Summary: Lessons from the life of Peter
Prior to our Scripture today, the resurrected Jesus told the disciples to wait and pray in Jerusalem until they received the Holy Spirit. So they gathered in The Upper Room, behind locked doors still in fear of their lives and on the 50th day, a sound like a hurricane, a tornado and an earthquake all wrapped into one came. Everyone was terrified. Tongues that looked like fire came and rested on each one of them and they were filled with courage and a boldness that was not their own. Then they unlocked the doors, boldly stepped out into the streets and Peter began to preach. And miraculously every person heard him in their own native language. What a sermon it was! Peter spoke right to the hearts of those gather there that day and they were so convicted that they asked, “What can we do?” Peter told them to repent and be baptized. That day, 3,000 people came to belief in Jesus.
Peter is our fourth hero we’re looking at in this series. What can we learn from him? First, Jesus uses unlikely heroes. Being a fisherman, Peter was gruff, unkempt, vile, shabbily dressed, unlearned and illiterate. He had flunked out of rabbi school and was deemed unacceptable by the powers that be. He was brash and bold, the first of the disciples to act but that often got him in trouble, leading to mistakes and failures. He was the disciple who suggested building 3 tabernacles at the Transfiguration of Jesus, completely missing the point. It was Peter who drew his sword at the arrest of Jesus, cutting off the ear of a man. It was Peter who boasted that he would never forsake Jesus and then only hours later found himself denying Jesus not once but three times to save his own life. He had a big mouth. John MacArthur describes Peter as “the apostle with a foot-shaped mouth.” He was the first to proclaim Jesus identity. But then Jesus started talking about the need for him to suffer and die on the cross and he rebukes Jesus saying, “Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you!” And Jesus says, “Get behind me Satan!” Talk about a low point in life when Jesus calls you Satan. There’s just five verses separating these two events and you get the sense that one minute Peter is way up here and one minute he’s way down here. We see this again when Peter stepped out of the boat and walked on water, but then he took his eyes off Jesus and his fears caused him to start to sink.
Often times, we look at our heroes with rose colored glasses. We think their ascendency to their status of hero was easy and without failures. We think they don’t have any weaknesses or sins. We look at their story and think they’re perfect in every way. Peter’s life teaches us that living our story into one worth telling is often one of fits and starts, with failures and embarrassments and some victories mixed in along the way. It’s often a two steps forward and one back journey. More than that, Peter’s story teaches us that all heroes are human, and thus flawed with weaknesses, struggles and failures just like us. Too often we think we can’t be like our heroes because we’re not perfect, so we could never be like or have a story worth telling. But Peter’s story teaches us that if he can become a hero and have a story worth telling, we can to.
Second, heroes are driven by God. It didn’t matter what he was doing, whether he was getting it right or getting it wrong, Peter was going to do it all the way. Peter was one of these “all in” kind of guys. He only had two speeds: fast and faster. It’s always amazed me that Peter, who was the first disciple called by Jesus, dropped his nets and left his boat, his friends and family and his community. Who leaves their business behind as a result of a simple invitation of two words and a promise: “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men”? Peter was raised in Bethsaida, the northwest side of Sea of Galilee. Some 200 years before Jesus, it had become the seat of observant Judaism as it was repopulated with Jews returning from Babylon to prepare for the coming of the Messiah. After Herod’s death, it was given to one of his sons Herod Philip who sought to rebuild and fortify the city making it into a center of Greek thought and life. This would have only hardened the determination of Peter and the inhabitants of Bethsaida to be strictly faithful to the law. And so seeking to live a righteous life would have been at the heart of Peter’s life for himself but now Jesus calls him to live for others becoming a fisher of men. Thus, it is Peter’s faith which drives him and everything in his life.