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In search of the Apostles, Simon Peter part 2
Peter was an amazing character
We finished the hub on Simon Peter with the name change that Jesus did on the man and how the name that we often use actually tells people more about us than we realize. Today we;re going to take a look at Peter 'The Apostle' and see if he lived up to the name that Jesus gave him?
From the last
We can pretty much tell his story up to the end of Acts Chapter 10, but we’re more interested in finding out what happened to Peter after Luke stopped writing about him and find out what happened to him at the end of his life.
At the beginning of the book of Acts Peter is the leader of the small band of followers of Jesus, it’s often him voicing the decision to have someone fill the role that Judas abandoned (Acts 1 verse 15-24) and it’s Peter to gets up to preach on the day of Pentecost.
In the early chapters of Acts Peter and John (but especially Peter) are in and out of prison like Yoyo’s and he just can’t be stopped from preaching!
Acts chapter 6 is crucial though as the church is growing and leadership is called for, Peter had been the ‘defacto’ leader up until that point, and probably had every right to expect to be appointed, but he and the other Apostles all turn the role down! Listen to what they say.
“It’s not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables, therefore choose from among you men full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom that we may appoint them over this business, but we’ll continue ourselves with prayer and ministry of the word” (Acts 6 verses 2-5)
I don’t know about you but there are few ministers that I imagine would even entertain the idea of handing over the running of their churches to others. Yet that’s exactly what the Apostles did! They handed leadership of the ‘flock’ over so that they could get on with the job Jesus gave them to do.
Up until this point, Peter’s been the main speaker, but from now on the narrative begins to shift. Peter still has a huge role to play in it and there are some things that he’s the first to do,
What Peter had, COURAGE
Peter may have been brash, or loud, and he may have tended to act before thinking, but there’s one thing that Peter had lots of and that’s courage! Remember the story of Peter walking on the water?
We often think of Peter’s failures, but there were eleven other followers of Jesus out on the lake that night! They were in the boat, but only Peter got to walk on water because only he had the courage for the privilege of doing so!
We often read the story that Jesus is telling Peter off for his lack of faith, but is he really? Or is he telling the others off instead? They stayed in the boat! Courage was something that Peter had lots of; it had also been his biggest weakness!
Here's the thing, Peter pushed the limit, he went right out 'on a limb' saying to Jesus "If it's really you then let me come out to you!" Jesus was fine with that, he let Peter come out to him when the others were too afraid to even try! Peter got to do something that no one in history has ever done since!
Maybe there's a lesson there, next time you're unsure try it and see what happens, you'll never know until you try, and if you don't try you'll always wonder "was that meant to be?"
Which is easier to live with, to have tried and it didn't pan out? Or not tried and never known?
Imagine you in Peter's position
Would you have stepped out on the water? (remember you don't know if it is Jesus out there!)
Peter preaches here
Peter gets to preach to Cornelius
Peter spent some time here in the past, right next to Aleppo (where the fighting is going on at the moment)
Peter may have gotten here, the biggest Jewish community outside Israel lived here in New Testament times
Some second-century documents have Peter in Corinth for a while (maybe where the division between Peter and Paul alluded to in 1 Cor comes from)
Traditional site of his Martyrdom
When the faith started to reach out into Samaria it was Peter and John who were sent by the church in Jerusalem to ‘check it out’ and begin the work among the Samaritans.
Jesus had made a few trips across Samaria but the Samaritans were hated by Jews because of differences that went back centuries and different ways they worshipped God, the Samaritans only really accepted the five books of Moses and certainly didn’t accept the Jerusalem Temple as the right place to worship God, yet the good news about Jesus was spreading among them and the believers in Jerusalem needed to know if God really was at work among them! Peter and John got the job.
Later on, Peter would be the first Jew to preach to non-Jews and see God transform lives right before his own eyes, he’d be the one that the later council in Jerusalem would address when James gives his verdict at the council of Jerusalem that non-Jews could come to faith in Jesus!
In the footsteps of St Peter part 1
In the footsteps of St Peter part 2
Peter 'the man'
There’s a lot of ways that Peter or ‘Simon Peter’ was just an average person, in many ways just like us. He hadn’t studied at any great ‘university’ (not like Paul) or even (up to the time Jesus called) been with any great religious teacher, he was just a guy ‘trying to earn an honest buck’ and I think that’s one of the great things about him, he’s just like us!
He had a ‘bit of a temper’ on him and there were times when he’d ‘lose the plot’ swinging for the servant of the high priest with a sword to protect Jesus, he was fiercely loyal, yet tried so hard not to upset people (Galatians 2 verse 1 where Paul says he had to confront Peter because Peter was trying so hard not to antagonize those who believed you could only be saved by living out the Mosaic Law!)
Some see that Peter’s preaching to Cornelius as causing problems among the Jewish believers to the point that it created unrest in the city that Herod responded to with Peter and James’ arrest which lead to James’ later execution. Herod had planned to execute Peter too, but the Holy Spirit had other ideas!
Healthy and Wealthy
I always think of the question "why was one rescued and another executed?" Why does one escape and another, for no seeming reason have the ‘unthinkable’ happen to them? Sorry, but I’ve got no real answers here! Just that sometimes in the greater scheme of things God seems to have it in a plan of some kind!
There’s a lot of talk in churches even today that “God wants you healthy and wealthy” but take a look at the New Testament church and that’s not what you see! Stephen executed, James executed, Peter on the run and those are just the ones we know about!
We’re not 100% sure where Peter went after Acts 12, possibly to Antioch as in what Paul says in Galatians 2, but he could also have travelled as far away as Babylon (1 Peter 5 verse 13) though some say that it’s just Peter’s way of talking about the city of Rome where he is at the time of writing!
Interesting to note that some of the ‘Christian families’ of modern day Northern Syria actually claim blood descent from the Apostle Peter as tradition has it that he moved his family to Antioch and the family stayed on for a while when he later moved to Rome.
Peter, who by reason of wicked jealousy, not only once or twice but frequently endured suffering and thus, bearing his witness, went to the glorious place which he merited (5:4). . . . To these men [Peter and Paul] who lived such holy lives there was joined a great multitude of the elect who by reason of rivalry were victims of many outrages and tortures and who became outstanding examples among us (6:1).— 1st Clement circa 90 AD
Peter in Rome
There are actually a number of early documents that suggest that he did make it and that he was there around the time that Paul was in the city, most of them date from the late first or early second centuries.
What we do know is that by 50 AD there were so many Christians in Rome that the tension between them and the Jews spilled over into real violence that was so worrying that Emperor Claudius had both Christians and Jews exiled from the city, by 60 AD both were back in Rome and tension was brewing again, so much so that when Rome burned in 64 AD Emperor Nero had a ‘scapegoat’ that everyone was pretty willing to accept and persecution of the Christians broke out.
There’s a tradition that Peter was imprisoned once again and scheduled to be executed when something happened and he was able to escape.
Peter escapes and is running away when he sees a lone man carrying a cross heading to Rome, he runs over to the man to warn him only to realize that it’s Jesus!
“Master, what are you doing?” Peter almost pleads with Jesus.
“I’m going to Rome” Jesus replies.
“But why?” He asks, slightly dumbfounded, doesn’t Jesus know what’s happening to his followers there?
“To be crucified” Jesus replies, then he adds, “Because no one else will do it for me!”
Peter is totally stunned. He had the chance to get away, but Jesus is taking his place, he let Jesus down once, he sure isn’t going to do it again!
The legend says that Peter turned around and walked back to Rome; as soon as he was back at the prison he told his jailers that he wasn’t as good as his Lord and asks can they please crucify him upside down?
There’s no way to know if the story is true, but one thing it shows is the change in the man from the disciple who denied his Lord just before Calvary to the one who willingly gave his life for him some thirty years later.
History doesn’t tell us how big the church in Rome was, or how much of an impact it had on the city, but one curious fact that it does tell us is that by the end of the first century the church in Rome despite the persecution and hardships it was dealing with was caring for and feeding over six thousand widows and orphans on a daily basis and a large part of that was because of a big-hearted Galilean fisherman whom Jesus gave the nickname ‘Rocky’ to!
That's all for the moment
In some ways, we're only 'scratching the surface' with these hubs, the early followers of Jesus have so much to tell us about themselves and by extension about ourselves if we'll just take the time to listen to them!
There's so much more written about them that we could go on for months and months covering things, but that's not what I really want to do with the hubs. I want to 'take a peek' or get a 'written snapshot' of them and see what they're saying to us.
These two hubs about 'Simon Peter' were only a few 'snapshots' at the man and what he's meant to so many over the centuries, but I hope they're pictures you've enjoyed exploring.