Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Peter's Life

The Apostle Peter

Simon was a simple fisherman. Jesus chose him to become “fishers of men.” Can you imagine meeting someone, they ask you to leave everything you have, all the people in your life, your job, perhaps even a wife and children, and you do? Obviously there was power with Jesus and charisma that drew people to him.

Simon’s brother is the Apostle Andrew and their father was John of Jonah from the village of Bethsaida in Galilee. Andrew had been a disciple of John the Baptist and had witnessed John announce Jesus as the Lamb of God. Andrew then went to Simon and and brought him to hear Jesus. Simon owned a fishing boat and was listening to Jesus teach on the shore of Lake Gennesaret. The crowd was pressing closely to Jesus, and He used Simon’s boat to stand on to preach to the masses. Jesus then performed a miracle by having Simon, and his fishing buddies, James and John, lower their nets and catch a large number of fish. Amazed, they decided to follow him.

Later, Peter is called upon by Christ to establish the Christian Church. “And I say unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock, I will build my church.” (Matthew 16: 18-19. Peter or Petra is translated to be “rock,” though there was some controversy in the translation from the Hebrew and Greek. Jesus then said to Peter in verse 19, “I will give to thee the keys to the kingdom of heaven.” According to Acts 1-2, 10-11, 15, Peter is the leader of the early church of Jerusalem and church traditions state he later moved to Rome and established the Church there.

The Protestant view is that Jesus is not referring to Peter when talking about the rock, but referring to Peter’s confession of faith in the preceding versus. This would mean that the Church would be built upon the foundation of “revelation of and confession of faith of Jesus as the Christ.” Even this is debated amongst Protestant Church historians.

Does this debate matter? Yes and no. Yes if you are proving the primacy of Peter as Bishop of the Roman Catholic Church, or if you are teaching that faith is the rock that would establish the Christian church on earth. No when it comes to salvation. Some things we can put on a shelf and trust that God knows what we do not.

After Jesus’ resurrection, Peter established the church in Antioch and preached to other churches in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia Minor, and Bithynia. He was arraigned before the Jewish Sanhedrin twice for preaching the Good News and directly defied their orders. He supported Paul and the evangelizing to the Gentiles.

When the persecutions began he fled Jerusalem and went to Rome to establish Christianity there. Jesus had told him, “when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and take you where you do not want to go.” Many believe Peter was crucified at Rome. He was placed on an upside down cross as he did not consider himself to die the same way as his master. This was probably during the time of the great fire of Rome in the year 64. Emperor Nero blamed the Christians for the burning of Rome and had many rounded up and crucified for it.

Now consider this. Peter loved Jesus as a disciple, but denied him three times on the day of his crucifixion. He was human and afraid for his own life. Then following Pentecost, he was on fire for Christ, willing to go anywhere, face any hardship, to teach the saving news that Christ loves us, died for us, so we could have everlasting life with him. He was a Christian. He faced death on an upside down cross to serve the Lord.

Christianity does not promise an easy life on this earth. However, it is a life of peace, understanding, love of others, and service that makes this life worthwhile. Christianity offers us a new way to live as brothers and sisters in a Society of Agape, and promises everlasting life with our Savior and with our loved ones.

Consider Peter’s story of Christian growth from denial to facing death on a cross to srve the God he loved.

What are you called to do? How can you serve? I ask myself this everyday and though I fail most days, I keep this truth close to my heart. Am I serving Him today? Am I living an authentic Christian witness? What can I do differently?

Love to all,