Tag Archives: Peter

Who was Jesus Praying About?

Did You Know?

One of the joys of using the King James Version is those dreaded thees and thous that everyone seems to hate so much.  But they’re actually quite helpful in understanding what is going on in some Bible passages.  Here’s an example.

And the Lord said, Simon, 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).

When the words “you” and “ye” appear in the King James Version, it shows that the original language is plural, a group of people.  The words “thee” and “thou” (and “thy”) indicate a single person being spoken to.  This is a distinction that is missing from almost all modern translations.  Taking that knowledge, let’s look at that passage again:

And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you [apostles], that he may sift you [apostles] as wheat: But I have prayed for thee [Peter], that thy [Peter’s] faith fail not…

Jesus didn’t pray for all the apostles in the face of Satan’s impending attack on them.  He prayed for Peter, that Peter’s faith would not fail.

Did you know?

-Bradley S. Cobb

The Roller-Coaster of Faith – The Life of the Apostle Peter (Part Ten)

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The Denials at the Trials1

Peter couldn’t stay away.  Both he and John had a change of heart, and turned back to follow the mob.  Peter followed at a distance, while John went ahead and rejoined Jesus.2  Peter couldn’t get into the palace of the high priest on his own, so John came back out and talked to the girl who served as a doorkeeper, and convinced her to let Peter in.3  But soon afterwards, she said, “You aren’t one of this man’s disciples, are you?”  And Peter said, “I’m not.”4

After a little while had passed, another girl saw Peter, and told the men around him that “This man is one of them.”5  One of those men (the others being in agreement) then made the accusation at Peter, who replied, “Man, I’m not.”6

About an hour later, a servant of the high priest who was also a relative of Malchus (whose ear Peter had cut off) confidently said, “Didn’t I see you in the garden with Him?  Truly you were also with Him: for you are a Galilean, and your speech betrays you!”7  After this eyewitness accuses him, Peter denies loudly and vehemently, “Man, I don’t know what you’re saying! I don’t know the man you’re speaking of,”8 and he cursed and swore to emphasize the point9—as he lied to them.

This is all happening as Jesus is being questioned, mocked, and abused by the Sanhedrin.  False witnesses all came to speak against Him10—what was Peter thinking during this time?  Did he ever have to fight the urge to stand up and scream, “They’re lying!”?  Peter saw Jesus being beaten, slapped, and spat upon,11 but didn’t stand up for the Lord—instead, he hurt Him further by denying Him.  As Peter made his final denial, Jesus turned, momentarily ignoring the questioning and accusations He was enduring, and looked at Peter.  Then the weight of what Peter had done came crashing down on him, and he remembered how bold he had been, proclaiming how he would never deny Jesus; and remembering how Jesus had foretold that he would deny Him three times—then Peter went out of the palace and wept bitterly.12

It is possible that this was the last time Peter saw Jesus alive—until after the resurrection, that is.13

-Bradley S. Cobb

1 John’s account (chapter 18) shows that Peter’s first denial took place when Jesus was being tried by Annas, while his final denial took place when Jesus was being tried by Caiaphas.

2 Luke 22:54 shows Peter followed from a distance.  This is no surprise, considering he had just sliced off the ear of one of the servants of the high priest—he was curious, but also fearful for his own safety.  Meanwhile, John 18:15 shows that by the time Jesus entered the palace of the high priest, John accompanied Him.

3 John 18:16.

4 John 18:17.  Robertson and Vincent both point out that the question is phrased in such a way that the girl expected a negative answer.  Vincent gives it as “thou art not, art thou?”  Luke’s account (Luke 22:55-57) shows that Peter had already sat down by the fire inside before the girl came and asked him this question.

5 Mark 14:69.

6 Luke 22:58 shows one man making the accusation, while John 18:25 shows that there was a group of men who asked if he was one of Jesus’ disciples.

7 The first part of this quotation comes from John 18:26, while the second can be found in the other three gospel accounts: Matthew 26:73; Mark 14:70; Luke 22:59.

8 The quotation given here is an amalgamation of Luke 22:60 and Mark 14:71.

9 Matthew and Mark both mention Peter’s cursing and swearing.  Some confusion exists regarding what exactly this is.  Some have said that it is basically cussing—as no one who was truly a follower of Jesus would be seen publicly cussing.  Others have said that these were oaths: that Peter was calling down curses on himself if he was lying, vowing to God that he was telling the truth.  Either explanation shows the great lengths that Peter went to in order to convince people that he wasn’t associated with Jesus—which was far worse than Judas’ betrayal.

10 Mark 14:56-59.

11 Mark 14:65.

12 Luke 22:60-62.  Luke is the only one who mentions that Jesus actually looked at Peter after the third denial.  Their eyes must have met, and Jesus almost assuredly showed a look of disappointment.

13 This is the last time Peter is mentioned until after the resurrection.  It is possible that he came and watched Jesus on the cross from afar, but if he did, none of the gospel writers saw fit to mention it.  It’s possible that he couldn’t bear to let Jesus see him again, out of shame, and that he found the rest of the apostles and stayed with them (except for John, who was at the cross).

The Roller-Coaster of Faith – The Life of the Apostle Peter (Part Nine)

ApostlesLogoThe Garden of Gethsemane

After the apostles all pledged their allegiance to Jesus, they walked to a place where Jesus instructed them to sit while He took Peter, James, and John a bit further.  The lord was “exceeding sorrowful, even unto death,” and told the three to wait there and watch on His behalf.1  He went further on and prayed, but instead of watching, Peter and the two brothers fell asleep.

When Jesus returned to find His three closest followers sleeping, His words were directed at Peter, whom the Lord apparently expected to show some leadership: “Simon, you’re sleeping?  You couldn’t watch for even an hour?”2  By this point, the other two apostles apparently had awakened, because Jesus said, “You all watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation.  The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak.”3  But after the Lord went away to pray again, Peter’s weakness took over and he again went to sleep with the other disciples.

Jesus didn’t wake them the second time He returned, but when He came back the third time, He sarcastically said, “You sleep now, take your rest.  Enough!  The hour is come!  Look, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.  Get up; let’s go!  Look, he that betrays me is at hand.”4  Then Peter and the rest of the apostles stood and took their place by Jesus’ side as Judas and a band of Roman soldiers, as well as many Jewish officials came to arrest Jesus.5

Peter watched as Judas came forward and gave Jesus a kiss, and then saw the armed men make their move to grab Jesus.  It’s at this point that Peter, standing beside Jesus, unsheathes his sword, and with amazing accuracy (or perhaps just lucky dodging on the part of his target) slices the right ear off of a man named Malchus, a servant of the high priest.6  While Jesus probably appreciated the show of loyalty, He told Peter to “Put up your sword,”7 and “Allow this to take place.”8  Then Jesus touched Malchus’ ear and healed him, effectively counteracting Peter’s actions.9  It was soon after this, all the disciples realizing that Jesus wasn’t going to fight—nor let them—that they all ran away and left Him alone with His captors.10

-Bradley S. Cobb

1 Matthew 26:38.  Jesus told these three men to “watch,” but He didn’t mean “watch me while I pray.”  He meant to watch for anything that might happen (specifically the arrival of Judas and the soldiers he would bring with him).

2 Mark 14:37.  It is worthy of note that Jesus calls him “Simon” once again, which appears to indicate disappointment in him; or at the very least, showing that Peter was not living up to his divinely-given name of “Rock.”  The fact that all three were sleeping, but that only Peter was chastised, shows that Jesus expected more of him than the others.

3 Mark 14:37-38.  Verse 37 has singular pronouns, showing that Peter was being chastised; while verse 38 has plural pronouns, showing Jesus speaking to the three disciples.

4 Mark 14:41-42.  The NET Bible says, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough of that! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us go. Look! My betrayer is approaching!”

5 The word “band” in John 18:3 refers to a cohort, a collection of 600 Roman soldiers, though it is occasionally used to refer to as many as a thousand, or as few as 200 (see NET Bible notes, Barclay’s Daily Study Bible notes on the passage).  Matthew and Mark call this group it a “great multitude” of armed men (Matthew 26:47; Mark 14:43), which may have included some of the Jewish temple guard.

6 Matthew and Mark tell us that the attacked man was a servant of the high priest.  Mark is the one who informs us that the disciple with the sword was standing by Jesus.  Luke tells us that it was the right ear that was cut off.  John is the one that gives us the identity of both the attacker and the attacked: Peter and Malchus.  John 18:10.

7 John 18:11.

8 Luke 22:51.  The word “suffer” (KJV) means “allow.”  Jesus spoke this to the disciples—primarily Peter—telling them to let it happen.  After all, Jesus had told them several times previous that He was going to be betrayed, taken, and killed.  If the apostles fought, they were fighting against God’s plan.

9 Luke 22:51.

10 Matthew 26:56.

The Roller-Coaster of Faith – The Life of the Apostle Peter (Part Eight)

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The Denial of Denial

While they were in this upper room, Jesus said that one of them would betray Him, causing all the apostles to begin to question which one it would be.1  Peter, wanting to know the answer, but apparently not willing to ask Jesus himself, told John to ask for him—and when Jesus gave the answer, Peter apparently still didn’t get it.2 But soon thereafter, having left the upper room and gone to Mt. Olivet,3 Jesus told the apostles that He was going away.  Peter didn’t understand, and said, “Lord, where are you going?”  To this, the Lord replied “Where I go, you [Peter] can’t follow me now; but you will follow me later.”4  Jesus was about to be murdered, and this could be seen as a prophecy that Peter will also be murdered for his faith.5

Still not quite understanding what Jesus meant, Peter said, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now?  I will lay down my life for your sake!”6  Jesus looked at Peter and spoke directly to him:

“Simon, Simon;7 Look, Satan has demanded you [apostles], so that he might sift you like wheat.  But I have prayed for you [Peter], so that your [Peter’s] faith doesn’t fail.  And when you [Peter] have returned, strengthen your brethren.”8

It is in this statement that Peter is given a special commission unique to him—he is commissioned to strengthen, to encourage, to uplift the other apostles after the death of Jesus.  Jesus knew that they would all forsake Him (and He will say as much momentarily), but He had been praying for Peter so that Peter would have the strength to not completely lose his faith, and so that he would be able to build up the other apostles—the apostles who would have been very depressed and in need of encouragement.

But also in this statement is a prophecy that Peter would have a need to return.  That is, Peter was going to go astray.  This pronouncement is what caused Peter to say, “Lord, I’m ready to go with you, both into prison and to death.”9

The Lord replied by saying that not just Peter, but all the apostles (Judas had already left) would “stumble because of [Him] this night.”10  But Peter spoke up again, “Although all of them shall stumble, yet not I!”11  Peter’s self-exaltation was about to be deflated, because Jesus replied with perhaps the most memorable words spoken to Peter in the entire Bible:

“Truly I say to you [Peter], that this day—even in this [very] night—before the cock crows twice, you shall deny me—deny that you [even] know me—three times!”12

Then Peter replied again, this time vehemently,13 “Even though I might die with you, yet I won’t deny you!”  And the rest of the apostles said the same thing.14  But it wasn’t too long after this that they all abandoned their Lord.15

-Bradley S. Cobb

1 Luke 22:21-23.

2 John 13:21-30.  The apostles thought that Jesus had sent Judas on an errand; even at this late hour, they didn’t understand that Judas was the one who would betray the Lord.  See the chapter on Judas Iscariot for more details.

3 See Matthew 26:30-35; Mark 14:26-31; and compare them with Luke 22:31-34.

4 John 13:33, 36.  The pronouns in this verse are singular, showing that Jesus is speaking directly to Peter, not to the other apostles.

5 Regardless of whether this is a prophecy of how Peter would die, it is a prophecy that Peter would die as a faithful follower of Jesus Christ—otherwise, he wouldn’t be able to follow Jesus where He was going: heaven.

6 John 13:37.

7 Jesus calls him “Simon,” probably to emphasize that Peter isn’t going to be much of a “rock” during the events which were about to happen.  But then Jesus says, “When you return, strengthen your brethren,” or in other words, “be a rock for your brethren.”

8 Luke 22:31-32.  The pronouns in the Greek show that Satan asked for all the apostles, but that Jesus prayed for Peter specifically.

9 Luke 22:33.

10 Mark 14:27.  The word “stumble” is the Greek word skandalizo, where we get “scandalize.”  They would act as though it was a scandal to follow Jesus.

11 Mark 14:29.  Peter elevates himself over the rest of the apostles by saying this, Even if they are scandalized by you, I won’t ever be!  This makes Jesus’ next statement even more powerful, for it shows the truth of Jesus’ statement that “Whoever exalts himself shall be brought low” (Luke 14:11).

12 Mark 14:30.  The phrase “deny that you [even] know me” comes directly from Luke 22:34.  Mark’s account says “before the cock crows twice.”  The other biblical writers just say “before the cock crows.”  This supposed contradiction has been sufficiently explained and harmonized in many places.  See Gleason Archer’s Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, pages 339-341, and Eric Lyon’s The Anvil Rings: Answers to Alleged Bible Discrepancies, Volume 1, pages 74-78.

13 Mark 14:31 mentions that Peter got vehement in this response.

14 Matthew 26:35

15 Matthew 26:56.

The Roller-Coaster of Faith – The Life of the Apostle Peter (Part Seven)

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Simon Peter’s Experiences During the Passion Week

The Cursing of the Fig Tree

On Monday of Jesus’ final week, Peter walked with Jesus and the rest of the apostles from Bethany towards Jerusalem.  Jesus saw a fig tree, but it had no figs on it, so Jesus cursed it.1  The next morning, as they walked by the same spot, Peter saw the tree completely dried up, and in his amazement said to Jesus, “Master, look!  The fig tree that you cursed has withered away!”  Jesus responded by telling the apostles, “Have faith in God.”2

The Prophecy about Jerusalem

Later that same day, when Jesus finished teaching in the temple, one of the disciples (some have suggested that it was Peter himself)3 said to Him, “Master, look at the quality of these beautiful stones and the quality of the buildings!”4  But Jesus replied that these beautiful buildings of the temple complex would all be destroyed.  After they went outside Jerusalem to Mt. Olivet, Jesus sat down and Peter came to him with Andrew, James, and John, and specifically asked him, “Tell us, when shall these things happen?  What shall be the sign (of your coming and the end of the age) when all of these things are fulfilled? ”5  In response, Peter and the other three apostles are informed about the overthrow of the Jewish people, the great tribulation that would come on that nation, and the destruction of their city and temple—which Jesus called “the coming of the Son of man.”6

The Passover and the Foot-washing

Wednesday,7 the disciples asked Jesus what He wanted them to do so they could celebrate the Passover.8  Jesus sent Peter and John into Jerusalem, telling them that they would meet a man with a pitcher of water, and that they were to follow him into his house, and ask him where the guest room was so that they could eat the Passover.  Then Peter and John prepared the Passover meal for Jesus and the rest of the apostles.9

While the Passover was being observed,10 Jesus stood up and wrapped Himself with a towel and began to wash the feet of the apostles, and to dry them with the towel.  When He came to Peter, the apostle tried to stop Him, saying, “Lord, you wash my feet?”11  Jesus kindly answered, “You don’t know what I’m doing now, but you will know after this.”  Peter still wasn’t having any of it and said, “No!  Never shall you wash my feet!”12  But Jesus silenced this protest with a warning: “If I don’t wash you, you have no part with me.”13  In other words, if Peter refused, he would be giving up his apostleship and all of the promises that were made to him.  So, Peter responds, “Lord, not only my feet, but [also wash] my hands and my head!”14  The Lord said washing Peter’s feet would be enough, and took the opportunity to again foretell that one of them wasn’t faithful.  Afterwards, He explained to them that they needed to be servants, and not try to be masters over others.15

-Bradley S. Cobb

1 Mark 11:12-14.  The chronology of the Passion Week is best served by Mark, who gave specific time markers, such as “on the morrow” (11:12) and “in the morning” (11:20), and “after two days” (14:1).

2 Mark 11:20-22.  Jesus gave more in response, emphasizing the strength and power of faith, in verses 23-24, but it is all summarized in the phrase “Have faith in God.”

3 See Robertson’s Word Pictures on Mark 13:1.  The reasoning behind this suggestion is because Mark gives the exact quote of what was said, and many believe that Mark’s main source of information was Peter himself.

4 Mark 13:1, mixed with the information (beautiful stones) given in Luke 21:5.  The word translated “what manner” (KJV) is a description of the quality of something, hence our translation above.

5 Mark 13:2-4.  The section given in parentheses above come from Matthew’s account of their questions (Matthew 24:3).  For the Jew, the destruction of the temple symbolized the “end of all things” (1 Peter 4:7), so it is no wonder that they would associate this with “the end of the world” (KJV) or “the end of the age” (NKJV).  See McGarvey’s comments in The Fourfold Gospel, pages 619-620, and his Commentary on Matthew and Mark, page 204.

6 Matthew 24:27, 30.  Among faithful brethren, there is a disagreement over whether Jesus’ discourse on the destruction of Jerusalem continues past verse 34.  Many (both conservative and liberal) believe it continues through the end of chapter 25; while many (both conservative and liberal) believe that beginning in 24:35, Jesus speaks of the end of the universe.  Part of this disagreement is based on the translation of verse 3, “the end of the world” (KJV) vs. “the end of the age” (NKJV).  If it is “the end of the world,” then it would make sense that Jesus addresses that topic.  But if it is “the end of the age,” then it could be a reference to the Jewish age—which in practice ended AD 70.  It’s validity ended no later than the day of Pentecost, AD 30 (Acts 2).

7 See the notes dealing with the final Passover meal in the chapters on Andrew and John for more specifics.  To the Jew, what we consider to be Wednesday evening would have been the beginning of Thursday (their new day started at 6pm).

8 Mark 14:12; Matthew 26:17.

9 This information is found in Luke 22:7-13.

10 The KJV of John 13:2 says “supper being ended,” but this cannot be the correct translation.  Jesus sat back down at the table (verse 12), and was still eating (verse 26) after this.  Almost every other translation (except the NKJV) renders this as “during supper” (ASV, ESV, McCord) or “while they were at the supper” (Living Oracles).

11 John 13:6.  The Greek order of this phrase put emphasis on the pronouns, and is most literally translated: “You of me wash feet?”

12 John 13:8.  Literally, Peter says, “No, not … into the ages!”  It’s a very strong statement, saying that even into eternity, he will not let Jesus wash his feet.

13 John 13:8.

14 John 13:9.  Peter didn’t just want a part with Jesus; he wanted as big a part as possible!

15 John 13:10-20.  The apostles had several times argued over who was the greatest among them; and they would do it again this same night—after Jesus gave them this lesson.  The principle of being a servant is something that they didn’t quite understand until after the resurrection.

The Roller-Coaster of Faith – The Life of the Apostle Peter (Part Six)

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Simon Peter’s Assumptions

Peter had a habit of speaking out of impulse.  He would often say things or answer questions without giving much thought to what he was saying, whether it was correct, or if it was pleasing to God.  He was often directed by the moment.

At one point, some Jewish authorities approached Peter1 with a question: “Doesn’t your master pay tribute [the temple tax]?”2  Peter, apparently without giving much thought to the question, or their possible motives,3 just answered “Yes.”4  Peter walks into his house, and before he can say a thing to Jesus, the Lord asks him, “What are you thinking, Simon?5  From whom do the kings of the earth take taxes or tribute?  From their own sons, or from strangers?”6  Peter rightly answered, “From strangers.”

Jesus takes this opportunity to kindly criticize Peter, but also to teach him a lesson in expediency.  The Lord tells him, “Then the sons are free.”7  In saying this, Jesus reminds Peter of the confession that he made not too long before.  Since the tax was to pay for the upkeep of the house of God (the temple), then logically, the Son of God was free from paying the tax.  Then the Lord adds:

“Nevertheless, lest we might cause them to stumble,8 you go to the sea and cast a hook, take up the first fish that comes up; and when you’ve opened his mouth, you will find a stater.  Take that and give to them for you and me [both].”9

Even though it was something that was not commanded of Jesus to do, He went ahead and paid it anyway—because Peter opened his mouth without thinking.10

—–

At some point later, after the Lord has given instruction on how to treat a brother who sins against you,11 Peter approaches Jesus and asks Him a question that may have been an attempt to elicit praise from the Lord: “Lord, how often shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me?  Until seven times?”12  The rabbis of the time generally taught that you only had to forgive someone up to three times, but Peter more than doubled this number in his question.13 The answer from Jesus was unexpected: “I don’t say to you ‘Until seven times,’ but ‘Until seventy times seven.’”14  It’s a good thing that Jesus didn’t agree with the rabbis, because if He did, Peter would have used up all three of his chances the day that Jesus died—by denying the Lord thrice.

Jesus then gave a parable about forgiveness as a fuller answer to Peter’s question.15  In the parable, Jesus taught Peter about (1) the great debt (sin) we cannot repay to God, (2) God’s great and willing forgiveness of that debt, (3) the comparatively minuscule debt (sin) that others owe us, (4) the importance of our willingness to forgive, and (5) the consequences if we do not forgive.  All of this adds up to the ultimate answer to Peter’s question: Forgive from the heart those who ask, regardless of how many times they sin against you, otherwise you will not receive forgiveness from God.  So, if Peter wanted to stick with his suggestion of “seven times,” then he couldn’t expect any more forgiveness than that from God.16  Praise God for His grace!

——

Prior to Jesus’ final week, the last thing that the Bible specifically records mentioning Peter takes place after the rich young ruler has departed in sadness.  Jesus had told the man that what he lacked was to sell his possessions, give them to the poor, and follow Him.  But the man was very rich, and couldn’t bear to give up all that he had.17  Afterwards, Jesus spoke of the difficulty of rich men entering heaven—because, like the rich young ruler, they are unwilling to give up what they have on earth to follow Jesus and receive “treasure in heaven.”18

In order to show that they were not like that, Peter speaks up for himself and the rest of the apostles, “Behold, we’ve forsaken everything and followed you; therefore what shall we receive?”19 Jesus’ response gives a great promise to the apostles, as well as a promise to all Christians.20

“Truly I say to you, that you [the apostles] who have followed me, in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of His glory, you also shall sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.  And everyone who has forsaken houses, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, and the gospel’s, shall receive a hundredfold now in this time houses [family], and brothers, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come, shall inherit eternal life.”21

The “regeneration” is the time after Jesus’ resurrection, the time when people could be “regenerated” or “reborn” through Him.  After the resurrection, the apostles declared the judgment of God against Israel—“Let all the house of Israel known for certain that God has made this same Jesus, whom you have crucified, both Lord and Christ.”22  By inspiration, they pronounced the terms of judgment and forgiveness; and by inspiration, they taught how man could be “regenerated”—through baptism.23

-Bradley S. Cobb

1 Why they approached Peter and not Jesus is, like almost every other detail in this account, subject to different opinions in the minds of the commentators.  Some have said that since Jesus lived with Peter while in Capernaum, Peter was responsible for his Lord’s tax.  Others have said that Jesus always paid Peter’s tax, and so the collectors are asking if Jesus has changed his mind and made Peter a violator of the law by not paying it for him. Some say they were in such awe of Jesus that they didn’t want to trouble him with such a mundane matter—so they troubled Peter instead.  And some have implied that since they couldn’t trip up Jesus, they’d try to trip up one of his disciples instead.

2 Matthew 17:24.  The tax here is literally called the didrachma, for the amount of money that each Jew over the age of 20 was expected to pay for the upkeep of the temple (see McGarvey’s Fourfold Gospel).  Commentators can’t seem to agree on most of the details surrounding this tax.  Some say it was voluntary (see Boles’ Commentary on Matthew, page 364), others that it was compulsory, and others that it was both (Coffman can’t seem to make up his mind and asserts all three in his short note on this verse).  Some claim that rabbis were exempt (see Coffman), others say they weren’t (most others make it a universal tax among adult Jewish males).

3 Harold Fowler, in the College Press Commentary series, says, “Their question does not necessarily betray any hostility … This may or may not be another move to entangle Jesus.”  Meanwhile, Coffman says the question was brought up because no matter how he answered, they could try to make a claim against Jesus for either being (1) not a real rabbi (who were supposedly exempt from this tax) or (2) a lawbreaker, refusing to pay the tax.

4 Every possible excuse has been offered for Peter’s answer: (1) That Peter knew Jesus paid all the common taxes (Barnes); (2) that Peter assumed Judas would take care of paying it out of the general fund, and/or that Jesus had probably paid it several times in the past (Coffman); but the most likely is, as Ted Clarke phrases it, “They asked Peter if his rabbi paid the temple tax, and Peter instantaneously said of course he does. Probably defensively.” (Preaching School Notes, on Matthew 17:24).  To this agrees John Criswell, who says, “Cornered and caught off guard, … Peter might also suspect that the collectors’ question is an insinuation that Jesus will not pay, so Peter quickly answers in the affirmative” (Contending for the Faith Commentary on Matthew, page 501).

5 It’s noteworthy that Jesus calls him “Simon” here, and not “Peter.”  The word “Peter,” as was shown earlier, means a rock, and shows stability, strength, and trustworthiness—something that Peter has not exhibited in this incident.  So Jesus refers to him as “Simon,” perhaps showing that he is still struggling with his old character.

6 Matthew 17:25.  The word translated “children” in most versions is actually the Greek word for male children—sons.  The word “strangers” might be better understood here as “non-family.”  That isn’t a literal translation, but that seems to be the meaning.  See H. Leo Boles’ A Commentary on the Gospel According to Matthew, page 365.

7 Matthew 17:26.

8 The Greek word here is skandalizo, from which we get our English word “scandal.”

9 Matthew 17:27.  The “piece of money” (KJV) that Jesus mentions in this verse is literally a stater, that is, a specific coin which was worth two didrachmas, and thus was sufficient to pay the tax for two people.

10 Jesus paid the tax (1) to keep the collectors from “stumbling,” or perhaps better rendered would be “to keep them from causing a scandal”; but also, (2) because Peter had basically obligated Jesus to it.  Especially after Peter’s answer, for Jesus to refuse to pay would have been seen as a rift between Him and His disciples, lessening His influence as a teacher.  Therefore, it was expedient for Him to pay the tax on at least two different levels.

11 Matthew 18:15-17.

12 Matthew 18:21.  Robertson says, “Peter thought that he was generous as the Jewish rule was three times.”  To this agrees most other commentators who touch on the topic.

13 Robertson says, “Peter thought that he was generous as the Jewish rule was three times.”  To this agrees most other commentators who touch on the topic.  Criswell (Contending for the Faith Commentary on Matthew, page 527) says, “The Babylonian Talmud instructs, ‘When a man sins against another, they forgive him once, they forgive him a second time, they forgive him a third time, but the fourth times they do not forgive him.’”  Johnson, in his People’s New Testament with Notes, suggests that Peter expected the forgiveness demanded by the Savior to be greater, which is why he increased the suggestion to seven.

14 Matthew 18:22.  Some translations (NIV, NRSV, NAB) say “seventy-seven times.”  The meaning is still the same regardless of how it is translated: there is to be no limit on forgiveness.  In Greek, the numbers are identical with the LXX rendering of Genesis 4:24: “Because vengeance has been exacted seven times on Cain’s behalf, on Lamech’s it shall be seventy times seven” (Brenton’s English Septuagint).  There, it was used to describe the measure of vengeance—but Jesus used those numbers to describe the measure of forgiveness.

15 See Matthew 18:23-35.  From a practical, daily Christian living standpoint, this is perhaps the most important parable Jesus gave.

16 This wasn’t a rebuke of Peter’s question, as though he was “legalistic” or “seek[ing] to define the limits of required forgiveness” (as Criswell suggests, Contending for the Faith Commentary on Matthew, page 526-527)—far from it!  Peter was seeking to be more liberal in forgiveness than was expected; and Jesus couldn’t be upset with Peter’s attitude, but is letting him know that he needs to take that attitude even further.

17 This is recorded in Matthew 18:16-26; Mark 10:17-27; and Luke 18:18-27.

18 See Matthew 19:21.

19 Matthew 19:27.  Mark and Luke both give Peter’s statement, but Matthew is the only one who adds the question, “therefore what shall we receive?”

20 Jesus doesn’t contradict Peter’s claim, but instead gives a promise based on the truthfulness of the claim.  Some might read into Peter’s words some kind of bragging, but given what we know about Peter, it seems more likely that he was trying to assert his faithfulness to the Lord (which, as we have seen, wasn’t always there).

21 This is a combination of Jesus’ statement as recorded in Matthew 19:28-29 and Mark 10:29-30.

22 Acts 2:36.

23 For the “regeneration” aspect of baptism, see Titus 3:5; Romans 6:3-5; and John 3:3-5.

The Roller-Coaster of Faith – The Life of the Apostle Peter (Part Five)

Before we get into today’s post, we thought we’d share some news with you.  As of the moment I type this, the “Who Were The Apostles?” book is up to 1,004 footnotes–and we’re still not done with Peter or Paul or the appendices at the end of the book!  It continues to be a rewarding study for me, and I hope it has been enjoyable for you as well.  Now, on to today’s entry in the life of Peter.

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Simon Peter’s Confusion

After six days had completely passed,1 Jesus took Peter, along with James and John, up to a mountain in order to pray.2  As Jesus prayed, Peter, James, and John fell asleep.3  But when Peter awoke, the sight that he saw was absolutely beyond his comprehension: There was Jesus, His face changed, shining like the sun, and His clothing white as the light and shining.4  Standing with Jesus were two other individuals, appearing in glory.5  It was Moses and Elijah, who were both speaking with Jesus about His upcoming exodus from life which would happen in Jerusalem.6

As Moses and Elijah began to depart from the scene,7 Peter decided to speak up—even though he didn’t have a clue what to say, because he was scared.8  He said, “Lord, it’s good for us to be here.  We will make [or I will make]9 three tabernacles: one for you, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”  It seems as though Peter didn’t want these great men to leave just yet.10  But God had other plans.  While Peter was saying this to Jesus, a cloud “overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered into the cloud.  And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son: hear Him.’”11  Peter fell on his face in fright (and wouldn’t you be scared as well, with a voice coming from the cloud that you are now inside?), until Jesus touched him and said, “Get up, and don’t be afraid.”12  Then Peter gets up, and Moses and Elijah have disappeared—Jesus stands alone.

Then the Lord said something that might have struck them as odd: “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen until the Son of man is risen from the dead.”13  There were two things that got Peter’s attention: First, How can we not tell others that we just saw Moses and Elijah?!?  And second, What does “rising from the dead” mean?14 Peter, James, and John discussed this second question as they were going down the mountain, still pondering on what they had just seen.  It’s then they asked the Lord:

“Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?”15

They asked this because, if Jesus truly was the Christ, the Son of God, then Elijah should have come before He started His ministry—but instead, Elijah just appeared mere moments ago.  Jesus answered them:

“Truly, Elijah comes first, and restores all things… But I tell you, that Elijah has already come, and they have done to him whatever they desired, as it is written of him.”16

When Jesus said this, Peter’s spiritual eyes were opened, and he understood that the prophecies weren’t talking about the literal Elijah coming first, but of a figurative Elijah—which was John the immerser.17

Another time, Jesus spoke a parable to the disciples about the importance of being prepared for His coming at all times.18  But Peter was confused about the application.  He came to Jesus and said, “Lord, are you speaking this parable to us [alone] or to everyone else too?”19  Instead of giving a plain answer, Jesus responds with another parable which shows the universal application.20  It seems Peter understood the meaning of the parable, but not the specific application (to whom).  There are many who fall into the same problem—usually thinking that certain passages apply to everyone but them.

-Bradley S. Cobb

1 Matthew (17:1) and Mark (9:2) both say “after six days,” while Luke says “about eight days after…” (Luke 10:28).  There is no contradiction here, for without a doubt, “after six days” means after six days have passed (putting it no earlier than the seventh day from the previous events), and seven days can certainly said to be “about eight days.”

2 Luke 9:28.  Matthew, Mark, and Luke each record the transfiguration, but Luke is the only one who tells us the stated purpose of the mountain journey.

3 Luke 9:32.  Luke is the only one to record their sleeping on the mountain.  Some (Meyer, Alford, Lange, etc.) have argued that they were simply extremely tired and drowsy, based on Luke’s choice of the Greek word which is translated “when they were awake.”  One of the meanings of this word is “having remained thoroughly awake.”  It is impossible to be both “extremely tired and drowsy” and “thoroughly awake” at the same time, as these commentators imply.  The fact is, Peter, James, and John were all extremely tired and fell asleep.  But when they awoke (possibly because of the voices of Jesus, Elijah, and Moses), they were wide awake, seeing the astounding scene before them.

4 Matthew 17:2; Luke9:29.

5 Luke 9:30-31. What this “glory” entails, so far as Moses and Elijah’s visible appearance, we are not told.  It could be that they were shining or glowing as well, since Peter uses this same word (glory) to describe Jesus’ appearance during the transfiguration in 2 Peter 1:16-18.

6 Luke 9:30-31.  The King James Version says “decease,” as does the ASV, NKJV. The ESV says “departure.”  The Greek word is exodos, which is where the word Exodus comes from.

7 Luke 9:33 is the only place where this information is given.  We are forced to wonder, did they begin to leave by walking? Or did they both begin to ascend?  Did they begin to simply fade?  Regardless, it may be that seeing them begin to leave is what spurred Peter to action in what he was about to say.

8 Mark tells us that Peter didn’t know what to say, because the disciples were “sore afraid” (Mark 9:6).  Luke, however, is a bit more blunt and says that Peter “didn’t know what he was saying” (Luke 9:33).

9 There is a variant in the Greek manuscripts of Matthew 17:4.  Most manuscripts say “We will make,” but there are some older ones that say “I will make.”  However, all the manuscripts of Mark and Luke’s account of Peter’s quote say “We will make.”  Peter wasn’t volunteering himself only, but him and James and John.

10 Some have suggested that Peter was trying to get them to stay for the impending Feast of Tabernacles, or feast of booths, and that He, James, and John would even take care of putting up their tents for them.  However, that would go against what Mark and Luke say about Peter not knowing what he was saying—plus no evidence is given by these commentators to suggest that this Jewish feast was near.  See Robertson’s Word Pictures on Luke 9:33.  Vincent’s Word Studies suggests that he wanted to give them shelter for the evening.  This seems more likely if, as we suggest, that Peter was trying to get them to stay longer.

11 Luke 9:34-35.

12 Matthew 17:6-7.  This detail is unique to Matthew’s account.

13 Matthew 17:9.  Most translations say “Tell no man the vision.”  But the primary meaning of the Greek word is “That which is seen” or a “Spectacle” (Thayer).  The Living Oracles, 1835 edition renders it “Tell no person what you have seen.”  See also The Amplified Bible, and Vincent’s Word Studies on this passage.  There is reason to believe that this is not a “vision” as the word is commonly used in the New Testament: (1) Moses and Elijah appeared and spoke with Jesus while the apostles were sleeping—and the apostles didn’t know anything about it until they awoke; (2) Generally speaking, a “vision,” is that which is seen by someone in their head—like a dream while you’re awake—and not something that is actually taking place in the physical realm; (3) If this is a miraculous vision, it is the only time in the New Testament where this word is used to describe something seen by more than one person (Acts 7:31; 9:10, 12; 10:3, 17, 19; 11:5; 16:9-10; 18:9.  Acts 12:9 is what Peter thought was a vision—these are the only other places in the New Testament where this word is used); (4) The same word is used in Acts 7:31 to describe the burning bush; the KJV translates it “the sight,” and not “the vision,” because it was actually a bush that was actually on fire and not being consumed—it wasn’t something in his head, therefore isn’t what we generally consider to be a “vision.”  (5) Please note that there are other words translated “vision” in the New Testament, but these are not connected to the word Jesus used in Matthew 17:9, except for the word used in Acts 2:17 (“your young men shall see visions”), Revelation 9:17 (“…I saw the horses in the vision”), and Revelation 4:3 (“He that sat was, to look upon, like a jasper and a sardine stone; and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald”).  These three passages, containing the only four occasions of this specific Greek word in the New Testament, show that this word could refer to a miraculous vision, or simply what something looked like.  This word shares its root with the Greek word translated “vision” in Matthew 17:9 (as well as the other places mentioned in point #3 of this footnote).

14 Mark 9:10.  This is interesting that Peter, James, and John should be discussing what “rising from the dead” means when all three of them had seen Jairus’ daughter risen from the dead (admittedly after a very short amount of time), but they had just seen Moses and Elijah—Moses, at least, having long since been dead!  (Elijah’s physical existence certainly ceased hundreds of years earlier, but whether or not it is correct to say he “died” is something which can be debated by others).

15 Mark 9:11, Matthew 17:10.

16 Mark 9:12-13.

17 Matthew 17:13.  This is a lesson that many people still have not learned—a prophecy doesn’t have to be fulfilled literally to still be fulfilled.  Many prophecies of the Bible are given in figurative or typological ways, such as with Elijah and John the immerser.  Jesus prophesied the “coming of the Son of man” which would take place in a single generation (40 years), but this wasn’t a reference to Him literally coming to the earth within 40 years of His death—it was a reference to His execution of judgment against the wicked Jewish nation that had rejected Him and put Him to death (Matthew 24:27-34).  Many other examples could be given, but these will suffice to prove the principle.  That isn’t to say that all prophecies are fulfilled this way, but that some are.

18 Luke 12:35-40.

19 Luke 12:41.

20 Luke 12:42-48.  There are different servants described in the parable—those who knew the Lord’s will and didn’t do it, and those who were ignorant of the Lord’s will.  Neither of these could describe the apostles; therefore the parable has application beyond just them.  Some claim that this is a parable describing the coming of Jesus Christ in judgment upon Jerusalem in AD 70, but that doesn’t match up with the concept of the servants of the Master being punished—some with many stripes, others with few stripes.  In AD 70, the servants of Christ were spared, and it was the wicked who were punished with destruction inside the city by the Roman armies—they didn’t give out different levels of punishment.

The Roller-Coaster of Faith – The Life of the Apostle Peter (Part Four)

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Simon Peter’s Confession

In Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asked a question that men have been arguing for nearly 2,000 years: “Who do you say that I am?”  The apostles had told Him what others said about Him: that He was John the immerser, or Elijah, or one of the prophets.  But He was most interested in what they said about Him.  It must be remembered that they had all already confessed that Jesus was the Son of God after He walked on the water and then stopped the wind.1  And the next day Peter himself had confessed, “We know that you are that Christ, the Son of the living God.”2  Both of those events, though, had extenuating circumstances—the first one was right after a very impressive miracle; the second was right after they saw many disciples abandon Him, and they were asked point-blank if they were going to abandon Him too.  Here at Caesarea, there aren’t any of those stressful outside circumstances—it’s just Jesus asking them a simple question.3

Peter is the one who speaks up: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”4  The response of Jesus is a confirmation of (1) what Peter said, and (2) that Peter truly believed it:

“You are blessed, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood hasn’t revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”5

This is high praise for Peter, quite the contrast to “Oh ye of little faith,” and it improves beyond that:

“You are Peter, and upon this rock [the fact which you just confessed] I will build my church; and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.  And I will give to you [Peter] the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be [that which] has been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be [that which] has been loosed in heaven.6

So not only did Jesus pronounce a blessing on Peter, He also gave him a promise that he would be the one to open the door to the kingdom (which he did, both for the Jews and the Gentiles),7 to publicly unlock the mystery of the gospel as revealed in Jesus Christ,8 and to proclaim the laws of the kingdom (that which is bound) and forgiveness of sins (that which is loosed) in the kingdom.9  The other apostles also exercised this authority, but it was Peter who did it first in Acts 2.

After Jesus gave this great blessing to Peter, something interesting took place—Jesus commanded all of them not to tell anyone that He was the Messiah, instead telling them that He must go to Jerusalem, be mistreated by the Jewish leaders, and then be executed; but that He would be resurrected on the third day.  Peter didn’t like what Jesus had to say, so he pulled Jesus aside,10 away from the other apostles, and started to rebuke Him!11  He said, “Mercy to you, Lord!  This thing shall not ever happen to you!”12  But Jesus turned to face him13 and said sternly:

“Get yourself behind me, Satan.  You are an offense to me, because you don’t think about the things that are of God, but those that are of men!”14

Jesus called Peter an “offense,” or a “stumbling-block,” something that was trying to keep Him from fulfilling His mission to save mankind through His death and resurrection.  The Greek word Jesus uses is skandalon—which is where we get the word scandal.

Within just a short amount of time, Jesus goes from praising Peter, blessing him, and foretelling some of the amazing work that he would be doing in the Kingdom, to calling him “Satan,” and accusing him of trying to derail God’s plan.  Peter’s ups and downs in faith and understanding certainly continue.15

-Bradley S. Cobb

1 Matthew 14:32-33

2 John 6:68-69.

3 Matthew 16:13-15.  Some might contend that Jesus is putting them on the spot, and thus adding some extenuating circumstances, but if that’s true, then He was also putting them on the spot by asking them who others said that He was just two verses earlier.

4 Matthew 16:16.

5 Matthew 16:17.

6 Matthew 16:18-19.  This entire statement of Jesus is spoken to Peter, and Peter alone—the pronouns are all in the singular case.  In chapter 18, much of this is repeated to the rest of the apostles as a group.  The argument of the Catholics, that Peter had exclusive binding and loosing power, falls apart in the light of Matthew 18:18.  Additionally, the verb tenses also destroy their doctrine that Peter had the ability to make laws for the church.  The verse literally says that whatever Peter would bind on earth [future tense] would be that which was already bound in heaven [perfect tense—something which started in the past and continued to the present].  So, far from Jesus saying that Peter would be able to create church doctrine and practice, He is actually saying that Peter (and later He would include the rest of the apostles) would be an official proclaimer of the commands of God—it is a prophecy of their inspiration and place of leadership in the church.

7 See Acts 2 and Acts 10-11.  Though this promise was given to Peter, he was not the exclusive one to open the door for people to enter.  Every time the gospel is proclaimed to someone who hasn’t heard it before, the one proclaiming it is using the keys to the kingdom.  Philip, for example, is the one who opened the door to the kingdom in order to let the Samaritans into it (Acts 8).

8 As is evidenced by the opposition of the religious leaders, the abandonment of some of His disciples after hearing some “hard sayings,” and even the lack of understanding among Jesus’ closest followers, none of the Jews understood the spiritual purpose behind the coming of the Messiah, His death, and that He would be resurrected and ascend into heaven—that is, until the gospel began to be proclaimed starting at Pentecost.  Peter, on that day, unlocked a mystery about a prophecy of David which pointed toward the Christ—which he proved applied to Jesus.  On that day, he unlocked the mystery of when and what Joel 2:28-32 was specifically talking about.  Many Old Testament passages began to be unlocked to the minds of those who were willing to listen to Peter’s sermons. This promise of inspiration was also given to the other apostles (John 16:12-13), and they, too, unlocked the mysteries of many Old Testament prophecies for their hearers/readers.

9 See the footnote at John 20:23 in the NET Bible.  See also Coffman’s Commentary on Matthew 16:19.

10 Lange says: “Then Peter took Him;—προσλαβόμενος.—He laid his hand upon Him, or seized Him from behind, as if he would have moved Him by main force to alter His purpose. He stopped the Master in this manner for the purpose of remonstrating with Him” (Lange’s Commentary on Matthew 18:22, emphasis mine).

11 McGarvey says of this exchange: “Evidently Peter regarded Jesus as overcome by a fit of despondency, and felt that such talk would utterly dishearten the disciples if it were persisted in. His love, therefore, prompted him to lead Jesus to one side and deal plainly with him. In so doing, Peter overstepped the laws of discipleship and assumed that he knew better than the Master what course to pursue.” (Fourfold Gospel, page 414).

12 Matthew 16:22.  The modern Literal Version (2016 beta edition) says “God will be lenient to you…” (the words in italics being supplied by the translators).  Strong’s definition says that it is a Hebrew idiom, meaning “God be gracious!” in averting a catastrophe.  Miles Coverdale’s translation (1535) says, “LORD, favor thyself, let not this happen unto thee” (note: I have taken the liberty of updating the spelling.  Originally, it said “LORDE, fauour thy self, let not this happen vnto thee.”)  The New American Standard Bible says “God forbid it, Lord!”

13 Mark’s account includes Jesus turning to face the disciples (Mark 8:33).  So it appears that Jesus was facing Peter initially, then turned to look at the other apostles, and turned back to face Peter to issue the stinging rebuke.

14 Matthew 16:23.  The pronouns in this stinging rebuke are in the singular—this is directed solely at Peter.

15 This whole incident from Matthew 16:13-23 puts an interesting spin on the Catholic doctrine of the church being built on Peter—because ultimately, they’d have to admit that it is built on Satan, based on what Jesus actually said.

The Roller-Coaster of Faith – The Life of the Apostle Peter (Part Three)

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Simon Peter’s Faith

One day, Simon was called, along with Jesus’ other disciples, up to a mountain, where the Lord had been praying all night.  After the disciples arrived, Jesus selected twelve of them, and gave them the name “apostles.”1  Simon, whom Jesus called “Peter,”2 appears to be the first one chosen (his name appears first in every list of the apostles in the Bible).

It was some time after this that Jesus said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Let’s go over to the other side of the lake.”  So they all got into a ship and went across the Sea of Galilee.  Jesus went to the lower part of the ship and went to sleep, and then the storm came.  This storm was so fierce that the apostles—including experienced fishermen like Peter, Andrew, James, and John—thought they were going to die.  The boat was being tossed around by the waves, and water was filling the boat.  Some of the apostles ran down to where Jesus was, waking Him, and saying, “Master, don’t you care that we are perishing?”  Jesus gets up, probably goes up to the main deck, and says, “Peace.  Be still,” and the storm immediately stopped.  Peter had never seen anything like it in his life.  Then he hears Jesus’ words, “Why are you so afraid?  How is it that you have no faith?”3  Those words made quite an impression on him.

After they all came back to Capernaum,4 the ruler of the synagogue, named Jairus, came begging for Jesus to heal his only daughter.  Jesus began to follow him, but as He did, a woman desperately seeking to be healed touched the hem of His garment; and Jesus turned around and said, “Who touched me?”  Peter, somewhat incredulously, looked at Jesus and said, “Master, the multitude is crowding and pressing [against] you; and you say, ‘Who touched me’?”  Jesus reemphasized that He had felt power leave Him, and then Peter saw the woman come before Jesus, trembling, and falling down at His feet, and explaining what she touched Him.  Jesus almost certainly smiled as He looked at her and said, “Daughter, be of good comfort: your faith has made you whole.”5  Peter probably couldn’t help but notice how different Jesus’ words were to this woman, compared to what He had earlier said to Peter and the other apostles.

After the woman was healed, Peter followed Jesus to Jairus’ house, where they were met with the terrible news: Jairus’ daughter had died before they could get there.  But Jesus looked at Jairus and told him, “Don’t be afraid: Just believe [show faith],6 and she will be healed.”7  Then Jesus goes inside with Mr. and Mrs. Jairus, and only permits Peter, James, and John to accompany them.  Peter watched as Jesus took the dead girl by the hand and said, “Little girl, arise.”8  She immediately rose up, and Peter again saw the power of faith.

Soon after this miracle of restoring the little girl’s life, Jesus called the apostles to Him and gave them miracle-working abilities, and sent them out on a mission to the Jews.  Peter was sent with his brother Andrew, and “went through the towns, preaching the gospel, and healing everywhere.”9  Upon returning, Peter and the others told Jesus about the things they had done, and they got on a ship with Him and sailed to a deserted area where they could rest.10  However, the people who had been following Jesus saw what they were doing, and ran ahead to the area of Bethsaida, where the ship was headed.11

After landing, Jesus took compassion on the multitude, and told the apostles to feed them.  Peter and the rest were shocked.  Philip said, “Two hundred pennyworth of bread isn’t sufficient for each of them to even have a little!”12  Peter was most likely in agreement with this assessment, though he was probably also telling himself to “have faith.”  He was amazed when five loaves and two fishes fed the entire crowd of 5,000, and also left twelve baskets of leftovers.  The evidence was right in front of him to strengthen his faith.

This miracle was enough for many of the men among the 5,000 to declare that Jesus was truly “that prophet which should come into the world!”13  Then they sought to take Jesus by force and make Him the king.  When Jesus realized what their intentions were, He sent them away14 and went to a mountain by Himself.15

Jesus told Peter and the others to go get into the ship and sail to the other side.  Evening came, the ship was in the midst of the sea, and Jesus was still on the mountain.16  Jesus looked across the sea and saw them struggling to row because the wind was fighting against them, and the waves were tossing them around.17  Around 3 AM, Jesus came to them, walking on the water.18  They had been rowing all night for a journey that would normally have been rather short.  Peter would have been struggling along with the other apostles when all of a sudden there was screaming—there was a ghost on the waves!  Or, so they thought.  Jesus hadn’t intended to stop and join them,19 but when they saw Him, thinking He was a ghost, they were scared; so Jesus called out to them, “Have courage; it is I.  Don’t be afraid.”20

The impetuous and brave Peter, peering through the darkness and the mist kicked up by the wind and waves, called back to Jesus, “Lord, if it’s you, command me to come to you on the water.”  Jesus’ replied to Peter by commanding him, “Come.”  So Peter climbed out of the rocking ship and stepped out onto the boisterous waves, and he started to walk towards Jesus on top of the water.  He was doing fine until he started looking at the waves and thinking about the wind, and down into the water he went, sinking, screaming, “Lord, save me!”  Immediately, Jesus caught hold of him, kept him from drowning, and said to him, “O you of little faith.  What caused you to doubt?”21

Peter must have been heartbroken as Jesus brought him over the water and into the rocking ship.  But as soon as they both climbed aboard, the wind stopped.  The disciples were all amazed at the suddenness with which the wind stopped; and they started worshiping Jesus, saying “Truly you are the Son of God.”22  Peter must have felt awful, seeing Jesus completely eliminate the wind and waves which had caused him to doubt.  But he didn’t have much time to dwell on it while he was in the boat, because as soon as Jesus climbed in, they were instantly at their destination.23

The next day, when the crowds discovered where Jesus had gone, they came to Capernaum and found Him, and asked Him, “When did you come here?”  Instead of answering their question, Jesus replied with something that showed their lack of focus (the same lack of focus that the apostles were also guilty of to an extent): “You seek me, not because you saw the miracles, but because you ate the bread and were filled.  Don’t labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures into everlasting life, which the Son of man will give to you: for Him has God the father attested.”24

After speaking about the necessity to eat His flesh and drink His blood, which was a “hard saying,” difficult to understand, “many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him.”25  Jesus looked at the apostles, and asked them, “Do you wish to go away too?”  Peter, just a day removed from his embarrassing incident on the sea, spoke up, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.  And we believe and are certain that you are that Christ, the Son of the living God.”26

Though he strongly confessed Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, and acknowledged that He had the words of eternal life, Peter had a hard time grasping the importance of some of Jesus’ teaching.  The scribes and Pharisees from Jerusalem had come, and criticized the disciples for not washing their hands when they eat bread.  Jesus condemned these accusers, calling them hypocrites who were “blind leaders of the blind” who would “fall into the ditch.”  He told them that it isn’t what goes into a person that defiles him, but what comes out of him.  After Jesus said this, they went into a house, away from the people,27 and Peter boldly commanded Him, “Explain this parable to us.”  Jesus then looks at the apostles, and asks, “Are you still without understanding?  Don’t you understand yet?”28  After those words, Peter might have felt like he should have kept his mouth shut; for though he loved the Lord, he was still not the “Rock” that he knew he needed to become.  His faith was still in a state of growth.

Traveling with Jesus to the area of Tyre and Sidon, Peter saw a Canaanite woman approaching the Lord, begging, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David.  My daughter is badly tormented by a demon.”  Though Jesus didn’t answer her, Peter and the other apostles were getting aggravated by her, and asked Jesus to “Send her away, because she’s crying after us.”  Jesus then told the woman that He was sent only to the Israelites; but still she persisted in humility.  Then Jesus said to her, “Great is your faith, O woman.  It is for you even as you desire,” and her daughter was healed.29  Once again, Peter must have thought back to the times when his faith was put to the test and found lacking—yet this Canaanite woman was lauded by Jesus as having “great … faith.”

After miraculously feeding 4,000 people, Peter and the apostles accompanied Jesus in a ship across the Sea of Galilee.30  Then the Lord spoke to them and said, “Take heed, and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.”  But the apostles all assumed that He was saying this because they forgot to bring bread.  The scathing rebuke again came from Jesus, “O ye of little faith! … Do you still not understand, nor remember the five loaves [that fed] the five thousand, and how many baskets [of leftovers] you took up?  Neither the seven loaves [that fed] the four thousand, and how many baskets you took up?  How is it that you don’t understand that I didn’t speak to you about bread, [but] that you should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees?”31 They finally understood what Jesus was getting at, but Peter especially must have stung at the rebuke.

-Bradley S. Cobb

1 As discussed in the introductory chapter, the word “apostle” means “one sent with a mission.”  By the time of the first century, it had taken on the idea of someone acting as an official representative of the one who sent him.  So Peter and the other eleven were chosen to be Jesus’ representatives, His ambassadors, His delegates to the Jews, and later to the Gentiles as well.

2 As stated earlier, “Peter” and “Cephas” have the same meaning.  From the time of his selection as an apostle, Simon is primarily known by this new name, or else as “Simon Peter.”  There are some exceptions to this, and it is possible that the exceptions (usually where Jesus is speaking) are intentional to get Simon Peter to notice something about himself and his actions.

3 The calming of the storm is recorded in Matthew 8:23-27; Mark 4:34-41; and Luke 8:22-25.

4 Matthew and Mark both place these events in connection with the city of Capernaum.  See Matthew 9:1 (“His own city”), 9:9-17 (the call of Matthew, followed by the feast at Matthew’s house), after which Matthew says “While He spoke these things to them, behold, a certain ruler [Jairus] came to Him…”  Mark places these events in Capernaum (Mark 2:1-22).

5 Luke 9:41-48.

6 The word “believe” is the verb form of the word “faith” in the Greek.  In other words, “faith” and “believe” (pistis and pisteuo) are the same basic word in the original.  This statement of Jesus was made just as much for the benefit of Peter, James, and John as it was for Jairus.

7 The King James Version says “she shall be made whole.”  This is one word in Greek, and it is the same word that is translated “healed” or “saved” throughout the New Testament.

8 Luke 8:54, NKJV.  The Modern Literal Version has “Child, arise” (see also ESV).

9 Luke 9:1-6.  Jesus’ commands and instructions are given in more detail in Matthew 10.  Matthew also groups the apostles in pairs, which matches up with Mark’s account, that Jesus sent them out “two by two” (Mark 6:7).

10 Mark 6:30-32.

11 Luke 9:10; Mark 6:32-33

12 John 6:7.  Two hundred pennyworth is 200 days’ wages.

13 John 6:14.  This is a reference to Deuteronomy 18, when Jehovah said that He would raise up a prophet like unto Moses, that everyone must listen to or be held accountable by God.

14 Mark 6:46.  John’s account says that He “departed,” but Mark adds the detail of dispersing the crowd first.

15 John 6:15.  This passage is a deathblow to Premillennialism.  That false doctrine teaches that Jesus came to earth to set up an earthly kingdom, but was surprisingly rejected by the Jews.  This one verse shows that (1) He had the opportunity to be made king, and (2) He was anything but rejected by the Jews at this point. Additionally, Mark 6:46 states that Jesus sent away the crowds—that is, He rejected their overtures at making Him king.  The truth is, Jesus’ kingdom is “not of this world” (John 18:36), and it was established in the first century (see Colossians 1:13; Revelation 1:9).  The idea of an earthly reign of Jesus from a literal throne in Jerusalem is foreign to the Scriptures (compare also, Jeremiah 22:28-30 and Matthew 1:11-16).

16 Apparently, the Disciples assumed Jesus was going to walk to their location and that they’d just meet Him there.

17 Matthew 14:23-24; Mark 6:48.

18 Mark 6:48 calls it “about the fourth watch of the night.”  The night began at 6 PM, ended at 6 AM, and was divided into four “watches,” each lasting three hours.  The first would be 6 to 9 PM, the second was 9 PM to midnight, the third was midnight to 3 AM, and the fourth was 3 AM to 6 AM.  The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (“Watch”) says, “The fourfold division was according to the Roman system, each of which was a fourth part of the night.”

19 See Mark 6:48, MLV, NET, ESV, Living Oracles.  The KJV and NKJV both say that Jesus “would have passed them by.”  But the Greek word translated “would,” means to wish, or to desire.  Jesus “intended” to pass them by.

20 The account of Jesus’ walking on the water is recorded by Matthew (14:22-33), Mark (6:445-51), and John (6:15-21).  All three mention the wind, the reaction of the disciples, and Jesus’ words.

21 Though Jesus’ walking on the water is recorded in three of the four gospel accounts (only Luke doesn’t mention it), it is only Matthew that mentions Peter’s adventure on the perilous sea.  Why the others omit this part is a matter of speculation.

22 Matthew 14:32-33.  Mark 6:51-52 adds a detail, saying that they were greatly astonished because they hadn’t considered the miracle of the loaves (the feeding of the 5,000), because their heart was hardened.  That is, they were still putting physical things first and not considering the power Jesus had already shown.

23 John 6:21.

24 John 6:22-27.  Verse 27, King James Version, says “sealed,” but the idea is of authorizing something by means of a seal.  Thus, God the Father was attesting to, showing His approval of, Jesus Christ.

25 John 6:51-66.

26 John 6:67-69.

27 Mark 7:17.

28 Matthew 15:16-17.  Though Peter is the one who spoke up, Jesus addresses His rebuke to the whole group.  The word “you” (“ye” in the King James Version) is plural in the original.

29 Matthew 15:21-28.  Though Jesus’ mission was primarily to the Israelites, He still showed compassion on the Gentiles and worked among them somewhat as well.  For example, soon after healing this woman’s daughter, Jesus went to Decapolis (Mark 7:31), which was a federation of ten free Greek cities, primarily made up of Gentiles.  He did many miracles among them, causing them to “glorif[y] the God of Israel” (Matthew 15:30-31).  And then Jesus had compassion on them, and fed them—all 4,000+ of them (Matthew 15:32-38).

30 Mark 8:13.

31 Matthew 16:5-11.  When Jesus says, “ye of little faith,” He is addressing the entire group of the apostles.  The word “ye” is plural.

The Roller-Coaster of Faith – The Life of the Apostle Peter (Part Two)

FAIR WARNING…. Today’s post is short.  I admit it.  But it must be done, because the next post in this series is one section, and it is LONG.  I hope that you’ll be okay with getting a short post–at least this once.  🙂

Simon Peter’s Call

Though Peter was first introduced to Jesus by his brother, Andrew, and spent several months following Jesus through Galilee, Jerusalem, and Judea before returning to Galilee (seeing several miracles, and baptizing many people while he was at it),1 Peter’s official call didn’t happen until perhaps a year or more after meeting the Lord.

It was on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, near his boat, that Simon was washing his nets,2 when Jesus climbs into the boat and asks him to “thrust out a little from the land.”  Simon complies, climbing into the ship with Jesus and moving the boat a little ways from the shore.  Simon looks at the shoreline and sees a huge mass of people, all in rapt attention to what Jesus has to say to them.  Having followed Jesus for some time, hearing Him teach, seeing Him work wonders, Simon knew exactly how the people felt.

After Jesus finishes speaking to the crowds, He spoke to Peter, telling him to “launch out into the deep,” and then he says to both Simon and Andrew, “let down your nets for a catch.”3  They obey, and the amount of fish that in the net is so incredibly massive that they can’t pull it into their boat.  In fact, they have to call another ship (belonging to Zebedee) over to help them take in the catch—and even then, both boats are so overloaded with fish that they begin to sink!

Peter, seeing what is happening, falls down at Jesus’ knees, proclaiming his unworthiness: “Depart from me, for I’m a sinful man, o Lord.”4  But Jesus tells him, “Don’t be afraid.  From now on, you will catch men [be fishers of men].”5  And from that point, Peter leaves everything and follows Jesus.6

-Bradley S. Cobb

1 All of these events can be found in the first four chapters of John.

2 Vincent says that this washing was of the “sand and pebbles accumulated during the night’s work.”  (see note on Luke 5:2).

3 Luke 5:4.  The command to “launch out” is singular, given to Peter.  The command to “let down your nets” is plural, thus Jesus speaks to the whole crew—primarily, this would be Simon and Andrew.

4 Luke 5:8.

5 Luke 5:10; Mark 1:17.

6 Luke 5:11; see also Luke 18:28.  Peter still apparently owned his fishing boat, for after the resurrection, he said, “I’m going fishing” and several disciples joined him in the boat (John 21:1-ff).  It’s probable, then, that Peter allowed his father (if his father was still alive) or perhaps Zebedee to use his boat to continue in the fishing business.