Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Peter's Story

The Church was truly founded about 33 A.D. when Jesus made Peter his Vicar. Jesus asked him, "But what about you? Who do you say I am?" Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God."

Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon (Peter), son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." (Matthew 16:15-19)

Let's break this down a bit. It was very dangerous for anyone to call Jesus the "Christ." The Romans had been fighting the Zealots of Jerusalem, and publicly naming Jesus the Christ would lead to his crucifixion. In Hebrew, this term meant the "Messiah," while in Greek it meant "The Anointed One." The anointed one was chosen by God for a special and unique mission on earth. The Jewish followers of Jesus believed he was the Son of God, who had come to save them from Roman rule, but eventually they understood the purpose was greater than that. It was to deliver all humanity from sin and death. The Old Testament "denoted the ideal king anointed and empowered by God to rescue his people from their enemies and establish his righteous Kingdom." The Romans would not have any Jews follow a Christ, as they knew that it would lead to an overall rebellion. Hence the punishment for any sedition was crucifixion.

In Greek the name Peter is Petros (detached stone), and rock is translated as bedrock. Here Jesus is making Peter the bedrock upon which the Church would be built. Peter really did not understand this until the day of Pentecost. At which time the Church could be said to be built on the foundation of the Apostles and prophets.

Some historians and theologians believe that the "keys" to Heaven were used symbolically on the day of Pentecost as the "door of the kingdom was unlocked to Jews" and later he acknowledged it was also opened to the Gentiles.

It wasn't too long afterward that Jesus and the Apostles celebrated the first Communion at the Last Supper. Jesus attempted to tell his disciples what was about to occur, but Peter, rash, bold, and strong, objected and said he would never betray Jesus. Jesus responded, "I tell you the truth, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times." Peter's response: "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you."

But he did. Three times. He ran fearing for his life, and when the rooster crowed, he realized how he had betrayed Jesus by denying him. Jesus was put on trial, tortured, and crucified. What did Peter do then?

He went fishing. We can attempt to understand what he felt. He had betrayed the Son of God by denying him. Jesus was brutally murdered, and he had fled. He probably felt worthless and this was definitely the lowest point of his life.

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the banks searching for his wayward disciples. He saw them throwing their nets to no avail. He called out to them, "Throw your nets on the right side of the boat and you will find some." They must have heard him, because they did so, yet at that time they did not realize just who it was that had called out to them. They found their nets so full of fish they couldn't haul up the nets. Seeing this miracle, John realized just who it was that had called to them from the shore. Peter grabs his clothing and jumps into the water swimming about one hundred yards to the shore as John was shouting, "It is the Lord!" Peter needed Jesus. He needed forgiveness, and he needed hope. The other disciples in the boat slowly made their way in, but Peter couldn't wait. He needed the Lord's saving Grace.

What does Jesus do? He cooks them a breakfast of fish. A true expression of love and friendship. Is there a greater blessing than to break bread with your closest family and friends? Do we not bring food after funerals to comfort our loved ones? What would Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter be without the great feast? I'll be honest, when I think of the Passion of the Christ and what he had to suffer, and what those who denied him had to deal with, I think this is the perfect way to bring them all back together again. Especially Peter.

He was probably beating himself up. He had denied Jesus, and failed in his promise to him. I think he sat there in stunned silence, probably his eyes swimming in tears. I wonder if he could even make himself eat?

Jesus knew his pain. He knew just what Peter needed. "Simon, son of John, do you truly love me more than these?" Perhaps this was a question about Peter's love of fishing, or his love of Jesus more than the other friends, or more than the other's loved Jesus.

Peter answered, "You know that I love you."

Jesus told him, "Feed my lambs." Peter may not have fully understood what Jesus had instructed. So Jesus asked him a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you truly love me?"

Peter again replies, "Yes, Lord. You know that I love you."

Jesus again instructs him to "take care of my sheep." Again Peter does not reply.

Jesus asks him a third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?"

Peter was hurt, thinking maybe that Jesus did not believe his answers. "Lord you know all things; you know that I love you."

Why did Jesus ask him three times? Because Peter had denied him three times. He did this so Peter could forgive himself, and accept the loving grace and peace that Jesus offers everyone. However, he does then go on to let Peter know that he will again be placed in the situation of choosing to follow or deny him, but that next time he will choose to go willingly where he does "not want to go." This is a prophecy of Peter's future death as a martyr. Does this scare Peter? Not at all. He is a new man. His faith is now fully in Jesus, and he is willing to do anything God wills. He responds to Jesus next command, "Follow me."

How will you respond to His command?

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