Last week’s blog post generated a lot of comments and buzz. Most people agreed that there was a need for us to put aside personal disdain for others who are different within our religious community and begin to work together for a common purpose. One person left this comment, “…I also think that it is important to come together where we have commonality. However, I also think distinction is important for vision and mission…” Exactly! I want to be clear that I in no way believe that we should strive for a homogeneous Messianic Judaism. To reiterate a scripture that I quoted in the last post:
18 But now God has placed the parts—each one of them—in the body just as He desired.19 If they were all one part, where would the body be?20 But now there are many parts, yet one body.21 The eye cannot tell the hand, “I don’t need you!” or in turn the head to the feet, “I don’t need you!”1 Corinthians 12:18-21Copyright © 2014 – Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society
As Yeshua created the leadership structure for the first Messianic believers, what types of leaders did He put in place? What characteristics did they possess? How did they lead and guide the followers of Yeshua? Today I want to look at one man who was a key figure in the Messianic community during the time of Yeshua and following his resurrection.
In Matthew 4:18, we are introduced to Simon Peter and Andrew, two brothers who are fisherman in the Sea of Galilee. Simple men, presumably not the most educated, and certainly not highly religious. Simon is the first of the disciples and plays a key part in the Messianic community.
And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him.
Matthew 4:19-20 ESV
No questions. No hesitation, simply faith and obedience. Simon was the disciple who boldly recognized and proclaimed Yeshua’s Messiah-ship and was granted immense spiritual power and responsibility.
13 When Yeshua came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”14 They answered, “Some say John the Immerser, others say Elijah, and still others say Jeremiah or one of the other prophets.”15 He said, “But who do you say I am?”16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”17 Yeshua said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven!18 And I also tell you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My community; and the gates of Sheol will not overpower it.19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you forbid on earth will have been forbidden in heaven and what you permit on earth will have been permitted in heaven.”20 Then He ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that He was the Messiah.Matthew 16:13-20Copyright © 2014 – Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society
Can Simon also be seen as impetuous? Is there much of a difference between faith and impetuousness?
22 Right away, Yeshua made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away.23 After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the hillside by Himself to pray. And when evening came, He was there alone.24 But the boat was already a long way from land, tossed around by the waves, for the wind was against it.25 Now in the fourth watch of the night, Yeshua came to them, walking on the sea.26 But when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It’s a ghost!” And they cried out with fear.27 But immediately, Yeshua spoke to them, saying, “Take courage! I am. Don’t be afraid.”28 Answering, Peter said to Him, “Master, if it’s You, command me to come to You on the water.”29 And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water to go to Yeshua.30 But seeing the wind, he became terrified. And beginning to sink, he cried out, saying, “Master, save me!”31 Immediately Yeshua reached out His hand and grabbed him. And He said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased.33 And those in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You really are Ben-Elohim!”Matthew 14:22-33Copyright © 2014 – Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society
Those who tend to see the world in black and white often make bold proclamations that may seem insincere when they don’t live up to them. Simon Peter was a man of bold statements and epic failures.
26 After singing the Hallel, they went out to the Mount of Olives.27 And Yeshua said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’28 But after I’m raised up, I will go before you to the Galilee.”29 Peter said to Him, “Even though all fall away, I won’t!”30 And Yeshua said to him, “Amen, I tell you, today—this very night—before a rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.”31 But Peter kept insisting exceedingly, “Even if I must die with You, I’ll never deny You!” And they all were saying the same.Mark 14:26-31Copyright © 2014 – Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society
Just one verse later, we see that Simon Peter can’t even keep his eyes open as Yeshua asked, falling asleep as Yeshua prayed frevently. (Mark 14:32-41) As the soldiers and priests come to arrest Yeshua, Simon regains his zeal and cuts off the ear of one of the servants (John 18:1-11) only to have his oft-quoted moment of denial immediately after this. (John 18:15-27)
69 Meanwhile, Peter was sitting in the courtyard. A servant girl came over to him and said, “You also were with Yeshua of the Galilee.”70 But he denied it before everyone, saying, “I don’t know what you’re talking about!”71 When he went onto the porch, another servant girl saw him and said to those who were there, “This man was with Yeshua ha-Natzrati.”72 Again he denied it with an oath: “I don’t know the Man!”73 A little while later, some of the bystanders approached Peter and said to him, “Surely you’re one of them, too—your accent gives you away.”74 Then he began to curse and to swear an oath: “I do not know the Man!” Right then, a rooster crowed.75 Then Peter reminded himself of the word Yeshua had said: “Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” And he went away and wept bitterly.Matthew 26:69-75
Copyright © 2014 – Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society
This man, uncouth, uneducated, brash, full of faith, became the voice of the Messianic believers in Jerusalem in the days following Yeshua’s ascendance. He boldly proclaimed the Word to the authorities and lay people alike (Acts 4:8-12), endured prison (Acts 12:1-11), and performed miracles so that even his very shadow was sought after for healing (Acts 5:15).
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Yeshua.
Acts 4:13 ESV
He fulfilled God’s purpose in Jerusalem, to confound the religious wisdom of the leadership with his God-given knowledge.
19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and bring to nothing the understanding of the intelligent.”20 Where is the wise one? Where is the Torah scholar? Where is the debater of this age? Hasn’t God made foolish the wisdom of the world?21 For seeing that—in God’s wisdom—the world through its wisdom did not know God, God was pleased—through the foolishness of the message proclaimed—to save those who believe.22 For Jewish people ask for signs and Greek people seek after wisdom,1 Corinthians 1:19-22Copyright © 2014 – Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society
Simon Peter’s faith and example were characterized by his personality: loud, charismatic, and yet simple in its trust that he was following the Messiah, the son of God. He performed signs and miracles, and brought the religious knowledge of the spiritual leaders in Jerusalem to its knees as he continued the work of Yeshua among the Jewish people.
Tomorrow we will look at another very different leader that God put into place to fulfill a very different purpose.