Last week, we looked at the life of Peter during the ministry of Jesus on earth. Paul says of Peter in 1 Corinthians 15:5 that Jesus “appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve” after his resurrection. Paul also writes in 1 Corinthians 9:5 that Peter (Cephas) had a believing wife that traveled with him in ministry for the Lord. Today as we continue our study of Peter after the ascension of Jesus, we’ll learn even more about Peter’s ministry.
“One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.” Luke 6:12-16
Like all of the apostles, Peter was amazed by the actions and teachings of Jesus and forever changed by them. He had been challenged and stretched spiritually and emotionally over the last three years as Jesus walked and talked among them. The events that followed during Jesus’ death and resurrection were beyond words and comprehension. After Peter witnessed Jesus ascend into heaven, he, in addition to the other apostles and the women, went and stayed in a room in Jerusalem. They kept a continual prayer vigil as they awaited the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5).
“In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) and said, “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through the mouth of David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus – he was one of our number and shared in this ministry.” … Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.”” Acts 1:15-17, 21,22
In the early days of the Church, Peter was regarded as a pillar of the church. A foundational stone prepared by Jesus. He took to heart the request of Jesus to care for his followers (John 21:15-19). He assumed the role as leader of the group. Peter recognized and proposed that a replacement be made for Judas Iscariot, who committed suicide following his betrayal of Jesus. The group chose Matthias as their twelfth member. Following the day of Pentecost and the gift of the Holy Spirit, Peter, once again, took charge and stood to address the crowd gathered. He explained to them that the fulfillment of words spoken by the prophet Joel were taking place. He gave a brief testimony to the life and testimony of Jesus and of how Jesus was raised from the dead. Peter continued by stating that even the patriarch David spoke of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
“God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. … “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.”… Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.” Acts 2:32,33,36-39,41
Peter spoke with passion, conviction, and authority that day and many were moved to accept Jesus because of his message. Some time later, Peter and John go to the Temple for afternoon prayer and encounter a crippled man beside the gate. Peter heals the man by invoking the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 3:6-10). He, then, addresses a gathering of people who are astonished by what they have seen. Peter testifies to them about Jesus and his ministry and invites them to repent and be forgiven. The result was many believed the message and “the number of men grew to about five thousand”(Acts 4:4). Also watching this exchange taking place were the priests, the Temple guard and the Sadducees. They have Peter and John seized and brought before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling council. Peter and John give their defense about the events that have taken place.
“Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”” Acts 4:18-20
Peter refused to be silenced. He was compelled to tell the good news of Jesus. Peter also experienced a time in ministry when he had to discipline and hold others accountable for their actions (Acts 5:1-11). Peter lived out his faith and wanted others to do the same. Years later, Peter found himself called to task by Paul for not living authentically. Paul accused him of hypocrisy (Galatians 2:11-14). Unfortunately, we don’t have Peter’s response to Paul’s accusation. Peter does, however, mention Paul in one of his letters.
“Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.” 2 Peter 3:15,16
Peter and Paul had an interesting relationship that must’ve been founded on shared faith and respect. After Paul’s conversion to Christianity and his time spent in Arabia and Damascus, he had sought out Peter and spent fifteen days with him. I would like to know what they talked about during those days of getting acquainted, wouldn’t you?
Like the other apostles, Peter was also given the gift of healing. Some brought their sick into the streets where Peter would pass by in the belief that his shadow might fall on them and heal them (Acts 5:15). Another time, Peter was in the vicinity of the seaport town of Joppa (present day Jaffa) and healed a paralytic of eight years as well as resurrected a disciple named Dorcas (Tabitha) from death (Acts 9:32-43).
Peter had two encounters that I believe greatly impacted his life. The first changed his perspective on who was eligible to be a follower of Jesus. The story begins with a God-fearing centurion in the Italian Regiment named Cornelius who had an angelic visitation telling him to send for Peter in Joppa. Prior to their arrival, Peter had his own vision from God of heaven opening and a large sheet containing all types of animals, reptiles, and birds. Peter was instructed by God to kill these creatures and eat them but Peter refused because the animals weren’t spiritually clean. The voice told Peter; ““Do not call anything impure that God has made clean”” (Acts 10:15). The men sent by Cornelius arrived after Peter’s vision from God.
“While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.” Peter went down and said to the men, “I’m the one you’re looking for. Why have you come?” The men replied, “We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to have you come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say.”” Acts 10:19-23
Peter left with the men the following day to travel to Caesarea to meet with Cornelius.
“As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. But Peter made him get up. “Stand up,” he said, “I am only a man myself.” Talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people. He said to them:”You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection…. Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.” Acts 10: 25-29,34,35
Peter and those who had accompanied him to Caesarea witnessed the Holy Spirit poured out on these Gentile believers as they gathered and heard the message that Peter brought. Peter had a servant’s heart that was open and receptive to God. He was willing to have his mindset about what he believed about God to become transformed by God into something even greater. Peter had thought that the message of Jesus Christ was only intended for the Jews. But on that day, Peter learned that God had a bigger plan. Peter later has to explain his actions in Jerusalem. Peter tells them:
“”As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said:’John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?” When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying,“So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.”” Acts 11:15-18
The good news of Jesus was spreading everywhere that the disciples went. Therefore, the threat of persecution was growing. The second story gives Peter a personal experience with an angel. An encounter he was likely never to forget! King Herod Agrippa had arrested Peter during the Feast of Unleavened Bread and put him in prison. He assigned four squads of four soldiers each to guard Peter because he intended to put Peter on trial publicly after the festival.
“The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists. Then the angel said to him,“Put on your clothes and sandals.” And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me, “the angel told him. Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision.They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him.Then Peter came to himself and said,“Now I know without a doubt that the Lord sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were anticipating.” Acts 12:6-11
Peter’s life was definitely changed after he made his decision to follow Jesus. He did indeed become a great “fisher of men” and a rock of the Church. The gospel of Mark is considered by scholars to be the written record of Peter’s sermons. Although some scholars have argued whether Peter actually wrote the two letters bearing his name (1 Peter, 2 Peter). Many others, including early church fathers, have attributed the authorship to Peter. Peter was flawed but faithful, open-hearted, and forgiving. Peter’s ministry grew and took him many other places. Legend states he was crucified upside down at his request not to be crucified like his Lord because Peter felt he was unworthy. Above all, Peter loved the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.” 2 Peter 3:18
Questions to Consider
- Do I have a heart like Peter’s that is open to correction from God and from other believers?
- Do I have a firm conviction of my faith?
- What experiences do I have with God that have changed my perspective?
- What gifts has God entrusted to me to use for His glory?