A Man Called Peter

Eugene Higgins

Mark 14:24; Mark 16:7; Acts 2:38

I think with a moment's reflection you would probably agree that what Jacob was among the patriarchs, and what Elijah was among the prophets, Peter is among the disciples. You feel a kinship with him. You might read Abraham's life and say to yourself, there's faith, devotion and trust in God that I don't think I will ever reach. You might look at Elisha with his double portion of Elijah's spirit and say I just can't imagine living the way Elisha lived. You might look at John leaning on the bosom of the Lord Jesus and say I just can't imagine that if I were one of the disciples that I would be so devoted like John. But there's something about stumbling Peter ... always ready to speak up, sometimes saying the wrong thing, sometimes saying the right thing, there's something about him that makes you stop and feel that you're looking in a mirror.

The Lord Jesus says to the disciples, "All ye shall be offended because of me this night..." But Peter said, "although all shall be offended, yet will not I." I think that we can learn from that the need to be submissive to the word of God. Is there any difference between the Lord Jesus stating a thing and our reading it? Any difference between a command coming from the Saviour or a warning coming from the lips of the Saviour and our opening His word today and receiving help and instruction, warning or guidance from the word of God that is written?

You can see that it's like finding something in the Scriptures where God says "beware of this," it might hurt you and we say to the Lord, "well, Lord, that may have hurt others, but I think I can do this and I don't think it will be a problem for me." It is a reminder that we need to be submissive to the word of God.

You remember that instance in the Old Testament where the king of Israel was avoiding traps that were set for him. And a heathen king says to his courtiers, "why won't you tell me who the spy is? We laid plans and the king of Israel seems to know about it." And they said, "It's not us, it's Elisha. What you planned here in quiet, Elisha is telling him, because God is informing him." So when the warning came from that prophet to the king of Israel, he was able to avoid the trap, because God was forewarning him. You remember the Psalmist saying, "by the word of thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer." That's what is happening here, but Peter was not listening or heeding the warning.

I don't know what would have happened if Peter had turned to the Lord and said, "Lord, save me from myself. Don't let me do that. Help me." I think I could maybe make a stab at what the Lord would have done. But instead we see a man who is saying "Lord, just a moment. I think you're making a mistake here. I would never do what you're saying."

We need to be submissive, every one of us, for we'll never outgrow this. The oldest believer ought to be saying yes in his heart. We will never outgrow the need to bow to the word of God.

Peter says "but...". "But Peter said although all shall offended in thee, yet will not I." I think I also learn the lesson here that we need to be appreciative of our brethren. You can almost see Peter turn, (because the Lord Jesus had said "all ye shall be offended this night"), and you can almost hear him say, "Ahem.... I can't speak for the rest of them Lord, ...there's a few I've wondered about for years.... but I'll never do it. I'll never do it." How did Peter get a superior attitude toward his brethren? What led him to feel that somehow he was made of different stuff than them? More to the point, did you ever find yourself feeling that you don't need your brethren? That we don't need one another? Brethren and sisters, is there anyone we can do without? For a moment can we somehow think that we're superior to the rest and that we are not prone to the mistakes they are prone to?

Somehow it got into Peter's head that he was a cut above and it reminds us that we need to appreciate our brethren. All of them. Before I leave this, notice that it underscores for us that we need to be sensitive to our own weakness and vulnerability. Because Peter says "if I should DIE with thee.... Lord, let it go to the extreme ... you're saying I would deny thee but take it to where I've got to give the ultimate sacrifice... if I should DIE with thee yet I will not deny thee in any wise. Under no circumstances, at no time, could what you're saying become true of me!" You don't have to be long on the Christian road before you become aware of how weak you really are, how vulnerable, how much we need God - how little we can do without His help day by day to preserve us.

So when I see "but Peter" it reminds me of a man who eventually would learn the value of the Word of God. Remember, this is the man who said later on, "then remembered I the word of the Lord." A man who was comparing what he was seeing with what the Lord said, and realizing this is the touchstone, this is how I know what's happening. A man who would appreciate his brethren, a man who could commend the very man that verbally slaps him, and call him "our beloved brother Paul." A man who would be sensitive to his own weakness and vulnerability, and would appeal to the people of God when he would write to them in his first epistle.

But notice please the words in Mark 16 "and Peter." Because here is his restoration. Remember what it says in I Cor. 15? "...and that He was seen of Cephas." The Lord is risen indeed and hath appeared to Simon was the language of the people in the upper room. I'm not sure I could really put it all in chronological order. Mary Magdalene apparently would be the first that he appeared to, then the two women in Matthew 28, then somewhere along the line there's the two on the way to Emaeus, and then there's the visit with Peter.

John 21 is public and 1 Cor. 15 is private. We wouldn't know anything about it except that we've had it happen to us. Haven't you? And there's nobody knows but the Lord and you what he said to you alone to bring you back. Nobody would know how far your feet were wandering, or how close you were to the edge or how near your life was to being swallowed up, but the Lord takes a personal dealing with his shattered vessel to make it again another vessel, as seems good to Him. Yes, He appears privately to Cephas. I wonder what that was like? What did Peter say when the Lord suddenly appeared to him. Did he search for words to say 'I'm sorry, I wish I had listened to you? I can't believe I said what I said. I'm useless, helpless. Just leave me Lord."

If he said "Depart from me for I am a sinful man " at the beginning of his service, I wonder what he was saying in that private meeting. Perhaps he was saying nothing. Maybe he had learned just to keep his mouth shut and listen to the words of grace. Because in that private meeting the Lord Jesus bound up, the Lord Jesus fulfilled that delightful prophecy, "the bruised reed shall he not break, the smoking flax he will not blow out." And instead of taking Peter, who was now shattered and broken and one puff from an enemy would have blown out the light, the Lord Jesus fans that flame, takes the broken reed and He makes him again another vessel.

Now when you come to John 21, it's public. I think it is very gracious of the Lord Jesus. When Peter would get up and say "I have a message from God' who would dare to say, 'Peter, who are you to be feeding the lambs?" Because everybody knew that the Lord publicly said in front of all of the disciples, "YOU feed my lambs, you shepherd them, you feed them." Only Peter and his Lord knew what happened privately. just as there are many times when the Lord Jesus has come just to you in the quiet of your home, and you have felt the keenness of your failure. Instead of shelving you, he has restored you. John 21 is the public meeting so that there was not only fellowship, but fitness for service.

Now notice when you come to Acts 2, you have this man's return to service. If you take chapter 4 and chapter 2 where you have that expression "then Peter", ("then Peter stood forth," " then Peter spoke"), you have a man filled with the Holy Ghost. And you have a forceful message because as he speaks, his words are thundering in Jerusalem. As he accuses them of the murder of the Son of God, and calls on them to repent he says "this is the stone that was set at nought of you builders. He's become the head of the corner ... there is salvation in no other name." And what a fruitful ministry as we watch a man reaching to thousands and bringing them to the Saviour that he once denied.

Who can tell what purposes God has for your life. When you're running a race it is strange to hear someone say, "run with patience." "Run with patience the race that's set before you." You know what kind of race we like? Where you're called on to give it all, you give a short spurt and pour it on, and then you're done. We're not in a 50-yard-dash, we're in a lifelong marathon. We're running with patience the race that's set before us.

Sometimes it's possible for a believer to fall out of the running because he is overcome with how well he has run. He's thinking about how fine a runner he is. How well, how long, how nicely he's striding and he doesn't even see the hole and he falls. Sometimes we fall out of the running because we're looking back on how poorly we've run, and we think 'what's the point of going another step?" The Lord can't do anything with me.

So I get a tremendous amount of encouragement from these two words, "then Peter." Who is this? Who is that speaking for his Lord? The same one who said "I don't know him, no I don't know him. I'm not a Galilean, no you're wrong. Listen, if I know him, let lightning fall from the skies, let God curse me, I do not know that man." He's now saying, "this is the stone, this is the one that you rejected but God has exalted Him, and there's salvation nowhere else but in Him." Who else but your Lord is so gracious as to take up somebody like that and use him? And who else but your Lord is so gracious that he bears with us, knows all about us, and still wants to use you and me for His glory?

So I hope we'll learn the lessons, simple as they are, from this man's life. And that increasingly through life until the Lord comes, we will know usefulness for Him in His glorious service. In the service of the best of masters I hope that we will all find something to do that will be for the glory of the Lord at His coming again.