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Profiles of the Bible: Peter (Part 1)

Profiles of the Bible: Peter (Part 1)

Peter is one of my favorite people in the Bible. He was likely not a highly accomplished man, but he was a man of action. He was also a passionate man who was not afraid to demonstrate his devotion and zeal. But Peter was often impetuous and didn’t realize the full implications of what he was saying.

We first meet Peter and his brother Andrew as a fishermen working on the Sea of Galilee. Peter at this point was identified with his birth name, Simon. Luke 5 gives details about Peter and Jesus’ first encounter. Peter had been fishing all night with his partners and had pulled into shore for the morning. Jesus, who was becoming more popular, was teaching. In order that he might get some distance from the people Jesus used Peter’s boat to preach to the crowd. Afterward, Jesus told the fishermen to put the nets into the water. Simon Peter, maybe being a little tired and a bit cranky responded that they’ve tried all night but didn’t catch any fish. After all Simon was a fisherman. Jesus was a preacher. The skills weren’t exactly interchangeable. But out of respect for Jesus, Simon agreed.

Luke tells us that after letting down their nets, the men hauled in such a large number of fish that their nets started to break. Peter’s response was interesting. Some have joked that if they were in Peter’s shoes, they may have considered Jesus’ miracle as a great business opportunity. But Peter upon seeing what Jesus did recognized that Jesus was not just a normal preacher. Not only that, Peter recognized something about himself. Luke tells us what he says to Jesus. “But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man O Lord’”.

Peter recognizes his own sin. Upon seeing the face of the Holy One, Peter recognized his own unworthiness. Jesus does something absolutely amazing. Jesus not only accepts Peter’s worship, but Jesus tells him, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” Jesus does two things for Peter with these words. First, Jesus comforts, then Jesus calls. Those first four words were likely very comforting for Peter. When a person is in the presence of the holy, it is natural for a person to feel fear. But Christ came to deal with our sin. Not initially with judgment as we would expect, but with grace. Peter would need to hear those words over and over again. Second, Jesus gives him a call and a commission. It turns out, there are some interchangeable skills between fishing and ministry. Instead of fishing for fish, Peter and his companions would be fishing for people.

There are two things we can take from this passage. First, the gospel isn’t just something that’s told. It’s also shown. All the accounts of Jesus don’t just tell us what Jesus said, but also what Jesus did. This is an important fact because the gospels don’t just give us theological truth statements they also show us what the gospel looks like. Peter is a great example. Jesus didn’t just tell Peter that Jesus was the Messiah and that he came to take away their sin. Jesus demonstrated to Peter what it looks like. Peter’s understanding of God’s love and grace was not theory – it was his life.


Second, the gospels show us that people are not the center of the story. Christ is. Peter’s life and ministry would eventually be all about demonstrating the glory of Christ. He alone is the hero of the Bible.

One quick note on leadership. Many are quick to use Peter as an example of how we should install leaders in our church regardless of their situation in life. I think that’s a wrong reading of Peter. It is without dispute that Peter was far from worthy to follow Christ. He would show that repeatedly. In fact he would need to continually be refined even after Jesus ascended into heaven. It is true that leaders are far from perfect people. But Peter had to learn and to grow before he led the church. He had to learn the gospel truly before preaching it. And after he became the leader of the church, he still needed to be refined. Peter’s rise to lead the church was not because he was qualified in a worldly sense. But neither was it entitled to him without any preparation. His training ground was his life. The teacher was the Lord. It is not that leaders are not allowed to fall, but when they fall, they must remember who they are to turn – Jesus. For those who lead and those who hope to lead one day, we are all called to continue to allow Christ to refine and teach us.