Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. [Matthew 5:5 ESV]
And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach. [Mark 3:13-14 ESV]
We have selective hearing when it comes to saying we will do one thing and then proceed to do the exact opposite. Our tendency is to focus upon our expectations and fit the words we hear into those expectations without challenging or questioning them. If we paid attention to God’s whispers and His known will we would act differently because we would think differently because we would be different. How much of what we do is done unconsciously because of habit and ingrained expectations which then blocks any alternate action.
After Jesus chose the twelve he empowered them and sent them out to do His work. “And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction” [Matthew 10:1 ESV]. Their instructions were to demand unclean spirits remove themselves from people’s bodies. They were to heal people, whether from disease or infirmity. Matthew 10 adds they were given the ability to raise the dead. And, they were to tell these people, everyone the encountered, to repent for God’s kingdom was at hand. This was John’s and Jesus’ message and now their message. As servants of Jesus, for His disciples were His servants, they worked and spoke with His authority.
Of these twelve three received special attention from Jesus. James, and his brother John and Peter saw things and heard words from Jesus not shared with the other twelve. At times all twelve argued. At least twice their arguments were over who was the greatest among their group. Where they not paying attention to Jesus’ words and actions? How irresponsible would it be for them to add their expectations to His words and grasp at authority not theirs? They would cease being His servant and become their own through shear rebellion. He is the greatest in the kingdom.
After Jesus’ ascension, James was killed by Herod, “and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also” [Acts 12:3 ESV]. By this time Peter is recognized as the leader of the new Church. After Acts 12, John is no longer mentioned in the growth of the Church. Peter is mentioned by Paul in Galatians as being the apostle to the Jews in Galatians 2:7 . Please remember all of the disciples selected by Jesus were leaders in the early Church.
What is it about Peter that made him the leader of the Apostles?
When Peter acted, or reacted, it is with his whole being. He never held back, even when recognizing his own sin. In Luke 5 Jesus calls him and his partners, James and John, to follow Him. They are fishermen who know Jesus from previous experiences and encounters. This encounter was different for these three men and especially for Peter. Jesus did an almost minor miracle. Before the miracle Peter saw Jesus as just another man, just another itinerant preacher tickling the ears of those gathered to hear him. He had no time for such laziness but reluctantly made time for Jesus, after a hard, unsuccessful night’s work. Read the whole story.
On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, Simon’s boat, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”
And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.
But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon.
And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him. [Luke 5:1-11 ESV]
Peter recognized the truth of his sinfulness and begged Jesus to leave him. That which is sinful cannot exist in the presence of that which is not sinful. Man cannot stand before God without sin first being covered, hidden from Him, or expunged, or dying and being removed from His presence. Peter, at that moment, the beginning of his training, became “poor in spirit” against his will. He was forced to see the truth by obvious circumstances.
Then, at the end of his training, while Jesus is standing in a courtyard facing the those who would soon murder him, Peter three times denied knowing Him. This was the fulfillment of a prediction Jesus had made only a few hours earlier. As soon as Peter denied Him the third time “the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly” [Luke 22:61-62 ESV]. Peter realized the consequences of his sin and “mourned” in a way he had never experienced. Saying he was willing to die for Jesus Peter was confronted by the lie in his boast. Both of these characteristics, being “poor in spirit” and “mourning” precede “meekness” and make it real.
Peter showed himself a hard working man unafraid of taking chances. If he saw the Lord doing something then he followed. When he saw Jesus walking on water, surrounded by the churning water and waves of the Sea of Galilee, enveloped in a raging storm, he asked to come to Him. All the other disciples were afraid when they saw Him, as they struggled against the waves to move their boat forward. Peter, an experienced seaman, knowing the dangers faced by all, the deadliness of the Sea, the ferocity of the storms, got out of the boat. None of the others followed.
Peter was the one with the suggestions, the boldness to confront the religious hypocrites, to speak to the Gentiles called by God, and even admit his own sin. When he sinned he faced it squarely, repented, and moved ahead. God and Peter struggled together, like Jacob wrestling the Angel of the Lord. Like Moses, he had to be dragged into the ministry when called by Jesus. He was compelled to follow in a way he could not avoid. Like David when he sinned greatly he repented deeply and thoroughly. Like Nehemiah he prayed continually. He inherited the world, but not as the world viewed as successful. As the apostle to the Jews he was the recognized leader of the Church in the world. Not the head of the Church, which belongs only to Jesus, but a recognized authority for the time he continued to live as one who had been chosen by and walked with the Lord of all.