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13. Peter
13.1 Peter’s Conversion || 13-1-1 Peter The Rock || 13-1-2 Peter Our Example || 13-1-3 Peter's Coversion || 13-2-1 Peter And The Cross || 13-2-2 Peter And Quo Vadis? || 13.3 Peter’s Preaching: 13-3-1 Peter’s Preaching || 13-3-2 Peter And The Stone Of Daniel 2 || 13-3-3 Peter's Realization Of Sinfulness || 13-3-4  Appreciation Of Christ’s Exaltation || 13.4 Peter The Shepherd: 13-4-1 Peter The Shepherd || 13-4-2 Peter And The Judaizers || 13-4-3 The Letters Of Peter || 13-5-1 Peter And Christ || 13-5-2 Peter And The Titles Of Christ || 13-6 Peter: Bible Student || 13-7 Walking On Water

13-3-3 Peter's Realization Of Sinfulness

Peter had heard the Heavenly voice bidding: “Hear ye him” (Mt. 17:5). This was intended to take his mind back to Dt. 18:15, where it was written that Messiah would be ‘heard’ by the faithful. But Peter fell down paralyzed with fear; he didn’t really hear the son of God then. Yet in Acts 3:22, Peter quotes Dt. 18:15 and asks his hearers to obey the passage by hearing Jesus, through his preaching of Him. He was asking his audience to do what he himself hadn’t done.  

Later on, it was Peter who opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. It was evidently a huge paradigm break for Peter- to be responsible for Gentiles accepting baptism and thereby becoming brethren in fellowship, and members of the Israel of God. The key was for him to realize that God is no accepter of persons. Reflection on God’s acceptance of him after the denials must surely have been an important factor in inspiring him to preach to those whom previously he would have rejected out of hand as a worthy audience for the Gospel. The incident occurred in Joppa, where Jonah likewise had struggled with the problem of preaching to the Gentiles. The Lord’s comment ‘Simon bar Jona’ (Jn. 1:42) may have reflected His understanding that Simon Peter had the characteristics of Jonah even then. Peter preached that all the prophets testify to the fact that both Jew and Gentile can find salvation in Christ (Acts 10:43)- when it was self-evident that he hadn’t grasped this or believed it, for all his familiarity with the OT. It’s almost as if in his witness he is signalling his own blindness in this area; and thereby his preaching had power, in that he openly admits his own earlier inability to grasp that which he now preaches to others. 

The Father seems to have wanted Peter to make the connection between preaching and recognition of personal sinfulness quite early on. “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Lk. 5:8) was followed by a commission to go preach the Gospel to Israel, just as Isaiah had been brought to the same point and then been sent on a like mission. And yet there later on, Peter’s witness was just as motivated by this same recognition. The Gospel records are transcripts of how those authors preached the Gospel; they would have repeated the same basic message of Jesus so many times that an inspired copy was made. “The word of the Lord (Jesus) endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the Gospel is preached unto you” (1 Pet. 1:25). There is ample reason, chronicled in many commentaries, to believe that Mark’s Gospel is a transcription of that of Peter. If this is so, it becomes highly significant that Mark plays down Peter’s greatness and makes more pointed reference to his failures. Peter's humility comes out in the fact that we learn of Peter's preeminent status after the resurrection only from the other Gospels- and not from Mark (Mt. 16:13-19; Lk. 22:31,32; Jn. 21:4-19). This means that Peter’s witness to the Gospel was inextricably linked with his own sense of unworthiness. Consider the following examples of this:

- Matthew and Luke record a blessing on the disciples because they understood (Mt. 13:16,17; Lk. 10:23,24). But Mark’s record has: “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?”.

- Mark alone records that Peter drew attention to the fact that the fig tree had indeed withered from the roots, just as the Lord had said it would. The implication is that he marvelled at how the Lord’s word had come true, implying less faith than he ought to have had.

- “Who touched my clothes?” seemed to the disciples an unreasonable question, “and the disciples were saying so with a bluntness which is mellowed in the other accounts” apart from Mark’s (L.G. Sargent, Mark p. 79).

- Peter’s recognition that Jesus was indeed the Christ is recorded by Mark in great brevity, without the acolade from the Lord Jesus which Matthew records (Mk. 8:29). Peter realized that at that stage he didn’t really know the full implications of knowing Jesus as Lord and Christ.

- The same writer comments regarding the disciples’ response to the Lord’s invitation for the disciples to provide food for the hungry crowd: “In their retort to Jesus as Mark gives it there is a touch of impatience which is softened in the other accounts” (p. 93).

- Likewise it is Mark [Peter] who records that the Lord’s teaching had made all foods clean; for He had said that a man is defiled by what comes out of him rather than what goes into him. But it was Peter who had been so so slow to realize this, as was well known through his much publicized account of the events at Caesarea. There he had refused to eat ‘unclean’ animals, quite forgetting the implications of his Lord’s words. And in his recounting of those words as he preached, he makes this apparent.

- “Thou art Petros, and upon this rock [Gk. petra] I will build my church” (Mt. 16:17,18) is carefully ommitted in Mark’s record, as if to downplay any possible self-exaltation in preaching. And Christian preachers can take a lesson from this.

- It is only Mark who records the two cock crowings at the time of Peter’s denial. Peter wished to quietly emphasize the exactness of fulfilment of the Lord’s words about his denial. Mark / Peter likewise record Peter’s words as: “I neither know nor understand what you mean”. The ‘what’ can apply to both Jesus personally as well as the general ‘being with’ Jesus. Peter is admitting that He had denied having any understanding at all of the Lord- the Lord whose knowledge he now preached. One can imagine Peter’s voice quivering as he recounted his Gospel story. Note how Luke says that all the disciples slept in Gethsemane (Lk. 22:45); but Mark [Peter] records how only Peter, James and John slept (Mk. 14:37).

- The record of Peter's denials is really an account of his response to interrogation, and his denials of charges. It is consciously intended to be read in tandem with the account of the behaviour of the Lord Jesus at His interrogation at the same time, and his refusal to deny charges. Peter is portrayed here as the very opposite of the example set by his Lord.

- Only Mark records that the women were told to go and tell the disciples “and Peter”. Although Mark is the shortest Gospel record, it gives the most detail about events connected with Peter's failures- e.g. it is Mark alone who records how Peter stood "in the light of the fire" (Mk. 14:54 RV). 

- Mark 14:19 reads: “And they began to be sorrowful, and to say unto him one by one, Is it I? and another said, Is it I?”. It is easy to assume that this “another” was Judas. But it has been suggested that in spoken Aramaic, “and another said...” would be a device for saying ‘And I, I said...’. If Mark’s Gospel is a verbatim account of Peter’s preaching of the Gospel, this would be so appropriate. Peter would be saying: ‘All the disciples couldn’t imagine it was them who would betray Jesus; and I, yes I also asked if it was me who would betray Him. I was so sure I wouldn’t’. The record in Mark 14 then goes on to describe how Peter did effectively betray / deny the Lord.

- Mark’s [Peter’s] Gospel omits many incidents, but also uses the device of repetition to stress what the writer considers significant. In Mk. 14:68 he records himself as having said: “I know  not, neither understand I what thou sayest”. He stresses the nature of his own rejection of knowledge of the Lord. A similar awareness of the weakness of the flesh is found in 7:21: “From within, out of the heart of man...”.

- In Acts 3:4, Peter commanded the lame man: “Look on us”. The lame man responded, and the people were amazed at the subsequent miracle. But Peter then tells them: “Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this man? or why fasten ye your eyes on us [i.e., why do you ‘look on us’], as though by our own power or godliness we had made him to walk? The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Servant Jesus” (Acts 3:12,13). I wonder if Peter was here publically acknowledging an inappropriate turn of phrase, when he had asked the lame man to ‘Look on us’- and immediately, he humbly and publically corrected himself, redirecting all glory and all eyes to the Father and Son. 

It was for all these reasons that the Lord could observe that “thou art Peter (Petros – a little stone), and upon this rock (Petra) I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Mt.16: 18). It was in the smallness of Peter that his greatness lay- something so great as the ecclesia could only be built on the preaching of a man small in his own eyes.