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Peter, The Stone

INTRODUCTION: As part of the process of preparing a study on 1Peter chapter 1, I began to consider some of the aspects of the author's life for the purpose of relating the man to the content of his first letter to the church. Scripture contains information about Peter, words spoken to him, and some of his own words, in the gospels and in the book of Acts. There is sufficient material, especially with related parallel and supporting scripture, to make it difficult to be brief and still capture a good essence of the man. I will leave it to the reader to seek other biographies of, or commentaries about, Peter, or to personally expand the study of Peter if so desired. This then will be a condensed character sketch, before examining chapter one of Peter's first letter to the church. Since the text of the four gospels provides information in different styles, the verses collected for this study will not necessarily be in chronological order, and it should further be noted that the details about Peter only has true significance as they relate to Christ. Part 1 of the study of Peter will deal with the gospel accounts for Peter's calling by the Lord.

All Bible text is taken from the 1769 KJV bible.

Part I - Peter: from a fisherman to an apostle

A - Peter is the surname given by Jesus

Matthew 10:2 Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother;

Mark 3:16 And Simon he surnamed Peter;

Luke 6:14 Simon, (whom he also named Peter,) and Andrew his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew,

John 1:40 One of the two which heard John [speak], and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. 41 He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. 42 And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.

COMMENTS: All four gospels give us the information that Simon the son of Jona (or Simon BarJona) was called Peter, and the gospel of John provides us the Aramaic equivalent of Peter when Jesus gave him his surname. The KJV New Testament is translated from Greek to English, but Cephas is an example of an Aramaic word that is not translated to either Greek or English, but is transliterated. We are told directly in verse 42 that Cephas means stone. And the Greek word used in that verse which is translated as stone is petros, Strong's #4074. In every other appearance of the Greek word petros, the KJV translates it as Peter, and this is the surname, or nickname, Jesus gave to Simon the son of Jona. The Aramaic name Cephas is used only five other times in the New Testament, four times in 1Corinthians, and once in Galatians, all of which refer to Peter, which is the same person as Simon Peter. In a few cases Simon is used alone when speaking of Peter, and the context verifies him as Simon Peter. There are other Simons in the New Testament, but there is only one Peter and only one Cephas, and he is one in the same. Peter is directly mentioned in more passages in the gospels than any of the other twelve apostles. Peter's prominence is also highlighted as he is named as first in Matthew's gospel, and is first in the list of the twelve apostles also in the gospels of Mark and Luke.

B - Peter was a common man

Luke 5:8 When Simon Peter saw [it], he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. 9 For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken: 10 And so [was] also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men. 11 And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.

Matthew 8:14 And when Jesus was come into Peter's house, he saw his wife's mother laid, and sick of a fever.

John 6:66 From that [time] many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. 67 Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? 68 Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. 69 And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God. 70 Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?

COMMENTS: Peter was a fisherman and he was in partnership with James and John in that business. He was married as we find from the reference in Matthew chapter 8. Peter apparently had been taught about Jewish beliefs because it was very significant to him when his brother Andrew came to say they had found the Messiah. He personally met Jesus through Andrew and was given the name Peter. Later, when the astonishing catch of fish was directed by Jesus, Peter's heartfelt reaction was to kneel before Jesus and humble himself as a sinful man. But when Jesus bid him to follow, he left everything as the text tells us, and there is no further explanation of what he could expect in so doing. This early stage of Peter's story provides the first indication that Peter had a Spirit-tender heart open with abandon to obey the voice of Jesus. And the passage above from John chapter six speaks of his confident faith in Jesus as the Messiah, and his intent to display unswerving loyalty.

Peter often spoke or acted in immediate fashion from that faith and loyalty. We will see that he was also inclined to quickly be mislead by his own reasoning in several different situations, because he was just as confused about the sacrificial role of Messiah as all others seemed to be. That passage also introduced a startling element when Jesus said that one of the twelve he had chosen was a devil! In contrast to Peter, the religious leaders who became disciples of Jesus usually kept a low profile and were much more cautious about stating their belief in Christ. Those who come to Christ in humility like Peter, must remain thus; and those who might think they have reason to be proud through superior knowledge of scripture or through their good works of righteousness must become humble, because God has determined that no person shall have glory in God's presence (see verse 29 following).
1 Corinthians 1 "26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, [are called]: 27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, [yea], and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: 29 That no flesh should glory in his presence."

The twelve apostles were all chosen out of the ranks of the common man, and none of them had status as being religious leaders or those with superior knowledge of scripture. Paul expresses this truth that the apostles were to preach Christ only as servants, and there was to be nothing to their own credit.
2 Corinthians 4:5 For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus' sake. 6 For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to [give] the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us."

C - Peter witnessed the power and glory of Jesus and continued his questions

Matthew 14:28 And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. 29 And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. 31 And immediately Jesus stretched forth [his] hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? 32 And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased.

Luke 8:51 And when he came into the house, he suffered no man to go in, save Peter, and James, and John, and the father and the mother of the maiden. ... 54 And he put them all out, and took her by the hand, and called, saying, Maid, arise. 55 And her spirit came again, and she arose straightway: and he commanded to give her meat.

John 11:43 And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. 44 And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.

Matthew 16:16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. 17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed [it] unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. ... 21 From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. 22 Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. 23 But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.

Mark 9:2 And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them.

Matthew 18:21 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? 22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.

Mark 11:21 And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away.

COMMENTS: There were so many examples that could have been placed into this group, but I have listed only a few and make general comments about other examples that are not listed. Peter was with Jesus for over three years, and he saw many miracles: water turned to wine, the multiplying of bread and fish to feed thousands, healings of many types of severe physical conditions (those who were blind, lame, leprous, deaf and mute), power over evil spirits, and the raising of the dead. Peter even personally experienced the miracle of walking upon water to meet Jesus who was walking on the water during a storm, and then had to be rescued by Jesus as he began to sink. When Peter answered Jesus by identifying him as the Christ (Matthew 16:16 above), Jesus told him (and us through the record of scripture) that Peter did not come to that conclusion by human (flesh and blood) means.

Very soon after that in the narrative Jesus speaks of the coming suffering and death of the Christ. Peter demonstrates the failure of his own understanding of the full extent of the appearing of Messiah by upbraiding Jesus for making such a statement, and underscores the fact that his earlier statement about Jesus being the Messiah was not his own conclusion! Peter, James, and John were taken alone by Jesus to witness his transfiguration, and the appearance of Moses and Elijah talking with him, and only remarks from Peter are recorded in that event. Peter usually took the lead in asking questions about matters which were probably on the minds of others as well such as the matter of forgiving a brother when we have been badly mistreated.

Peter was also present at times when Jesus baffled his opponents with his statements and questions, and those chief priests and scribes represented the community of respected and well educated religious leaders who had taught the Jewish people much about God from their positions of authority. So, Peter as a layman was following a man who was hotly rejected by most of the religious elite. John's gospel, written years after the resurrection and the sending of the Holy Spirit, contains some clarifying statements for our benefit, that were not available to those who heard and saw Jesus during their real-time experience with him.
John 2 "18 Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things? 19 Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. 20 Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? 21 But he spake of the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said." John's gospel also tells us that Jesus was in control of his death and resurrection.
John 10 "17 Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. 18 No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father."

D - The last supper and the betrayal of Jesus

Luke 22:8 And he sent Peter and John, saying, Go and prepare us the passover, that we may eat.

John 13:8 Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. 9 Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also [my] hands and [my] head. 10 Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash [his] feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. 11 For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean.

Luke 22:31 And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired [to have] you, that he may sift [you] as wheat: 32 But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. 33 And he said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death. 34 And he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me.

Luke 22:21 But, behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me [is] with me on the table. 22 And truly the Son of man goeth, as it was determined: but woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed! 23 And they began to enquire among themselves, which of them it was that should do this thing. 24 And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.

Matthew 26:22 And they were exceeding sorrowful, and began every one of them to say unto him, Lord, is it I?

John 13:24 Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it should be of whom he spake. 25 He then lying on Jesus' breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it? 26 Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped [it]. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave [it] to Judas Iscariot, [the son] of Simon.

John 16:20 Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.

COMMENTS: Peter continued to be so often in the forefront of recorded events even as the Christ drew closer to the cross, and his words and actions tell us much about how confusing it must have been for him to try to reconcile his understanding and expectations about the Messiah, with some of the startling statements made by Jesus. When it was time for the last supper, Peter and John were the ones sent by Jesus to find the upper room already prepared. As Jesus humbled himself to wash the disciple's feet Peter first refused out of respect for Jesus, but then wanted to be completely washed, if he needed washing to be assured of having a part with Jesus. When Jesus told him that he would be a target of the devil and would deny Jesus, Peter responded that he would go to prison or even death rather than abandon him. How careful we all should be, if we claim to know what we will do in future circumstances if we are depending on our own resolve to make it happen.

Jesus told Peter that he would in fact deny Jesus three times before full light of the next morning as punctuated by the rooster's crowing. When Jesus told the disciples in the upper room that one of them would betray him, they all wanted to know which one, but they also began to discuss who would be greatest in the kingdom of God. And by John's gospel it appears that it was revealed to Peter that Judas was the betrayer before Jesus and the disciples left the upper room. O Lord, how easy it is to forget that any understanding of your kingdom and things pleasing to you come from you, and all glory and acclaim is due only to you. May your Spirit make the words of the psalm true in my heart that I will be pleased with even the most humble means of serving you.
Psalms 84 "10 For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness."

E - Prayer in the garden and Jesus led away

Mark 14:33 And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy; 34 And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch.

Luke 22:44 And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

Mark 14:37 And he cometh, and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, Simon, sleepest thou? couldest not thou watch one hour?

John 18:10 Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant's name was Malchus. 11 Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?

Luke 22:54 Then took they him, and led him, and brought him into the high priest's house. And Peter followed afar off.

Mark 14:72 And the second time the cock crew. And Peter called to mind the word that Jesus said unto him, Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. And when he thought thereon, he wept.

COMMENTS: Peter again was part of a select three, this time taken by Jesus for the intense prayer in the garden, but neither Peter nor the other two could stay awake as they waited for Jesus. Perhaps it was even the thought that he might deny the Lord that caused Peter to attack with his sword in the garden when the crowd came to take Jesus, but Jesus told Peter to put away the sword because it was necessary for the Messiah to complete his course. It is much more comfortable for us to contemplate these things as we read of them, then it would have been to actually have been in the intense and rapidly moving events as they happened, desperately trying to understand as we were carried along. Peter did follow the captors and Jesus while other disciples fled. And when he realized at the rooster's crowing that he had denied Jesus three times, he wept bitterly.

F - Peter needs more than one visit from the resurrected Christ

John 20:2 Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him.

Luke 24:12 Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulchre; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass.

John 20:18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and [that] he had spoken these things unto her. 19 Then the same day at evening, being the first [day] of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace [be] unto you.

John 20:28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. 29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

John 21:3 Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing. 4 But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. 5 Then Jesus saith unto them, Children, have ye any meat? They answered him, No. 6 And he said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find. They cast therefore, and now they were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes.

John 21:14 This is now the third time that Jesus shewed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead. 15 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, [son] of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. 16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, [son] of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. 17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

COMMENTS: An empty tomb brings Mary running to report to the disciples, and in turn Peter and John run to the tomb to find it empty, but there is no apparent conclusion by them that the promised resurrection has occurred. After Mary talks with the resurrected Jesus near the tomb she again makes a report to the disciples but they do not believe her. However that same day Jesus appears in the upper room to the disciples, but Thomas is absent. A week later Jesus appears again to the disciples and Thomas believes as he sees Jesus for himself. Each of the four gospels takes the events after the resurrection just a little further in the order the gospels appear in the Bible, with John providing the most postscript. How interesting that John's account takes us back to the business of fishing, because that is what Peter had been doing when he first left everything to follow Jesus.

Peter had already seen the resurrected Christ twice in the upper room, before Jesus appeared again and the fishermen took an astonishing catch at the direction of the man on the shore. After they realized the man was Jesus, he told Simon Peter that he was to feed and take care of the sheep, and this moved Peter firmly from fisherman to a fisher of men. The significant events in Peter's life between the first astonishing catch of fish and the last astonishing catch of fish, were directed by the Lord not Peter, and for the glory of God not for the glory of Peter.

--- Reflections in prayer ---

I Thank you Lord for the way you chose men from the ranks of the common man and allowed your glory to be even brighter because the changes in their lives were startling. Peter has been for us such an active example in his unbridled desire to follow you and to protect your name. Please remind me that you need no help from mere man, and dispel my misunderstandings when it seems that your plan for me is not on course. What a marvelous thing to realize that you had prayed for Peter to keep him from evil, and your word assures me that you are at the Father's right hand continuing to intercede for me and all others who call upon your name.

I have not witnessed the miracles firsthand as did the apostles, neither have I seen and talked with you in the flesh as they did both before and after the resurrection. Thank you for the love you showed by telling me by way of telling Thomas that those who believe having not seen you are blessed, because I do believe the miracles you performed and I do believe in your resurrection. I also acknowledge that you alone have given me this faith to believe: the truth of your salvation has not been revealed to me by my own devices. O Lord I depend on your patience and long suffering because I know I will not always demonstrate in words or actions that you are in complete control, so I ask you to strengthen me by your Spirit in those times.

So many fell away from you as you approached the cross, and Your special work in the eleven who were restored after the resurrection is a marvelous display of your mercy and grace. And I know how many times you have drawn me back from my wandering. I can find no more fitting praise than to pray to you from the Psalms, so these I offer as my own.
Psalms 73:28 "But [it is] good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works."
Psalms 86:12 "I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart: and I will glorify thy name for evermore."
Psalms 94:22 "But the LORD is my defence; and my God [is] the rock of my refuge."
Psalms 146:2 "While I live will I praise the LORD: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being."
I offer this to you my Lord and my God, only because I know from the New Testament that I can do all things through Christ who trengthens me. Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Published 27 July 2005

Peter, Part 2 - A Pillar in the Church.