Jesus' Disciples: Peter, Part 1

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, August 3, 2020 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

As we begin this series on Jesus’ disciples, here’s a fun fact for you: Peter’s name is mentioned 195 times in the New Testament – significantly more than any other disciple! The next closest is John with 29 mentions. We hear a lot about Peter’s life when reading through the gospels, and even elsewhere in the New Testament. Today we’re going to start looking at a handful of those mentions and why they were significant in Peter’s life, in the life of the church, and for discipleship, and we’ll follow up with more of them next week.

One of the personality traits that Peter is known for is his boldness and his willingness to go out on a limb. He is known for speaking his mind, often speaking without thinking first. Check out Matthew 14:22-33 for one bold event: Peter walked on water with Jesus. How many disciples did you see get out of the boat in that account? Only Peter. They were all afraid when they first saw Jesus walking on the lake – as you and I would be too, I’m sure! But once Jesus said who He was, Peter immediately wanted verification and then took part in this miracle of Jesus walking on top of the water.

This is even more significant when we consider the culture then. For us modern people, we see Jesus and Peter defying the law of gravity. But to them, it was an image of conquering chaos and death. The sea was considered to be evil and chaotic, often leading to death in the waves, and only God could control it. This situation happened after Jesus calmed the storm while He was in the boat with them, so the disciples already had some sense that Jesus was God because of His ability to calm the wind and the waves. But to see one of their own try walking on the chaos of the water? That takes some serious boldness!

What does this account mean for discipleship today? First, we see Peter needing proof that it really is Jesus, then we see him having an impulsive trust followed by doubt. How many of you have seen yourself follow that pattern? We question something then get our proof and go for it, only to realize we aren’t perfect and somehow fail at the task. But that’s what discipleship is all about – having the trust to let someone into your life, even if there’s the possibility you’ll fall into the chaos of life. Peter trusted that Jesus was there for him, and even when he doubted, Jesus still caught him. He will do the same for us, we just need to step out of the boat and trust Him.

For our next glimpse into Peter’s life, read Matthew 16:13-20. This is one of those times where we see Peter speak up first before the rest of the group of disciples. Jesus addresses them all collectively in verse 15 when He asks who they say He is, and it is only Peter who answers. Peter’s response is significant because it is a very clear confession of Jesus as God. Jesus normally referred to himself as the Son of Man, so for Peter to say that Jesus is the Son of God was a big leap to take. Jesus responds to this by blessing Peter because he got that knowledge from God, not from mankind. This passage is also Peter’s commissioning as a foundational pillar of the church. Jesus gives him the name of Peter (or Petros in Greek) which means rock. Jesus is giving authority to Peter and the rest of His disciples here to carry on His message.

We see here an example of what we should be if we consider ourselves to be disciples of Christ. We should be bold in confessing Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of the living God, just as Peter was. Peter recognized this and was willing to say it. We have the Bible to tell us so much information about who Jesus was and what He did, and it provides us with much more insight into Jesus’ character. We, like Peter, need to boldly confess who we follow. As disciples, we don’t follow some earthly teacher who seems to be a smart person; we follow the Son of the living God!

So even though Peter boldly confessed Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of the living God, we see in the very next verses that he still had some confusion about what Jesus really came to earth to do. Check out Matthew 16:21-28. We see by the phrase “from that time on” at the beginning of verse 21 that these two instances did not happen back to back as they are recorded by Matthew, but it is intriguing that they are placed right next to each other because of how Peter is portrayed.

Peter’s response to Jesus explaining what must happen to him can be interpreted in two different ways. First, it can be seen in the light of Peter’s personal love for Jesus. Wouldn’t any of us be horrified if a close friend or family member told us that they would have to die soon, and not only that but to suffer at the hands of the authorities? Second, Peter’s response can be seen as him misinterpreting what kind of Messiah Jesus really came to be. Peter didn’t put it together yet that Jesus had to suffer and die to fulfill all the prophecies made about Him in the Old Testament.

When Jesus tells Peter to get behind Him, He doesn’t just mean to physically stand behind Him. The position of a disciple was behind the rabbi (their teacher) – literally following the rabbi as he went about every single task of his day. A disciple does not lead the teacher nor even walk beside; a disciple follows behind. Through this statement, Jesus is calling Peter into deeper discipleship following Him.

But what about being called Satan? Peter the rock now suddenly is called Satan, the enemy. Peter’s attempt to deny the path that Jesus must follow makes him a stumbling block to Jesus; for that one moment, Peter is an enemy that Jesus has to contend with. It is reminiscent of when Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness at the start of his earthly ministry. Satan tempted Jesus to do things the easy way, which is what Peter wants Jesus to do as well.

Jesus’ response to Peter is by telling him more about what it’s really like to be His disciple, as we see in verses 24-28. Jesus tells all of the disciples that they must really and truly follow Him – even all the way to His death on the cross. The Christian life is not one of conforming to the world and its ways, but instead one of losing our earthly desires in life for the sake of heavenly ones.

We see from Peter’s experiences here that being called to a life of discipleship means that we must confess Jesus Christ as our Messiah, the Son of God. We need to expect to be rebuked along the way when we make mistakes. We need to live life in community, truly being discipled and discipling others as Jesus did. Finally, we need to learn to deny our selfish desires to follow Jesus.

How are you like Peter, or not like Peter, in your faith? Are you boldly confessing Jesus in your life? Are you trying to follow Jesus in all His ways? As you go about your week, think about Peter and his bold faith and be encouraged to grow in boldness in your own faith. Check back next week for more about Peter’s life and discipleship.

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