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Notes and Observations On
1st Peter

Of the New Testament epistles, it’s one of the more interesting letters because we know so much about the character of its author.  Simon (later called Peter), son of Jonas was the brother of Andrew, another less well-known disciple.  Andrew, apparently, was a follower of John the Baptist before he met Jesus.  The Baptizer pointed Jesus out to him to be the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) and subsequently, Andrew brought his brother to meet the Lord, whereupon Jesus invited both of them to come with him and He “would make them fishers of men” according to Matthew 4:19.  Matthew’s version of how they met is a little different.  Apparently Simon and Andrew were, along with James and John, all fishermen in the district around the north northwestern corner of the Sea of Galilee.  They lived in or near Bethsaida, a small fishing village located on the southern most end of the Jordan River.  The river flowed through the middle of the little village and on the south side of the town, it emptied into the Sea of Galilee.  Another disciple, Philip, was also from this little town.  The Bible indicates that Simon, along with his brother Andrew; and James and John, the sons of Zebedee, immediately dropped what they were doing (repairing their fishing nets) and began following Jesus when they met him.

We know that Simon was impetuous.  He was slow to think, but quick to speak.  He wanted to make things happen now and seemed often very impatient with Jesus’ timing.  He was the first to step up to the plate to try out the new things Jesus was showing the disciples, i.e., walking on the water (Matthew 14:28).  When the Lord asked the disciples what they thought of Him, Simon quickly spoke up and declared that Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of the Living God!” (Matthew 16:16) whereupon Jesus commended him and gave him his new name, Peter (the Rock).  The twenty-four hours beginning the evening before Jesus was crucified were packed with events that undoubtedly deeply affected Peter for the rest of his life.

That night, after what would be later be known as “the last supper”, Jesus washed His disciple’s feet and commanded that they should wash each other’s feet.  When it was Peter’s turn for the Lord to wash his feet, impetuous Peter at first would not allow Him to do such a “lowly” act.  With false humility Peter regarded this to be lacking in dignity and considered it to be the duty of a servant.  He did not understand that “being a servant” was exactly what Jesus was trying to teach His disciples, so that they might follow His example after His departure.  Though He had told them, the imminence of that departure had not sunk in and only He was aware of just how soon and how quickly it would happen.  That night, as Jesus and His disciples waited in the Garden of Gethsemane, Roman soldiers and temple police came to arrest Jesus.  Peter drew his sword and swinging it at the servant of the high priest, Malchus, he sliced off his ear.  Jesus immediately healed the man’s ear and told Peter to put away his sword.

Throughout the New Testament, Peter seems to be at the forefront of Jesus’ ministry, witnessing all the miraculous events: the healings, the transfiguration, the feeding of the five thousand; and the wisdom of Jesus’ teaching and yet even here at the last still does not seem to understand Jesus’ mission.   It’s amazing to me that even in the last few minutes of his time with Jesus, his impetuous nature seems uncurtailed.  Earlier as they dined, Peter had proclaimed his love and allegiance to Jesus, only to be told that he would deny even knowing Him three times before morning.  Hearing this would have been troubling enough, then the arrest and he followed the rabble from a safe distance.  He went into the courtyard at the home of the high priest where they had taken Jesus and were questioning Him.  Standing by a fire for warmth, Peter was questioned after someone recognized him to be one of Jesus’ followers.  Filled with the fear of the possibility of being arrested, as would we all at that moment, he was scared to reveal his real relationship to Jesus and denied even knowing Him three times just as predicted by the Lord.  What devastation must have filled his heart when he heard the rooster’s crow in that moment!  Surely the rooster’s crow every morning thereafter reminded him of that awful night.  Luke explains in even more detail (22:61-62) that as he stood in the courtyard, they were positioned so that Jesus and Peter could see each other and at that moment the rooster began to crow, Jesus turned and looked at Peter, who then went out and wept with bitter tears.

It’s Peter’s impetuous nature that is both repulsive and attractive.  It sticks out so plainly all over the stories about him in the New Testament.  The biblical writers do not try to mask it, but even seem to play it up.  It says to us that it is okay to be human, but at the same time reminds us that we should strive to overcome our natural selves and let God’s character begin to control us.  We see this nowhere more plainly than the story of Jesus walking on the water.  At His bidding, Peter stepped out of the boat and walked toward Jesus on the sea.  As long as he kept his line-of-sight on Jesus, he was fine.  But then he began looking at he waves and must have thought to himself, “This can’t be happening!  It’s impossible!”  Doubt began to fill his heart and he began to sink.  Then Jesus’ hand reached out and pulled him up and back into the boat.

With this understanding we can begin to see the reason for Peter’s writing of this first epistle as an encouragement for those who have lost hope.  Peter was a man who had first-hand knowledge of the person of Jesus Christ and was acquainted with success in his personal faith as well as his own failure.  The people he wrote to had been “run out of town.”  They were outcast, homeless having undergone persecution for their faith.  They had little to hold on to – but Peter reminded them of the “living hope” they had in the resurrection (1 Peter 1:3).  He knew that hope could sustain them even through the direst of circumstances, and Peter was most certainly acquainted with dire circumstances, having been arrested and set for execution himself in the early days of the church.  Then, in the night, an angel led him out of the prison right past the guards.  Peter knew that when all seemed hopeless, there was something that ran deeper still and could be called upon in the moment of desperation.  Surely at the hour of his death that hope must have sustained him – knowing with a certainty that in a few short moments he would be reunited with his best friend, Jesus Christ.

So also do we face this same dilemma? Our termination has been scheduled.  Each day lived draws us one day closer to our death.  But each day we’ve been given, we have a renewed opportunity to deepen our walk of faith with Him and bring glory and honor to the name of Jesus.  Peter encourages us to use each day wisely and do everything we can in the time we’re given to glorify Jesus.  Undoubtedly due to his own experience, Peter urges us to put away our pride and be submitted to God with humility.  Stop trying to exalt yourself, and let God exalt you in His time.  This has got to be a tough task for Peter, who spent a great deal of time pushing himself forward and making a fool of himself through his own brashness.

The epistle of 1st Peter has much to say to us and offers practical advice to those on the verge of despondency.  The key to living life victoriously, Peter tells us, is being focused: not in maneuvering for position in this world, but by allowing our character to be molded by the rhema word of God.  This is accomplished by spending our lives with the realization that God is with us each moment.  His plan is to bring us to Himself and give us the inheritance He has waiting for us in heaven.  It is when we lose sight of that goal we become despondent and depressed and we lose hope.

If a curmudgeon like Peter can learn this lesson, then surely there is hope for even the worst of us.