History of Simon Peter

 •  12 min. read  •  grade level: 7
Simon Peter's history is deeply instructive and portrays in the main that of every Christian, from the first step in acquaintance with Christ to the state—alas! so rarely attained or maintained -in which the Holy Ghost can without hindrance show forth His power. During this interval the full energy of grace is unfolded, bringing the soul into the knowledge of. Christ and of Christian privileges. We see also the breaking down of soul necessary to enable the believer, after having lost confidence in self, to realize his privileges and follow the Lord in the path marked out by Him.
Peter's history in the Word of God divides itself naturally into two parts, one of which we find in the gospels, and the other in The Acts of the Apostles. The first part corresponds with the
truths mentioned above; the second—at which, God willing, we shall look later on—is filled (though not without failure on the part of the instrument) with the activity of the Holy Ghost in the ministry of Peter, and with that divine power which sustains him as a witness for Christ amidst obstacles and conflict.
The way in which Peter comes in contact with the Lord in Luke's Gospel is worthy of note. (I purposely omit noting what is of interest in Peter's first interview with the Lord in the other gospels. In John's Gospel—chapter 1:42, 43 for instance—Peter knows Him through the instrumentality of his brother Andrew, who had already found in Him the Christ.) Simon's wife's mother (Luke 4:38, 3938And he arose out of the synagogue, and entered into Simon's house. And Simon's wife's mother was taken with a great fever; and they besought him for her. 39And he stood over her, and rebuked the fever; and it left her: and immediately she arose and ministered unto them. (Luke 4:38‑39)) was taken with a great fever which rendered her helpless. Jesus heals her and fits her to serve Him. It is often thus that the soul meets Christ for the first time. It comes in contact with Him by means of the blessings bestowed by Him on others. When the moment comes for Him to reveal Himself to our own hearts, we find that He is not altogether a stranger. The Lord uses this preparatory knowledge to shorten the work by which our consciences are awakened to a sense of sin, and our hearts to a sense of grace. In this Gospel Simon Peter knew Jesus from having seen Him at work in his house.
The son of Jonas was a fisherman by trade; he possessed what was requisite for catching-fish -a boat and nets. He had used them to obtain what he wanted, and (in chapter 5) had worked all night for this purpose, but without any result. Thus the natural man employs his faculties and the means placed at his disposal, to obtain something which will fill and satisfy his heart; but it is in vain; the net remains empty. His labor yields nothing which can answer to the deep need of his soul. The night passes, and the day is about to dawn when even as a fisherman he will no longer be able to labor in pursuit of happiness. Simon and his companions, having taken nothing, quit their boats and wash their nets. They set about washing them, for they had taken up nothing but the mud from the bottom of the sea; and when this is done they will recommence fishing. Is it not thus with a man of the world? His labors to attain a desired end are renewed every day without success.
But when man's powerlessness has been made evident Jesus appears, seemingly otherwise occupied than with Peter. He teaches the multitudes, but in the midst of His ministry His heart is with Simon, and He does not lose sight of him. Entering into one of the ships which was Simon's, He prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. He separates Peter with Himself from the crowd, and thus he hears all the Lord says. Jesus had been no stranger to him previous to this; now he listens to His word, and his position of isolation with Him only contributes to render him the more attentive. Still, from verse 5 we may infer that the conviction of the authority of the Word was all that he retained.
After this we find the Lord more specially occupied with Peter. "Launch out into the deep," said He, and let down your nets for a draft." Peter had done that all night, but up to this it was by the will of man; now it is at the word of the Lord. Peter believes this word, and submits to it. The first result of God's Word is to produce faith, and faith accepts its authority and obeys. The Lord has spoken; that is enough for faith. But Jesus addresses Peter in a yet more powerful way, and shows him in whose presence he is, thus reaching his conscience. He, the Creator who disposes of everything, collects the fishes in broad daylight, when there had been none at night, and fills Peter's net with them. He fills the human vessels with blessings such as they are unable to contain without breaking, and which surpass the needs of the disciple. His companions arrive with a second ship, which begins to sink likewise—so abundant are the riches given by the Lord of glory.
Peter sees (v. 8) all this blessing, but it places him for the first time, as he is, in the presence of Him who is its source and administrator. Thus it is not only the word of Jesus which strikes him, but Jesus Himself, and the glory of His Person. A revolution takes place in his soul. The blessing, instead of producing joy, causes conviction of sin, and fear, because it brings him into the presence of the Lord of glory. On the other hand, the sense of his condition, while giving him the terrible certainty that Jehovah ought to repulse him, yet casts him at the feet of Jesus as his only resource. Similarly in Psalm 130:1-41<<A Song of degrees.>> Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord. 2Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. 3If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? 4But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared. (Psalm 130:1‑4) we see the soul calling for succor from the One whom it has offended. If He marks iniquities it is all over with it; it is lost if the question of sins is not settled. But the God who has been sinned against pardons. God is known in His love.
It is blessed for the sinner to know his real condition, the judgment which is his due, and the holiness of the Lord. "Depart from me; for I am a sinful man." Peter judges himself to he a sinner and unfit for the presence of God. He trembles before His holiness and righteousness. As yet he only knows half instinctively what grace is, and is ignorant of how God can be just in justifying him that believes in Jesus; but he is at His feet and he does not flee away because if there is any hope it is there. As long as he was occupied in washing his nets he knew neither God nor himself; but now he knows both, and it is a remarkable thing that he does not judge what he has done, hut what he is. Many souls acknowledge that they have to repent of their guilty acts, and judge them; but they have not been brought to see the source of these acts. Underneath the sins there is "a sinful man." The sense of God's presence opens our eyes, shows us what we are, and makes us see that our only refuge is with the One who could condemn us.
Fear had laid hold of Peter, but the Lord never allows fear to exist in His presence. He speaks and banishes the fear because He is the Lord of grace. He allows everything else to remain—weakening in no wise the effects of the work in the soul—hut He removes the fear. "Depart from me." No, the Lord will never depart. He says, "Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men"; or, If I had not met thee to save thee, I could not save others by thy instrumentality. He does more than make Simon Peter happy; He bestows a fresh blessing on him, promising him service; so that, instead of remaining a sinner, Peter becomes a servant, able to leave all and follow Jesus.
Peter going to Jesus on the water
Jesus had just satisfied the poor in Israel with bread, according to the prophecy in Psalm 132:1515I will abundantly bless her provision: I will satisfy her poor with bread. (Psalm 132:15), fulfilling His character of Messiah in the midst of a people who did not receive Him. After having done them good, He sent away the multitudes, separating Himself in figure from Israel whom He was
about to abandon for a time. Evening being come, the Lord had gone up alone into a mountain apart to pray. Then the night had come for the twelve whom. Jesus had constrained to get into a ship. His connection with the people was over, but He had a remnant for Himself who were sailing to the other shore. The disciples were sore troubled, alone during those hours of darkness on the tempestuous sea, when in the fourth watch of the night, toward three o'clock in the morning, the Lord set out to go to them. His coming was the signal for the renewal of His relations with those whom He will again call His people. He came to them on the angry sea amidst difficulties which were nothing to His blessed feet, but which were their pathway for learning to know Him. It is thus that He will make use of "Jacob's trouble." It is a touching scene, and one from which we Christians can draw a moral lesson, though what concerns us more personally is the scene which takes place between Jesus and Peter.
Peter's first act had been to cast himself at Jesus' knees, acknowledging his sinful condition; the• second, to set out to meet Him. One cannot insist too strongly on this point. To go forth to meet the Savior follows conversion, and precedes service. Peter, having as yet only the promise of being made a fisher of men, was already impelled to go to meet Him. He turned to look at the One who descended from the mountain-top, and this was but the beginning of the glorious revelations he was to receive as to the Person of Christ. Dear reader, have you gone out to meet Him? If you have not done so since your conversion, you are not yet beyond the knowledge of salvation; and you cannot pretend to the deeper acquaintance with Christ, which was Peter's later on, if first of all the Savior from heaven has not become your object and filled you with the desire to go to Him.
Peter's knowledge at first is very superficial. "Lord, if it be Thou," he says. But it suffices for the start. Everything depends for him on the identity of the person, and if it be He, His word is sufficient to make Peter quit the ship: "Bid me come unto Thee on the water." It was a serious thing to leave the place of apparent security to walk where there was no way, but, as I said, the word of Christ sufficed him. He knew its power. At His word he had let go the net; at
His word he sets forth. It enables him to walk on the water even as it had brought him to know the Savior. "Bid me come unto Thee." In asking this favor Peter had no thought of making an experiment, or showing off his cleverness in overcoming obstacles; what he wanted was to go to Him. Christ attracted him, and for the moment he thought not of wind or waves. If the natural heart ignores the path which leads to Christ, faith finds a way amidst difficulties of all kinds, in the night as in the storm, and makes use of them to get nearer to the Lord. Faith quits the boat, the only apparent shelter, not esteeming it to he the true place of safety and, according to a remarkable saying of one of the ancient philosophers, "embarks on a divine word" to reach Jesus, whose presence is worth more to him than getting to the other shore.
We often begin well; the first faith and the first love, the simplicity of a heart filled by an Object, sustains us, and then, alas! we allow the eye to be diverted from its Object. Satan had sought to trouble the disciples by making them afraid of Jesus (v. 26), but they soon learned from His lips to be of good cheer.
Then the enemy alarms Peter with difficulties. What folly to listen to him; for do not difficulties lead us to Christ? Poor unbelieving creatures that we are! In our trials, as in our needs, the only thing we forget is the very thing we ought not to lose sight of—divine power. In the preceding scene (v. 17) the disciples had not forgotten to count their loaves and fishes, nor to reckon the resources of the villages, but they had not counted on the Lord's presence. Peter also, after having set forth, began to think of the violence of the wind, and to look back on his own strength, forgetting that he had before him a power of attraction stronger than the polar magnet which would infallibly bring him to Jesus. And he begins to sink.
Who has not, like Peter, been on the point of sinking? Have not the Church and individuals shared the same fate? But a cry bursts from the lips of the disciple, "Lord, save me"; not "Depart from me," for the believer knows the Savior, and that His character is to save. Peter calls for help just as he is on the point of attaining his object, and Jesus has only to stretch forth His hand to draw him to Himself. One moment more of
faith, and the disciple would not have sunk. Shall we still doubt, dear readers? We may with regard to many things, but never of Christ. Let us trust Him who is
able to save us to the end; for the storm will not cease until the Lord and His own are definitely united.