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Insight #1 April 1, 2017
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Second Quarter 2017 Adult Sabbath School Lesson

"The Person of Peter"

April 1, 2017

 
     The beginning lesson for this new quarter is about Peter the person. Peter, an apostle of Christ, was one of the three named pillars of the early church in Jerusalem (Galatians 2:9). He was the first Christian missionary to the Gentiles (Acts 10:21-35; 15:7-11), a Christian missionary to the Jews (Galatians 2:9), and a Christian martyr in Rome (Sketches from the Life of Paul, 330). Peter was married (Mark 1:30), and in his missionary days his wife accompanied him (1 Corinthians 9:5).
     But before Peter was solidly converted consider first his doubts and his faith. Our lesson this week is about his denial and affirmation of Jesus. It is about his self-sufficiency and his utter helplessness; his brokenness and his being repaired. Peter confessed Christ as divine, but shortly after became so brash as to rebuke Him. He denied Christ with cursing when confronted by a woman. Even after his conversion, not only did he deny the gospel, but by his actions led others to deny it.
     But we will not stop with his failures. We must also address his dramatic transformation by the marvelous grace of God. The experience of Peter should give us hope regardless of our circumstances or how far we have fallen. Jesus never gave up on Peter and He will never give up on you. Let’s learn the hard lessons of faith and humility from Peter’s experiences.
 
Peter’s Call
     It is likely that Peter was affected by John the Baptist’s messages: his brother Andrew was a disciple of the Baptist (John 1:39f.). The Fourth Gospel describes the time of Christ’s activity before He began His Galilean ministry. This may be referred to Peter’s first introduction to Jesus, by his brother Andrew (John 1:41). It was as a disciple that Simon received his new title, Cephas which means ‘stone’ (John 1:42).
     Peter was one of the first disciples called; he always stands first in the lists of disciples; he was also one of the three in the inner circle round Jesus (Mark 5:37; 9:2; 14:33; cf. 13:3). His impulsive devotion is frequently portrayed (cf. Matthew 14:28; Mark 14:29; Luke 5:8; John  21:7).
 
The Confession of Faith, the Rebuke and Counter-rebuke
     At the crisis near Caesarea Philippi, Peter is the representative of the disciples: for the question is directed to them all as Jesus asked, “Who do men say that I am?” to which they gave several answers (Mark 8:27). Jesus then asked, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Christ” (v 29). It was after this confession that Jesus told them plainly that He must suffer, be rejected and killed (v 33). Jesus here defined His unique role as Messiah.
 
     This did not set well with the disciples, especially Peter. None were prepared for such a teaching of a suffering and dead Messiah! Peter took Jesus aside and rebuked Him. Matthew was there and recorded, “Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, ‘Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!’ ” But Jesus said to Peter, “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 16:22–23). This counter-rebuke by Jesus to Peter was for the benefit of all the disciples. This was not a personal attack on Peter, for Jesus named Satan as the source of Peter’s thoughts and words.
 
While Jesus was on Trial
     Let’s go now to Peter’s boast, Christ’s statement, and Peter’s denial. Peter did not know his own heart. He needed to be turned away from the idolatry of his self-centeredness and his attempts to orient his life by the dictates of his self-interest. This led to his being ashamed of Jesus and rejecting Him with cursing when accused in the courtyard while Jesus was on trial by leaders of the Sanhedrin. Jesus previously predicted Peter would deny Him. But Peter was adamant and answered, “Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be” (Mark 14:29). Peter claimed that he would be ready to go to prison and even to death (Luke 22:31-34).
     Peter’s protestations of loyalty are the loudest and his rejection of the Lord is most explicit (Mark 14:66-71). One of the servant girls of the high priest recognized Peter and said to him, “You also were with Jesus of Nazareth” (Mark 15:67). Then follows Peter’s three oaths of denials, just as Jesus predicted. Peter’s denials became increasingly more intense, even violent. Notice:
  • “he denied it” (v 68)
  • “he denied it again” (v 70)
  • “Then he began to curse and swear” (v 71)
      Note the intensification of Peter’s amplified denials. First he disclaimed association with Jesus. This denial was definite in his rejection of Christ. Peter was challenged further; again he denied his Lord. Then in his final denial Peter called upon God to execute curses against himself if his statement was not true. This denial included self-cursing adding force to his oath. Peter flew into a rage and placed himself under a curse. The term for “curse” used here by Peter comes from two words: 1) “to bring down” and 2) “anathema.” The ESV correctly interprets verse 71: “He began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, ‘I do not know this man of whom you speak.’ ” The NIV puts it this way: “He began to call down curses on himself, and he swore to them, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.”
     Immediately the rooster crowed. Jesus turned to see Peter. Their eyes met and Peter remembered. “The Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times’ ” (Luke 22:61-62).
     Mrs. White captured this scene better than any other in the following words:
     “While the degrading oaths were fresh upon Peter’s lips, and the shrill crowing of the cock was still ringing in his ears, the Saviour turned from the frowning judges, and looked full upon His poor disciple. At the same time Peter’s eyes were drawn to his Master. In that gentle countenance he read deep pity and sorrow, but there was no anger there.
     “The sight of that pale, suffering face, those quivering lips, that look of compassion and forgiveness, pierced his heart like an arrow. Conscience was aroused. Memory was active. Peter called to mind his promise of a few short hours before that he would go with his Lord to prison and to death. He remembered his grief when the Saviour told him in the upper chamber that he would deny his Lord thrice that same night. Peter had just declared that he knew not Jesus, but he now realized with bitter grief how well his Lord knew him, and how accurately He had read his heart, the falseness of which was unknown even to himself.
     “A tide of memories rushed over him. The Saviour’s tender mercy, His kindness and long-suffering, His gentleness and patience toward His erring disciples,--all was remembered. He recalled the caution, ‘Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.’ Luke 22:31, 32. He reflected with horror upon his own ingratitude, his falsehood, his perjury. Once more he looked at his Master, and saw a sacrilegious hand raised to smite Him in the face. Unable longer to endure the scene, he rushed, heartbroken, from the hall.” (DA 712-713).
     In the darkness of his soul Peter fled into the darkness of the night. But it was here, in the most bitter experience of his life that Peter was transformed by the grace of God. Peter later was especially marked out by Christ’s personal invitation immediately following His resurrection (Mark 16:7).
     Peter walked into the depths of the pit of despair, but Jesus never left him. Christ took him gently, led him out of that abyss of anguish and placed him on the summit of salvation. While it is true Peter later swerved from the gospel while in Antioch, rebuked by Paul (Galatians 2:11-16), he repented and was yet again recovered by the goodness of the Lord. Nothing more needs to be said to settle forever that the gospel which Peter penned in his epistles was from his own experience of salvation and from the Lord himself. Thus in his letters is set forth the only true gospel, in its perfect purity, from the Lord himself by the hand of Peter. And whoever misses this perfect gospel in the letters of Peter, the believing person, misses the theme and purpose of his letters.
 
~Jerry Finneman