Peter - Never the Same
This sermon is about three people: Simon the Fisherman,
Simon-Peter the Disciple, and Peter
Simon the Fisherman
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- His father's name was Jonas, but his mother is not mentioned anywhere
in scripture. He had a brother, Andrew, a wife and a mother-in-law,
who all lived with him.
His Home Life
- It is likely that his father died when he was young, as he was brought
up by Zebedee & Salome, in Bethany, with their two boys James &
- He was a fisherman on the often stormy Sea of Galilee.
He was a Galilean
- Galileans had a reputation for being independent & energetic.
They were franker and more transparent than their southern brothers.
- They were blunt, impetuous & simple; and Simon was a Galilean
through and through.
- Their accent was thought harsh by Judean standards - wherever he went,
people knew he was a backwater boy. It showed when he was outside the
temple courts and it showed on the day of Pentecost.
- He would have had a general scriptural education, but hadn't trained
under any of the rabbis - the Sanhedrin council referred to him as 'an
And that's about all we know. It's not much, but it's all we have.
The next person we meet is...
Simon-Peter the Disciple
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- Although we generally speak of 'Peter', Jesus always called him 'Simon'
except for a couple of notable incidents. The Gospel writers refer to
him as Simon-Peter (or just Peter) because that was how he was known
by the time the Gospels were written, some thirty years later.
- Andrew, Simon's brother, was a disciple of John the Baptist. When
Jesus is baptised in the Jordan, John says "Look, the Lamb of God" and
Andrew, with another of John's disciples, follows Jesus home, and spends
the day listening to him.
- Andrew then seeks out Peter and tells him "We have found the Messiah".
Peter comes to Jesus who says, "You are Simon son of John. You will
be called Cephas" (which means 'Rock'. The Greek word is Petros, from
which we get 'petrified' - turned to stone)
- A short time afterwards, we find Simon mending his nets after a night
of fruitless fishing. Jesus comes walking along the shore and says,
"Put out into deep waters & let down your nets." The fisherman does
as the carpenter asks, and they catch so much fish the boats are nearly
sinking. This is Simon's first lesson: he is not to rely on his own
strength & judgment - a difficult message for Simon to accept, being
an independent kind of guy.
- Jesus says, "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men." And Simon
did, right there and then. He walked away from his old life to follow
- From that moment Simon was always at Jesus' side. He saw Jesus forgive
sins, heal cripples, calm stormy seas and cast out demons. Simon was
always the one asking for explanations of parables, getting to the nitty
- Simon saw himself as the stalwart, the loyal servant. No matter what,
you could be sure of Simon. After some particularly hard teaching, many
of Jesus' disciples deserted him.
- Jesus asked the Twelve, "You do not want to leave too,
do you?" Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall
we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that
you are the Holy One of God."
- Towards the end of Jesus' ministry, after asking the diciples, "Who
do the crowds say I am?" Jesus asked them, "But what about you? 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 (rock), 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 of heaven; whatever
you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose
on earth will be loosed in heaven."
- And so we begin to see some of the new Peter - the Peter that Jesus
has been preparing over these three short years. The Peter who would
open up the gospel to the Gentiles as well as the Jews. But the old
Simon still has much ground to cover.
- From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that
he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the
elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must
be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him
aside and began to rebuke him. "Never Lord!" he said. "This shall
never happen to you!" Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Get behind
me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in
mind the things of God, but the things of men. "
- Simon had a very strong character. He was quick to act and passionate
in all things. But he was also impetuous and prone to making mistakes.
- Jesus took the raw material that was Simon's passionate character
and moulded it into the solid rock that would be the foundation of his
church. This was the reason Simon came in for more individual treatment
(both encouragement and discipline) than any of the other disciples
- even Judas.
- At the Last Supper Jesus is at pains to show Simon, through the act
of washing his feet, that the essence of leadership is servanthood.
- In the Garden of Gethsemane, three times Jesus asks Peter, James &
John to keep watch whilst he prayed. And three times they failed him.
This was the first of four sets of three, which chart the final transformation
of Simon into Peter.
- When Judas comes to arrest Jesus and Simon cuts off the ear of Malchus,
the High Priest's servant, Jesus says
- Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword
will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father,
and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions
of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say
it must happen in this way?
- Jesus shows Simon that God's plan is the only way, even when you don't
understand the whys and wherefores.
- Peter's lowest point comes when he denies Jesus three times after
his Galilean accent betrays him in the temple courts. As the cock crows,
the old, self-reliant Simon is finally broken, and we see our first
glimpse of a new, more humble Peter.
- After the resurrection, Mary is instructed to tell 'the disciples
and Peter', affirming that Jesus has not given up on him. Peter ran
to the tomb, and was the first apostle to enter and see the empty grave
clothes. Again Jesus affirms Peter's place.
- Jesus then appears to seven of the disciples on the shore of the Sea
of Galilee. Simon had told the others he was going fishing, and they
went with him. Was this a sign that Simon had given up and was returning
to his old life? If so, his old life returns to haunt him, for he catches
nothing all night. Early in the morning a stranger calls to them from
the shore, "Friends, haven't you any fish?" "No," they answered. "Throw
your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some." This
they do, and catch more fish than they can haul into the boat. Simon
cries, "It's the Lord", jumps from the boat and races to the shore.
- After breakfast, Jesus asks Simon three times: "Do you love me?" Three
times Simon replies, "You know that I love you," and three times Jesus
commissions him to look after his sheep. Each repetition wipes away
one of Simon's denials. Finally Jesus says, "Follow me."
- This is now the end of Simon's discipleship. Jesus is gone and Peter
is left to look after the flock. And as a child will often blossom when
given new responsibilities, so Peter took on the mantle Jesus had prepared
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Peter the Rock
- We see the beginnings of this new Peter as he takes charge of choosing
the replacement for Judas. And with the Holy Spirit's coming at Pentecost,
Peter has all he needs to lead the church:
- the passion God chose him for
- the person Jesus moulded him into
- the power of the Holy Spirit
- From Pentecost onwards we can hardly recognise this new Peter. A whistle-stop
tour of the first few years of the new church will show us just how
crucial Peter's role was - and didn't he do well?
- Peter's speech to the assembled crowds on the Day of Pentecost
explains how all the events of recent times are part of God's plan,
and even the coming of the Holy Spirit is foretold in Scripture.
- We read how the Early church lived in community, and the effect
it had on those around them - it's even commented on by Roman historians!
- Peter and the others were persecuted, but Peter told the Sanhedrin:
"We must obey God rather than men."
- We read of the stoning of Stephen and the scattering of the church.
- We read that Philip ends up in Samaria, Judea's poor relative.
He preaches the Good News and they accept it. Peter visited Samaria
with John and, after seeing what God was doing, laid hands on them,
and they received the Holy Spirit. Peter has learnt his lesson -
follow God's plan: He knows what He's doing.
- Saul, the fervent Christian killer, gets converted on the road
to Damascus. "Now I know nothing is impossible for the Lord!" might
well been Peter's reaction.
- Next Peter has a vision of a white sheet being let down from heaven.
The sheet is full of ritually unclean animals, but he hears a voice
saying 'Get up Peter. Kill and eat." "Surely not, Lord!" Peter replies.
"I have never eaten anything impure or unclean." The voice replies
"Do not call anything impure that God has made clean."
- Three times this happens (a sure sign of God hammering a message
into Peter's head!) but this time Peter gets it. Jesus' teachings
about not getting in the way of God's plan have hit their mark.
When three ritually unclean men arrive and ask him to accompany
them to the ritually unclean house of a ritually unclean Gentile
centurion called Cornelius, Peter goes. And when he gets there,
it's Pentecost all over again! The Holy Spirit is poured out but
this time the Gentiles are speaking in tongues.
- Peter returns to Jerusalem, and the circumcised believers criticise
him. He explains what happened and the Jerusalem Jews abandon one
of their most deeply held convictions on the say-so of Peter. Just
like that. Truly this man did indeed have the keys to the kingdom
of heaven! Peter has now fulfilled a large part of the job he was
to accomplish: opening up the message of Jesus to the Jews, the
Samaritans and the Gentiles.
- Next Barnabus and Saul go round the Mediterranean setting up churches.
On their return, they discover that some Judeans had been preaching
circumcision (and all the associated requirements of Jewish law)
in the Gentile church at Antioch.
- The apostles and elders meet in Jerusalem to decide whether this
should be so. Peter speaks against it: "God, who knows the heart,
showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them,
just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them,
for he purisfied their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try
to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that
neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? No! We believe
it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just
as they are."
- Peter's strong defence ensured the acceptance at the highest levels
of the message of salvation by faith, not by adherence to the Law. This
is the Christianity we have received, passed down through the generations,
but initiated and fostered by Peter.
God's Word for Us
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- Just as God took the raw material that was Simon, and transformed
him into Peter, I want you to ask yourself whether God wants to transform
- Has God, at some time in the recent or distant past, given you a word,
a picture or some kind of prophecy about the person he knows you can
- Has he called you to grow into a new name?
- Have you given up on that picture, that word?
- Is God calling you afresh to believe that he still has that name for
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