July 13, 2016.
 

Peter Church

There is no other apostle that has been given as much attention according to the New Testament as Peter was given. He was the first apostle spoken to - Matt. 4:19; and was the last apostle spoken to by Jesus - Jn. 21:22. Ironically, both times, Jesus tells him, "Follow Me". It is the basis for all who desire more than themselves. Peter is an example for all of us and became the icon for the early church because Jesus laid the burden of the church on him. For some religions, he became the foundation of their doctrine even though this was not necessary. For, in reality, it was his works that was to be the standard for all who would dare to be called Christian.


As a key founder of the early Judea-Christian church, Peter like all the new birth followers of Christ had to leave their present, make it their past and step into the new role and future of being carriers of the good news, of demonstrating a renewed mind and a new outlook for the future. Just like Abram who became Abraham, so did Simon become Peter signifying a new beginning, of old things, passed away and a new purpose for life. Thus, Peter became the first churchman. Jesus made him so and as required, he would take up his burden (share) for righteousness. He was given a new identity in Christ’s church. As a metaphor, he became Peter Church meaning his first name signifying his purpose (foundation, immovable) and his last, the cause (body of Christ, God embodied) respectively.

What we know of Peter is that he was not obscure in the daily life of those living by the Sea of Galilee. He was not just a fisherman but an owner. Here, Jesus led of the Holy Spirit make contact with someone who had experience in carrying a burden, of someone who had to take responsibility for the welfare of others - Lk. 5:3. As a fisherman, Peter would be constantly mending his nets for the next day’s effort of catching fish not only to feed his own but supply fishmongers who had the same burdens as he did. The relationship of the fish, Peter, and others were tied together in a never ending cycle of supply and demand. It required determination. There was no guarantee of success each time he went out to fish. For Peter, it was more of a tedious effort day in day out and was probably filled with more disappointments than joy with the mundane task required to earn a living. It is why when Jesus asked him to set out his nets, he was reluctant and humored Christ with only a show of throwing a single net. - Lk. 5:4-5.

Many times as the church, we want more of a “show and tell” display to give us the faith and belief to carry the good news to others. As it is said, “proof in the pudding”, so that no one can disprove our word. Peter was no different and Jesus used this misconception of Faith to demonstrate the Kingdom principle to only believe the Word and all will be added to you - Matt. 6:33. Peter had to learn, renew his faith not by seeing and feeling but only by accepting the Word. He needed to renew his thought process of life. We all are ignorant to some degree of walking and living by the Kingdom principles of life just like Peter was and it was not so much that he did not accept Jesus for who He was, but more so it was because of Peter’s own self-imposed hindrances that made his view on things a challenge, so much so that Jesus has to set him straight on more than one occasion when his mouth got the better of him. Peter was a stubborn, flippant and immature man.

Through Peter’s time with Jesus, he is constantly getting into “hot waters” because of these traits that cloud his judgment and at times blind him to what Jesus was trying to teach him and others. Peter was too quick to try and show himself worthy of Jesus’ attention and others rather than consider, meditate and then comment on the things of the Kingdom. In Matt. 17:4, we see the transfiguration and Peter wanting to be of use states to Jesus, “if you wish, let us build three shelters”. In verse 5, God rebukes him and is told to listen. Peter was acting without thinking it through, because why would shelters be needed for what is essentially the manifestation of Spirits. What is key is that Peter with the others were observers, not part-takers. Peter being a Jew and hearing the Torah, may have been relying on his old self as when Abraham and Lot entertain Spirits/ Angels - Gen. 18 and 19 respectively. It still had not dawned on him that with Jesus, it was a new covenant. Despite this, Peter had the heart that Jesus required to start the church. Jesus would take his rawness and mold it, focus it into the Kingdom purpose. Peter needed to follow before he could lead. With the new covenant, all who follow Jesus will eventually lead whether it will be at the family, church or state level.

Peter compared to some of the apostle’s such as Matthew, the tax collector or Luke, the doctor would seem least to be someone who would be selected to establish footholds for the Kingdom. He was after all just a fisherman probably as his father was and had no status, no formal education or natural skill for any other prestigious trade. Peter was really ordinary. The world teaches that we must select the best in education, natural skill and the strongest to give the best odds of succeeding. God laughs at this and shows His Glory by using the least wanted and discarded to achieve His plans - 1 Corth. 1:18-30. All that is required is blind obedience and that is what Peter did. When we think of it, Peter would have been called crazy by his peers to leave his livelihood, put his family at risk and go follow some guy he never met on some weird notion of becoming a “Fisher of men”. He would have been laughed at, jeered at and ridiculed. But for Peter, he was desperate to change his life and did not see fishing as the way to fulfill his very being. Peter wanted his life to mean more than washing nets, stinking all the time of fish and constantly having to haggle just to make a meager living. When Jesus came and Peter recognizes the difference in Him, he took the risk for something greater than himself. What is critical is not Jesus called him, but Peter accepted; he took the first step to open himself to the many wonders of the Kingdom.

Often, we can allow fear to restrain our leap of Faith for what the Kingdom offers. We retard our Blessings and at such, we as the church fail to spread the God news by not living as Christian’s ought to. As conquerors of death, generous givers and the reflection of Christ, victorious in anything satan throws against us. It is why Jesus proclaims that Peter is to be that example of all these things and that the darkness of hell can never prevail against him - Matt. 16:18. Jesus was not sermonizing but with His stern look of empowering, He established Peter’s role and life. Peter was to be the church and church was to be Peter. This was his and is the vision. Peter started a man and became a Christian only with his resolve backed by the power of the Holy Spirit. He was not given any special favor by Jesus but became that person who Jesus would use to constantly teach others to emulate towards the things of God.

Peter was Jesus’s “poster boy “ one day, then His burden the next. No different for us today. In all this, Jesus’s purpose and unending love for Peter (and us) never sway because he had, and would develop his potential as long as he never quit, but kept his eyes and thoughts on Jesus.

Consider Peter and Jesus’s interactions as he grows and become the rock.

1) There is an indication that Simon prior to being called Peter knew of Jesus as Andrew his brother was a follower of John the Baptist - Jn. 1:34-42. So when Jesus came to Simon by the Sea of Galilee and asked to use his boat, he was compelled to allow Jesus to use it, being promoted by others as the Messiah. Jesus by this time also had a following. Seeing this assembly, Simon is very attentive to the Words of Jesus. What is also interesting is his birth name means “God heard” or “God hears me”. This can be interpreted that Simon was looking for something more. So when Jesus gave him the call, he readily complied and accepted the vision to be the rock, Peter. Jesus not only is the vision but gives vision to those yearning for more. That more can only be found in the Word, Jesus.


2) When Simon meets Jesus, he is a man occupied with what he can see and feel. He has not yet taken on the name Peter. Despite all, he has heard of this Jesus he still is unable to embrace Faith. Jesus uses Simon’s toiling as the basis for building belief in Faith, the Word, and Himself. Luke 5:4-8, “Lord, we have toiled all night but at your Word”. Simon comes to face with his disbelief upon the enormous catch and asks Jesus to leave him because of his shame. We have to remember just like many of us, Faith is believing in the unseen, knowing that our needs can be manifested only when we take our eyes off the problems of life and simply obey the Word. Jesus gives Simon personal examples on more than one occasion to help him build his Faith. Mk. 1:30-31, “Simon wife’s mother is sick and Jesus healed her”. 


3) Peter the rock of the church is really a slow learner because he hears but does not apply what is being taught. Peter still lacks Faith in Jesus even as he walks on water and allows the distractions of the winds to create fear and doubt in him,  forcing him to cry out to Jesus to save him - Matt. 14:29-31. Jesus lifts him up out of his fear but chastises him for doubting. At this point, it may be easy to “throw in the towel” with the faith stuff, but Peter has every potential to become that rock Jesus intends for him to be and will not allow Peter's failures to deter His mentorship of him. Sometimes we all have to come to the point knowing that by our strength we can do nothing and only surrendering with a learning attitude do we rise above all the whirlwinds of this life.


4) Peter redeems himself as he begins changing into his new garments from the old. The church is to be resilient as it grows into the image of God and only with focused efforts will we see the Glory of God shine forth from our lives. Peter is now allowing Faith to work in his life by not being afraid of his own shadow. He asks questions, and gives answers and  like a “bull in a china shop” has ups and downs in growing and becoming the man of God he is ordained to be. As the saying goes, “you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs”. Matt. 15:15, Peter exclaims, “explain the parable to us”. Matt. 16:16, Peter states, “You are the Christ”. Peter’s boldness is so reckless that Jesus has to notch him down a bit to keep him humble so that the Spirit can work through him - Matt. 16:22-23, Peter says, “Lord this is not for you”; but Jesus replied, “get behind me satan because you are not thinking the way of God”. What is significant here, is Jesus (God) rather a man with boldness who makes a mess of the things of God, but with a true heart want to do the righteous thing and with time and the Holy Spirit becomes greater than himself.


5) As he grows, Peter begins to take on traits that are becoming a follower of Christ. He looks to serve. Still a little brash, Peter sees and knows there is more outside of himself and that part of having the keys to the Kingdom is about giving to get, sowing to reap. Peter looks for opportunities to do exactly that by seizing the moment. Matt. 17:4, “Lord if you wish, let us put up three shelters”. Even when our heart is right there is always a time and place for it, we have to read the situation and know with the Spirit when to interfere or remain distance. In verse 5, Peter is chastised for being a little too zealous in his wanting to please Jesus. What is significant is that only three of the twelve is privileged to witness this transfiguration, as an insight of what was to come after Jesus’s death. As we mature in Christ, we may have visions or be privileged to the hidden things of God. This is a promise.


6) For the rest of the journey, Peter continues to demonstrate growth and becomes comfortable in the shoes he has been given. He begins to believe more in himself rather than the anointing on him. It is when this happens that we tend to fall right back on our face because we fail to keep the first loves before us all the time. Peter is warned not to give a foothold to the devil by becoming independent of the Word. Jesus basically tells him, he will not be the rock but metaphorically chicken in the face of the cost for his belief and call. He will deny the Word to save his flesh - Jn. 13:8. We must treat the Word as air itself, for without it, we cannot live.

7) Simon, heard of God comes to face with his denial and as the rock Peter, he can either be completely ashamed or dust off his failures, reset and give new breath to his Faith. Peter is not condemned but by Grace he has to come to terms with Jesus’s Words. As any person who has been called by God, we are no longer responsible for charting our own course but allow the Holy Spirit to do that for us. We can only comply by growing despite our mistakes. Peter is one of the first apostles to go see the empty tomb but more than that Jesus takes the time in one final act to endorse His belief in Peter to become the rock of the church by reminding and purposefully getting Peter to speak the words of love for Jesus and accepting his role in feeding and shepherding the flock. Jesus reminds Peter of his immaturity but how he has matured, ready for what lies ahead of him - Jn. 21:18, “When you were young (immature), you girded (held) yourself, and walked (to your tune): but when you become old (mature), you will stretch forth your hands (for help), and another shall gird (strengthen) you, and carry (lead) you where you rather not go”.

We all are in some part, like Peter Church, but as he did, we have to plow through what from birth has been laid on us that hinders our growth in Christ. These burdens whether it is cultural, tradition, religion or self-imposed loads can be overcome only when; as Peter discovered sometimes with hard lessons that keeping our first loves; to love and honor God first; our neighbor’s second and keep the Word in our life as the guiding force can we set on the journey that is our calling. Peter had a few things going for him to be given such a task to not only set the foundation of the early church but to use the keys of the Kingdom for that purpose. He was first desperate for something greater than himself. He was willing to do whatever to change, bear and become and lastly he came to the realization that loving Jesus was not mere words to utter but to embody the very nature of that love in all his actions for the Glory of the Kingdom.

Flush it Out! - Christ has embraced me for me to embrace His love, the Church.

Spiritual Awakening