Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A Letter from Rocky

This week, the Tuesday a.m. Bible study I lead began going through the book of First Peter.
Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:1)
The name Peter comes from the Greek word, petros, which means “rock.” It is the name Jesus gave Simon bar Jonah when he received a very important truth from God:
When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”

So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:13-19)
Simon did not come up with this on his own. It was a revelation he received directly from heaven. It was the sudden, divine realization that the one to whom he was speaking was the promised Messiah, the Anointed One who would deliver Israel and set the whole world right. It was the heaven-induced recognition that Jesus was not merely human but divine.

Jesus called him Rock because he had received this foundational truth. On this revelation, Jesus built His Church, and the “gates,” the counsels and decisions, of hell are not able to overcome it. Peter had found a rock to build his life upon, and now God would use him to lay that same foundation in others. That is how an apostle functions. An apostle is someone who is sent as the messenger and representative of another. As an apostle of Jesus the Messiah, he serves on behalf of Jesus. His function is to prepare the way, to break the ground, lay foundation. Paul speaks of the Church as being “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:20).

Now, Peter was an impetuous sort of person, not a very stable trait for a leader. He threw himself into whatever he did but was often in over his head, and sometimes his boldness left him stranded.
  • He was the only disciple who, seeing Jesus walking on the waves, asked Him to bid him come (Matthew 14:28). That was bold. But he stepped out on the water and ended up sinking into the stormy sea because of his lack of faith (Matthew 14:30-31).
  • On the other hand, he failed spectacularly! He was the only disciple willing to get out of the boat and, after all, he did walk on the water for at least a little while (Matthew 14:29).
  • He was the one who boldly declared the revelation he received from the Father concerning Jesus the Messiah (Matthew 16:16).
  • But just a few verses later, when Jesus spoke of being killed at the hands of elders and priests and scribes, Peter rebuked Him — rebuked the Messiah, the Son of the Living God! — saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” At this, Jesus said, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Matthew 16:20-23).
  • On the night Jesus was betrayed, He said, to the disciples, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night.” Peter boldly said, “Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.” Jesus answered, “Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times” (Matthew 26:31-34), which is exactly what happened.
  • On the third day, when the disciples received the report from Mary Magdalene, Peter was the only one who ran out with John to see the empty tomb (John 20:1-4).
  • Fifty days later, at the feast of Pentecost in Jerusalem, where the Holy Spirit filled the disciples in the Upper Room, so that they all spoke with other tongues until observers accused them of being drunk, Peter stood up in the boldness of the Holy Spirit and proclaimed Jesus the Messiah (Acts 2).
  • When Peter and John went up to pray at the temple and saw a lame man begging alms, Peter extended his faith said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk,” and the man was healed (Acts 3:1-10).
  • Then when brought up before the magistrates, Peter declared, “Let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole” (Acts 4:10). And when admonished not to preach Jesus anymore, Peter and John answered, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20).
  • Peter discerned the lie of Ananias and Sapphira and how satan filled their hearts. He was not afraid to call it what it was, and they both fell down dead (Acts 5:1-11).
  • Brought before the council again for preaching the name of Jesus, Peter answered, “We ought to obey God rather than men,” and did not relent (Acts 5:29).
  • Peter broke ground for the preaching of the gospel to the nations, going to Cornelius, a Gentile, after receiving a vision from God (Acts 10). Then he stood before the leaders of the Church at Jerusalem and testified how God was making no distinction between Jews and Gentiles but was purifying both by faith in Jesus the Messiah (Acts 15).
  • But then, it was Peter whom Paul rebuked for hypocrisy at Antioch, when Peter backed away from fellowship with Gentile believers after a certain group of Jewish believers came from Jerusalem (Galatians 2:11-21).
Though his temperament at the beginning was “rocky” and tumultuous, God eventually smoothed him out and made him a pastor who was able to lay a good foundation for others and lead them to stability in Jesus Christ. Thirty years on from the Resurrection and Pentecost, Simon the Rock, writing in the AD 60s, now penned this letter of encouragement and instruction to converts going through difficult times.

Keeping the Faith When Things Get ToughKeeping the Faith When Things Get Tough
Peter’s Letter to Jesus Believers Scattered Everywhere
Bite-Sized Studies Through First Peter
by Jeff Doles

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