Have you ever been asked to do something for which you were woefully unprepared?
For the next 13 weeks, we’ll be spending some time exploring a couple ancient documents: First and Second Peter. These small letters were written in the 1st Century, but they address Christians in ways that are neither outdated nor irrelevant.
Without question, Peter’s life was one of dramatic highs and lows, of impetuous words and actions and at later, of powerful life-changing preaching, of conviction and yet of compromise and capitulation. For this lesson, we begin to explore the background of Peter in order to give some context to the author’s life; this context can help us understand some of the convictions, mindset, and worldview of these epistles.
The Call to Discipleship: John 1:35-42
Our first glimpse of Peter is when his brother brings him to Jesus.
What evidence did Peter have at this point that Jesus was the Messiah?
The Catch of Fish: Luke 5:1-8
Peter’s night of fishing hadn’t ended well. As a “profession,” he still was at the mercy of the fish being in the right place at the right time. When Jesus tells them to cast the net out again, and they bring in a huge catch, Peter is overwhelmed. He falls at Jesus’ knees and tells Him to go away.
How do Peter’s outward actions and words reveal his own internal turmoil in his experience with the Messiah?
The Call to a New Career: Luke 5:9-11
The disciples are amazed at the catch of fish. It makes sense since they’d caught nothing all night. But Jesus now offers them a new career: catching people! He relates the new work to their previous one.
How might Peter’s previous experience as a fisherman prepare him to become a “fisher of men?” Or was Peter unprepared for this new line of work?
The lesson points out the need for Peter’s sufficiency to be found only in Christ. If the work of catching people was as easy as catching fish for the Master, then Peter needed only to follow directions. Christ’s method could bring success. Though a professional fisherman, Peter’s methods couldn’t even guarantee success in an area of life-time training.
But is the work of catching people actually easy?
The Experiences of Peter
Other stories in the New Testament give us insight into Peter’s personality, failures and successes, and relationship with Jesus. These ultimately shed light on the transformation of character that resulting in power-filled work for Christ.
- Affirmation of Jesus as Messiah followed by Jesus’ rebuke (Matthew 16:13-23)
- Betrayal of loyalty in the threefold denial (Matthew 26:69-75)
- Reinstatement to ministry after reversion to fishing (John 21)
- Spirit-filled preaching and leadership in Acts (see especially chs. 1-4)
- Paradigm shift recognizing “Gentile others” as being clean and receiving Spirit (Acts 10)
- Yet his rebuke by Paul for declining table fellowship with the same Gentiles (Galatians 2)
The lesson pointed out Peter’s four calls: to service in catching people; to confess Christ; to humility; and to faithfulness. While the confession of Jesus as Messiah was voluntary on Peter’s part, these certainly reflect our own calling by Jesus as well. None of these are callings for which we are sufficient without divine power, as Peter’s life reveals.