E42: Why Peter may be one of the most inspiring people in the Bible!
PODCAST: Have you ever thought about just how relatable the Apostle Peter is?
Peter the disciple might be the apostle that we know the most about from the accounts written in the Bible. And what we find when we read these stories about him is that he is a very relatable man. In this episode Kathy and Julia have an animated discussion about Peter – Julia’s self-proclaimed “favorite apostle” – and how what we read about him as a man and a disciple, can fill us with hope for our own lives.
Transcript: “Living the Gospel” podcast, Episode 42: Why Peter may be one of the most inspiring people in the Bible!
This is ActiveChristianity’s “Living the Gospel” podcast. Join us as we explore different aspects of the gospel according to the Bible, and how we can put this into practice in daily life.
Kathy: Hi everyone! I’m Kathy.
Julia: And I’m Julia.
Kathy: And we are your hosts for “Living the Gospel” on this Wednesday morning.
Julia: Lucky you!
Kathy: Lucky us! That we get to do this!
Julia: That’s what I meant to say!
Kathy: Today, we’re actually going to go back to a topic that we’ve mentioned before.
Julia: In passing, sort of …
Kathy: In passing. We brought it up and then we thought, “You know what, this is something we actually want to talk about for a whole podcast!”
Julia: So, today, we’re going to talk about the apostle Peter, who, as you may already know, we’re kind of … He’s kind of our fave … He’s my fave, anyway! Peter is interesting because – and I don’t want to say this in a way that comes off like we’re trying to drag Peter’s name through the mud, but he’s somebody who through several stories in the gospels, you could in the early days of his discipleship, you could actually see his flesh several times.
Kathy: Yeah, so, I think it’s like, we said it last time, he’s a very relatable person. And actually, it’s interesting, he’s written about more, his personality and things, stories about him, are written about more than any other, any of the other of the disciples for whatever reason. So, you get to see who he was, kind of, as a person in the gospels.
Julia: So anyways, the point of that is not just that we get to see that he often did things imperfectly, but actually for me, he’s maybe the most inspirational apostle to read about because, as you start to read in the book of Acts, after Jesus died and the Holy Spirit came down and the disciples all got the Holy Spirit, then Peter’s trajectory changed completely and he started to really get victory and a lot of boldness and then, when you read his letters that he wrote, there’s so much content there.
Kathy: And it’s actually interesting too, because I think, when you read about Peter in the gospels and you read these stories, like he started to walk on water and then, after a while, he started to doubt, or what was it – when the waves, it started to get a bit stormy. And then he started to doubt, and he started to sink and he called to Jesus for help. Or if you think about that story, or when Jesus was telling them about the things that He had to suffer and then Peter took Jesus aside to tell Him that He shouldn’t talk like that, and this is funny, “Peter took Jesus aside …” I don’t know, just the way it says that … “I gotta tell Jesus; this isn’t how things should be done!”
Julia: Right, well, and just getting defensive on His behalf. Like, “Oh, You shouldn’t have to suffer these things. Not You, of all people,” kind of attitude.
Kathy: Yeah, so it’s interesting; you read the stories in the gospels, where you see how he is, and then you read the letters that were written at the end of his life and you can actually see the direct solutions to these things that are obviously in his nature, that you can see in these stories, and then you read the letters. So, you can see that he worked with those things over the years because the letters were written at the end his life, more or less, I think.
Julia: I think he was older.
Kathy: Yeah, he worked over the years with these things, and then he had these solutions for them that he could share with other people.
Julia: Right. For me, the reason that this is so inspiring is because it kind of removes this excuse that Satan wants to come at you with, that, “My nature is too garbage to be saved.” You know, if we look back at these stories – and again, we’re only going through these things to illustrate this point, not because we want to drag out Peter’s flesh …
Kathy: Obviously not …
Julia: Some of these stories just show, kind of, what was in his flesh that really, we can all relate to. For example, there’s a story in Luke 5 when he’s fishing with his brother and a few friends and they’re having no success, and then Jesus stops by and He says, “‘Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.’ But Simon answered and said to Him, ‘Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.’” And it’s kind of like, I could be reading a bit into the intonation, but it kind of feels like, “Yeah, who is this guy with this suggestion? I’ve been doing this all night and He’s going to walk up here after two seconds and tell me what to do and think He has a right answer?” So, it sounds to me he was a little bit like, “OK, sure, we’ll do this,” almost humoring Him. And then he did it, and immediately the nets were filled with fish and then it says, “When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!’” So, you actually see two things in the story: one is, I would say pride – isn’t that just so in our human nature, that if we’re trying to do something and maybe it’s frustrating, and someone tries to come and give us a solution, right away we’re like, “Who are you to come and think you’re going to show me how to do things?”
Kathy: That’s true!
Julia: But then the second that he realized that he was in the wrong, right away he was asking for forgiveness. So, it shows, actually an incredible humility that he had.
Kathy: A poorness in spirit.
Julia: And I think, I mean, we know that that was a huge key to why it began to go so well for him, was that he had that attitude of mind. He kind of, if you want to say it that way, he kind of messed up a lot in the beginning, but in pretty much every story, you see that he humbled himself and was immediately repentant in spirit and humble about it and asking for forgiveness, too. And then, of course there’s the ultimate story that we know, when Jesus prophesied that Peter would deny him three times.
Kathy: Yeah …
Julia: And Peter, he was so, he was so zealous, it seems like. And he swore … This story is in all four of the gospels, it’s retold, and each time he swears, “Lord, I’ll never, I would never do that!” He actually says; “Even if I die, I’ll never deny you!” And then, half a day later, three times he swears, “I do not know this man!” And yes, he was afraid for his own life, because they were out to get the disciples because they knew Jesus, but also just fear of man and … all these things that lie in us, just fear of how this will affect my honor, fear of how it will affect me in a human way on an earthly level and just this cowardliness, I guess. And yeah, so he fell in a huge way there, but then it says that every time he did that, he wept bitterly over it. So, you can see that he really sorrowed over the sin that he saw in himself.
Kathy: For me, I also … I read through these stories about Peter and I recognize myself in almost every single story. Like, the walking on water and he begins to sink because he doubts, and getting argumentative with Jesus about the throwing the nets over, and like when he fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane when he was supposed to be awake praying with Jesus. I just recognize myself so much …
Julia: Or the one where … the one we talked about last time, where he’s like, “Hey, what about this guy?” Jesus was like, “What is that to you?” Isn’t that all of us by nature? To just look around and be so consumed with what other people are doing?
Kathy: And I think that it’s very easy for us to be like, when it comes to transformation … OK, I recognize myself in these stories about Peter. I obviously have the same flesh as Peter. This flesh that we read about, that has nothing good in it. And it’s easy, I find anyways, easy for myself to think, “Well, Peter had something special.” Peter, he knew Jesus, he lived with Jesus. God gave him a special grace because his ministry was to build the early church. And it is true that he had a gift of grace from God, and Paul writes about those gifts in Corinthians, the gifts of the Spirit. And he was a gifted man in that way, that God gave him tools to build the church … be who he was for us. But at the same time, it wasn’t like …
Julia: We all know that these gifts of grace actually have nothing to do with personal transformation, right? They’re tools God gives you to build the church.
Kathy: Yeah, so it wasn’t that God gave him a better flesh after he got the Holy Spirit.
Julia: Right. That’s not what happened.
Kathy: The flesh was the same, and he still had to take up his cross and deny himself every day.
Julia: But something changed. If you start to read in the beginning of Acts, which I was doing last week, and it’s so interesting to read those stories of the very first apostles building the church together. As we know, in the second chapter of Acts is when all the early disciples are gathered in the upper room there and the Holy Spirit comes over them. We know that the Holy Spirit couldn’t come before in that way because it was encompassed in Jesus, so He had to leave the earth before He could send the Holy Spirit.
Kathy: This is what Jesus says, “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever – the Spirit of truth,” and that He will dwell with you and will be with you.”
Julia: And so that is what happened on the day of Pentecost there, that Jesus sent the Holy Spirit back to them so that they now had help and power to actually go to action and start overcoming their sin. So, you start to see that after this happened, that Peter becomes … the boldness that he gets after getting the Holy Spirit is unbelievable! This is the man who denied Jesus in the courtyard!
Kathy: And then and it says he preached the name of Jesus so boldly and powerfully in Jerusalem that 3000 souls were added to the church in one day!
Julia: Yeah, and in the first five chapters of Acts, two times he gets thrown in prison for preaching the gospel. I think they just can’t stop him! And then it says, one of these times when he was thrown in prison, then they pulled them out afterwards – I guess, they could only keep them for so and so long – and they bring them before the judges and they commanded them not to speak. I think this first time it was he and John, and then Peter just answers back right away: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” So, incredible boldness! And then, after they were imprisoned the second time, they were beaten and commanded not to speak the name of Jesus again. And then it’s written, “They departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.” That is such a far cry from that cowardly man who swore up and down that he didn’t know Jesus, to save his own hide. So, just the power that the Holy Spirit brought and the difference it made in his life.
So, we see that it had nothing to do with him having, like you said, a better flesh. He had a wretched flesh, we can see that, just like the rest of us do, but when he started to go to work with it and got the power of the Holy Spirit, then radical changes started taking place. Like we talked about it too, you see in his letters that he wrote, they’re not … We both read them again this week and my take away was that they’re not fancy and hard to understand but there’s like a kind of an urgency in them, and it’s as if he knows from experience that this is how you have to take it in order for it to go well. So, like he says in 1 Peter 5:8, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith.” And then he says in 1 Peter 4:7, “But the end of all things is at hand; therefore, be serious and watchful in your prayers. And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’” So, I think it’s so clear that these are things that became … There were things he worked with and became something in him.
Kathy: He’s not just theorizing here; he’s writing what he knows. And I thought what was interesting too, when you think about the story about how he tried to convince Jesus that He should try and avoid the sufferings that He had to go through. Not that He should try and avoid them but …
Julia: … that He was too good for them!
Kathy: … He was too good for them; that He needed to avoid the suffering, basically, and then that same man later wrote, “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.” This is the same man, and that is through a lifetime of faithfully taking up his cross and following Jesus and denying himself, and that obedience when the Holy Spirit showed him something in his flesh.
Julia: Yeah. So, you can see what Peter, that change in his pace coincides … or, not coincides, but the timing is exactly when he got the Holy Spirit. But the difference there between him and us is that he had to wait for the Holy Spirit until after Jesus left the earth but we have access to the Holy Spirit as soon as God sees our heart and sees that we have a heart to follow Jesus and a hatred for sin, then He sends us the Holy Spirit, so we don’t have to wait, and we don’t have to struggle for years with no help and no power to overcome. So, it’s incredibly hopeful. So we can see that, even though we have this wretched nature which Peter also had, like him, we can get the Holy Spirit and with that power … Because the Holy Spirit is power and help from God. It gives us the power to overcome and it also … It’s written that it writes God’s laws in our hearts. So, it’s a reminder to do good and help to do the good.
Kathy: And I was thinking too this week about Peter, and how when he met Jesus, he knew immediately that what he wanted was this life that Jesus spoke about.
Julia: His heart was upright from the first second.
Kathy: And then I think about the Pharisees and the Sadducees and these other people who the Bible speaks about, that persecuted Jesus. Why did Peter hear Jesus’ words and immediately want that life that Jesus had to give, and why did other people immediately reject it? I was thinking about it, and I think it must have been that Peter and the disciples and those who wanted this life, they were extremely poor in spirit. They saw that something wasn’t right in their lives and they saw that here, now, is something I can do about this. I can become free from this! It’s just that poorness of spirit, a sense a need for something to change. How does that story go, when Jesus …?
Julia: He’s with a group of people, right? And He’s speaking to them in a parable, but He’s saying something that’s hard for their flesh to hear and a bunch of them leave. And then Jesus turns to the disciples and says, “Do you also want to leave me?” Then Peter says right back, “Where would we go? You have the words of eternal life!”
Kathy: So, they sensed, he sensed that Jesus has something that he needed to hear. So, this is the same thing for us; if we’re poor in our spirit and if we see that things aren’t right there, there’s things in my flesh that need to be taken care of, I need to get these things out: my bitterness or my temper or how easily I get frustrated and irritated with people. I see those things and I don’t want them anymore; I want to get rid of them. My fear of man, like Peter had. These things there that I just want to be free from. And if I want to be free from them, I know exactly where to go to get the words of life, like Peter said. If I want that, then I am going to get the Holy Spirit to help me and strengthen me. I have the commandments of Jesus to follow and be obedient to. So, I know the way to go. I just need to be poor in my spirit; I can’t be proud and think that I can do things my own way, to find my own way through it. But just that poorness of spirit is what really stuck out to me.
Julia: Yeah, that poorness of spirit: I think that, coupled with the mind to suffer, those are the only two things you actually need. It has nothing to do with what our personality is. God doesn’t ask if we’re able; He asks if we’re willing. Because He can do a work in anyone.
Kathy: Who I am has nothing to do with anything.
Julia: It has nothing to do with it. I can be literally the most wretched person on this earth, and in fact we are pretty wretched like it says. Paul writes it in one of his letters, that, “God has chosen the base things of the world.” It has nothing to do with what’s in my nature. We all have a nature that has nothing good in it. But God only cares that we’re willing, and He can do a work in us. Humility and a mind to suffer. Those are the only two things. I was reading through the gospels about Peter and thinking, to put it in a nutshell, what was it that made it possible for him to become such a useful instrument for God, in spite of the nature he had? And we already talked about most of it, but I think he kind of summed it up himself in 1 Peter 4:1, where he says, “ Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.” And that’s it! If you’re just willing to suffer and you have the humility of spirit, like you talked about, God can do a completely transformative work in you.
Kathy: And when we think about Peter, he did all these things that we can say … I don’t know, I feel bad saying it, but we can say they were foolish things that he did, in a way. But he never gave up and he didn’t say, “Oh, I’m not good enough,” or, “I just can’t do this!” He didn’t get discouraged; he was tenacious, and he wanted something, and he didn’t give up until he got it. The reason for that, I think, was because of his love for Jesus. He wanted … He knew his Master and he wanted to be pleasing to Him and he wanted to become like Him And again, that comes back to, “Where would we go? You have the words of life!” So, that’s for us too. Transformation isn’t going to happen in a moment. When God shows me something in my flesh, shows me how stubborn I am and how much that affects other people, and then maybe I see that over and over and over again. I’m so stubborn and I see it, but if every time I see it, I am fighting it and I’m working on overcoming it, then I am going to eventually be transformed from it. We have to believe that. Like we said about Peter, he wasn’t transformed in a day. When he got the Holy Spirit, it gave him boldness and power, but he still had to fight and use his life to be transformed.
Julia: The thing to remember to really fight discouragement, is that God knows everything from the beginning to the end. I can look at myself and think, “Oh, I have been so slow; progress has been so slow. I should have …” Peter, like we said, was … He did a lot of, we can say, foolish things in the beginning because he had so much zeal but not a lot of wisdom yet. And that’s how we all are when we start on the way. When you first get converted and you’re so zealous for everything that you see that you’re just going to give her and you’re going to go and get things done. We do, and that’s fantastic, but we have a lot of zeal and not a lot of wisdom, which means we all make mistakes in the beginning. But God sees our heart and loves our heart, and He already sees the glorious end result of our life. So, He is not rolling His eyes at us and thinking, “Oh my goodness you are so slow to get going!” He loves you and gives you strength. And He doesn’t …
Kathy: That heart! That’s what He sees: that heart that’s for Him.
Julia: He doesn’t see us the way we see ourselves.
Kathy: No. And He has infinite patience for us and longsuffering with us.
Julia: So, there’s no reason to be discouraged, and the end result is guaranteed. If we are humble and we love Jesus and are willing to suffer – I think you can say those are the three things, actually …
Kathy: … then transformation will result.
Julia: Transformation will result. God is never stingy with grace.
Kathy: No; it’s true! If we want it, He will give us everything we need to achieve it. I was just thinking about these verses in 1 John 3:2-3: “ Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” So, we’re working, we’re in this process of sanctification, of being transformed, and then we know that in the end, the end result is that we will be like Him.
Julia: As long as that’s our goal.
Kathy: Yeah …
Julia: So, there’s no reason to be discouraged. So don’t! Don’t do that!
Kathy: Don’t do it; not worth it!
Julia: Anyways, I’m always so edified by the story of Peter, so I hope that that was encouraging for everyone to listen to as well. And I would suggest, if you have free time to read your Bible, and not quite sure what to read, find Peter in the gospels, read stories about him and then read, start to read Acts and start to see …
Kathy: It’s actually kind of funny because I think we both just randomly started reading Acts at the same time.
Julia: We did. The stories are interesting; it gives you background into the apostles’ lives for when you read the letters of Paul and Peter and …
Kathy: It’s very cool to read about the apostles.
Julia: … you can see the context of where the content in those letters comes from and it’s just so edifying to read about these men of God who just put everything aside and went all-in to transform their own lives and to build the church, and we actually owe everything to them.
Kathy: We do.
Julia: So, that’s all we had for today. If you want to read more about Peter or any of the other Apostles or heroes of faith, we have lots of good articles on the website. So you can head over there and check those out.
Kathy: We have topic page called “Heroes of Faith,” and we also have a topic page called “People in the Bible.” It’s just commentaries on stories from the Bible and how they relate to our lives. So, there’s lots of interesting stuff there.
Julia: All right, so that’s it for today! Thanks for listening and joining us!
Kathy: Thanks for listening guys. See you!
Julia: Bye bye!