Who Was Peter? Part 1: Peter in the Gospels
1 Peter Lesson #004
February 12, 2015
Open your Bibles with me to Luke 5. We won’t get there for a while but when we start, that’s where we’ll start. We’re continuing our study in 1 Peter. We did a flyover last week. Tonight we’re going to start with the first verse. The first verse and the first word begins with Peter. It says, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the pilgrims or DISPORA [resident aliens] who are living in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.”
Now, as we work through this salutation, especially in the Petrine epistles, I think it’s important to stop, break it down word-for-word in order to understand some of these areas and these people. We’re going to start with the first word, Peter. We’ll do a fly-over which will take us a couple of weeks to go through the life of Peter. This is really interesting. I’ve never broken down Peter’s life before in this chronological way, and it was interesting to see some of the patterns that show up there. I want to hit major events in the life of Peter and some significant things.
We’re going to start with that this evening and we’ll start with his background and family. His background is that he’s a Galilean. He was reared by his family in Bethsaida. His father’s name was Jonas or John. We don’t know his mother’s name. He had one brother that we know of, and his name was Andrew, who was also a disciple. He grew up in the small town of Bethsaida. If we look on a map we see the Sea of Galilee which is in the north. Samaria is in the south. The Jordan River flows from the north to the south. North of the Sea of Galilee you have Lake Huldah, and then about 22 or 23 miles north of the Sea of Galilee, you have an area called Caesarea Philippi. There were a lot of towns called Caesarea. That’s because when anyone wanted to really suck up to the Emperor, they would name it after him. Then these towns would have to be distinguished.
One we’ve talked about before is called Caesarea-Maritima or Caesarea-by-the-Sea. That’s where Cornelius, the centurion, lived and where Peter took the gospel to Cornelius there. Caesarea Philippi is named for Phillip, the Tetrarch, one of the sons of Herod the Great. So we’re looking at this area around the Sea of Galilee. Almost on the north shore or just a little bit east of due north was the location of Bethsaida. This was discovered, they thought, about a hundred and fifty years ago; and recently it’s been confirmed that it’s probably the site of Bethsaida where Peter’s family lived. We’ve driven past it on tours and there’s not a whole lot there, maybe it’s just the size of this room. It’s about a mile, or maybe a little bit less, from the water. Probably a half a mile from the water. Capernaum is another main area we’re going to talk about in terms of Peter’s background.
So Peter grew up in Bethsaida which was another large fishing village on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. It was a family-owned business. Peter and Andrew are spoken of as the primary owners in the Gospels, but when Peter leaves to follow the Lord, he leaves it in the hands of his father. He had a partnership with James and John, the sons of Zebedee. On a map, if you’re looking toward the Sea of Galilee, Bethsaida would be located on the north shore, and then Capernaum is nearby. Those of you who have been to Israel with me in the past remember this long pier which is the pier where the ancient boat is located at that museum at Nof Ginosaur which is where we stayed this last time at the kibbutz there. That gives you a nice overview of what this area looks like.
John 1:44 tells us that Phillip was from Bethsaida. He was a third disciple from there so what we see is that a lot of these young men that followed Jesus knew each other and had grown up together. In Mark 1:16 we read, “As Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee He saw Simon and his brother, Andrew, casting a net into the sea for they were fishermen.” In Luke 5:10 we’re told that James and John, the sons of Zebedee were partners with Simon. That gives us about as much background as we can get.
The interesting thing is that when we study what we know about this area in Galilee, it is that it was an extremely populated area during the time of our Lord. If we just look at the Scripture we see several times it’s talking about the multitudes coming to Him. He fed the 5,000; and in another place he feeds 4,000, and the text there says they were all men, so it didn’t count the women and children. There could have been ten or twelve thousand people there. The Scriptures indicate that there were very large towns and villages in the area. Josephus, even though he may exaggerate a little, says that Galilee was just covered with towns and villages, the smallest of which were all at least 15,000 people or more. I think he’s exaggerating, but even if he’s doubled the numbers, that’s a very large population.
It’s interesting that in this area which the Scripture says is where Jesus did most of his miracles and most of his teaching, many rejected his claim to be the Messiah. As a result, it was going to be judged and wiped out. Very few of these villages can even be found today. Those that have been found don’t look like they were very large except for the eye witness account of Josephus.
Peter’s birth name was Simon, which was a Greek form of the Hebrew word Simeon, one of the sons of Jacob, although most of the Jews weren’t named for that. It was a name that was given probably for the same reason that Jacob named his son Simeon because the root meaning of the word has to do with hearing and obeying. It was a common Jewish name. There were some eleven different Simons in the New Testament, so it was a very, very common name. He was called his full name; and when Jesus wanted to get his attention he was called Simon bar Jonah, just like your mom might call you by all three of your names when she wanted to get your attention. So Jesus would call him Simon bar Jonah. The “bar” is the Aramaic equivalent of the Hebrew word “ben” meaning the son of. So it would be translated for us as Simon son of John or Simon Johnson.
We also know that Peter was married. In Mark 1:30 we’re told about a mother-in-law. If you have a mother-in-law, you have to have a wife. 1 Corinthians 9:5 tells us Peter traveled with his wife. Paul talks about that. He says, “The other apostles”, including Cephas, would travel and take their wives with them and expect the Churches to support them. Paul said that was fine. He chose instead to take another option.
It’s a great passage for understanding some of the different gray areas in Scriptures, or areas of non-absolutes. In terms of funding and financial support for ministries, it’s up to each individual before the Lord. There’s no one set pattern. Sometimes we get people who think that there’s only one way of doing it and that’s the only right way of doing it; and yet the Scripture has this clear example in 1 Corinthians 9:5 that Paul says no, there are many different ways to do it and none of which is right. Supporting the pastor and his wife, not supporting them, either one is fine. There’s lots of application there.
So that’s Peter’s background and an understanding of his family. What we do see is that from his house, which they’re pretty sure of the location, it’s probably fifty yards from the synagogue. In Capernaum he would have availed himself of the instruction of the synagogue. Even though Peter was called by the Pharisees unlearned, that simply meant that he hadn’t gone to the right schools. Some people are that way in the United States. If you haven’t gone to an Ivy League school, you’re not very educated. The Pharisees were snobbish like that. Peter, though, was educated. The Greek of 1 Peter is a difficult Greek, indicating not that he wrote very well and wrote with a sophisticated hand. That tells us something about his background and that he would have availed himself of an education.
The other thing that we see is that his brother Andrew is specifically stated to be a disciple of John the Baptist, as are James and John, the sons of Zebedee. Peter may have been a disciple of John the Baptist. At the very least, he was involved and listening to John the Baptist with his brother because as soon as Andrew decided to follow Jesus when he saw that John the Baptist identified Jesus as the Lamb of God, Andrew went off to get Peter right away. He didn’t have to travel all the way up to Capernaum in order to get him, so it appears that Peter was in the neighborhood where John the Baptist was baptizing near Bethany across the Jordan. All of that tells us that Peter was very positive. Peter, Andrew, James, and John were all very positive.
James and John were part of the family. They’re cousins of Jesus also, as John the Baptist was. They’re business partners with Peter and Andrew so they were all very positive. They were interested in learning what John the Baptist had to say about the coming of the Messiah and being prepared for the Messiah, looking for and anticipating the coming of the Messiah. They had a strong positive volition, long before John the Baptist or Jesus showed up on the scene.
The first event that we see is when see Peter meets Jesus. This is described in John 1:41-42. Now there’s a series of events that take place over a three day period that are described in John 1. We have one day, then another day, and then the next day. On the first day the Pharisees came out to examine John. This was part of this typical procedure whenever anyone was suspected to making a claim to the Messiah, the Pharisees would come out and just watch and listen for a while. After that first visit, then if they wanted more information, they would come out and begin asking questions.
This is what was going on at this point. They were asking questions of John about who he was. They asked if he was Elijah, if he was the Messiah, just who was he? So on the first day they came out to examine John. Then on the second day Jesus showed up. This is the second time that Jesus showed up for John the Baptist. He’s already been baptized according to the synoptics. Jesus came to John who said, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” John baptized Jesus and then immediately Jesus is led by God the Holy Spirit into the wilderness. There he was tested for forty days, three major temptations by Satan.
Then He came back to the area where John the Baptist was. This is where we pick up the story in John 1. As Jesus showed up following the forty days in the wilderness, John again announced, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Then we come to the next day, and John the Baptist is standing there with two of his disciples. We’re not told who one of them is, but one of them is identified as Andrew. When John the Baptist saw Jesus he said, “Behold the Lamb of God.” Immediately Andrew and the other disciple left John and began to follow Jesus.
Then we’re told in verse 41 that Andrew went to get his brother Simon. John 1:41 reads, “He first finds his own brother, Simon, and says to him, ‘We found the Messiah’. Then he led them to Jesus. Jesus looked at Simon and said, ‘You’re Simon, the son of Jonas’.” This indicates that Jesus had never met Simon before, so it indicates the omniscience of the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ goes on to say, “You will be called Cephas, which is translated a stone.” That’s the Aramaic word for a stone, and it usually refers to a large or massive stone, according to one source that I read.
Following that, we see on the map that we have Judea in the south, Galilee in the north, Samaria in the middle and running from north to south we have the Jordan River from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea. On the lower left is Jerusalem, and just above the Dead Sea represents the area of Jericho on the left; and on the right is the location of Bethany across the Jordan which is where John was baptizing. Then we see Sychar which is in John 4 where Jesus talked to the woman at the well. Then up north is Cana of Galilee where Jesus performed His first miracle; and then we see Capernaum where Jesus lived and where Peter and Andrew lived.
Let’s get the chronology down. Jesus first showed up with John the Baptist in Bethany across the Jordan. Then He’s baptized in the Jordan, goes up into the mountainous, desert area for forty days where he’s tempted by Satan. Then he comes back down to John. This is where we have the conversation we just saw where John the Baptist identifies Jesus as the Lamb of God to Andrew and another disciple. Then from there Jesus is going to leave and He’s going to head back to Capernaum.
Then He’s going to go back to Cana where he performs the first miracle there and His disciples are with Him. Andrew, Phillip, Nathaniel, and Peter are with Jesus there at Cana. Then they will go with Jesus down to Jerusalem for the first Passover. Following the first Passover, they’re going to leave Jerusalem, where Jesus had the first cleansing of the Temple at the end of John 2 and where Jesus has His conversation with Nicodemus, telling him he won’t get into the kingdom of heaven unless he’s born again.
Next they left Jerusalem and they head back through Samaria where Jesus has His conversation with the woman at Jacob’s well in Sychar. Then they are going to leave there and head back up to Capernaum; and when they get back there, the boys all go back to work. They all have jobs. They all have careers. They all go back to work. Jesus hasn’t called them to be His disciples yet. They are followers of Jesus. They already believe He is the Messiah but at this stage Jesus hasn’t really developed His public ministry.
Somewhere about that time, John the Baptist is going to be arrested and put into prison. It is at that point, according to Mark 1:14-15 that John the Baptist is arrested and Mark tells us that after John was arrested then Jesus began his public ministry. We’re told that He first went to Nazareth, His hometown, and He taught in the synagogue. The people rejected Him, and they took him to a cliff and were going to stone him, but He disappeared in the confusion and the crowd. After that, He left Nazareth and He moves to Capernaum, which is the home of Peter and Andrew.
We’re told in Luke 4:31–44 that Jesus began to teach on the Sabbaths in Capernaum. So on the Sabbath Peter and Andrew and James and John are there. They’re hearing Him preach. At that same time He cast out a demon, and He leaves the synagogue and heals Peter’s mother-in-law on His way to Sabbath lunch.
It’s after all of those things have taken place that we see the second major event. The first is when He meets Peter, and this is in Luke 5. Turn there with me, if you’re not there already. This is when Jesus begins to call His disciples. We find out initially that Jesus is carrying on a ministry by Lake Ginosaur. That’s the actual name, it’s still called that. In the New King James it’s written as Gennesaret. It’s also translated Sea of Galilee in other places but it’s Lake Ginosaur. He has a huge crowd pressed against him to hear the Word of God [verse 1] and He is there on a beach by the lake. He saw two boats standing by the shore. The fishermen had gone from them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s and asked him to put out a little from the land. He asked them to put out, and then he sat down and taught the multitude from the boat. That’s a nice platform, nice pulpit, and if it’s still, it’s not too bad. I can imagine if the water was rough, it would be a little bit of a struggle to keep your balance. So He is out in the boat talking to the group.
When He finishes, He asks Peter to go out into the boat and to cast his nets into the deep for the catch. We see a little bit of Simon’s character here. He’s a little bit stubborn and he’s outspoken. He says, “Lord we’ve been fishing all night long. We have worn ourselves out and we haven’t caught a thing. There hasn’t been a nibble and we are exhausted.” He does agree to do it though, and he puts down the net; and they brought in such a huge catch of fish that the nets begin to tear. Another boat which belonged to James and John had to come up next to them in order to help them. They filled both their boats with all the fish.
Jesus is teaching that He can supply all their needs beyond anything they can ever imagine. What Jesus is about to tell them to do is to follow Him, and they’re going to have to leave their businesses; and He’s making the point that when you leave your businesses, you don’t have to worry about your logistical needs. He’s telling them He’s going to take care of them. There’s going to be a roof over their head, and everything will be taken care of.
Also something very instructive takes place here in regard to Peter’s character. As soon as the boats are filled up and he sees this massive catch of fish, what does Peter say? He immediately makes a theological connection. He falls at Jesus’ knees and says, “Depart from me for I am a sinful man!” Why would he say that unless he understood the deity of Christ at that point. He understands that Jesus is not sinful but is righteous. This is why Peter recognizes his own sinfulness there. So this tells us quite a bit about Peter’s spiritual perspicacity at this point. He’s not quite as dense as he appears to be later on. He immediately recognizes his own sinfulness and the righteousness of Christ and the righteousness of God the Father. Incidentally a miracle similar to this occurs again at the end of John.
After this, Jesus is calling His disciples to leave their occupations and to follow Him, and they do. The promise in Luke 5:10 is “Do not be afraid for from now on you will catch men. So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.” Now following Jesus doesn’t necessarily mean you have to go into vocational ministry which is what they’re doing at this point. But it does mean you have to be willing to give up everything. We have to come to understand that everything we have is really the Lord’s. The job you have. The cars that you have. The toys that you have. Everything we have is from the Lord. We have to relax and put the Lord in control, let the Lord have control of our lives. He’s the one who is guiding and directing things. Peter comes to understand this at this point and begins to follow.
As Jesus conducts His ministry, this first tour of the Galilee, we usually find in all of the gospels at this point a list of the twelve disciples. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and then Acts all have lists. John doesn’t have a list. What’s interesting is that Peter is always listed first in the list. This is a way of presenting him as the leader of the disciples. What we’ve seen is that Peter meets Jesus in John 1. He’s called to be a disciple in Luke 5:1–11. Then he’s sent out with the other twelve to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom which is what we’ve been studying on Sunday mornings in Matthew 10.
The next major event in Peter’s life is that he is going to walk on the water. If that was like some of us, if we were on that boat, we would all be jumping out of the boat because we want to walk on the water, too. Whenever a new toy comes along, we’re always ready for that new toy and that new excitement. But all the other guys are just sitting there. Peter is the only one who seems to have the faith to even want to try walking on the water.
To look at this episode, let’s turn to Matthew 14:22. Now it’s at night. We’re told it’s between roughly 3:00 and 6:00 in the morning. That may be why they didn’t want to jump out of the boat because they were still trying to get the sleep out of their eyes. They’ve been fighting a storm. They’re tired. They probably weren’t looking for any fun, so Jesus had sent them across to the other side. They spend the night tossed by the seas and in the fourth watch of the night, Jesus came to them walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the seas they were troubled. That means they were upset. They thought it was a ghost. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and told them to be of good cheer and not to be afraid. Peter said, “Lord, if it’s you, command me to come to you on the water.” This is the second thing we see of Peter’s character. He is very gregarious. He’s out there and out-spoken. Sometimes this gets him into trouble but he is certainly the one who’s going to be involved and in front of everybody. So the Lord tells him to come and when Peter had come down out of the boat he walked on the water to come to Jesus.
This is a great episode because again it’s emphasizing that Peter is learning to trust the Lord. Like most of us, we learn to trust the Lord, and then we immediately stop trusting the Lord. We get our eyes on circumstances. That’s what happened to Peter. He gets out and walks on the water and in the New King James it says, “When he saw that the wind was boisterous…” I think boisterous is probably what Peter was, but the wind was boisterous, and so Peter all of a sudden got his eyes on the details. That’s what we do. We get our eyes on our bank account. We get our eyes that maybe the economy’s not doing so good. We get our eyes on aspects of our health instead of putting our focus on the Lord and just relaxing and trusting in Him.
As soon as he put his eyes on the circumstances, what happened? It didn’t take a week or two. He immediately began to sink. I think that’s a good illustration that as soon as we take our eyes off that walk by the Holy Spirit, we immediately plunge into carnality and we’re walking according to the sin nature. It’s instantaneous. As long as Peter is focused on Jesus, he is walking on the water, but instantly when he takes his eyes off Jesus, Jesus rebukes him and says, “O ye, of little faith. Why did you doubt?” When they got in the boat, the wind ceased.
I just love how these things happen. I wonder what people on the shore were thinking. I’ve been on the Sea of Galilee when the winds have been up and the waves have been up a little bit. I’ve been on other lakes when it’s been stormy. It doesn’t just stop on a dime. One second it’s stormy and the next second it’s stopped. If this was happening on the whole lake, people who lived around the lake would be hearing all the wind howling and then, all of a sudden, it would stop. Wonder what they were thinking? That’s beside the point, though.
Those that were in the boat came and worshipped Him, saying “Truly, you are the Son of God.” What we’ve seen already is that Peter recognizes that Jesus is God, that’s He’s righteous, and here, as a result of His walking on water, they all recognized that He is the Son of God. They are convinced of this and there’s a growing understanding and conviction of this as time goes by. So Peter’s faith and trust in the Lord develops in that episode.
The next episode, the fifth major episode, is in John 6. This again illustrates something about Peter’s character and Peter’s recognition about what is going on. In John 6 which is a very long chapter including the feeding of the 5,000, and the bread of life discourse, after Jesus sits down and states some of the conditions for being a disciple and following Him, we’re told in John 6:60, “Therefore, many of his disciples, when they hear this, said, “This is a hard saying. Who can understand it?” Then they began to leave him. When we get down to John 6:67, it says that many of them went back and walked with Him no more.
Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” He’s evaluating their commitment and asked them if they’ve given up like everyone else. It’s Simon Peter who answers again as a leader of the twelve. He said, “Lord, to whom should we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Wow, what a statement. The only thing that matters in life is that we know our lives have an eternal significance and an eternal value. And you’re the only one that can tell us how to do that, Peter is saying. No one else speaks about eternity. You’re the only one who has the words of eternal life.
In John 6:69 Peter goes on to say, “Also, we have come to believe [John’s key term about salvation] and know that You are the Son of the Living God.” Now it expands to He is the Son of the Living God. This term is always used in the Old Testament to distinguish the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob from all of the idols of metal, wood, and stone. So here Peter is saying Christ is the Son of the Living God. Again, it’s an affirmation of deity, recognizing that He is the Messiah and the Son of the Living God. He is deity.
The next episode I want to go to is in Matthew 16. We’ll spend a little more time on this because this is when Jesus explains Peter’s nickname. He gave him the name of Cephas in John 1, but it’s in Matthew 16 that He explains this. In Matthew 16:13 we read, “When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi…” This is just a little north of the city of Dan. Whenever you read a description in the Old Testament of the borders of the land, it always says from Dan to Beersheba. Dan was the farthest point in the north, just below Mount Hermon, and Beersheba is down in the Negev, far to the south. Caesarea Philippi was a Gentile city built by Phillip the Tetrarch, and it was a Roman city. So Jesus and His disciples had gone to a Gentile area, about twenty-five or so miles north of Capernaum.
When they get there, Jesus asks a question. He picks His location. Those of you who’ve been there know that we sit there, and every year I have Dan Inghram teach this section of the Bible study there. Jesus is going to use a word play here, but it’s a word play that you miss a little of the pun because you don’t see the area in the neighborhood. So Jesus asks who men say that He, the Son of Man, is. He uses this title Son of Man which comes out of Daniel 7. It is clearly understood as a Messianic title. Son of Man is the one who is identified as the future king, the Messiah, to whom the Ancient of Days, God the Father, is going to give the kingdom. When God the Father gives Him the kingdom, the Son of Man will come and establish the kingdom. This fits within this Messianic kingdom message that we have all through Matthew. So Jesus says, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”
Now they say something. The “they” referred to here is the twelve. They say that some say He’s John the Baptist because by this time John the Baptist had died, so some people think it’s him. Remember John the Baptist was put in prison before Jesus started His public ministry. So some people said it was a resurrection sort of thing, but it didn’t make sense. But that’s what they said. Who said people make sense? Read the paper. Others said Elijah, or Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.
Jesus said, “But who do you say that I am?” When Jesus says this, it’s an emphatic you. Who do you say that I am? He wants to know what they believe. Now we’ve already seen them say He’s the Son of God. Then we saw Peter say that they all believed He was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. Now Peter is going to answer again for the group. He’s the leader. Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” This is another clear statement that they recognize who Jesus is. Jesus answered, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but My Father who is in heaven.” Blessed indicates, not some special status, but it indicates that God has privileged him which Jesus says. You’ve been blessed, Peter, with this understanding. God, the Father, has revealed this to you. He’s not saying that God the Father only revealed it to him, but he is saying that for anyone who comes to this understanding, it’s because God has made this clear to them.
Then He’s going to introduce this little word play. Jesus says, “I, also, say to you that you are Peter.” This is the Greek word PETROS which means rock. It’s one of the ways you can translate Cephas. “And on this rock I will build my Church and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” Now when He says this, you have to understand the background. Here he is at Caesarea Philippi. This is a massive rock escarpment in the background, so He’s playing off his location. [Picture, see slides] They had a temple to Jupiter on the left of the escarpment and a temple to Pan, the figure in Greek mythology.
Arabs can’t say the letter “p” so they say the letter “b”. So Panias became Banias and that’s why it’s called Banias today. Located behind the temple of Jupiter is a huge black hole which was believed to be one of the entrances to Hades, and that if you wanted to satisfy the god Pan, you would throw a human sacrifice down this hole. There was water down there, and if there was no blood, then he accepted the sacrifice. If you saw blood float to the surface, then he didn’t accept the sacrifice. So this is the location here with this massive rock escarpment in the background which explains why Jesus is bringing out this point about the gates of Hades.
This is a very important passage, as well. He’s not only making this play on words in terms of the name PETROS and PETRA but this is the first mention of the word Church and it’s in the future tense. “I will build my Church.” It’s not there yet. And then Jesus says, “On this rock I will build my Church.” Now there are three basic views, and you’re probably familiar with one of them which are taken, in trying to explain the meaning of this passage. The first view identifies Peter as the rock.
This is the view that is the official Roman Catholic interpretation: that here Jesus is saying Peter is the rock that He’s going to build the Church on, and he’s giving Peter authority over the Church. And that Peter is the first pope, and that authority is going to be handed down from generation to generation. One of the many problems with that, other than the exegetical one, is that up until the 4th century, all you had were bishops in key cities, such as the Bishop of Rome, the Bishop of Constantinople, the Bishop of Antioch, and the Bishop of Jerusalem and the Bishop of Alexandria.
Those were your five basic bishops. They competed with each other. They were in a power struggle but in AD 250, Steven the 1st who’s the Bishop of Rome, is the first to assert that he has universal authority over the whole Church. Guess what the rest of the Church did? They laughed at him. Who are you? Those guys in Antioch, Jerusalem, Constantinople, and Alexandria weren’t giving up any of their authority in Rome. How silly! But that’s in AD 250. Over the next two hundred years you have four major Christological controversies that develop calling for different councils to try to settle these theological discrepancies: The Council of Nicea. The Council of Ephesus. The Council of Constantinople; and finally the Council of Chalcedon, as they’re working on the relationship between the humanity and deity of Christ and the relationship between Jesus and the Father.
In each of these different councils one of these bishops is going to really “flash his drawers” and show how ignorant he is doctrinally. At the end of that period the only bishopric that hasn’t gone on the side of a heresy is the Bishop of Rome. At this point the Bishop of Rome begins to consolidate his power because he can say, “All you other guys, obviously you don’t have the truth because at one point or another you sided with heresy.” You really don’t have this idea of the pope as it came to be emphasized in terms of his universal power in the early middle Ages at all in the early Church. It’s just not there. History doesn’t support it.
What’s the Roman Catholic response to that? Probably the most common response is, “Nobody claimed that authority because they were just too humble.” Peter was too humble. The other bishops of Rome were just too humble to assert their authority. Okay, so what you’re saying is that from AD 250 on, they’re too arrogant. That’s the flipside. The other way to look at it is that they were all really failures as leaders because if they were given this kind of authority by the Lord and they didn’t use it, then they were failures as leaders. The Roman Catholic argument really doesn’t hold any water.
It certainly doesn’t hold any water when we look at what the Scripture says. When Jesus talks about “on this rock” the first attempt to solve this is that he’s talking about Peter personally. Some Protestants take it that way, but they say he’s talking about Peter who is the obvious leader all the way through Acts. He’s the one who opens the door to the Church to the Samaritans and the Gentiles. Peter is there every single time. He’s there at Pentecost. He’s there at the Samaritan Pentecost. He’s there bringing the Gentiles into the Church. He’s obviously the leader. He’s the one who preached on the Day of Pentecost. But while that’s true, it’s probably not what this is talking about.
It’s talking about a rock, and the rock that we see in Scripture is a rock that is alluded to several times. He’s the rock of stumbling. Psalm 118:22, “The chief cornerstone, the stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.” That’s Jesus. In 1 Peter 2:4, Peter recognizes this and he says, “To whom coming a living stone, cast away indeed as worthless by men, but by God chosen. Yourselves, also, as living stones are being built up as a spiritual house.” See? He’s connecting this spiritual edifice of the Church back to what Jesus is saying in Matthew 16. That’s the second view, that Jesus was really referring to Himself.
The third view a lot of Protestants held to in the Protestant Reformation, was that this rock simply referred to the affirmation that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God. But in light of Scripture and comparing Scripture with Scripture, the broad Scriptural concept, what we see is that the rock the Church is built upon is the Lord Jesus Christ.
Then the Lord says to Peter in Matthew 16:19, “And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” This is what gave rise to the idea when Revelation talks about the gates like pearl in heaven; and there’s Peter sitting at the pearly gates, and he’s got the keys, and he’s going to decide who gets in and who doesn’t get in. But that’s not what this is talking about. It’s talking about the keys of the kingdom of heaven having to do with power and authority. This authority and power is to proclaim the gospel. These guys guarded the gospel and were the foundation of the Church. Ephesians 2:20, “The apostles and prophets were the foundation of the Church.” It’s referencing their power and their authority.
Then we have a bad translation because the Greek uses the perfect participle, and it’s a little awkward to state it in English. “Whoever you bind on earth [this is your authority, the authority of the apostles] will have already been bound in heaven.” In other words, God establishes the absolutes in heaven, and then they carry it out upon the earth. “Whatever you have bound has already been bound upon the earth and whatever you loose on earth has already been loosed in the heavens.” Then He enjoined upon His disciples that they should say to no man that He was the Christ.” Here again we have one of the places where Jesus tells someone not to tell anyone. He doesn’t want to get the Pharisees all riled up ahead of time before it’s the right time to be crucified. He has to be crucified according to the timetable given in Daniel.
The next episode which is just a little further down in this chapter, is that after He’s made this important statement to Peter and Peter has clearly identified who Jesus is, then Jesus begins to teach them about His coming crucifixion. Matthew 16:21, “From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be raised the third day.”
Peter took Him aside. Can’t you just see this? Peter just comes up and puts his arm around the Lord and says, “Wait a minute. Before you go any further, let’s have a little conversation about this. Far be it from you, Lord that this should happen to you. We’re not going to let anything bad happen to you.” The Lord then turns around and calls Peter Satan. Just a minute ago, He’s used a play on his name and said the Church was going to be built on this rock, meaning Himself, and He praises Peter because He recognizes who Jesus is. But now He turns around and says, “You’re Satan. Get behind Me. Get out of My way.” So Peter has to learn a little more humility. The seventh incident is where Jesus tells Peter to get behind Him, Satan, saying He’s an offense to Jesus because his mind is not on the things that are of God.
Let’s have a little application here. If you’re not focused on God as the priority in your life, then you’re a pawn of Satan. If you’re a pawn of Satan, then Jesus can accurately refer to you as Satan because that’s who you’re serving, that’s who I’m serving when we’re out of fellowship. When we’re not focusing on Biblical priorities and making the Word of God the priority in our life, then we are Satan’s pawn. That’s what He’s saying to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan.” You’re an offense because your mind is not on the things that are of God but on the things that are of men. Your priorities, your time usage, the things you’re spending your money on, your hopes and your dreams are not shaped by Scripture. They’re shaped by your culture. Therefore, you’re a tool of Satan.
The next episode is found in the next chapter, Matthew 17. We see a lot of Peter in Matthew and this is a preview of coming attractions in that book. This is a week later than the last episode. Jesus took Peter, James, John, and his brother and led them up into a high mountain by themselves. Now Jesus had just said at the end of the last chapter that among the disciples standing there were some who would not see death until they had seen the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.
Now a week later they’re going to see Jesus coming in His kingdom. What happens is that they go up on this mountain somewhere down near the Sea of Galilee. There are a couple of traditional locations, but no one know for sure where this is. It was likely, because they were up north, on one of the ridges of Mount Hermon. He takes these three guys up with Him on a high hill or high mountain, and He’s transfigured before them; and they see His glory. His face shines like the sun. His clothes become like white raiment. Not only that, but Moses who represents the Law, and the Law was a witness of Messiah and the prophet, represented by Elijah, who testified of the Messiah, show up, having a conversation with Jesus.
Peter again has to speak first. “Lord it’s good for us to be here. If you wish, let us make three tabernacles…” Peter wanted to make three lean-tos, one for each of them. What he’s doing is putting Jesus in the same category as Elijah and Moses. Jesus is distinct, however, and God the Father doesn’t want Peter to make that mistake. We’re told in verse 5, “While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them and suddenly a voice came out of the clouds, saying, ‘This is My Beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased. Hear Him’.”
Now just a side note: if Peter was given the kind of authority the Roman Catholic Church said he was going to have, that he was going to be infallible, then it didn’t last long. He makes a big mistake right away. We saw that when he told Jesus He wasn’t going to die. Now he makes a second mistake. So the Scriptures just don’t support Peter being infallible at all. God, the Father, interrupts Him and says, “This is My Beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased, listen to Him.” He’s telling Peter to shut his mouth that he can’t learn anything when he’s talking, but he needs to listen.
When the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces. They are greatly afraid. They are trembling, and Jesus then came and touched them and said, “Rise up. Don’t be afraid.” When they opened their eyes, Moses and Elijah are gone and everything is back to normal. That’s the Mount of Transfiguration. Now Peter learns another principle.
I want to wrap up with two things. We have about five more minutes to go and I want to hit both of these. In Matthew 18 the disciples get into an argument over who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Now if Jesus had really meant that Peter is the head honcho, then they wouldn’t be having this argument, so obviously they didn’t understand Him to be saying that Peter is going to be the main guy.
Jesus tells a couple of parables, and then we come to Matthew 18:21 where Peter comes to Jesus and asks, “How often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” There’s a pattern here these last few times we see Peter talking. He’s asking how many times he has to forgive somebody. Who’s going to really need forgiveness in the next few weeks? It’s Peter. We see that there’s a pattern of Peter being taught about forgiveness, what divine forgiveness is all about, that we are to emulate. He asks, “How many times should I forgive when my brother sins against me? Up to seven times?” That sounds reasonable. He thought he was being generous. He wasn’t just going to forgive him two or three times, but seven times.
Then Jesus says to him, “I say not to thee, not to seven times, but to seventy times seven.” Seven is the number of completion. Seventy times seven means you’re to forgive forever. It doesn’t matter how many times someone offends you: you are to forgive them as many times as they come and ask forgiveness. Period. End of story. You have to understand grace, Peter. Grace means you forgive those who sin against you. That’s the lesson in this particular episode.
Then we come to the next episode in John 13. This is an episode we have seen and studied many, many times, but let’s turn there very quickly. I’ll just hit the high points there so you can understand what John 13 is all about. John 13 is not about what a lot of people think it’s about. It’s not about simply serving one another. The way you often find the point is to go to the end, which is in John 13:34–35 where Jesus says, “A new commandment I give you that you love one another as I have loved you, you love one another.”
If you love one another, you forgive one another. That’s what he’s going to demonstrate as the object lesson at the Seder meal. They come in to the Seder meal. It’s the night before Jesus goes to the Cross. They’re going to celebrate Passover and Jesus is going do something different. He’s going to stand up, take the basin, strip down to the waist, and start washing all their feet. In verse 5, “He poured water in a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet.” Now the Greek word for wash there is the word NIPTO which indicates just washing part of your body. If you’re going to wash your hands or wash your feet, the word NIPTO is there. If you’re going to take a bath, the word LOUO is there. But this is NIPTO. Jesus washes the disciples’ feet, and wipes them down with a towel.
He comes to the disciple Peter, and Peter says, “Lord, are you washing my feet?” Again, we see Peter talking before he thinks. Jesus said, “What I am doing you do not understand now but you’ll know after this.” So it wasn’t clear to these guys what the point of this lesson is at this point. He’s just giving them an object lesson. Then Peter says, “No, Lord. You’re not going to wash my feet.” He used the word NIPTO. Then Jesus answered and said, “If I don’t wash you [NIPTO], you have no part with me.”
This isn’t a part like a part in a movie or a TV show or a play. This is MIROS, a part of an inheritance. Jesus is saying that if Peter doesn’t let him wash his feet, he has no inheritance with Him. In the Greek Septuagint, it uses these two words. The Hebrew word for wash is one word whether it’s part or complete. If you go back to Exodus and you look at the passages talking about the anointing of the High Priest, when Aaron is inducted into the priesthood, he and his sons take a full bath. They never again take a full ritual bath. They took regular baths, but they never again take a full ritual bath. After that, when they serve in the temple, all they do is wash their hands and wash their feet.
When it’s translated into the Greek, that initial washing when they’re inaugurated into the ministry [which is related to our positional cleansing at the beginning of the spiritual life], is that they are fully washing. And it uses the word LOUO. The Greek Septuagint for all the subsequent washing of the hands and feet uses the word NIPTO. Jesus is using that same kind of terminology. He says, “He who is bathed [LOUO] needs only to NIPTO or wash his feet, but is completely clean. Here he’s using the word “clean” as referring to positional at the beginning.
In this episode He’s using it as experiential. So to recover your full cleansing, you just have to wash your feet. Then He says, “And you all are clean [talking to the disciples] except for one of you.” The John tells us in verse 11, “For He knew who would betray Him. Therefore He said you are not all clean.” One of them wasn’t a believer. He wasn’t positionally cleansed yet. And he never was.
Then in verse 12 it says, “When He had washed their feet and taken His garment, he sat down.” Now He’s teaching them. He asked if they know what He’s done to them. He says, “ you call me teacher and Lord and so I am. If I, then, your Lord and teacher have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” He’s not talking literally. He’s talking figuratively. The washing of the feet is forgiveness. Every time we confess our sins, our feet are washed metaphorically from the sin we’ve committed.
What Jesus is now saying is that what you need to do is wash one another’s feet. You have to forgive one another. “For I’ve given you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is no greater than his master nor is he greater than Him who sent him.” So He’s teaching Peter again about forgiveness.
Guess what? Peter is going to know about forgiveness, because the next major event is in Matthew 26:34–35 where Jesus tells Peter he’s going to blow it and deny Him but Peter doesn’t believe that he would do that. So we see this warning. Luke 22:31–32, “The Lord says, Simon, Simon, Satan has asked for you [plural] that he may sift all of y’all. He wants to sift all of y’all like wheat.” Then he singles Peter out and says, “But I have prayed for you [singular pronoun] that your faith should not fail and when you have returned to me, strengthen your brethren.”
Notice that little hint of prophecy, “When you’ve returned to me.” Peter says, “Wait a minute. Even if all are made to stumble because of you, I’ll never stumble.” Then Jesus says, “Assuredly I say to you that before the rooster crows this night you will deny me three times.” And Peter answers, “Even if I have to die with you I will not deny you.” That sets us up. Because then we’re going to have the crucifixion. Peter isn’t heard from. He’s off drowning in his sorrows because of his guilt in denying the Lord. The next time we see Peter, he is alone with probably the only friend he has left in the world, John. And that is when they find out about the resurrection. And that’s where we’ll start next time.