” . . he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter” Luke 6:13-14
Thinking about those whom Jesus met along the way through Saint Luke’s Gospel, we come to Simon Peter. Simon Peter seems to have been a friend of Jesus before he became a disciple, for Saint Luke Chapter 5 tells us about Jesus teaching at the lakeside and the crowd being so big that Jesus has to get into a boat to have space to speak to the great gathering of people; in Verse 3 we read, “He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore.” After Jesus has finished teaching, it seems almost as though he wishes to reward Simon for his willingness to respond, telling him in Verse 4, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Again Simon responds readily, even though the previous night’s fishing has been a failure, and the catch is so large, they have to call for help. It is the turning point, Verse 8 tells us, “when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!'” Jesus will not accept a refusal, saying to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.”
Reading the story of that encounter between Simon Peter and Jesus, we might ask ourselves, how readily do we respond when we know that God has called us to a task? In Chapter 6, Jesus chooses his disciples and while Simon Peter is the first named, he must work with others, how good are we at working together for God’s Kingdom?
Simon Peter is the person who asks the questions we would want to ask, who says the things that we might have said. The daughter of Jairus, one of the leaders of the synagogue is gravely ill, and Jairus goes to to Jesus to beg for help. Jesus agrees to go to Jairus’ house, but has to push his way through the crowds, and as he does so, he is touched by a woman with severe gynaecological problems who thinks that just that touch will be enough to heal her. In Verse 45, Jesus asks, “Who touched me?” Simon Peter gives the sensible and practical answer, “Master, the crowds surround you and press in on you.” We can only imagine what Peter might have thought when the woman comes forward and Jesus tells her that her faith has healed her. Perhaps Jesus feels Peter needs convincing, for when they reach Jairus’ house, we are told in Verse 51, “When he came to the house, he did not allow anyone to enter with him, except Peter, John, and James, and the child’s father and mother.” If Peter had doubted, the healing of Jairus’ daughter must have convinced him.
In our own faith, we are right to be practical in the way that Peter was, but are we sometimes so practical that we exclude the possibility of God being at work? In Chapter 9 Verse 20, Jesus asks Peter, “who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “The Messiah of God.” Practical, but also persuaded.
Peter, John and James, who had been at Jairus’ house, are also chosen to be on the mountain when Jesus was transfigured and Moses and Elijah appeared with him. It is a wonderful moment and Peter wanted to make it last, In Chapter 8 Verse 33, Peter says, “‘Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah’—not knowing what he said.” Peter’s reaction is very human, he does not want to lose something special.
Wouldn’t we have been like Peter, wouldn’t we want to hold on to a special time? When times are good, we want them to last, but, like Peter, we have to go back down into the valley.
In Saint Luke Chapter 12 Verse 36, Jesus says, “Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit.” He goes on to warn his listeners about their need to be ready because the Son of Man may come at an unexpected hour. Peter must have pondered Jesus’ words because in Verse 41, he asks, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for everyone?” Jesus’ answer is not direct, it is for the disciples, and for all who will follow him, saying in Verse 42, “Blessed is that slave whom his master will find at work when he arrives.” Peter’s question clarifies the teaching, Jesus’ words are not ones that can be avoided.
Peter would be very helpful in our own times. We read challenging words about being followers of Jesus and we often think they are intended for someone else. Peter might ask us whether or not we had understood that the teaching was for everyone.
Peter questions and sometimes he protests. The rich man who comes to Jesus in Chapter 18 is told he must sell what he has and give the money to the poor and he becomes sad. Jesus tells his listeners, in Verse 25, “Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” The people are worried, “Then who can be saved?” they ask, and Jesus replies in Verse 27, “What is impossible for mortals is possible for God.” Peter is not happy at what he has heard, and raises a voice of protest in Verse 28, “Look, we have left our homes and followed you.” Jesus reassures Peter that he will receive his reward, but Peter would not have understood what that reward would mean.
Had we been in Peter’s place, we would probably have felt as he did, but perhaps we misunderstand God. By God’s standards, we do not deserve any reward, but through his grace, through his love for us even when we don’t deserve it, we have a place in God’s Kingdom. Sometimes, in the life of the church, we forget that we depend on grace.
When we come to the final hours of Jesus’ ministry, we find that those who have been leaders among the disciples must also be the servants. We read in Chapter 22 Verse 7-8, “Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, ‘Go and prepare the Passover meal for us that we may eat it.'” Peter and John do not hesitate to do as they are instructed, and go and make all the practical preparations.
What does Peter’s behaviour say to us about leaders being servants? What example does Peter give us about being prepared to do all the plain and ordinary things because they are a service to God?
Jesus knows Peter is faithful, he also knows that Peter is human, that he has weaknesses. In the Upper Room, in Chapter 22 Verse 31-32, Jesus warns Peter, “Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” In Verse, Peter gives the answer that would have been expected of him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!” But Jesus knows how weak human beings can be, his words in Verse 34 always seem sad, “I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you have denied three times that you know me.”
Had we been there in Peter’s place, would we have answered honestly? Would we have admitted that we were weak and that we were afraid?
Peter tries to be brave. When Jesus is arrested in the garden, Peter follows them to the high priest’s house and sits at a fire in the courtyard. What thoughts must have been going through his head? Verse 56 tells us, “Then a servant-girl, seeing him in the firelight, stared at him and said, ‘This man also was with him.'” Fear dominates Peter, “Woman, I do not know him, he says in Verse 57. A second time, someone says to Peter that he is one of Jesus’ followers and Peter says, in Verse 58, “Man, I am not!” Did Peter know what would come next? Did he know he would again deny Jesus? Or did he think he could be braver? “Surely this man also was with him; for he is a Galilean,” says a man in Verse 59, and, if Peter thought he could be braver, he would be disappointed, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about!” The cock crowed. Verses 61-62 say, “The Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, ‘Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly.”
Doesn’t Peter stand for all of us? Don’t we deny Jesus, not just three times, but many, many times?
Early on the first day of the week, the women go to the tomb, find it empty and meet with the angels. The apostles do not believe the story, but Peter seems to have a deeper faith, Chapter 24 Verse 12 says, “Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.” Peter is amazed, Peter knows what has happened.
As we think of Simon Peter, are we prepared to be amazed? Have we confidence that Jesus is alive?