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Obedience and Love: Peter in Acts 10

Is it cheating to use our church’s preschool curriculum as inspiration for my blog posts? I figure that I’m already spending a couple hours a week studying a passage of Scripture to teach it to small children, so I might as well share my discoveries on here for adults. That brings us to the story of Peter in Acts 10. (Because Lifeway doesn’t want to go in order, apparently.) Between angels and visions, God sends Peter to a family of Gentiles in a story full of obedience and love.

The Passage

About noon the following day as [Cornelius’ servants] were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”

“Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”

The voice spoke to him a second time. “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.

Acts 10:9-16 NIV

While Peter was still speaking [about Jesus,] the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.

Then Peter said, “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.

Acts 10:44-48 NIV

Peter in Acts 10

I have two things to say about Peter in this first passage. First, I imagine I would be dumb-founded by a sheet of animals falling from heaven, too. I would immediately worry about hallucinations and the state of my mental health. Which leads me to my second observation. Peter’s consistent; he needed to hear things three times to actually absorb the information. But then, if I worried about my mental stability as the vision occurred, it would probably take me at least three times to hear God, too. All in all, I really love that we get this glimpse of Peter’s confusion and humanity right after he miraculously healed a paralytic and a dead woman in Acts 9.

Obedience and Love

In addition to Peter’s overwhelming trance, God gave him commands that completely shattered Peter’s expectations. Peter believed that Jesus came for the Jews. As a Christian, he still followed all the Jewish rules he grew up with. He avoided gathering with non-Jews per the Jewish Law (see Acts 10:23-29.) Yet, when God called Peter to alter his beliefs, Peter obeyed. He acknowledged God’s signs that Jesus came to save all people, regardless of their background. Because Peter obeyed, God’s great love spread to the whole world.

God broke down prejudices when He sent Peter to visit Cornelius. He showed that He loves all the people on earth. His followers no longer distinguished themselves by the rules they followed. Instead, they united over a common faith in a good, powerful God. Like Peter in Acts 10, let’s pray and confidently go forward in obedience and love so everyone can know that Jesus came to save them.

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Confidence to Speak: Peter in Acts

I’ve noticed a theme appearing lately in conversations with my friends. For some, this time of quarantine has grown my friends’ confidence to speak and move forward God’s kingdom. For others, this quarantine makes their need for confidence more apparent. It reminded me of Peter. We saw how Peter’s rash and impetuous nature changed after Jesus’ resurrection. After looking at Acts, I noticed that Peter’s redemption gave him confidence to speak.

The Passage

Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city… They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.

In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) and said, “Brothers and sisters, the Scripture had to be fulfilled in which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus. He was one of our number and shared in our ministry.”

Acts 1:12, 14-17 NIV

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest of each one of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them…

Amazed and perplexed, [the Jews] asked one another, “What does this mean?”

Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel…”

Acts 2:1-4, 12-16 NIV

Confidence to Speak

If you flip back one page to the end of John, you will read an intense conversation between Peter and Jesus after the resurrection. (Granted, different people authored John and Acts, but I find the canonical juxtaposition interesting.) Peter responds in frustration to the point of anger when Jesus asks if Peter loves him. Basically, Jesus calls out and restores Peter all at the same time. This conversation seems to deeply impact Peter’s trajectory in life.

Back in the first chapter of Acts, we find the disciples anxiously waiting for God’s next directions. They pray and fellowship until Peter stands up in a moment of clarity. He points out how Judas’ actions fulfilled prophecy. Then, he directs the believers to appoint a new apostle. A few days later, the miracle at Pentecost came. It stirred up a big old ruckus with rumors flying. Who stands up to address the crowds? Peter does, and he makes sure everyone can hear him, too.

I hope you find comfort in Peter’s transformation. Peter continued to grow as the early church spread. Yet, Peter’s actions in the beginning of Acts shows us how believing in God’s power gave Peter the confidence to speak. Peter outright denied Jesus before the crucifixion. In spite of that, God gifts Peter with the wisdom and the confidence to lead His church. I can’t think of a greater mercy and love than that.

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2 Peter 3: Encouragement During Stress

We looked at Peter’s response to Passover and Easter the past two weeks. I wanted to continue the Peter theme, so I opened the letters he wrote for inspiration. I was surprised to find several passages that I didn’t remember. Peter recognized the struggles we face in this broken world and gives some wise advice. Let’s turn to 2 Peter 3 for some encouragement during stress.

The Passage: 2 Peter 3

Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgement and destruction of the ungodly.

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

2 Peter 3:3-9 NIV

Encouragement during Stress from 2 Peter 3

First off, I want to recognize that between the original authors and modern-day translators, Biblical text sure can get muddy. (Peter even addresses this in 2 Peter 3:15-16 because people misinterpreted Paul’s letters!) So let’s break down exactly what Peter means when he repeats “water” and “words.”

Water

Peter’s rather confusing “of water and by water” refers all the way back to Genesis when God created the earth. In Genesis 1:6-10, we see God separate the sky from the earth, which the Bible explains using the term “water.” On the next day, He grouped all the literal water on the earth into “seas” so that dry ground appeared. Peter then references the flood account from Genesis 6:9-22. God punished the water-formed earth by sending a flood to kill everything. Only the faithful Noah and a select group of animals survived the flood in an ark God taught Noah to build.

Words

Peter’s first reference to “word” points to Genesis 1 where God spoke the world into being. (I haven’t met an English major who doesn’t love the power of words in this account, regardless of their belief in its scientific accuracy.) Peter goes on to connect God’s word with His mercy and judgement. Because justice characterizes God, He ultimately must judge evil as He did in the flood account. However, in His mercy, His word holds back the judgement we deserve until the time He decides.

Peter reminds us of God’s power by showing us how God created, judged, and maintained Earth. Yet, Peter doesn’t leave us with this image of an almighty, wrathful God. Instead, Peter points us to God’ loving patience. He reminds us that God holds back His judgement for our benefit.

In Light of A Virus

2 Peter 3 shows us that God holds ultimate control over the happenings of Earth. We very well may not understand God’s permissions or His timing. Instead, we remember God’s goodness and faithfulness. The early church did not know why Jesus still waited in Heaven. They expected His arrival yesterday. That same tension hits us today as we continue to face a complete upheaval of life as we expected it. Thankfully, the same powerful God of the early church draws us to Himself today.

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Peter’s Response to Jesus’ Resurrection

Last week, we looked at Peter’s perspective of the Passover when Jesus was crucified. Thankfully, the story didn’t end with Jesus in a grave. Jesus gave Peter the opportunity to repent after His resurrection. It completely changed Peter’s life. Let’s look at Peter’s response to Jesus’ resurrection.

The Passage

It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told [of Jesus’ resurrection] to the apostles. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.

Luke 24:10-12 NIV

The third time [Jesus] said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do no want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

John 21:17-19 NIV

Confusion and Bewilderment

Peter’s denial of Jesus left him crushed, confused, and bewildered. He did not understand how the events of Easter would take place. So when the women return with news of an empty tomb, Peter ran to see it for himself. As it does for us, Jesus’ crucifixion showed Peter the weight of his sins and failures. Peter’s love for Jesus left him wishing he could change his choices at Passover. The remorse would forever alter the trajectory of Peter’s life.

Peter’s Response to Jesus’ Resurrection

As the Gospel of John shows us, Jesus lovingly gave Peter an opportunity to redeem his Passover denial. Next time, when the threat of death goaded Peter into denying Jesus, Peter remembered the lesson he learned. He no longer denied Jesus. Instead, Peter went to jail and ultimately endured martyrdom. Peter led the early church bravely, if imperfectly. Fear occasionally overtakes him regarding the church’s theology, but Peter refuses to deny his Jesus anymore.

Thankfully, Peter’s example gives us hope that Jesus restores us even when we fail. Like Peter, our story does not have to end when we mess up. Jesus extends His pierced hands to redeem us and use our struggles for good. As time pulls us away from this year’s Easter celebration, may we remember that Jesus’ offer of forgiveness does not.

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Passover Prophecy: Peter’s Denial

As we approach a rather unusual Easter Sunday, I keep thinking of my favorite early church leader, Peter. He possesses that feisty, fighting faith. He also screws up just as badly as all the rest of us normal humans. In honor of Passover today, let’s look at Jesus’ Passover prophecy of Peter’s Denial.

The Passage

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”

Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”

Luke 22:31-34 NIV

Passover Prophecy

Jesus warned of multiple betrayals at the Passover meal. He foretold that Judas would hand Him over to the chief priests. He explained to the confused disciples that the Kingdom of God was coming. Most surprisingly, He also prophesied Peter’s denial.

We think of Peter as the gutsy, often rash, unofficial leader of the disciples. He was that kid in school who had an answer for every question. Peter boldly brandishes his position, but he doesn’t realize that Passover will completely flip his life upside down.

Peter’s Denial

The Passover celebration harkened back to the Israelites escape from Egypt. The Israelites painted their doors with the blood of lambs, and their sons were spared from God’s judgement. (See Exodus 12.) To commemorate God’s mighty act, the Jews sacrificed a Passover lamb (see Luke 22:7-8). God doesn’t slack when it comes to fulfilling prophecies, so the chief priests capture and procure the death of His Son Jesus on that very day.

Of course, Peter doesn’t see this big plan. He only knows that he is devoted to his friend Jesus. I think Peter truly believes he will defend Jesus to the death. After all, the Bible reports only Peter following Jesus to his trial. However, as Jesus said in His Passover Prophecy, fear overcomes Peter when the bystanders recognized him. Peter denies Jesus three times, then he flees in shame. (See Luke 22:54-62).

This week, let’s sit with Peter in recognition of our sinful behavior. Peter failed to live up to his own expectations of himself. It crushed him, just as it would crush any one of us. Unlike Peter, though, we know that Jesus rose from the dead three days later. We know that Jesus’ resurrection gives us victory over sin and death, so we don’t have to live in shame like Peter. Next week, when we have celebrated the gift of Easter, we’ll see how Peter’s life changed because of this miraculous Passover.