A Bible Story: Accepting The Responsibilities Of Being A Christian - Reflections On Simon Peter By His Wife
Imagining What Simon Peter's wife possibly said about him...
Whether you know him as Petros, Cephas, Kepha, or Simon son of Jona, my husband Simon Peter perhaps changed more than any man I know, and I knew my husband well, very well.
He was a strong, husky man, strong and quick even in his youth when he and his brother Andrew worked for others to achieve their goal of having boats of their own for livelihoods as fishermen.
From Bethsaida originally, we were to travel much of the known world, including our days in Rome.
It was at the town of Capernaum, where we were living after the Roman occupation, that Simon Peter first began to be certain that Jesus of Nazareth, a carpenter's son, was in fact the Christ promised of old.
By then Jesus was locally well-known for his preaching and his healing. At the synagogue one day an evil spirit Jesus cast out, identified Jesus as "The Holy One of God." And on that same day Jesus also stopped at our home and people heard he was tarrying there. The people began to gather their sick and their diseased to be healed.
I was busy tending my mother. She had developed a high fever. Jesus approached and took mother's hand. I had alternately been fanning her and using a damp cloth to give her relief, but as Jesus touched her hand she brightened, as if pure energy flowed into her. She looked first at Jesus and then back at me and immeditately rose to help serve the Master, Simon Peter, Andrew, and the growing crowd of visitors.
At the evening it seemed all the town was there, and we obsrved in amazement as Jesus of Nazareth healed the sick and rebuked evil spirits.
As he did the latter, he commanded the evil spirits to not speak of him.
It was not unusual at all to see again and again such demonstrations of his authority from heaven. We all marveled at Jesus' patience as he gave such blessings to person after person.
We, on the other hand, found it difficult not to get caught up in the daily concerns of our mortal lives, so it was that even these special events were at times set aside by such mundane cares.
Each time Simon Peter or Andrew would return home, their marvelous tales and their sharing of Jesus' teachings would make my daily concerns seem so trivial. But they were nonetheless real.
It wasn't until much later, when I was able to devote increasing time to being with Simon Peter, that I learned what it truly meant that "the laborer is worthy of his hire." Yes, God can always care for his smallest sparrow.
The lesson of having our nets so full of fish that they needed repairs for having been too full to hold them all, somehow used to fade as the proceeds and the fish were gone.
Simon Peter was being taught daily, and even he didn't fully understand until he realized how insufficient he felt his faith and worthiness to be.
In Gethsemane garden, tired and worried, he had fallen asleep despite the great things he witnessed. Then he mistakenly presumed he was to defend the Master from being taken, when all along Jesus planned to go willingly to his trial and mortal death.
Then, as he had tried to stay close to Jesus, to understand and witness an expected miracle, he had faltered and denied his discipleship, not once, but three separate times in succession in one night.
Simon Peter had been devastated, and he felt he had ultimately failed the Master in his own way, just as Judas Iscariot had failed Jesus in his way.
I worried over his deep depression. And then the greatest miracle of all rescued him. Jesus, who had died upon the Romans' wicked cross, returned to us to comfort us, and to fulfill his mission and his teachings.
When he did so, he asked my husband three times in succession, "Lovest thou me?" And three times Simon Peter affirmed the truth, that he did love the Master, once for each time he had previously denied the Master.
Soon afterward, perhaps to test that love and teach again the lesson of the fallen sparrow, but more importantly for my husband himself, Simon Peter was arrested and imprisoned to an uncertain fate.
We prayed and prayed for him to be protected, to be brave, and faithful in all that he might have to endure, and, if possible, to be freed and returned to us.
So earnest were our prayers, and so seemingly hopeless was his plight, that when Rhoda heard him knock at the door and ask to be allowed to enter, none of us could believe he was free, had endured, and had been returned to us.
There followed days of hiding and worry as anyone associated with Jesus was considered a threat by the established political and spiritual leaders of those days.
Liberated by such divine intercession, and having been redeemed, Simon Peter became a bold proclaimer of the divinity of Jesus and the truth of the Master's teachings.
When Saul of Tarsus ceased to be a threat to all of us, and instead became an excited spokesperson and convert (under his own miraculous circumstances) we all breathed a heartfelt prayer of thanks.
It was then, if not before, that we organized ourselves and did our best to act and proceed as the Master had instructed us, and as the Holy Ghost inspired and directed us.
As we did so, we found the true joy and happiness of life as Jesus always intends we shall.
While on the one hand persecution and danger persisted as we knew it must, the growth and continuing miracles, the opening doors, and the heartfelt acceptances of the gospel with charity to each other, all were energy for our cause and confirmation of our path forward.
In the earliest days after the resurrection our greatest concern was the size of the task ahead of us. As we saw the efforts to crush our small beginnings and to punish the remaining believers from the days of Jesus' early teachings, our concerns had grown.
Added to those concerns was a very real dispute which arose as to where our efforts should be made. It had been rare for Jesus to work among any but the Jews, although there had been exceptions. Now we were charged to go into all the world, but when?
This was resolved, but at first we thought the answers must come from our discussions over a series of events.
One day, as Simon Peter and John were about to enter the Temple, they encountered a man lame from birth, well-known as truly handicapped. He asked Simon Peter and John for charity in the form of alms. Simon Peter blest him in the name of Jesus, took him by the hand, as Jesus had taken my feverish mother's hand, and adjured him to walk.
Not only did the man walk, this man, crippled from birth, smiled with excitement, walked, leaped, and praised God loudly and continuously, accompanying John and Simon Peter into the Temple.
Others in and around the Temple were astounded to see this miracle of healing. Simon Peter spoke eloquently, recounted the prophecies of Christ's birth, showed Jesus to be the Christ, told them how Moses had commanded that they should have listened to Jesus and that those who would not should be destroyed. Yet, how instead of listening, they had shouted for their Christ to be crucified when Pilate would have released him.
Now, in their own sight, this man, by his faith in just the name of the resurrected Christ, even that same Jesus, was given perfect health as a gift from God, which gift they could all see with their own eyes, and hear with their own ears.
He challenged them that, if they would deny God's gift of those their own eyes, and God's gift of their own ears, and deny God's gift of freedom given that day to that cripple, they were truly not worthy of God's gift of their own Christ whom they, more that Pilate, had crucified just as King David, himself a sinner in need of a perfect sacrifice, had known some would do.
The crowd of those in the Temple who heard Simon Peter that day had numbered in the thousands. Of those who listened to him, nearly 5,000 were converted to believe in Christ.
This was so startling to the Saducees and Temple priests that they resented a link of such an obvious miracle to a resurrected, crucified Jesus clearly proclaimed as the Christ.
They had John and Simon Peter arrested.
The following day the forty year old former cripple, John, and Simon Peter were called before the religious and civic leaders. They declared openly and boldly that the Jesus the Jews had killed was resurrected, and in his name the man was healed for each of them to see and hear for themselves, and, more importantly, only Jesus could save even them!
They could not deny the miracle of the man's perfect healing and they set them free.
On their return to freedom, those of us who had feared for them rejoiced at all they recounted. From then on no fears and no beatings could contain our spirits.
Shortly thereafter, all the apostles were arrested and thrown in prison under guard, but an angel released them to teach in the Temple so that they went directly from the still-locked prison to the Temple and were there when called again to answer as to why they were still stirring up the people in the name of Jesus.
The Saducees were so angry that they really wanted to kill all the apostles, but were warned by a respected scholar named Gamaliel that the Jewish leaders might even be opposing God.
They chose instead to beat Simon Peter and the other apostles, told them again not to teach as they had about Jesus, and the apostles returned directly to the Temple and taught of Jesus. Throughout that time they were all thankful that they had been found worthy to be beaten in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
Having all things in common, and following Jesus' admonition to care for the poor, Simon Peter and the others were blest to also heal those in need.
With this progress, and having spread the gospel even as they were examined by those who lacked any power to stop them, they desired to bring all the Jewish people to accept Jesus as the Christ, the Holy One of God, as that evil spirit had once before confessed him to be.
It was in this fervent excitement tht Simon Peter told me of a dream he had had and how it had led to the baptism of the first Gentiles, including Cornelius, a Roman centurion.
This fervor, coupled with the work of Saul of Tarsus and Barnabas, in Antioch, saw our wider works of baptism begin so successfully, and led eventually to our coming to Rome, the Babylon of our day.
It seemed that all these past experiences followed and strengthened us, for it was a time of testing and severe trials.
Those who knew nothing real of Christ, had nonetheless heard all kinds of tales of what Christians believed. We were called "crazed," vicious." We were even accused of cannibalism, and finally we were outlawed, even punished by being put to death in all the horrible ways mankind can imagine, unless we would deny the Lord.
But it was important that we were there. Life is short in any case. Too often it is shortened because this is not heaven. It is mortality.
In the face of all this, we had a unique advantage. We knew of God's love. We knew Jesus. We remembered his teachings from God. We already considered it a blessing to suffer in the name of Jesus, even to die for him. As he had lived and died for us, we were willing to suffer, even die, for him.
Simon Peter reminded us all that Jesus had foretold the we would also suffer as he had suffered. Simon Peter taught simply that to suffer for Christ was but to suffer for a minute, and such suffering was not to be compared to man's longer sufferings for unrepented sins.
To be truly worthy to suffer for Christ, we must be faithful to his teachings given us from God, and we must love even our persecurtors as he was loving and forgiving of his.
Then even our deaths can serve God's purpose should we be found worthy to suffer as examples of righteousness, faith, and his pure love.
And so it was that the many of us died for the few who remained, and the few of us who live on do so for the many, and for you.
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