BLESSED ARE YOU SIMON PETER
There were twelve disciples, but only one was called “blessed” or “makarios.” It was Simon, son of Jonah, who showed the potential of becoming a “makarios.” Simon was renamed, “Peter.” Jesus singled Peter out for leadership. What was there about this man that attracted Jesus to him and many others throughout history? In retrospect, we can find many outstanding qualities that many of us would desire. Historians have a tendency to make small people great and great people small. If we had met Simon on the day Jesus met him, would we have seen in the man what Jesus saw?
We do know how Peter felt when he met Jesus. Peter had heard from his brother Andrew about Jesus. Peter definitely was afraid to meet this “holy Man.” Peter did not have a good day in fishing and he was not looking his best when he was interrupted while he cleaned his boat. That was when Jesus showed up and Jesus asked Peter to let him use his boat to preach to the people. After the sermon, Jesus told Peter to go back in the lake and fish. Peter hesitated. Then, Peter obeyed and he was shocked when the fish just jumped into the boats and filled the boat above capacity. We read, “But when Simon saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me for I am a sinful man, O Lord’” (Lk. 5:8). Jesus saw, in the sinner, a prospective leader for his flock. Jesus saw a man that would become sound as a rock; yet open to God’s Spirit to reveal the identity of Jesus as the Son of God. Jesus saw a quality in Simon worthy to be renamed, “Peter” that would change the man and the events that would surround him. It was one event or one incident that would set Simon Peter apart from all the rest of Christ’s followers. And it was an answer to Jesus’ two questions, “Who do men say the Son of man is?” And the second question was, “Who do you say I am?” Without hesitation, Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Pleased with the answer, Jesus declared, “Blessed are you Simon son of Jonah, for flesh and blood have not revealed this unto you but my Father who is in heaven” (Mt. 13:16-17).
Peter was not an instant “makarioi” or a blessed one. Peter was a diamond in the rough and it took some work, on Jesus part, to bring out the characteristics that turned him into a blessed one. Like Peter, we all are born or endowed with the ingredients to become blessed ones; but, only a few among us make an attempt to or allow others to help us become a blessing. It is up to every individual to decide what they want to be like in any circumstance or in any difficulty one faces. The fact that we are born makes us blessed to begin with. There are times and occasions when we are blessed in a very special way, due to something we may have done, or have been recognized for. It becomes even more special when someone very distinguished recognizes us as blessed. That was the case with Peter. Jesus, the Christ, pronounced Peter blessed because he believed that Jesus was the Messiah. It was this confession that made Peter famous. It singled Peter out from the rest of the disciples. Was Peter a better man than the others were who followed Jesus? Were any of the “Makarioi” whom we shall study heavenly beings come down to earth? The answer is a flat, “No!”
Simon Peter was very human. He was no special breed or a superman. He was no genius with a special gift. Like all the other blessed ones, Peter was subject to things common to all men. Peter had good and bad in him. Peter was both strong and weak. Peter experienced success and failure. Peter made promises that he could not keep. Peter was impulsive, rash, irrational, stubborn, and many other things. But Peter also was a man; when he had taken his licking, he would turn back and pick up the pieces and go on. Peter never was too proud to admit being wrong and he was willing to try new things, which might work. To everyone’s surprise, Peter was not a man of great faith. Peter had great intentions, but he had not the faith or the ability to follow his Master. Peter had great moments that appeared filled with belief; but when he was put to the test, he almost flanked every time.
Many people like to identify with Peter. The truth is, I cannot because my wife would not live with him. Peter was very intolerable and narrow-minded. He had very little room for people who disagreed with him. Even the Lord had to do quite a bit convincing before Peter would obey. We can learn from Peter and the other blessed ones, but it would be a mistake to identify with them or imitate them. Peter, like all the other “Makarioi,” was singled out for one thing and one thing only. Peter was blessed because God helped him see Christ in Jesus. The same is true of the other blessed people. They were singled out for what they did or endured. And only they could fit those shoes. We may not fit into their shoes, no matter how hard we would try. The reason is that we have been picked for other jobs and other objectives. As to why God picks certain people for certain jobs is not ours to know. Most of the time, those, who have been chosen for a function and have fulfilled it, they fall into oblivion. Peter was more fortunate. After he had disappeared, his followers resurrected him and made him part of their history and tradition.
It is my belief that we all have been chosen for a purpose or a specific role. Some of us may have found it and others are still seeking to find themselves. I began my search with being a farmer. A drastic accident made me change direction and I became a minister. Then, I tried my hand in preaching, teaching, pastoral serve and writing. I have yet to determine, which one of these or is there still another area, in which I will find myself. I am also aware of the fact that I may never, in this life, find that one thing that will completely satisfy me. In the final analyses, it is the Lord, Himself, who declares us blessed, and it is with his approval that we will shine. The point is this! Whenever we carry out our designated assignments, we become special and blessed. Jesus question is still on the books; namely, “Who do you say I am?” It does not matter what others think or say. It matters greatly what we think Jesus Christ is to us! It is here where we should identify with Simon Peter.
Jesus, Himself, picked this name for this fisherman from Galilee. Peter’s father, Jonah, named him at birth “Symeon” or Simon. There are three accounts as to how Jesus and Simon met. We assume that Mark’s account is the earliest encounter. Matthew followed Mark. That may not be the case. I lean toward John’s story. Andrew, Simon’s younger brother and his nameless companion sought out John the Baptist. This desert Prophet pointed to Jesus as, “The Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.” Andrew and the nameless disciple followed Jesus and spent the day with him. Immediately after, Andrew fetched his brother and took him to Jesus. When Jesus laid his eyes on this fisherman, he said, “You are Simon son of Jonah, you shall be called Cephas, which in the Greek means Peter” (Jn. 1:42). And that is all that happened at that time. We are not told that Peter was asked to follow Jesus or that he did.
I think that Luke’ account was next. Jesus had begun to preach. He came to the seaside where Peter had just finished fishing. No introduction was made because they had already met. Jesus acted as if He knew Peter. Jesus no longer gave Peter his new name. Instead, Jesus asked Peter whether He could use one of the boats to preach from. Simon has no objection and listened in himself. After Jesus’ speech, Jesus told Simon Peter to row out and throw his net into the deep. The fisherman objected because they had fished all night and they caught nothing; but to please Jesus, Peter agreed to comply. To Simon’s astonishment, they harvested the largest catch ever. Peter fell on his knees and begged, “Depart form me, I am a sinful man, Lord!” But the Lord answered Peter, “Do not be afraid, from now on you shall catch men” (Lk.5: 1-11). Again, there is no indication that Simon left his boats and nets and followed Jesus. I think that he followed later.
This brings us to the accounts of Mark and Matthew. Jesus passed by where Peter and Andrew were fixing their nets. This time, Jesus ordered them to follow Him, and they complied without hesitation or questions (Mk. 1:17-18; Mt. 4:18-22). They had time to think things over and they were convinced that Jesus was the “Man” to follow. There was no more introductions or naming of Simon. Simon Peter had just left everything behind. He now was one of the three companions of Jesus that went with Him everywhere. From now on, it would also be intense training for all the disciples. The disciples would begin to form a bond with Simon Peter as their leader and as their spokesman. Following Jesus was a remarkable task. One of the first lessons was on faith. Peter was going to walk on water like Jesus and he asked for it. Peter was told he could, only to find himself sinking and crying out for help. Jesus had to tell Peter that he had but little faith (Mt.14: 27-31). Simon was a puritan. Jesus was more liberal. He ate with publicans and sinners. Jesus had to tell Peter that he was dull and that what entered the stomach did not defile, but what came out of the mouth from the heart was unclean (Mt. 15:10-20). Nevertheless, Peter hung in expecting better days.
There came such a day while they were on the road near Caesarea, Philippi. Jesus popped the kind of question Peter was ready for. The first question was, “Who do men say the Son of man is?” All the disciples chimed in on public opinion. Jesus did not quite like their answer and rephrased the question, “Who do you say I am?” Peter, like a bullet from a modern gun blurted, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!” The words that Jesus uttered next must have lifted Peter to the portals of heaven. At last, Peter’s moment of recognition had come. Here was Jesus saying what no mortal ears had ever heard before, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for flesh and blood have not revealed this unto you but my Father in heaven. I tell you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. To you I give the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and what ever you loosen on earth will be loosened in heaven” (Mt. 16:13-19). Right there and then, a “Makarios” was born; but he was yet to be evolved like a caterpillar into a butterfly.