Summary: Jesus begins building his church on Simon Peter, the Rock, and continues building his church out of us: and like Peter we are all fragile stones.
1. Let me ask you a question: Is there someone in your life that you really look up to? Let me ask more specifically: Is there a Christian person that you really look up to, someone who is an example, and maybe even a mentor? It could be someone in your life now, or someone from your past. Perhaps this person has led you along in your walk with the Lord. You’ve come to respect, admire, and love this person over the years. Perhaps in your eyes this person can do no wrong. Have you ever felt that way about another Christian, especially a Christian who has played a powerful role in your Christian walk? What happens if they fail? How do they change in your eyes?
2. Now what about you? Have you in all of your years as a follower of Jesus Christ, knowing that perhaps you are a role model for other, younger, less mature Christians, felt like a failure? Have you ever felt like you dropped the ball? How does that make you feel? And what is Jesus response to your failure?
3. Sometimes we look at people in the Bible and treat them with a lot of reverence and respect. We think of them as our great forefathers of faith. But this is only if we don’t look too closely, because if we do we pretty quickly notice that the people God chooses to use in His service are hardly perfect people. Abraham was a liar. Jacob was a schemer. Moses was a murderer. David was an adulterer. Paul was a persecutor of Christians. These people are our forefathers of faith. And these are just a few examples. More often than not, they are deeply flawed, sinful, imperfect, and sometimes provide us with negative rather than positive examples. Sometimes we look at the people in the Bible and we think, “What was God thinking using these people?”
4. One such example is Simon Peter the apostle and it is him that I want us to look at today. Simon Peter is at the center of our Scripture passage today as we complete our look at the Gospel of John. Simon Peter is an example of the kind of person Jesus calls to follow him. And by looking at Simon Peter we find someone whom we can look up to, someone who can draw encouragement from, someone who can help us in our walk with Christ, precisely because Simon Peter is not perfect.
“Upon this rock . . .”
1. So who is Peter? We first meet Simon Peter in the Gospel of John when his brother Andrew brought him to Jesus (1: 42). And it is when he first meets Jesus that he receives his new name: Peter. Now, Peter was not a proper name at the time. Jesus’ decision to call Simon this is unique – it is a nickname. It’s more a description of who Simon is going to be. The “name” Peter comes from the Greek, Petros; Cephas is a transliteration of the Aramaic version of Petros. Both mean “rock” or “stone.” When Jesus says to Simon, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas,” we might just as well translate this “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Rock.”
2. When Jesus gives Simon the name “Rock” in Matthew’s Gospel, he doesn’t stop with giving Simon this nickname. In Matthew 16: 18 Jesus says: “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.” Jesus plans on using Simon Peter as the foundation upon which he will build the church. The question is, what kind of “rock” is Simon? And what kind of rock is that upon which to build a church?
3. So we often remember Simon Peter as a great apostle, do we not? Isn’t he the chief apostle? He is often portrayed as the representative disciple. He was even one of the inner-circle along with James and John, among those closest to Jesus. Looking at the book of Acts we can see that he boldly and tirelessly proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God. He is the first one to preach Christ to non-Jews. He baptized hundreds, maybe thousands, of people. He performed miracles by healing the sick and raising the dead. People chased his shadow believing that it could heal them. This is Simon Peter the man of success, the great man of God.
4. But that isn’t the whole picture. We also need to remember Simon Peter as the one who tried to walk on water but who began to sink when he took his eyes off Jesus and the waves and wind blew away his faith. He is passionate and impulsive. He often misunderstands Jesus and reacts inappropriately. He may have been the first to confess that Jesus was the Messiah and Son of God, but moments later he refused to believe that Jesus would have to suffer and die. Even though he told Jesus that he would never leave him, he ran away when Jesus was arrested for fear of his own life. And while this Simon Peter did confess that Jesus was Messiah and Son of God, this same man denied three times that he knew Jesus.