SIMON SON OF JOHN: ROCK AND ROCKY?
The person that Jesus chose to succeed Him was not an obvious choice. He came from a hamlet called, “Bethsaida.” He married a lady from Capernaum and took over her father’s fishing business. Five different writers gave us sketches of who this man was. Jesus renamed him Peter, the Rock. Just how solid was he? He grabbed my attention for a number of reasons. The most important one was that he learned how to follow Jesus. It was a rocky road. He was not at all sure of himself. Physically, he was unforgettable. During Jesus’ trial, a girl that saw him once identified him as being one of Jesus’ followers. And when he opened his mouth, he betrayed his Galilean origin (Jn. 18:15-27). Simon Peter was not one that volunteered to follow anyone without some convincing proof; but when he joined, he commanded attention. If there were any important questions, Peter would most likely come up with the correct answer. When Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say I am?” It was Simon that declared, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus was pleased with his answer and acknowledged Peter before the group, “Blessed are you, Simon son of John, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter (a rock), and on this rock I will build my fellowship (like a church), and the gates of Hell will not stop it. I will give you the keys of my heavenly fellowship; whomever you will lead in will continue in, and whomever you will not win over will not become part of my fellowship” (Mt. 16:17-19).
Recognition, who does not crave for it? Peter needed a lift and Jesus gave it to him. It is a tremendous feeling to be singled out as perhaps the smartest or the person that got it when no one else did. The truth is that we do need being lifted and acknowledged for something. Praise does go a long way when we learn to live respectably as human beings. Praise is intended to move us on and not sit on that one moment of recognition for the rest of our life. People remember the day when they accepted Jesus as their Savior, but did nothing ever since then. Here is an unpublicized secret. One does not have to convert to believe in Jesus. Peter was not converted when he identified Jesus, as the Christ. At least to Jesus, he was not and he told Peter why, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail. And when you turn back, strengthen your brothers” (Lk. 22:32). What did Peter do that made Jesus come down on him? He got it into his head that he was the greatest in their group. In fact, Peter did not know himself that he was toying with the devil. His faith was hanging by a thread. He was dreaming of a kingdom where he would dominate others. Jesus had this instruction: “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one that rules like the one who serves” (Lk. 22:25-26).
Right after Peter had been elevated, he took his first tumble. He had completely misunderstood Jesus’ mission and was slapped in the face as being a puppet of Satan. Jesus said to Peter, “Out of my sight, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me, you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men” (Mt. 16:23). Peter was humiliated; yet, he did not leave Jesus. Most people would because they want sympathy, rather than correction. One day, Jesus asked whether he, like some others, wanted to leave and Peter replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God” (Jn. 6:60-69). Peter demonstrated in his behavior that if we are in the presence of someone that can teach us what would help us, we ought to be humble enough to accept it and stay with that some one. We do like to be with people that approve of us and they make us feel good. The question is, “How much do they teach us that could make us better?” Like Peter, we must out of necessity, stay with those that correct us when we are wrong. He did not mind to be judged before he was sentenced or condemned. When we are on the wrong road, we encourage others to follow us to nowhere. We do not just stumble ourselves; we also cause others to stumble. Peter, with help from Jesus, did get it before his time ran out. Will we get it with the help we are depending on?
Simon Peter was a hard head; yet, Jesus saw in Peter potentials that needed to be developed. Unlike his brother Andrew or cousin John, he did not wander off if some pretender appeared to be a messenger of God. He was steady and stubborn, a quality a leader needed for someone that could take over after Jesus departed. That was a tremendous plus in Peter’s favor and for us as well. We are far too easily swayed. When Andrew, his brother, told him that they had met the promised Messiah, he did not drop his fishing net and hurried over to meet Him. Andrew had to take Peter to Jesus, who immediately saw the potential of being a leader in Simon and called him, “Cephas, the Rock” (Jn. 1:40-42). Jesus had to do a number on Peter. He told him where the fish were and they filled more than one boat. Being overwhelmed with the catch, he fell at Jesus’ knees and begged, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man.” Jesus did not go away and said to the kneeling man, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men” (Lk. 5:1-11). At that point, Peter could not catch himself, how could he help others? He did not know that he had it within him to do something more important than what he was doing. Someone had to show him and even teach him how to be that someone. For Peter, Jesus assumed that role and he began to recommend him to others. Jesus did the same for me. When the world had no place for me but to run an elevator, He allowed me to serve Him for sixty-one years. I did not arrive at that by myself. A follower of Christ, like Peter, saw in me what I did not see in myself. Allow someone to see in you that which you do not see yourself.
Rocky and narrow was the road that Jesus traveled on and it was not any easier for Peter. He just kept on doing things that did not please Jesus; yet, Jesus kept on taking Peter with Him. He was learning on the job, or was he? Jesus was trying to get men back into the favor of God. Peter, however, tried to fit God back into an earthly Israel. During the transfiguration, he wanted to build three huts so he could keep Jesus, Elijah and Moses on earth (Mt. 17:4). At this time, Jesus definitely needed help and Moses and Elijah could provide it. The prevailing view among the disciples was that Jesus would deliver Israel from oppression (Lk. 24:21). The night that Jesus was betrayed and apprehended, someone reached for the sword and struck one of the high priests’ servants (Lk. 22:50). To everyone’s presence, Jesus did not treat His arresting party as enemies, but as victims of a higher plot. By healing the servant, Jesus gave an example how one loves an enemy (Mt. 5:44). Earlier, Jesus had told Peter that before the night was over he would have denied him three times. Of course, Peter insisted that if everyone disowned Jesus, he would not. He was ready to die and so were the others that agreed with Peter (Mk. 14:27-31). He and someone else followed Jesus at a distance and that someone helped him get inside the courtyard of Annas. Before the proceedings against Jesus ended, Peter had denied knowing his Lord three times (Mk. 14:53-72; Jn. 18:15-18).
Peter was being watched while he was denying the One he had called, “Christ, the Son of the living God.” The information was passed on to Luke. He recorded what transpired between Jesus and a man that had failed His master miserably. “Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly” (Lk. 22:60-62). At last, Peter began to change into the man that Jesus needed to continue His mission on earth.