The Twelve Apostles — Peter the Rock

Title: The Twelve Apostles – Peter the Rock

Text: Matthew 10:2-4

Date: May 24th, 2009

Last week I talked about the Twelve Disciples in terms of three groups: role models or leaders, like Peter; regular disciples or followers, like Andrew; and betrayers, like Judas – and I generalized about how these three groups characterize the population of traditional Christian nations and culture in the world today. Some people are model Christians or even leaders, most people are ordinary Christian believers who serve God to some degree, and finally, others have turned away from Christianity, either from personal faith or from general Christian nominal cultural faith. We see these three types of people in our nation and culture today. That was a bit abstract. Today, I’d like to talk specifically about the historic disciples, starting with the Apostle Peter. His name is always first in a list of the disciples of Jesus. He always seems to be the spokesman for the group. And he seems to naturally emerge as lead-disciple. Perhaps more is known of Peter than any other early Christian leader, except for the Apostle Paul. But there is also a lot of misinformation about the Apostle Peter as well. Some Christians claim that he is the first Catholic pope, although that seems to be reading-back into the historical record an idea that developed much later. For example, in the early church, it wasn’t Peter who was the leader in Jerusalem but rather the Lord’s brother James. In Acts 15 we see James making the final decision at the Jerusalem Council about the relationship between the Jewish law, the Christian faith, and the Gentile believers – not Peter. We would think that if Peter were indeed the first “pope” that he would have been the one who ratified the Council’s conclusion – as modern day pope’s do – not James. So we see there is misinformation about Peter as well as solid, historical information about him. What I’d like to do today is touch on three aspects of the Apostle Peter’s life. First, his calling by God; second, his training by Jesus; and third, how he led by love. We know more about Peter than any of the other twelve disciples; we know more about him than any other New Testament personality except for Jesus and the Apostle Paul. What we find about Peter is that he’s an ordinary man who was called to do an extra-ordinary thing and given extra-ordinary ability to do it. In this sense, he serves as a great role model for us all. Before Peter’s calling, most people can identify with him. He’s busy making a living, was a family man, yet was also a believer in God and a follower of the moral law. Nothing stands out special in his life, but when Jesus calls him as a disciple his life is changed. Isn’t that how it’s supposed to be with everyone who hears and answers the call of God to salvation? He then displays the ups and downs of a disciple of Jesus learning to follow the Master under all situations. In the end, he remains faithful and fulfills God’s will for his life. What a great example for us all. God calls us, yet is patient with us as we learn and grow through trial and error just like Peter. In the end, hopefully, we too can fulfill our Christian calling in life like Peter. Let’s look more closely at Peter’s life.

First, like Peter, we are called by God. Luke 5:1-11, “One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God, he saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people. . . . When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, ‘god away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!’ For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.’ So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.” Here we see Peter’s calling by Jesus. We’re not sure whether this scene is the final stage of a gradual process of calling Peter by Jesus or whether the other accounts found in the other different Gospels are describing different aspects of the same event, but either way, Peter is called and responds. In this scene Jesus teaches and performs a miracle, which produces in Peter the sudden realization that Jesus is the Messiah, the Holy One from God. That realization produces a deep reverence for the holiness of God and deep conviction of Peter’s own sinfulness. God’s presence is strongly felt and Peter’s only reaction was to bow in humility and beg for Jesus to depart from his presence. For from being a sign of pride or arrogance, this was a sign of humility on Peter’s part. There’s a popular contemporary Christian song called, “I Can Only Imagine,” which is about how it would be to see heaven for the first time and come into the holy presence of God. What would be your reaction to that? Would you laugh, cry, dance, or bow down? Would you say something or simply be intimidated into silence? It’s hard to say how any one of us will react when we stand face-to-face before God in heaven. But Peter experienced a little of that in the presence of Jesus. He was greatly convicted of his own sinfulness next to the holiness of Christ. That should be the experience of all of us too. It’s called the fear of God, and it’s not just being afraid or fearful, it’s being intimidated by the presence of what some call “The Holy Other” – or pure holiness. Being sinners, that makes us extremely uncomfortable, or it should. That’s a sure mark of conversion, because when the Holy Spirit convicts a person of sin, repentance and faith usually follow. Have you experienced this? It’s an important part in God’s call to you. The miracle is that even as sinners God calls us to himself. He takes us as he finds us, but doesn’t leave us there. When we respond to God’s calling to be his disciple he saves our soul and then shows us how to live for him as well. I hope you’ve experienced what Peter did when Jesus called him to become his disciple. I hope you’ve become Christ’s disciple too. Why not become one today?

Second, like Peter, we are taught by Jesus. Matthew 16:13-19, “When Jesus came to the region of Caeserea, Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.’ ‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon 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; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.’ Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.” Now there is no question that Peter is being called to play a unique and special part in the establishing of Christ’s church on earth; we can debate whether that refers to any special spiritual office like some churches think, or whether that office is transferred on and on by each generation. But what is clear is Peter – whose name is little rock – is certainly part of the foundations of the Christian church, along with the other disciples, as the scripture says that the church is “built upon the foundation of the prophets and the apostles.” All of the Old Testament saints and prophets along with the New Testament apostles serve as the foundation for the church. Jesus, of course, is the cornerstone or keystone, the key and critical part of the foundation. But here’s the good news for us – we are also part of the grand structure rising upward called the Christian church. As Christians, as followers, as contemporary disciples of Christ, we too play a part in the building of the church. No we are not the foundations of the church; that’s already been laid. But we are part of the structure of the spiritual edifice; we are part of the construction. Think about 2000 years of Christian history. During those 2000 years, a spiritual building has been constructed thus far, built upon the foundations of the prophets and apostles. Judaism was laying a solid foundation for Christianity; the Old Testament prophets spoke as they were inspired by God and communicated the truths that were necessary up to the time of Christ. Then, when Jesus Christ appeared he taught and trained the twelve disciples the truths that would be needed to establish the Christian church. For 2000 years we’ve been building on the truths taught by the Old Testament prophets and the New Testaments apostles. It is our assignment now to learn these truths ourselves and pass them along to the others and to the next generation so that they can continue to build the church into the future. Someday people in the future will look back upon us and build upon us the Christian church of the future. That’s why we need to learn and grow mature in our faith in order to pass on a solid and sure faith for future generations. Are you learning and growing in your faith? You own it not only to yourself to do so, but also those who will come after you in the faith. They need something solid to build on further.

Three, like Peter, we must lead by love. John 21:15-17, “When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John do you truly love me more than these?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ he said, ‘you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed my lambs.’ Again Jesus said, ‘Simon son of John, do you truly love me?’ He answered, ‘yes, Lord, you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Take care of my sheep.’ The third time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ He said, ‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed my sheep.’” Jesus was showing Peter that love for God should express itself in love for others. Peter was being called not only to love God and concern himself with his own personal relationship with God, but he was also being called to make it his concern to help others in their relationship with God as well. Here we have the whole issue of what the Bible describes as being “my brother’s keeper.” If you remember back in the very first book of the Old Testament, Genesis, after Cain had slain Abel, God came looking for him. He called out to Cain by asking him, “Where is your brother Abel?” Cain replied, “I don’t know, and besides, am I my brother’s keeper?” – Genesis 4. The message from God is that yes indeed we are our brother’s keeper. That same message applies today. Jesus reminds Peter to look after his fellow Christians, feed them spiritually and care for them. The New Testament record shows that Peter did in fact fulfill Christ’s command to look after fellow Christians, because that’s what he did the rest of his life. But the calling to lead with love isn’t limited to Peter the Apostle; we too are called to care for our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are called to look after fellow believers too. That’s why church is so important. Some Christians think they can serve God outside of the church. They think they can fulfill their calling to serve and follow Christ without participation in any Christian church. But this is totally wrong. How can we care after one another in the Body of Christ apart from the church? When the church meets on Sunday morning or whatever time, sometimes we’ll need encouraged by others and sometime we’ll encourage others. When we gather today for church, sometimes we’ll need to be confronted and rebuked for sin, and other times we’ll need to confront and rebuke others for their sins. But it’s all for the good. That’s can’t happen if we isolate ourselves apart from the church. That is one of the great disadvantages of radio and television ministries today. They can’t provide Christians with proper fellowship because they can’t encourage and hold them accountable personally. It is Christ’s intent that we help care for one another personally not impersonally. That’s why participating in a local church is important, essential.

There is a lot more to the life of the Apostle Peter than we’ve looked at today. There just isn’t time to cover all aspect of his life. I’d encourage you to read through the New Testament and learn all about the example of Peter because he really is a good role model for our Christian lives. Even when he fails, he shows us how to recover after we’ve failed. The realistic portrait the New Testament gives us of Peter is really helpful in showing us that failure doesn’t have to be final. Jesus rebuked Peter strongly at times. Peter denied the Lord three times. He also acted inconsistently later on in the history of the church and Paul rebuked him for it. But through it all, Peter demonstrates to us all that God works through imperfect vessels. That’s good news for us because if we search our own hearts we’ll find imperfection there, we’ll find sin and disobedience there, we’ll find immaturity there also. Can God still use us? Yes, Peter’s life is proof of that because Peter displayed sin, disobedience and immaturity also, yet God used him again and again after he confessed, repented, and recommitted his life back to God. Have you messed up your life? Have you sinned or disobeyed God, even after you committed your life to him? Have you ever wondered if you haven’t disqualified yourself from his service because of your sins? Realize that no matter what you’ve done or how you’ve failed, there is always forgiveness and restoration. You may not be illegible to take certain positions of leadership in the church after you’ve fallen in certain ways, or there may be consequences for your sinful actions that block you from certain paths in life, but God can always use you in some way to advance his kingdom no matter what you’ve done in your past. The example of Peter is that we don’t have to be perfect. God is not expecting perfection. He wants us to be perfect. He wants us to follow and obey him perfectly – that is clear from the commands of the Bible. But he also is realistic enough to know that we will fail, we will error, and yes we will even sin and disobey at times, try as we might not to. One of the great things about the Christian faith is that it calls for the best we can give in reaching the highest standards, yet it also realizes that we will fail at times and provides a path for us after we’ve failed. Listen to 1 John 2:1-2, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for our sins but also for the sins of the whole world.” Isn’t that great? God gives us his Word so that we might not sin, but if we do sin, he provides forgiveness and restoration and a new start for us. Don’t be afraid to follow Jesus Christ in discipleship because you are afraid to fail. You will fail, but don’t let that stop you from trying. Remember, Peter who failed repeatedly, but he kept getting back up and God continued to use him.


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