Summary: a biographical sketch of Peter


TEXT: MATTHEW 14:22-32

Palm Sunday, April 4, 2004

This morning we complete our series on the disciples. It is probably fitting that we are dealing with Peter on Palm Sunday because Peter was the kind of disciple that was closest to Jesus. He was with him from the very beginning; and he followed him all the way to the end. He followed closely behind Jesus. He was there when Jesus was arrested, and he came to Jesus’ defense, unlike some of the other disciples. He trailed behind Jesus all the way up to the area where he was tried, and he witnessed part of it. He was the first disciple to the tomb. [Of course, John said he was there first, but Peter technically was inside first]. So it is probably fitting to talk about Peter on this Palm Sunday, the beginning of the celebration of Holy Week, in which we follow Jesus from his entry into Jerusalem to the cross, and ultimately to the resurrection. Peter was the disciple who was Jesus’ most intimate friend, his closest ally and partner.

[I have to come to my defense here because I have preached on this passage two times this year, and I am going to do it one more time. I tried to avoid it, but honestly, Matthew 14 is simply the best passage for illustrating the points I want to make about Peter’ life. To me this passage typifies Peter’s life in general. It really does describe Peter at his best and sometimes at his worst.]

Reading Matthew 14, here is what it says. You have heard it before, it is Peter and Jesus walking on the water.

Immediately Jesus made the disciples get in to the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

What qualities stick out about Peter? One quality I really appreciate about him is that of all the disciples, he really wanted to know Jesus. You might say, Well how do you know that? If you read all the passages on Peter, you will discover that Peter asks a lot of questions. He has his hand up all the time. Now, what do you know about a person who always has their hand up in class? Now be nice. Either they know the answer and they are trying to look good, or they want an answer and they really want to know. That is Peter’s case. He doesn’t have the answers, but he really wants to know. He wants to know who this Jesus is.

Peter wasn’t always like this. In fact, the first time you really encounter Peter is in Luke 5. I get the impression that Peter wasn’t much of a church-goer at that time in his life. Jesus is preaching all day, and usually, when Jesus preaches all day, he begins in a synagogue so it is the Sabbath. He continues on throughout the day, and where is Peter when Jesus is doing all of this preaching? Is he in the crowd listening? No, he is not. What is he doing? Well, he is at work.. He is on the shore mending his nets. He is not too interested in this religious stuff, this preaching stuff. He’s got better things on his heart and on his mind. There were churches in that day, but somehow and some way it just didn’t reach him. He just saw it as irrelevant, not really important, not addressing the real issues of his life. It didn’t really speak to him. So at some point in his life he just kind of said, Thanks but no thanks. I really can spend my day better working and making a little money, getting ahead in my life.

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