Journey through Acts

Chapter 3 continued

We are journeying through the Acts of the Apostles and last Sunday we heard about the first of many miracles in this book, when Peter and John were entering the temple for prayer and were stopped by a lame man asking for money. But instead of money – Peter healed him.

Continuing with chapter 3 this morning, as well as taking a closer look at the Apostle Peter, we’re going to pick up at Peter’s second sermon which occurred immediately after he healed the lame man. Many had gathered around Peter, John and the man in absolute astonishment at what had just transpired. 

However, Peter was very quick to ensure they all understood that this man was not healed by human power. He was healed only in the name of Jesus, and by His power alone. They, Peter and John, had absolutely nothing to do with it. Then realizing that he had the perfect opportunity to share once again about His beloved Jesus, that’s exactly what Peter did. 

Those who had gathered around them on Solomon’s portico did so because they had either witnessed the miracle and/or recognized a miracle had taken place, because they saw the lame man walk. Peter realized that their being in a state of awe over this miracle, made them more open to hearing about God. 

And truthfully church family, a situation such as this and/or the exact opposite – people undergoing extremely challenging and difficult life circumstances – often does create an openness in our hearts to experience God – in a way that normal everyday living does not. Which is in part, why God allows us to go through hard times, as much as we don’t like it!

Now you will find, much like Jesus, Peter does not mince words and he point blank tells the crowd exactly like it is. Sometimes we don’t like it when people are blunt with us, do we? I know I don’t. 

Yet, that’s exactly Peter’s approach. Just as it had been with the first crowd he spoke to. He told the unvarnished truth, realizing how very important it was to do so. After all, eternity was at stake. And people of God – eternity is still at stake! 

In 2 Peter we learn that God does not want any to perish, but that He wants all to come to repentance, so that is Peter’s primary concern. As the Lord’s disciples, it should be our primary concern as well. Helping people see the truth – the truth about Jesus, the truth about salvation, and the truth about the Kingdom of God. 

So, once again, he reminded them that they had rejected Jesus – the Holy, righteous One, and handed Him over to Pilate, who wanted to release Him. But instead, they chose to release a criminal – a murderer. “You killed the author of life” Peter accuses the crowd. But fortunately, as we all know, God raised Him to life, and the apostles and many others were witnesses to this truth. 

The life of Christ is a fact of history. It is also true that Jesus was resurrected from the dead. As a matter of fact, His resurrection is as widely reported as His actual existence. There were many eyewitness accounts of Christ being alive after his burial. 

But back to our story, Peter does soften when he follows-up with the statement, “Friends, I realize that what you and your leaders did to Jesus was done in ignorance. And that God was fulfilling what the prophets had foretold long ago about the promised Messiah. 

But he then goes on to tell them what they need to do. “Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away.” “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:12

And that in a nutshell is the Gospel! Jesus suffered and died a tragic death so that we could be made right with God. To receive Him we must repent (which simply means change direction) and turn to Him while turning awayfrom our sins – which is obviously the change direction part.

Now, at this point in time, the Apostle Peter was a bold and outspoken man – one to whom many listened and as a result, were saved. Which is pretty amazing when you consider Peter’s background! 

Unlike Paul, who was a scholar and a first- class orator, Peter, whose original name was Simon, and who was also known as Simon Peter and Cephas, was a fisherman.

Fishermen in the 1st century were gruff, unkempt, vile, and shabbily dressed men, who often used vulgar language. Which may be why the other two apostles who were brothers and fisherman, James and John, were nicknamed by Jesus the Sons of Thunder.

Peter was married – we don’t know his wife’s name, and it’s believed that she traveled with him, at least some of the time. We also don’t know if they had children. There is one reference in 1 Peter to a son. However, it’s highly probable he was referencing his spiritual son, John Mark in that passage. 

Yet, despite his meager beginnings, Peter became a central figure of great importance to the church. When you study the four Gospels you will notice just how important, as he is included in nearly every episode of Jesus’ life and ministry.

Most of the 12 disciples are scarcely mentioned by name. Even John, known as the “beloved disciple” and Judas Iscariot, known as “the traitor,” are only mentioned 20 times. Andrew, Peter’s brother 12 times. Thomas “the doubter,” 10 times. And the rest of the apostles, three times or less. 

Peter, however, while I did see a variation in numbers researching this, is mentioned by name 191 times. He is not only mentioned far more often than any of the other apostles in the Gospels, he is the leading figure among the 12 in the first half of the Acts of the Apostles. He is the only Apostle who walked on water and the only Apostle who raised a person from the dead.

In addition, there is reliable evidence through church tradition and early church historians that the Gospel of Mark is actually the gospel of Peter. Peter is said to have dictated his discipleship with Jesus to John Mark, who was a close companion of his during his later years.  

And if you read this gospel closely, you can see the details of what appears to be an eyewitness account from the perspective of Peter. Some of the events, for example, the Transfiguration, where Peter, James and John were alone with Jesus, read as a first-person retelling of the story.

In the centuries following Peter’s death, it was Peter, not Paul who was considered Rome’s first bishop and founding pope. And while there are at least three different interpretations of the Matthew 16:18 scripture which says, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” One of the interpretations is that Peter would in fact become the rock upon which the church was built, which is why Christ changed his name from Simon to Peter, which means rock

Yet, have you ever noticed how Peter is frequently portrayed as a flawed disciple – one who seeks to follow Jesus – but is also confused, afraid, and faltering. And of course, we simply cannot forget, his denial of knowing Jesus – not once, not twice, but three times. 

However, while his shortcomings are on display in the gospels for all to see – so too is his courage, determination, and especially his love for and longing to follow Jesus, even if it cost him his life – which it did. As he would eventually lay down his life for the gospel. 

The Bible doesn’t tell us how Peter died, but the most commonly accepted church tradition is that Peter was crucified, upside down in Rome. That when Peter was put to death, he requested to be crucified on an inverted cross. The reason for his request was because he had denied his Lord, thus, he did not consider himself worthy to die in the same manner Jesus had. 

What we do know for sure about Peter’s death is Jesus’ prophecy in John 21:18–19.
“‘Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.’ Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God.” Stretching outhis hands could easily be interpreted as Peter dying on a cross with his arms outstretched. 

Jesus foretold the manner of Peter’s death, perhaps to prepare him. Ancient writers say that Peter was put to death about 34 years after Jesus’ prophecy. However, Peter’s precise age at that time is not known. Scholars speculate that he was somewhere between 63-66.

Despite the gruesome details Peter heard about his death from Jesus, he must have taken some comfort and joy in hearing that his death would glorify God. Peter’s love for Jesus and his desire to obey and glorify Him after the resurrection were evident throughout the rest of his life and ministry. 

On a side note, you might find it interesting to know that according to a 4th century Roman historian, Peter’s wife was martyred the same day that he was. 

In fact, according to him, Peter’s wife was executed first. And when Peter saw his own wife led out to die, he rejoiced because of her summons and her return home, (remember heaven is our home – we are just passing through here on earth), and called to her very encouragingly and comfortingly, addressing her by name, and saying, “Remember the Lord.”

For Peter to die a martyr’s death clinging to the hope of heaven testifies to the courage, faith, patience, and perseverance of this great man of God who rejoiced to be counted worthy to die for the name of Jesus. 

I’d like to leave you with a couple of questions to ponder over. Do you desire to attain the level of faithfulness and love for Jesus that Peter had? I know I do. And if you do, how are you working toward developing that same depth of faithfulness and love? Certainly, as followers of Jesus, it is something to strive for throughout our lifetime! 

Let us pray. Almighty Father, we praise You and offer up our thanks to You for all You do for each one of us each day! We are blessed to know and love You and to know and love each other! Thank You for our families, our church, our community, and our country. Thank You for your continued provision, protection, forgiveness and unfailing love. 

Please Lord, eradicate this virus. Help us as brothers and sisters to do our part. Help those who are in leadership to make wise decisions. Be with all the health care providers Lord as they continue to work with those who are ill. Protect them so they do not catch it.

Father, help us to love each other. Help us to not judge, as we will be judged with the same measure. Help us to seek You with everything within us, to put You at the center of our lives. To follow You faithfully just as the Apostle Peter and all the Apostles did except the one who was lost. Give us courage to share Your truth — Your message to all those You bring across our path. 

We love You Lord. May our loves glorify Your Name and bear fruit for Your Kingdom! It’s in the matchless name of Jesus we ask and pray…….

Pastor Cathy

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