PETER IN JOHN
John, the author has been a mystery, nevertheless he was accurate in assessing Peter as Jesus choice to take over after him. The author’s friendship with Jesus and Peter does point to John Zebedee. John endeared himself to Jesus and Peter needed him to stay informed what Jesus was about. There are few references about Peter, but with profound implications and most of them have to do while Jesus was in Jerusalem. We shall begin with John 13. At the Last Supper, when Jesus began to hint at his betrayal, “Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, ‘Ask him which one he means.” That disciple did ask and Jesus did not hesitate and said, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it into the dish.” Peter saw Jesus give it to Judas Iscariot and he knew instantly that Satan had taken control of Judas (Jn. 13:18-27). He saw Judas leave and betray or hand over their Lord to the enemies; but he failed to face the danger of denying his Lord himself. Could it have been that he was too preoccupied with Judas rather than with his own weakness? Jesus had to tell Peter to his face that he too would deny him, not once but three times. The writer linked the two events together. The more faults we find with others, the less we see our own, especially when we are ashamed to identify with those that believe in Jesus. Peter found it difficult to cope with that mistake.
That last day with Jesus before He was taken from his disciples was not to Peter’s liking. He tried so hard to stand out and nothing came up right. Jesus did things a Lord simply does not do. A Lord had to be loved and not show how to love his subjects. When Jesus wrapped himself with a towel and began to wash his disciples feet, the writer saw instantly a lesson on how to love and Peter did not. To Peter it was an insult to his Lord while the others took it all in as a blessing. He could not understand why Jesus wanted to be one of them and one with them. Peter was going to be different and not let his Lord wash his feet. Jesus insisted that without doing what He was doing, He could not make Peter understand. Peter remained stubborn and said, “No, you will never wash my feet!” To open Peter’s mind, Jesus declared, “Unless I wash you, you have no part in me.” The ground underneath Peter’s feet must have given way. He stammered, “Then Lord, not just my feet but my hands and my head as well.” Yes, it was his head that needed to be corrected. It was not about washing feet but about serving each other regardless of rank. The higher one is in rank the more eager one should be in being ready to stoop as low as someone’s feet. Greatness does not depend on being served but on rendering service to those beneath us.
The first to follow Jesus was Andrew and an unidentified disciple. After the two had spent the day with Jesus, it was Andrew that found Peter and told him, “We have found the Messiah (The Christ).” He took his brother to Jesus and when Jesus sees him he said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas, Peter or the Rock.” Jesus himself went and found Philip, who like Andrew and Peter came from Bethsaida, a small fishing village. Philip found Nathanael and Jesus was impressed with his sincerity and told him so. Nathanael and not Peter declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” Jesus answered, “You believe because I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that. You shall see heaven open up and the angels pf God ascend and descend on the Son of Man” (Jn. 1:35-51). At this point, the writer was not much concerned about Peter or his own identity, nor was he interested or familiar with Jesus’ Galilean ministry. He does not write as if he belonged to the first four disciples and he appears to be far more knowledgeable about things in Jerusalem than John Zebedee the fisherman, or “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Like John Zebedee, he did befriend Peter, followed Jesus while under arrest with Peter from Gethsemane and helped him into the High Priest’s courtyard. And the other disciples testified that this disciple did write this Gospel (Jn. 21:24). He knew things that the others could not possibly have witnesses or written like the Prologue or Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane and Peter’s denial of his Lord.
Peter began to show initiative when Jesus experienced a low point in his ministry. Many disciples began to leave because He demanded too much change in their lifestyle and more commitment to his mission. Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you want to leave too?” Simon Peter popped up, “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.” In spite of Peters promise to stay with Jesus, Jesus hinted that one of them was a devil (Jn. 6:67-68). Concerning his intentions, no one had a clear understanding of what Jesus meant. It was during their last meal that Peter learned the identity of the traitor. When the traitor came with a Jewish gang from the High Priest to arrest Jesus, Peter resorted to the sword and cut off an ear of Malchus the High Priest’s servant, known to the other disciple that followed Jesus with Peter and assisted him to get inside where court was being held. Jesus restored the ear and ordered Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the father has given me?” Peter ends up in Annas’ place surrounded by strangers that remembered him being with Jesus and his Galilean accent confirmed it. He then denied three times that he knew his Lord and went into hiding. On the third day after the crucifixion, Mary of Magdala rattled the apostles’ minds by telling Peter that Jesus’ body had disappeared. Peter and the other disciple also called the beloved one ran to the tomb. The other disciple saw and believed, Peter had no comment (Jn. 20:1-9). Apparently Peter was convinced when the risen Christ appeared to ten. Thomas needed a special showing and it turned out more for our benefit than his (Jn. 20:19-29).
Peter decided to return to fishing in Galilee and the sons of Zebedee along with Thomas and others went along. That night they caught nothing. In the morning someone on shore called out to cast the net on the right side of the boat and they were unable to accommodate all the fish. “Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord.’” Peter wrapped himself, jumped into the lake and swam ashore and then helped unload the fish. On shore the Lord had breakfast ready and this was the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples as the Risen Lord. Jesus too was ready to assign Peter his task and so was Peter. Three times Jesus demanded that Peter confess his absolute loyalty to Him. The promise to be loyal was in Aramaic and the Greek reproduced it accordingly. Twice Jesus asked Peter whether he loved (agapas) and Peter answered three times “you know I am your friend (philo). The third time Jesus accepted Peter’s friendship (phileis me). And three times Peter is commissioned to tend and feed the lambs and sheep. The Beloved Disciple, however, was not to be part of Peter’s flock. The Lord had another purpose for this disciple (Jn. 21). This time Peter would not fail. He had become the rock the church needed to survive. He had become “a friends that sticks closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24).