How Christmas Continued, 28

HUMBLING LESSONS FOR A LEADER, (Gospels, Acts, Galatians, and Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible Vol. 3)

We were mending our fishing nets when Andrew returned from a trip all exited telling us that they had found the Messiah. He insisted that I go with him to meet this Prophet from Nazareth. To please my brother I went along. Before Andrew could introduce me, this man said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be known as Peter (the Rock).” He knew me without having ever met. The very next day, Jesus showed up where I was fishing and caught nothing. He took over my boat and lectured to the people. Then, He ordered me to go out and fish against my objections. We obeyed and were shocked at the catch. We called for neighboring boats to bring in the haul. Being a very sinful man, I fell on my knees and begged the Holy Man to leave me. He paid not attention to my plea but ordered me to follow him and He would make me into a fisher for men. I was powerless to refuse and so were my brother Andrew and our partners James and John Zebedee.

Before we realized what was happening, Jesus had practically taken over our home in Capernaum, healed my mother-in-law and scores of others. The next morning, we found Him praying in the hills and preparing to take a trip around the country to proclaim that the kingdom of God had arrived. While He preached, we learned that we had become his students or disciples. After we had watched Jesus heal and perform miracles, He appointed twelve of us to be missionaries or apostles. He gave us some of his power and sent us out to preach and heal. We returned elated that the demons had obeyed us; but Jesus dampened our success by telling us that self-glory was of the devil. When our Teacher began to tell us that He would be killed, I promised to defend Him and that too was of the devil. I saw in Him the Son of the Living God, but not the one that was Lord over my life. I had been with Jesus all this time and had not converted to what He came for and stood for. He told me plainly that I had to change before I could strengthen my brothers. Jesus also told us that one of us would betray Him. Who but I insisted that I would not. He put me in my place and said that all could hear that I would deny that I knew Him three times. Everything He said about me was true.

Jesus saw in me a man that He depended on. He promised to build an organization where I was to be the foundation. Only the Zebedee brothers and I were privileged to be present when He resuscitated the dead, when He was on the Mount of Transfiguration with Moses and Elijah and when He prayed His last prayer in Gethsemane. What were we doing? We were plotting how to be the leaders of His kingdom, how to build huts on the Mountain and fall asleep when our Master needed us the most. Yes, I am the one that wanted to walk on water, strike with the sword to defend our Lord and used a dark night to hide my identity but my tongue betrayed me. And when our Lord was taken from us in such a humiliating way, I too saw our own demise. All of Jesus’ teaching about returning from the dead had completely escaped us. When some of our women and followers told us about the empty tomb and of someone that looked like our Lord, I was no longer that quick to accept such witnesses. He had to appear twice before I was convinced Jesus was alive. Even then, I was not certain as to what He wanted me to do.

Jesus had instructed us to wait in Jerusalem for a special event that would define for us what role we were to play in spreading His kingdom, what ever it was. I did not wait. I went back to Galilee and to fishing and so did the others. Here I was with a group of men that felt lost. It was on the fortieth day that things began to change. A man on shore asked for fish and John recognized the Lord. Again, I hid in the water while the others brought in the catch. Jesus prepared a breakfast for us in silence. Then, for all to hear, Her asked me twice whether I truly loved Him and once whether I really was His friend. At first, I felt hurt and thought about having denied my Lord three times. But when He put me in charge of His sheep and lambs, I realized that He entrusted me with the leadership of His followers. He took His leave for heaven from us on a Mountain. We returned to Jerusalem where on Pentecost more than a 120 people were empowered to proclaim Jesus moral or spiritual kingdom to the world. I became the spokesman to the people and before our political and religious authorities. The Lord’s Spirit in my life made me fearless and bold. I healed in Jesus’ name and so did my shadow. No jail could hold me. After I had taken drastic actions against Ananias and Sapphira, things changed. I certainly had not done what Jesus did with his opposition. I no longer felt that strong or safe and had to leave Jerusalem altogether. Jesus’ words that I too shall be led where I did not want to go began to hunt me. I had yet to learn that the Holy Spirit was not given to protect us physically but to proclaim the name and mission of Jesus.

I was an orthodox Jew and had no place for the Gentiles in God’s Kingdom. Brother Paul criticized me severely for my un-Christ like behavior toward the Gentiles. I was in Joppa resting when in a vision the Lord demanded three times that I eat unclean animals. When I refused, He informed me that what He had purified I was in no position to make impure. At the end of the third vision, a delegation from Cornelius asked for me. The Spirit urged me to go with the men and when I entered the home of the Roman Officer and before I could open my mouth, the household of Cornelius experienced what we had happen to us on Pentecost. God loved the Gentiles just as much as He did us. I helped Paul to admit them into our fellowship as equals and helped sanction his mission to the Gentile. I ended up in Rome where in secret I continued serving my countrymen in dispersion. I knew that my days were numbered and I requested that I be crucified upside down. I no longer feared those that killed the body but could not touch my eternal soul.