Meet the Makarioi (Dispensers of Grace)

Peter continued

We are not told how thick Simon’s head had swollen, but whatever Peter thought Jesus meant was soon shattered. Jesus did not need a rock to defend him, but one that would lend support to his followers. Thus, when Jesus began to tell his disciples that He will have to be handed over, that He will suffer, and that He will die; Peter took Jesus aside and determined not to let this happen to his beloved Master. What a shock it must have been when Jesus compared Peter to Satan, and that in front of the other disciples. It must have been unreal to hear Jesus say, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an offense to me, for you do not consider the things of God but those of men” (Matthew 16:21-23). Apparently, this humiliation for Peter was brief. Jesus must not have been in one of his better moods. After all, how could one be blessed and rejected at the same time? According to Luke, all the disciples had risen above reality, and they required some rude awakening. Jesus stunned them by saying, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” They were about to step on snakes, Satan’s territory, but Jesus gave the disciples strength to overcome Satan’s trickery. Jesus told the disciples that they should not glory in their success, but that they should glory in the fact that their names would appear in heaven (Luke 10:18-20). With Peter, Jesus was even more specific. When the big fisherman persisted with the notion that he could love Jesus more than the other disciples (John 21:15), and that he would not deny his Teacher, but prefer to die with Him if necessary; Jesus shocked Peter again by declaring, “Simon, Simon, behold Satan has sought to sift you like wheat but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail, and when you come back (from your fall), strengthen your brethren” (Luke 22:31-32). Of course, Peter kept on denying that such things could ever happen to him. Here, too, we could identify with Peter. Satan will spend most of his time on people who try to imitate Jesus and try to be “Makarioi.”

Peter was not a rock to start with. It took quite a few serious encounters with mistakes before he would become the rock on whom others would lean and then only for a while. The marvel of it all is that Jesus believed in Peter. Jesus did not strip Peter of his commission because of his shortcomings. Peter was the kind of person who just could not help it to put his foot in his own mouth. Peter kept on assuming and speaking for others. In the transfiguration, Peter assumed that Jesus would like to stay in three tents with Moses and Elijah. Jesus did not even bother to explain (Matthew 17:4). When someone asked whether Jesus paid the temple tax, Peter gave an affirmative answer without consulting Jesus. This time, Jesus had to explain why He really did not have to pay taxes; nevertheless, Jesus sent his disciple to find the money and pay the tax (Matthew 17:24-27). And when a nameless woman touched Jesus, Peter excused the crowd for pushing. This one, Jesus let the woman answer herself (Luke 8:45). Humility was hard to accept for Peter. It must have been difficult to grasp Jesus’ idea that being great, one had to be small, and in order to be first, one had to be last. When Jesus spoke on the merits of being a good and faithful servant, Peter interrupted by asking, “Lord, are you telling this parable to us or to everyone?” Jesus answer was directed in a question, “Who then is that true and wise servant whom the Master has put in charge” (Luke 12:35-48)? Who, but Peter, was picked as the rock and leader of Jesus household? The situation became intense when Jesus, on one occasion after supper, began to wash the disciples’ feet. Peter strenuously objected that he would never allow his Teacher to wash his feet. Such an act was simply too humiliating! Jesus corrected Peter’s attitude with these words, “If I do not wash your feet, then you have no part in me.” And that is perhaps Peters’ true greatness. Immediately, Peter recognized his blunder and begged the Lord to wash his whole body (John 13:6-9). To be a good leader, one first had to be a good servant.  It all began by stooping to wash the feet of one’s subjects. Such leaders would also belong to the blessed (John 13:17). What a lesson it must have been for Peter and what a lesson that ought to be for us! Good leaders are trained at the bottom and not at the top. Most of the work begins “in and with” the feet. It is the small things, one does that can lead one up. Before one climbs the ladder, one has to clean the steps from bottom up.

Peter knew when he had a good thing going, and he was willing to defend it. The problem was that Peter did not know his own limitation. There was a time in Jesus’ Ministry when people could not take Jesus’ Teaching and they began to leave Him. Jesus asked his disciples whether they too would want to leave, Peter responded brilliantly, “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” (John 6:68). When Jesus was arrested, it was Peter who defended his Lord with the sword (John 18:10-11). Once more, Peter had misunderstood Jesus’ intention. Peter had left His Master to tend for Himself. When Peter was most needed, he fell asleep, he followed from afar, and he denied the “One” with whom he had promised to die with. All of this happened in spite of having been warned that he would deny his Lord and that the spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak (Matthew 26:41). Peter just was not prepared to face the harder facts of life.  There was one more lesson ahead for him. Peter had gone back to fishing. Like before, Peter still did not know where the fish were. Once again, some voice told him to cast the net to the other side — the side the Lord was on. And again, the nets were filled to capacity. And again, Peter was told that it was the Lord. And for the third time he buried himself in his self-pity. How many times was Peter to be forgiven? He was approaching his number seven. Peter must have had similar feelings of being in need of forgiveness. Now, there was the Lord serving them again with a meal. It should have been Peter ready with a meal for the Lord. Jesus had promised that He would rise again and meet the disciples in Galilee. Why could Peter not do things right? There was one thing that turned out all right. Peter had gathered the other disciples and then he had returned to Galilee. If that was on Peter’s mind, he had a reminder coming. The real task still lay ahead. Peter had to assure Jesus three times that he was Jesus’ friend. Then, Jesus trusted Peter with the leadership of his disciples (John 21:15-19).

Peter deserves admiration for not giving up when he was criticized or reprimanded. Peter experienced several humiliations and he still ended up as the leader of Jesus’ disciples. Peter had a long and difficult road to be a “Makarios.” It was a learning experience filled with trials and errors. It was his Master who was tooling Peter to become the person or the “blessed one” for his fellow believers. Even before Jesus shouldered Peter with the leadership of the group, the members of the group followed Peter. Peter became their spokesman on Pentecost and for some time thereafter. Peter assumed the role of Jesus more aggressively and introduced fear into the leaders and the new believers is Jesus. It was as if Peter had power over life and death. In Acts one through twelve, Peter is the main man in the Jesus’ movement. Peter left Jerusalem, when James Zebedee his second closest friend, was killed. Peter escaped from Herods’ jail and he ended up in John Mark’s home and then went to an unidentified place. The person who may have stayed in touch with Peter appears to have been John Mark and not John Zebedee. John Mark may have been the other disciple that let Peter into the courtyard of the high priest. John Mark also was the first to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead (John 20:8). Peter regarded John Mark as a son. Peter may have inspired John Mark to write the short account, which became “The Gospel According to Mark.” Peter returned to Jerusalem for the first council regarding the admittance of Gentiles, and he then ended up in Rome where he was crucified upside down. 

At long last, Peter had become a genuine “Makarios.” He stood up before the authorities (Acts 1:15). Peter did strengthen his brothers and got out of the devil’s way (I Peter 5:8). Even the Jewish leaders began to see Jesus in Peter (Acts 4:13). Herod, the king, began to persecute Peter (Acts 12). He gained notoriety through the healing of a crippled beggar (Acts 4), his harsh judgment on Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5), the resuscitation of Tabitha (Acts 9), and the conversion of Cornelius (Acts 10). The greatest accomplishment of Peter was Peter’s influence on his spiritual or adopted son Mark, also known as, “the other disciple.” John Mark was with Peter from the beginning in Jerusalem and to his end in Babylon (Rome) (I Peter 5:13). John Mark also traveled with Paul (Acts 13:13) and with Barnabas (Acts 15:39). Paul began to depend on John Mark and so did Luke (II Timothy 4:11). The impact of this young man is apparent in the Gospel of John. The source or witness for the Gospel was John Zebedee (John 21:2), but the writer was very likely John Mark (John 21:25). It is no surprise that the work of Peter’s son (John Mark) influenced Luke and Matthew. Peter’s attributes as a “Makarios” were passed on to his son, Mark and to others. There was a reason why Paul was jealous of the simple fisherman whom Jesus had chosen to succeed Him (Galatians 2:11-14). Peter, to the contrary, praised Paul (II Peter 3:15-16).

Peter was Jesus’ rock. Peter became Jesus’ rock at the time when it counted the most. As soon as new and younger leadership developed, Peter stepped aside and supported those who could lead more effectively. More than anyone of the earliest followers of Jesus, Peter knew what it meant to be called “blessed” by His Lord and Savior. Peter knew that he was blessed; not by his own doing or strength, but by his Master’s hand that sustained him and pulled him up again and again. Before his own feet could touch solid ground, Peter came to the point, that he could not only stand for himself, but likewise help others to stand. What Jesus had done for him, Peter tried to do for others. And when it counted the most, Peter was there to do it. That alone must have been a fond memory for Peter. As Jesus had promised that when Peter had reached maturity, he, too, would no longer lead but be led (John 21:18). He became a true Makarios.