Peter, The Three-Timer
Bonnie L. Gary
When you think about Peter, the apostle, you might think of him as a two-timer. After all, he denied Christ. Or you might think of him as a two-timer because he wrote two of the epistles in the New Testament. But let me tell you why I think of Peter as a Three-Timer. I hope to help you see the human side of Peter; to see how Jesus used Peter for His glory; and to understand that our mistakes and sins can be forgiven and turned into positive things for the Lord.
In four situations Jesus made a point with Peter by repeating the lesson three times. Was Peter hard-headed? Or, was he simply human? Do you have to hear something more than once to get it through your head? Jesus knew he had to implant these lessons firmly; both for Peter's benefit and ours.
In the book of Matthew, Chapter 26:33-34, we learn that when Jesus was eating the Passover meal with the apostles, He knew he would be dying soon. He told them that Judas would betray Him, but He also told them that they would scatter apart after Judas did his deed. Peter spoke up proudly and said that he would always be faithful even if all the others deserted Jesus. Jesus turned to Peter and said, "Before this night is over, you (Peter) will deny me three times." (This was the first sign that Peter was destined to be a Three-Timer.) Peter replied, "Oh no, I'll never deny you."
That night after they finished their meal Jesus wanted to get away to pray to His Heavenly Father, because He knew His time of death was quickly approaching. We read about what happened in Matthew 26:37-45. He asked Peter, James and John to go with Him into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. He told them to wait and watch at a certain place while He went a littler further to pray. The late hour and full stomachs worked against them.
Jesus fell on His face and prayed earnestly to God that if there were any other way for salvation to come to all mankind, please let it be so. He also said, "Your will, not mine", meaning He would do whatever God knew was necessary, no matter what He had to suffer. Were Peter, James and John up to that task in the kingdom?
Jesus got up and went back to where Peter, James and John were. Shouldn't Jesus have expected at least Peter, who promised to never desert Him, to be standing watch as requested? It was not to be so, for Jesus found them all asleep!!! Jesus said, "Couldn't you watch with me an hour?" He went and prayed again; came back and they were asleep again. Jesus went away, probably feeling very lonely, and prayed again to God. When He came back, guess who was sleeping again? James, John and Peter! This made 3 times Jesus had found them asleep and not waiting with Him.
Jesus was arrested that night after Judas betrayed Him. Luke 22:54-61 tells us that all of the apostles scattered just like Jesus had said, but Peter followed from a distance. He sneaked into the servants' area and listened to what was happening. A servant girl came up to Peter and said, "You were with that Jesus". Peter answered, "I do not know what you are saying!" (Matthew 26:70 ff) He denied even knowing Jesus. Peter went out the gate and another girl saw him and pointed and said, "This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth." Peter angrily swore, "I do not know the man!" (That was twice!)
Later, some people who were standing nearby came up to Peter and said, "Surely you also are one of them, for your speech betrays you." To try to prove them wrong, Peter started cursing and for a third time said, "I tell you, I don't know the man!!" As soon as Peter said that, he heard a rooster crowing in the distance, meaning morning had come and the night was over. But to Peter, the sound of the rooster made him remember what Jesus said earlier about Peter denying Him 3 times before the cock (rooster) crowed. Peter felt terrible! He went away and cried and cried. The Bible says he "wept bitterly". He was a Three-Timer!
After Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead, He spent time with the Apostles before He was taken back to Heaven (John 21:15-17). As He watched the fisherman, He called Peter and others over to Him. He was cooking some of their fish for their breakfast. They weren't sure at first that this man was Jesus. But they soon realized He was. Jesus asked Peter, "Do you love me more than these?" Peter must have felt terrible about betraying Jesus earlier. He answered, "Yes Lord, you know I love you." Jesus told him, "Feed my sheep." That was a strange response, but Jesus knew He would soon return to Heaven and the apostles had to help establish the church afterward.
Jesus asked Peter again, "Do you love me?" "Lord you know I love you!", Peter replied. Jesus said, "Feed my sheep." Then a third time (for Three-Timer Peter) Jesus asked, "Peter, do you love me?" Peter felt very bad that Jesus didn't seem to believe that he did love Him. Peter answered again, "Lord you know all things. You know that I love you!" Guess what Jesus said to Peter? "Feed my sheep." Peter understood later what Jesus meant. He was to "feed" people with the knowledge and love of Jesus, feed them spiritual food. But...Jesus had to tell Peter 3 times to make His point.
After Jesus ascended to heaven, Peter had the privilege of preaching the first sermon that led to the beginning of Jesus' kingdom on earth, the Church (Acts 2). Many Jews believed that Jesus had indeed been the Son of God and were baptized. Maybe Peter was beginning to make up for his past failures.
In Acts 10:10-16 we read about Peter having a vision in which it seemed a cloth was being lowered from heaven. In it were all kinds of animals, wild beasts, birds and creeping things (snakes, lizards). Jesus' voice said to Peter, "Arise Peter! Kill and eat." Now some of these animals were considered unclean and sinful for a Jew to eat. Peter answered in his dream, "No Lord, I have never eaten anything unclean." Now Jesus was telling Peter to do just that!
This happened 3 times in Peter's dream, and each time Jesus said "Arise and eat", and Peter answered, "No, I've never done that!" Jesus answered Peter, "Do not call unclean what I call clean." This was Jesus' way to tell Peter something was changing and Peter was the one chosen to start that change. Peter taught the first Gentile about Jesus and that salvation was for everyone, not just the Jews who had been God's chosen people. BUT.....Jesus told Peter 3 times to implant the lesson.
How often are we like Peter, in boasting of our love for the Lord, but not carrying through in our actions? Remember that even when we fail, Jesus can turn us around, if we are willing, to be of service in the kingdom. Many of the world's hardest characters have been transformed by His love. If you have forsaken the Lord, its never too late to return to Him. He has a purpose for you in the kingdom, too.
e-mail this author at BLGary@prodigy.net
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