PETER THE SHEPHERD
Jesus reinstated Peter as the shepherd of his flock and instructed him to feed (boske) and pasture (poimaine) his lambs and sheep (Jn. 21:15-17). The sheep would vary in attitude and maturity. The feeding shall be about a healthy spiritual diet, like the word of God and the example of Christ and the pasturing shall be in dealing with and behaving in an unfriendly environment. As the head shepherd, Peter offered some guidelines for his people and leaders.
His first concern was with leadership. He knew that his days were numbered. “I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.” The people needed reassurance and Peter does so based on his personal encounter with Jesus and the prophets. “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain. And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shinning in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were led along by the Holy Spirit” (II Pe. 1:12-21).
Peter’s second concern was their calling and election. “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of suffering” (I Pe. 5:8-9). To stay in it they had to give Christ a hand. “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promise, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” (II Pe. 1:3-4). God’s promise is available to those that leave sin behind and participate actively in the divine nature or in the new person in Christ. Salvation is a two-way road where Christ and man meet. In order to fit into a life with Christ, some adjustments must be made. “You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (I Pe. 2:5). Mature believers were expected to be priests when no one no longer needed to be taught. “No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord (Jer. 31:34).
The devil was not the only one that was misleading the sheep and the lambs. “But there were (and will be) false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them – bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they made up.” “Bold and arrogant, these men are not afraid to slander celestial beings; yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not bring slanderous accusations against such beings in the presence of the Lord. But these men blaspheme in matters they do not understand. They are like brute beasts, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like beasts they too will perish.” “These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm.” “They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity – for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing the Lord and Savior and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then turn their backs on the sacred commandment that was passed on to them” (II Pe. 2:17-21).
Peter advocated strongly holy living for God by being holy with each other. “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do,” (I Pe. 1:15). Elders and you leaders were shepherds to each other and to those that were new in the faith. “To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s suffering and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers – not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble,’” (I Pe. 5:1-5). Holy living dictates that one submits to the secular authorities, even if they are hostile. Workers or slaves must also submit to their employers or masters (I Pe. 2:13-25). Peter was a Jews and expected women to submit to their husbands. But he also reminded the husbands how they were to treat their wives. “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives and treat them with respect as the weaker partner (not a slave) and heir with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers” (I Pe. 3:1-7). Practice being a shepherd at home before you try to be one to others!
Peter encouraged his flock to read Paul and follow his advice (II Pe. 3:15-16). He too was reprimanded (Gal. 2:11-20). This quote fits well with Peter. “Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and brag about your relationship to God; if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of infants, because you have the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth – you, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who brag about the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? As it is written: ‘God’s name is being blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you’” (Ro. 2:17-24). Just how much of Christ is in everyone of us?