What do we know about Peter? He was an apparently unschooled fisherman, good at his craft, but clearly hungry for something more. Once he had encountered Jesus he and his brother Andrew abandoned his family business to follow this enigmatic teacher – I wonder what the rest of his family thought about that?
Peter was the one who got the revelation of who Jesus was, declaring “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16); what he did not understand was that Jesus was a Messiah who had come to rescue from the kingdom of darkness and establish God’s Kingdom on earth, rather than raise a rebellion against the occupation of Rome. He rebuked Jesus when He spoke of His necessary death and resurrection.
Wasn’t Peter the guy who was always opening his mouth and putting his foot in it? He was the one who swore that he would die with Jesus rather than disown Him, but when Jesus was arrested Peter deserted Him. He followed at a distance, denied that He even knew Jesus three times, and at the rooster calls reminder of Jesus words went outside and wept bitterly at the state of his own heart.
Even after Jesus resurrection and appearance to his disciples Peter seemed lost in his guilt, and encouraged his friends to go back to their old occupation of fishing. When Jesus revealed himself on the beach and commissioned Peter to care for His people, Peter seemed more concerned about what Jesus was going to ask John to do, than the amazing conversation he had just had with His risen Lord. (How many of us can identify with that!) (John 21)
But Jesus saw more in Peter than Peter himself knew was there. Peter’s original name was Simon, when first introduced to Jesus, John 1:42 tells us “Jesus looked at him and said “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter).” Peter means rock, though he was not behaving in a very stable, rock-like fashion at that point! Peter was also one of the three closest to Jesus, who were taken up the mountain to experience Jesus’s transfiguration. He was the one who dared to walk on water towards Jesus. We tend to focus on his sinking when he doubted, but he did initially respond to Jesus and get out of the boat and walk!
So, Peter was a bit of a mixture, but not necessarily one on whom you could depend in a crisis. That is until, as Jesus promised, “…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses…..” (Acts 1:8). Peter was baptised in the Holy Spirit!
Acts 2:14 – 41 records part of the very powerful sermon Peter preached to thousands of “…..God fearing Jews fromevery nation under heaven.” (Acts 2:5). These were the same people who had weeks earlier cried for Jesus to be crucified and who had preferred the release of Barabbas, a convicted murderer, to an innocent man who had healed many sick and set many free. The Jews, who had come to Jerusalem from many nations to celebrate Pentecost, had just witnessed the strangest phenomenon, when Peter and his 120 companions started declaring “…the wonders of God in our own tongues!” (Acts 2:11). Did Peter and his companions run back to the upper room and hide? No! They boldly stood up and Peter addressed the crowd, using much scripture to explain that this was the fulfilment of the promise God had made through the prophet Joel to pour out his Spirit on all people.
Peter confronted the crowd with their own part in the crucifixion of Jesus – “.... you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.” He went on to declare that God had raised Jesus from the dead, and to prove from the scriptures that this Jesus was the promised Lord and Messiah. “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” (Acts 2:36, ). How bold is that!
The people did not attack Peter, but were cut to the heart and asked what they should do. Peter, who now understood what sort of Messiah Jesus was, encouraged them to repent and be baptised for the forgiveness of their sins, and promised that they too would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. And the church grew by 3000!
I am very grateful that Peter said “The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:39). That includes you and me! Peter was transformed from a man who hid in an upstairs room, to someone who boldly fulfilled his calling in God. We too can be transformed to people boldly fulfilling our calling, and the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a gift that we can ask for and receive. If you are not sure whether you have done so I encourage you to talk to one of the elders. And this is not a one off – Paul encourages us to “…be being filled with the Spirit..” (Ephesians 5: 18).
I am also fascinated by the amount of scripture that Peter quoted in his sermon. Did the Holy Spirit bring it spontaneously to his mind, or maybe he and the 120 had been searching the scriptures and receiving revelation from God whilst they were hiding and praying in their upper room for the fifty days before the coming of the Holy Spirit? At the end of Luke, which covers the same timeframe as the very beginning of Acts 1, it is recorded that Jesus said to his disciples ““This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Then He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures” LUKE 24:44,45). I don’t know, but I would definitely encourage us to read and ask the Holy Spirit to open our minds to understand the scriptures, so that the Holy Spirit can remind us of them when we need to explain something of our faith to others, or even encourage ourselves!
So let us, like Peter, be a people transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit so that we can boldly fulfil God’s calling on our lives, and be part of seeing Jesus change everything in our town and this world.