When a person speaks and lives in a righteous manner, they should be honored. Unfortunately, when some others see or hear such a person and they are convicted about something in their own lives, instead of accepting the conviction of the Holy Spirit, they laugh, put the person down or ignore them in order to excuse themselves.
Such is the case with Peter. After a life-time of listening to sermons, taking many college Bible classes, attending lectures, conferences, retreats and reading theological books, I don't remember a single instance where the Peter who is talked about is the same Peter I've read about in the Bible for 68-plus years. I've even been snickered at for publically saying that he is one of my heroes. I've heard him described as a person who speaks before he thinks, who puts his foot in his mouth, is competitive, pushy and snoopy. From the pulpit he's been put down, denigrated and belittled. "Well, you know Peter," speakers say. Chuckle. Chuckle.
But that's not the true Peter. In fact, our world is badly in need of more Peters - both male and female. Take a look at the following character composite. Let me know if you find anything in this list that we shouldn't emulate.
Peter was a Hard and Dependable Worker. He and his brother ran a fishing business and that's where Jesus found him - at the marina working hard (Matthew 4:18). He worked so hard he developed strong muscles (John 21:11).
Peter was a Responsible Family Man. He supported his wife and cared for his mother-in-law, even when she was sick (Matthew 8:14).
Peter was a Natural Leader. Jesus not only chose him as one of the 12 apostles, scripture even calls him "first" (Matthew 17:1). When they had a question, the towns people went to Peter instead of his brother Andrew (Matthew 17:24). After Jesus' resurrection, when the disciples were at loose ends not knowing what to do with themselves, it was Peter who decided on a course of action to help them work out their nervousness and uncertainty. "I'm going fishing," he said. And everyone followed him (John 21:3). After the ascension, holed up with 120 other people, when Peter came up with what they should do besides prayer, everyone paid attention and took his guidance (Acts 1:15). Later, when the Holy Spirit fell with tongues of fire and they suddenly found themselves surrounded by a mob of people all talking at once, Peter was the one who "raised his voice" and everyone got quiet and listened. Wow! Only a true leader, anointed by the Spirit could do that without a microphone! (Acts 2:14)
When Herod wanted to please the Jews it was easy to find out who their leader was. Peter was the one who was seized and put in prison. And Peter was the one the church prayed for (Acts 12:3-5).
After Saul was converted and became Paul, he spent time in Arabia being discipled by the Holy Spirit. Finally, after three years, he went to Jerusalem just to see Peter. Peter received him and they spent 15 days together (Galatians 1:18). Even though James, the brother of Jesus was leading the church at that time, Paul knew it was Peter whom he needed to check things out with. The two men realized that, while Peter had been called to preach to the Jews, Paul had been entrusted with the gospel for the Gentiles (Galatians 2:7,8). As an humble leader, Peter exhibited no competition with Paul.
Peter was Willing to Step Out in Faith. Of the 12, only one disciple was willing to get out of the boat and accept Jesus' invitation to walk on water (Matthew 14:28, 29). After the resurrection, the men fished all night with no success. When a "stranger" on shore told them to cast their net onto the "right" side of the boat, they wearily obeyed. When their nets began to fill up, John was the first to figure it out. "It is the Lord," he said. And stayed put. But Peter immediately forgot the fish and "plunged into the sea" (John 21:7). A born and raised, life-long fisherman forgets about fish?! YES! Fish no longer ruled his life. His love for and faith in Jesus did.
Peter was Curious and Teachable. He was the kid sitting inn the front row, listening intently to the teacher and asking the questions the rowdy guys on the back row were too proud to ask out of fear of being wrong or that a question might be a stupid one. When the Pharisees got offended at something Jesus said, the disciples were embarrassed for Him. They told Jesus and Jesus responded with a parable they didn't understand. Silence. Except for the kid in the front row. "Then Peter answered and said to Him, Explain this parable to us" (Matthew 15:15).
Remember, it was Peter who called attention to the fig tree that miraculously withered overnight (Mark 11:21). Here are some other questions Peter asked - questions that not only did the other disciples want to know the answers to but that you and I do too:
- Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Until seven times?" (Matthew 18:21)
- Behold, we have forsaken all and have followed You. Therefore what shall we have? (Matthew 19:27)
- Lord, do You speak this parable to us or also to all? (Luke 12:41)
- Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the Words of eternal life (John 6:68).
- When will these things be? And what will be the sign when all these things will be fulfilled? (Mark 13:4)
- Lord, do You wash my feet? (John 13:6)
- Lord, where do You go? (John 13:36)
- Lord, who is he who betrays You? (John 21:20)
- Lord, why cannot I follow You now? (John 13:37)
- Lord, and what of this one? (John 21:21)
Yes, in our pride we can (knowing the end of the story) decide that some of Peter's questions and responses to Jesus were "stupid" or not appropriate but Jesus didn't think so. He always answered Him lovingly with truth. Even when He needed to rebuke Peter (See Mark 8:32-33) the others were all ears. That's how it all got written down for us to learn from too.
Peter was so eager to learn, he let his curiosity lead him into what could have been dangerous situations. After Judas betrayed Jesus and he was hauled off by soldiers, Peter didn't run home and crawl under the covers. Instead, he dared to follow and even went in to the high priest's court so he could see for himself what would happen to Jesus (Matthew 26:48, Mark 14:54, Luke 22:54,55). After hearing the women's report it was Peter who was the first one to hop up and start running to the empty tomb to check it out (John 20:2-6, Luke 24:12 ).
Peter was humble and willing to receive correction. We can see this in some of the examples given above. We can also see this when he denied Jesus three times, then remembered that Jesus told him he would do so. Weeping bitterly, he repented (Matthew 26:75), received the correction of the Lord and turned. The rest of his life is proof of his turning instead of following Judas' example.
Years later, he fell into sin when he acted hypocritically in Antioch, but when Paul "opposed him to his face," he again turned (Galatians 2:11-14). And again, we know that he humbly received the correction because he later commended Paul to the "pilgrims of the Dispersion." Read the high praise he gave Paul even while admitting that sometimes Paul's teachings are "hard to understand:"
Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation - as also our beloved brother Paul according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures (1 Peter 3:14-16).
Peter knew how to think things through and reason them out. At the beginning of Jesus' ministry He got into Peter's boat to teach the crowding of the multitude on the shore. Peter and the others listened even while washing their nets. When Jesus finished, He told Peter to let down his net. It didn't make sense since they'd toiled all night and caught nothing but Peter's tired mind said, "Oh well. I'll do it anyway." He did and the catch of fish was astronomical. While his partners were focused on the haul, Peter's lightning-fast mind caused him to realize that he was in the Presence of the supernatural God. He "fell at the knees of Jesus, saying, Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, Lord (Luke 5:8). From that point on, instead of hooking fish, Peter was hooked on Jesus.
After being with Jesus and the other disciples for a considerable time, it is obvious that he was constantly processing what Jesus taught, what He did and where He led them. Finally, in the region of the heathen resort city of Caesarea Philippi that was full of many idols, Peter was the one able to articulate correctly the answer to Jesus' question about who He was. "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16, Mark 8:29).
When Herod had him arrested, Peter's mind was so at ease, he was able to sleep deeply in the squalid, rat-infested prison even while wrapped up with two heavy chains. It took a light in his face and an angel striking him on his side, giving him orders and leading him out, for him to finally wake up fully and realize that he wasn't dreaming (Acts 12:3-11). Scripture specifically lets us know that he considered what had happened to him before deciding where to go and what to do.
That deductive reasoning didn't even shut down when he first saw the empty tomb. He took it all in, noticed the linens lying alone and went away wondering and marveling. He was probably still thinking things through when the two disciples from Emmaus ran back to Jerusalem, told their story, and then Jesus suddenly appeared in their midst, ate some food and opened their minds (Luke 24:12-45).
Peter Loved deeply and passionately so His First Inclination was to Defend Those He Loved. When Jesus told him about his coming suffering, Peter's knee-jerk reaction was, "This shall not happen to You" (Matthew 16:22,23). "I will never be offended . . I will not deny you" (Matthew 26:33-35, Mark 14:29). He was the one who reacted automatically and cut off the right ear of the high priest's servant (John 18:10,11). Of course, because Jesus always requires us to line up with the Father's will and ways, He gave Peter the divine perspective and put the ear back on (Luke 22:51). He never rebuked Peter for his heart of love and passion. And Peter never lost his favored position with James and John as the "inner three."
Peter was Trustworthy. Along with the above attribute, it was Peter, James and John (always listed in that order) who Jesus took with Him to heal Jairus's daughter (Mark 5:37, Luke 8:51), and took up to the Mount of Transfiguration to see Him conversing with Moses and Elijah (Matthew 17:1, Luke 9:28-36). It was Peter and John whom He sent to prepare the Passover (Luke 22:8), and the three were invited to join Him as He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:37, Mark 14:33). When the angel at the tomb gave instructions to the women, he specifically instructed them to "tell Peter" as well as the other disciples (Mark 16:7). Finally, it was Simon Peter - by name - whom the angel told Cornelius to fetch so he and his household would have a faithful, trustworthy person who would give further directions as to salvation and relationship with God (Acts 10:5).
Peter has Often Been Misunderstood. One of the primary proof-texts used for assertions that Peter spoke before thinking is the account of the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:4, Mark 9:2-5, Luke 9:33). What people don't realize is the timing of this event. It took place during the Feast of Tabernacles. During that week-long feast, the Jews are commanded to build booths (shelters, little tents) in which to live for a week as a reminder of what their ancestors lived in for 40 years in the desert. The word for what Peter was offering to make was not an idol's temple as I was taught as a child. It can be translated as tent, cloth hut, habitation or tabernacle and you'll find all these words used (including booth) depending on what translation you read. In short, Peter was simply trying to be a good host and build what Moses and Elijah would need for the feast.
Peter was Bold and Full of Faith. He was always willing to speak up and speak out - as long as it was testifying about the Lord Jesus Christ. And he did not preach a wishy-washy Gospel. On the day of Pentecost he boldly told those Jews from all over the world, "God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:36-38).
He refused to take credit for healing people in the "Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth" (Acts 3:1-8). He made sure people understood that they needed to repent because they were the ones responsible for killing Him (Acts 3:12-26), that people can "receive the word of God" (Acts 8:14), be baptized (Acts 8:16) but still need "to receive the Holy Spirit" (Acts 8:15, 17, 18).
When Ananias and Sapphira lied to him and the Holy Spirit, Peter was bold about the effects of sin. Such boldness about purity of thought and motive set a plumb-line for integrity and honesty for all generations since (Acts 5:1-11). Peter's example that we must "obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29) applies to us today. He didn't have a problem pointing out a person's wickedness, bitterness or iniquity (Acts 8:18-24).
His boldness enabled him to heal people (Acts 9:33, 34) and even raise them from the dead (Acts 9:38-41). When God gave him an instructive vision God knew he had enough boldness and the faith to follow through with the new concept of incorporating Gentiles into the family of God (Acts 10:1-48). When the believers in Jerusalem contended with him, he patiently explained to them all that God had shown him and done through him. God honored his words and service such that those who'd contended with him "became silent and they glorified God, saying, "Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life" (Acts 11:1-18). Because of his experience, Peter was later able to silence a similar dispute concerning the ministry of Paul to the Gentiles.
Conclusion: Because of all of these attributes, how can anyone denigrate or put the Apostle Peter down or make fun of him? He is a true hero of the faith and not just because he was later martyred. He was sensitive yet bold, devout yet human, teachable and humble enough to accept correction, dependable, responsible, trustworthy and passionate. What a leader and role model! Besides showing respect for this great man of God, it's time for the church to change our ways. Each one of us, whether male or female, need to take each one of the attributes given in this paper, measure ourselves by his example and become like he was. We need to. . .
Just like Peter!