re a Queen; HIS Queen, His bride, His wife, His lover, His friend.
Live boldly in the Spirit today my friend, you have spent time with The King, you have been transformed, no go out and live like it!