Summary: A series of character sketches through Acts - Peter.
Acts 2:14-41 - God’s Power through God’s People #3: Peter
Today we are continuing our series through the book of Acts. The whole book is about people who were used by God to take His message of forgiveness and grace to the world, to make a difference in people’s lives. Two weeks ago we examined chapter 1, and how we all need God’s power in our lives. Last week we looked at Judas, a man who missed the point and fell short of making a positive contribution to the world. Today we look at a man who knew Jesus, and played an important role in the life of the early church. His name is Peter.
We will read from Acts 1 and 2 in a few minutes, but I’d like to take us back through the Gospels to review Peter’s life. As I was preparing this message, I thought of an old Far Side cartoon. Do you remember the Far Side? An offbeat comic strip about odd things, full of jokes that people need weird senses of humour to understand. I understood pretty much all of them, so that’s telling you something about me. Anyway, the creator once did a comic with the caption, “The life and times of Lulu, Mrs. O’Leary’s ill-fated cow.” It showed a clumsy calf tripping on a rock, then running around with a bucket stuck on its head. It got older and became stuck in a fence. The grown cow then tripped on another rock, spilling a bucket of milk, followed by leaning against a barn door, with the door giving way. Finally, it showed the cow running out of a burning barn. This cow had a lifetime of being accident-prone, eventually starting the great Chicago fire of 1871.
Peter certainly had his moments of, shall we say, clumsiness. I’m so glad that he ended better than Mrs. O’Leary’s cow, whatever the cow’s name was. This morning we will see where Peter came from, how he spent his time with Jesus, and how he affected the early church. We will also hopefully gain some insight that will help us in our walks too. Ladies and gentlemen, the life and times of Simon Peter.
According to John 1:44, the man was born in Bethsaida, the son of a fisherman named Jonah or John. His original name was Simon, or maybe Simeon. It’s likely that because of his hometown and his heritage, he grew up knowing several languages: Greek, which is what the NT was written in, as well as Hebrew and Aramaic, the original languages of the OT. He also likely grew up with a good education, with reading, writing, and memorization of the Torah, that is, the books of Moses, the 1st 5 books of the OT.
According to John 1, it seems that Simon was a follower of John the Baptist. The mission of this man John was to prepare people for the coming Messiah, to baptize them as a symbol of new life, to teach them to be serious about God, and to point them to the coming Saviour. He collected quite a few followers, and turned them over to Jesus when He arrived. Peter was one of them.
John 1:42 says this: “Jesus looked at him and said, "You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas" (which, when translated, is Peter). That’s quite something. Jesus looks at him, calls him Simon, and says, “But you will be Peter.” What does this mean? In essence, Jesus says, “I know who you are now, but I also know who you will be.”
I like that. You know, Jesus sees who you are. Every part of you. He knows your strengths, He knows your weaknesses. He knows all your good qualities and all your negative qualities, even better than you yourself know them. And He still wants you to follow Him. He still wants you to trust Him. He still wants you to serve Him. Because He also knows what you could be. What you will be. That’s good news for those of us who live our spiritual lives like Mrs. O’Leary’s cow from the Far Side cartoon, from one mistake to another.
Back to Peter, we can read in Matthew 4:18-20 how Jesus called him to follow Him. “As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." At once they left their nets and followed him.”
Now, again I say, it’s possible, maybe even likely, that Peter already knew Jesus. He had met the man who would show Himself to be the Messiah. But to leave everything – his nets, his occupation, his father, his father’s business – at the drop of a hat, as it were – is still worth mentioning. Jesus speaks, Peter acts. Certainly Peter was a man of action, which got him into trouble sometimes, but still… to leave everything he knew, for a man he barely knew, is quite a faith to have. I think we ask too many questions. I think we expect to know too much, instead of just acting on what we think God is saying. We overanalyze and rationalize, instead of step out in faith. But that’s just me.