Change: Peter, Part I

Here is this week’s message written and given by Alex Howell, our College Pastoral Internship Program intern that we have had this summer.

Today is Alex’s last day with us. Blessings to you, Alex, and you continue to explore God’s call on your life!

Change: “Peter, Part I”
A Message for Jacksonville First United Methodist Church
By Alex Howell, College Pastoral Internship Program Intern
July 25, 2021

Matthew 16:13-20

“Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.” Matthew‬ ‭16:13-20‬ ‭NRSV‬‬

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Well good morning everyone! If you have not yet met me, my name is Alex Howell. I am the summer intern here at Jacksonville First United Church. And I would like to once again welcome you here to our church! I am so glad you’re here, and I too am glad to be here with all of you this lovely morning.

If you’ve been with us during the last few weeks, you might have noticed that we are in a new series that is completely focused on change and how we respond to it. And the way that we have planned is that each week, we look at a new person in the Bible whose life went through a lot of change, and see how they responded to that change.

Well, this week we are going to be looking into the life of Simon Peter. Now, I will say that every once in a while, we may take an extra week to look through a given person’s life. Such as last week when we looked at the later part of Mose’s life. When it comes to the life of Peter, this will also be the case. This week we will look at one part of Peter’s life, and next week we will look at another part of it.

So, the first time we see Simon in the Bible is where we had our first scripture reading this morning. We read that as Jesus was walking along the Sea of Galilee, He came across two brothers, that being Simon and Andrew his brother. And as the story goes, Jesus looks at them and says to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Well, Immediately they both left everything they had and started following Jesus. So Jesus continued walking along the Sea of Galilee along with His new followers Simon and Andrew. And they came across two other brothers named James and John. And the Bible says that they immediately began to follow Jesus. Anyways, as the story goes, from there they begin traveling all throughout the land of Galilee, teaching in synagogues, and proclaiming the gospel.

Now, this story can be found within the Gospel of Matthew, but if you were to look at Luke chapter 5, you would get a little bit more detail about the story that we just heard. Well, it turns out that as Jesus was one the shore of the Sea of Galilee, He was actually preaching to a crowd of people. And as He was speaking to them, they began to press in around Him. Luckily there were two boats behind Him which belonged to the two sets of brothers we just heard about, Simon and Andrew as well as James and John, who were out washing their nets. To give Himself some space from the crowd, Jesus stepped into one of the boats and continued to preach from there.

After Jesus had finished preaching, He began talking with Simon and asked him if they could go out on the water to fish. And so, Simon responds to Jesus quite reluctantly saying that they had fished all night the night before with no luck. The story continues with the very next scene being that of them out on the water fishing. Which I think is actually quite funny. We see Simon basically complaining to Jesus saying he doesn’t want to go back out in the water. And the very next thing we read is, of course, them out on the water fishing.

Anyways, as we continue with the story, Simon lets down his net, and all of a sudden he catches a huge load of fish. So much so that it says that his net begins to break. They had to call over some James and John, who were also fishing with them in the other boat, just to help them get their catch back to shore. And the Bible says that as they were coming back to the shore, their boats were starting to sink because of the weight of the fish that they had caught. Finally, they get back onto the shore, and Simon was so amazed by what had just happened that he falls before Jesus saying, “Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinner.” The Bible says that of course James and John were also amazed at what had happened. And so, Jesus said to them, “Follow me, for you will be fishers of men.”

Well, between our first scripture reading this morning and our second, a lot of things happen within Jesus’ earthly ministry. Just to name a few, we have the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus Healing lots of people and cast out demons, the disciple Matthew is Called, Jesus begins teaching parables, John the Baptist is beheaded, Jesus walks on water, and the feeding of the four thousand. A lot happens within Jesus’ ministry. But now, our story picks back up with a conversation between Jesus and his disciples.

You see, they had come to a certain city called Caesarea Philippi. And within that city, people were asking who Jesus really was? Some were saying that he was Elijah. Others, John the Baptist. Some even said Jeremiah or one of the other Old Testament prophets. And so, Jesus gathered His disciples and asked them a question, “Who do you say that I am?”

Well, you could imagine that it might have been a bit quiet for a while. Then, Simon answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” “Blessed are you Simon, for flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father in Heaven” replied Jesus. And then Jesus continues saying, “I say to you, that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hell will not overpower it.”

We see here that at this point in the story, Simon is given a new name by none other than God Himself. Jesus Christ the Son of the Living God. Peter or Petros, is a Greek word meaning “a stone.” Jesus continues saying to Peter, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” And here we see how Jesus makes Simon, now called Peter, a very important leader within the church. One thing is clear, Peter’s life will never be the same.

Well, Jesus continues in this important conversation with His disciples by telling them not to tell anyone what Peter had said about Jesus, that He was the Messiah and the Son of God. At that time Jesus still had a lot to do in His earthly ministry and one reason that might have told His disciples not to tell anyone is because He was not yet ready to reveal Himself as the Christ and the Son of God. Humility may also have played a role in this as well. But, Jesus nevertheless tells them not tell anyone.

And so, the conversation continues with Jesus foretelling His death and His resurrection. He Tells them that He must go to Jerusalem so that He can suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and scribes. And that He will be killed, but that He will also raise again from the dead on the third day.

Peter did not like hearing this at all! Peter pulled Jesus aside and began to rebuke Jesus saying that, “this will never happen to You.” But then, Jesus looked at Peter and said, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but on man’s.”

You can imagine how harsh this must have sounded when Peter heard Jesus call Him Satan. And remember, Peter had just gotten his new name, and then to be suddenly called Satan by Jesus had to have been hard for him to hear. Peter, who had just been given a revelation from God, now rebuked by Jesus.

Well, if you think about it. Christ’s death and resurrection upon the cross is the cornerstone of our salvation. So, if Christ never went to Calvary, where is our salvation? This is why I think Jesus rebuked Peter so heavily. Because His death and resurrection on the cross was key to God’s redemption plan of salvation for the world. But the story does not end here.

The story continues and picks back up six days after this conversation that Jesus had with His disciples. And the Bible says that Jesus gathered up Peter, James, and John. And led them up high on top of a nearby mountain. When they had reached the top, they saw Jesus. But He was not alone. He had been transfigured in divine glory, talking with Moses and Elijah. The Bible says that Jesus’ face shone like the sun and that His garments had become like a very white light.

Then, Peter looked at the three standing there talking and asked them, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three tents here, one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” But as Peter was talking, a bright cloud began to overshadow them and they heard a voice from heaven saying to them, “this is My beloved Son, whom I am well pleased; listen to Him!”

After hearing the voice from heaven, the three disciples became terrified and fell down to the ground. Then, Jesus came to them saying to get up and not be afraid. But as they looked toward Jesus, He was alone. The other two figures had disappeared. So after this, the four of them. Jesus, Peter, James, and John, began to head back down the mountain. And as they were walking, Jesus commanded them not to tell what had just happened to anyone, until He had died and risen back to life again.

So just think about everything that has now happened in Peter’s life so far. It all started one day as Jesus, the Son of the Living God, came to Peter and called him to follow Himself Many others were called also, and Jesus’ earthly ministry began. Peter witnessedJesus going around all of Judaea, preaching the gospel and teaching parables to people. He witnessed people being healed by the hands of Jesus as well as demons cast out of people. He sees all of the miracles and wonderful things that Jesus does during His time here on earth. He sees the glorified Christ. And Peter gets a new name from God Himself and is called to be a leader within His new church. As we know, Peter accepts this new call on his life and continues to follow Jesus.

Well, it may be an understatement to say that Peter’s life drastically changed when Jesus came into the picture. Before Jesus came along and changed everything, Peter was but a simple fisherman. And now, he is called to be a leader in the church. Think back for a moment to when we first met Peter. He could have said no to Jesus’ call. But he instead chose to follow Him. And so, his life completely changed from that moment on.

The same also happens to us when we allow God to come into our own life. After this happens, everything changes. As we begin to follow God and learn how to love Him and be more like Christ. we find ourselves changed. And changed for the better. And we see how even Peter was not perfect. Remember back to that conversation where Jesus foretold His death and resurrection, and Peter told Jesus that that will never happen. Jesus rebuked Peter calling him Satan. So we too, often make mistakes and follow our own interests instead of Gods’.

So my challenge to you this week is this; God is calling you to follow Him. That may mean finding new ways to serve Him with your time or money, that may mean making a meaningful effort to get involved more with a small group or Bible study. That may even mean doing something as simple as calling and checking in with a friend or family member who you know isn’t doing well, whatever it is that you feel God is calling you to do.

My challenge for you is that you step out in faith, just as Peter did, and follow God wherever He may lead you. Let us turn to the Lord in prayer…

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