The Pebble and the Rock
peter and Christ
Chapter 1: Follow Me!
Chapter 2: Clean and Unclean
Chapter 3: Pride Goeth Before the Fall
Chapter 4: Was Peter the First Pope?
Chapter 5: The Pebble and the Rock
Peter, next to Christ himself, is the, key figure of the Gospels. Paul, the champion of faith, makes his first entry into the historical record in the book of Acts. John remains an observer in the shadows until old age thrusts him into the role of sole surviving apostle and leader of the Christian Church. But Peter, from the first moment he met Christ, takes center stage, right, close to the spotlight.
Peter has been lionized and vilified by segments of the Christian Church, depending on one’s doctrinal slant. The Roman Catholic church makes him the first pope, celebrating his strengths and cherishing his flaws as it makes claims about him that may or may not be without warrant. Protestant denominations have played down Peter by emphasizing his very obvious weaknesses and missteps to elevate their apostle, Paul, to the preeminent spot among the Church’s early saints. Protestants dismiss Rome’s claims about Peter as ludicrous. No less an authority than Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament dismiss the Protestant objections out of hand in its discussion of Peter.
In view of this, most, if not all, secondary documents will be less than useful in giving insight into Peter the man. We are reduced to searching for clues in the biblical account. On the one hand, this is a very frustrating exercise, because, “These are the scriptures that testify about me,” the Savior proclaims. The focus of the Bible is Christ, not Peter. Yet what we can glean from this search will be certain, for these are the very words of God recorded by the Holy Spirit. A close reading will carry much weight.
The events of Peter’s discipleship are well-known. Peter walked on water. Peter wanted to stay on the Mount of Transfiguration. Peter denied his Savior. Peter went to the Easter tomb. But read closer. There are themes, motifs, that underlie these events. Not the work of a clever author, these are the characteristics of a real person which reveal themselves in moments where instinct and passion overrule purpose and thought, the building blocks of his dynamic relationship with Jesus which show through.
Peter thinks in egocentric terms. The world revolves around him. People are to go from him. He will come to others. “Come-go” bears looking into as Peter and Jesus engage in a three year struggle over who will follow whom.
For a man in food production, fishing, eating is huge. Then add the fact of Peter’s Jewishness. “Clean-unclean” will be a fruitful search, going past the Gospel accounts into the book of Acts and beyond.
Peter is a good confessor, but who will he confess? One of our searches will be “Pride Goeth Before the Fall.” One has to admire Peter’s ability to take Jesus’ rebukes and his initiative which spurs Jesus to some of his greatest teachings in response to Peter’s questions and questionable confessions.
We would be remiss in not investigating Peter’s position of leadership among the disciples with a view of whether Peter is the first “Pope.” And that will lead us back to where we began, The Pebble and the Rock. Instead of sifting through all the occurrences of Peter in the Gospels, we will pursue these motifs.
Read Mark 1.16-20 (Matthew 4.18-22)
This is not the first time Jesus has crossed paths with Peter.
Where is Jesus at this time?
In the south, near the Jordan.
What has happened?
Jesus has been baptized by John.
Who are the first men Jesus meets?
Jesus had called his first disciples, Andrew and John, near the Jordan. They, in turn brought their brothers, James and Peter, with the memorable first meeting with Peter.
Why is this significant?
Three of these men are the inner circle of disciples with Andrew playing a significant role throughout the Gospels.
How is Peter singled out?
Jesus gives Simon the nickname Peter.
What does John already call the men accompanying Jesus from the Jordan to Galilee?
The disciples follow Jesus up to Galilee, witnessing the miracle at the Wedding at Cana. Here they are called disciples, though Jesus has not, as of yet, asked them to follow him.
What is necessary for the apostles to do and why?
After the Ascension, Peter takes the accustomed role of apostolic leader to fill the position Judas Iscariot left vacant by his suicide.
What are the qualifications for the “replacement” apostle?
They must be eyewitnesses to the life and work of Christ from his baptism until his ascension.
How does Peter show these are the same qualifications the original apostles had?
Peter clearly says the replacement is to be equal to us, witnessing the same things we did, from Jesus’ baptism to his Ascension.
Penetrating the text
What are Andrew and Peter doing?
Jesus comes across Andrew and Peter, busy casting their nets onto the lake, presumably close to the shore.
What are his exact words to them?
Come, follow me.
What does that mean? Can you draw a diagram illustrating it? Use a circle for the most important person, the square for the person who is less important. Use arrows to show their relation or the direction of their relation.
Jesus asks them to come, come to him, leaving their former life behind, and follow him. Jesus doesn’t call them into a static relationship with him, but into a dynamic, fluid, growing relationship. Jesus is going to go places. He wants them to come along.
What Gospel promise does Jesus give Andrew and Peter that they may obey his call?
He calls to them from the shore, inviting them to follow him. He gives them the promise, “You will be fishers of men.”
What are their reactions?
They leave their ship and nets and follow him.
What is the same in the account of Jesus’ calling of James and John?
Jesus utters the same invitation to them, with the same promise and experiences the same results.
A Savior for Peter
Shortly after Jesus’ calling of his first disciples, Peter experiences the impact of Jesus’ work in a very personal way, all in one day! Let’s follow Peter that Sabbath in Capernaum.
Read Mark 1.23-28
Why are the people amazed at Jesus in the worship service even before he performs a miracle?
Jesus is different from the other teachers—he has authority, preaching with certainty and conviction, proving his points from the Word, so unlike the teachers of the law.
What does the miracle impress upon them?
Jesus even has authority over demons.
What is their emotion at this time?
They are amazed.
Qambew means a little bit more than being amazed. It means to be fearfully amazed, spooked by what you’ve seen.
What would your feelings about Jesus be if you were in Peter’s shoes?
I would be a little bit scared, wondering what I was getting myself into. Awe and fear might be more the emotions rather than amazement and giddy wonder.
What was everyone else evidently feeling?
It certainly struck them, though the fear was overcome by the “newsiness” of it all as they spread the news throughout the countryside, setting up the events after the Sabbath is over.
Times haven’t changed much--what do friends often do after church on a Sunday?
People go out to eat together after church or have others over to their homes for dinner.
How considerate is Peter? Explain your answer.
Peter is so taken by what has happened that he invites Jesus to his house for the Sabbath meal, though his mother-in-law is burning up with a fever. The inference is that others, not Peter, told Jesus about this.
What might be fearfully amazing to Peter about what Jesus does?
He immediately heals the woman and she serves them all. Jesus is not just the Savior of the faceless people “out there,” but the personal Savior of Peter.
What other evidence is given that Christ in Peter’s life may bring a lot of complications?
That night, when the Sabbath is over, the whole town turns out at Peter’s home for all their sick to be healed. They are at the door. It must have been bedlam. Peter sees all this. His life is impacted. He senses how topsy-turvy things are going to get.
Read Luke 5.1-11
What does Jesus tell Peter to do and why is this nonsense to Peter?
Go out and fish in the deep waters. It was too late to catch fish. The bugs of the early morning were gone and so were the fish. And even if bugs were still present, they would not be out in the deep water—they’d be close to the bushes on the shore.
So why does Peter do it?
Because Jesus says it he will do it. He has faith in Jesus, taking Jesus at his word, no matter how absurd it might seem.
How big is the miracle and why is it so personal for Peter?
They have to get John and James to help them, and even with two boats the weight of the fish almost swamps the boats. Now Jesus is showing his power to Peter personally, for Peter.
What is Peter’s initial reaction to this miracle?
You guessed it--qambos grips Peter.
Why does Peter ask Jesus to leave him?
Now Peter knows what he is up against and he begs Jesus, on his knees, to leave him, for I am a sinful man. Jesus is to go away from Peter.
Can you diagram Peter’s request? Use a circle for the most important person in Peter’s eyes.
What did Jesus want Peter to do in their relationship?
What did Peter want Jesus to do?
Jesus to leave him, just the opposite of Peter following Jesus.
How does this story have a Gospel ending?
Jesus gives the promise that he will make Peter a fisher of men.
Read Matthew 14.22-32
What had just happened?
Jesus had just fed over 5000 people with a small boy’s even smaller lunch.
Why was Jesus so urgent in getting the disciples into the boat (John 6.14-15)?
The people Jesus had fed wanted to make him their king, someone who would take care of their every need without their working for daily bread. They were free-loading unbelievers, but because of their numbers and the passions they showed, a very dangerous mob.
How long had the disciples been awake (Mark 6.31-32)?
The fourth watch was 3-6 am. Assuming the disciples got up at dawn (6 am), they had been awake and engaged in strenuous exercise (sailing in the morning and rowing the boat this night) as well as the stress of dealing with so many people, for 22 hours. You’d be a little punch drunk, too.
What were the disciples thinking?
They were going to die.
What are they thinking when they see Jesus walking on the water.
They were going to die and this ghost might be the one to do them in.
What words of encouragement does Jesus speak which should soothe their fears?
It is I. Don’t be afraid.
What does Peter want Jesus to do?
Peter wants Jesus to tell him to walk on the water to Jesus.
Diagram this event using the circle and rectangle and arrows we’ve grown accustomed to.
Who is getting the emphasis, according to Peter’s words?
Peter. He’s the one who will be doing the action. Jesus is to remain static, a point to which Peter is walking.
How does Peter’s actions show this?
He turns his eyes away from Jesus and sees the wind-whipped waves and, when relying on himself, he sinks.
How does this story have a Gospel ending?
Jesus grabs him according to Peter’s plea and gets him into the boat.
Has Peter matured in his faith?
No, not really. Peter is still the main man and Jesus is just a static point. But at least Peter doesn’t want Jesus to go away.
Read John 6.66-69
Many of Jesus’ disciples (maqetoi), true followers, were deserting Jesus because they were offended by his Bread of Life teachings which insisted he was the only way to heaven.
How badly had this defection shaken Jesus?
He turns to his own disciples, the Twelve, and asks them if they are intending to leave him also. The form of his question begs them to give him a “no” answer.
What is Peter’s confession?
You are the Holy One of God. You have the Words of life. To whom shall we go?
How does this line up with the come-go motif in Peter’s life?
Peter sees his relationship to Jesus in terms of what he is going to do as opposed to a static, immobile Jesus.
Who is getting the emphasis, who is the agent, according to Peter’s words? Diagram it.
What diagram best describes Jesus’ command to Peter, “Follow me!”
How far has Peter come in his understanding of Jesus’ command to “Follow me!”
At least now Peter seems content to let Jesus be in command, though he doesn’t seem ready to grasp the dynamics of Jesus. Jesus won’t stand still. Peter wants him to.
Read Mark 8.33
Peter has just made his powerful confession of Christ (we’ll get to that later in the course). Then Jesus has started his instruction about his sufferings and death. Peter objects. Jesus rebukes Peter.
Look closely at Jesus’ words. Who is Jesus talking to?
It is obvious Jesus is talking to Peter, but he calls Peter Satan, because Peter is mouthing satanic temptations for Jesus, to avoid the cross as the price of mankind’s salvation.
Who must take the lead?
Who must follow?
What diagram would express this relationship between Peter and Jesus?
What is Peter’s read of this relationship? Draw a diagram.
How close is this to the way Peter has been looking at things all along?
It is perhaps the farthest Peter has ever gotten in his conception of his relationship with Christ—totally backward with Peter calling the shots, doing the leading, and Christ following! It is typical of Peter in this regard—he is still in the driver’s seat.
What is Peter’s problem?
Self-centered egotism. His pride does not want to have to cling to a suffering Savior. He wants the crown of glory, not the cross of shame.
There is one more incident pertinent to this discussion before we get to the last, climactic one.
Read Mark 10.17-28 (Matt 19.27 and Luke 18.28)
Describe this young man.
He is sincere and religious. He seems intent on keeping the commandments. Seldom do the Gospel writers show Jesus’ inner emotions towards a person, but here they do—“he loved him.”
How does Jesus pop his bubble?
He tells him to put God ahead of his possessions—sell everything and follow me.
What is significant about Jesus’ words, “come, follow me”?
These are the same words Jesus used to call his twelve disciples. It doesn’t seem to be a phrase Jesus used often.
Why can’t this man follow Jesus?
He hasn’t even kept the first commandment, loving his great possessions more than he loves Jesus.
What does this say to the disciples?
Materialistic man cannot enter heaven.
How does Peter show he is starting to understand what it means to be a disciple of Jesus?
Peter shows he is not putting things before Jesus, because they have left everything to follow Jesus. He knows he has to follow Jesus’ lead on Jesus’ terms. But he doesn’t want to lose out for doing so!
Can you diagram Peter’s conception now of what it means to follow Jesus?
Follow Me (Finally! Maybe)
The closing days of the Passion Week were horrendous for Peter. When Jesus wants to wash the disciples’ feet, Peter objects and is mildly rebuked by Jesus. Peter’s enthusiastic faith kicks in and wants Jesus to wash him from head to toe. He knows Christ deserves and demands whole-hearted allegiance in his followers. They want to give him nothing less.
It follows with Peter’s bragging claims that even if all fall away from the Christ, he never would. He would accompany Jesus right to the death. We might dispute Peter’s assessment of his own powers, but he has the right view of following Christ. Anywhere at any cost.
Then come the cursed denials of Christ right in the courtyard of the high priest. Peter claims not to know Christ. He denies having any part of him, something he feared when Christ was trying to wash his feet. He falls away from Christ (for in his predictions of the future, Jesus tells Peter, “When you have turned back, strengthen your brothers (Luke 22.32).”
What is Peter’s position now? Can he still be a disciple? After all this, has it finally occurred to Peter what it means to follow Christ?
Read John 21
Show how Peter’s actions in verses 1-14 reveal he is a true follower of Jesus.
He and the others obey Christ’s command to throw the net on the other side of the boat. Peter dives overboard and swims to be close to Jesus. He personally obeys Christ’s command to bring the fish, dragging all 153 of them by himself! Christ says “Jump,” and Peter asks “How high?”
Why does Christ three times ask Peter if Peter loved him?
Peter denied Jesus three times so Jesus asks this basic question three times as a way of reinstating Peter.
Actually, the questions are more devastating to Peter than merely repeating the same question three times. The first time Jesus asks if Peter agapos (agapw) him more than the disciples. This is the highest form of love, unselfish, the love of God made flesh. The second time Christ simply asks Peter if he agapos him. The third time Christ uses a word that describes merely the give-and-take love of friendship, fileo, filew. Do you love me more than these? Do you love me? Do you at least like me?
Do you detect a progression in Peter’s answers?
He doesn’t claim to love Jesus more than the others. Finally he gives up on himself entirely and relies totally on Christ’s knowledge of him—You know I love you!
John, in recording Christ’s words to Peter (vv. 18-19), tells us Christ is predicting the type of death Peter would die. Having followed this “come-go” motif in Peter’s life, it may be even a bit more telling than that. How is this descriptive of Peter’s entire stint as Christ’s disciple?
He has never wanted to go where Christ led him. Peter is headstrong and wants to do the going and coming.
What does Christ’s sudden words , “Follow me!” do for you as we have been following this theme in Peter’s life?
Like a flash of lightning we are back at the beginning, a miraculous catch of fish, the probing of souls, the inner struggle of Peter and the command to follow Christ the way Christ wants to be followed, single-mindedly, without conditions.
Peter still doesn’t quite get it. From verses 20-22, prove that he doesn’t quite get it yet.
He is more worried about what will happen to John.
Describe how Peter’s position as leader of the disciples might be a hindrance to him following Christ.
Peter feels responsible for the rest, he wants to be in control and know what is going to happen. This exaggerates his role in his own mind, while it diminishes Christ’s role.
How does Christ get Peter back on track?
He tells him “You must follow me.” Actually the Greek is an emphatic command. “You! Follow me!”
Can you diagram what Christ is expecting as a relationship between him and Peter, this one, last time?
There is an apocryphal Acts of Peter, written in the second century. No, it isn’t Gospel, but it is interesting to see the “come-go” struggle of being a follower of Christ still remembered. It is the famous Quo Vadis passage. Let’s take a look at it. Agrippa, a Roman magistrate, is going to put Peter to death. Xanthippe, his wife, is a Christian and tries to warn Peter of the danger he is in.
XXXV. And as they considered these things, Xanthippe took knowledge of the counsel of her husband with Agrippa, and sent and showed Peter, that he might depart from Rome. And the rest of the brethren, together with Marcellus, besought him to depart. But Peter said unto them: Shall we be runaways, brethren? and they said to him: Nay, but that thou mayest yet be able to serve the Lord. And he obeyed the brethren's voice and went forth alone, saying: Let none of you come forth with me, but I will go forth alone, having changed the fashion of mine apparel. And as he went forth of the city, he saw the Lord entering into Rome. And when he saw him, he said: Lord, whither goest thou thus ? And the Lord said unto him: I go into Rome to be crucified. And Peter said unto him: Lord, art thou (being) crucified again? He said unto him: Yea, Peter, I am (being) crucified again. And Peter came to himself: and having beheld the Lord ascending up into heaven, he returned to Rome, rejoicing, and glorifying the Lord, for that he said: I am being crucified: the which was about to befall Peter.
Can you diagram this relationship of Peter and Christ?
How does it line up with what Christ wants?
It lines up perfectly! Finally!
Our boy has done it! But you can imagine how he must have frustrated Christ!
Hard-won Lessons (Maybe)
Peter wanted a static Christ who was always the same and never led him into new or unforeseen circumstances. Today’s consultants might say Peter did not want to leave his “comfort zone.”
> What is Christ’s clear will for his Church on earth, and especially that little branch office of his at Green Valley Evangelical Lutheran Church, when it comes to new members or every race and economic class?
> How can we be like Peter struggling with an incomplete grasp of what it meant to follow Christ in that situation?
Peter, at his worst, wanted a Christ who obeyed him, who followed the script of glory that Peter wanted. Like a little idol in your pocket who brought you only good luck and happy times.
> How can we fall into that trap in times of severe illness or personal crisis?
> Is there a danger with congregations that emphasize only the glory of Christ and the victory of the Christian life? What is it?
Peter’s leadership role among the disciples got him into trouble.
> What is expected of a leader that is at odds with being a follower? How must this be reconciled in a role of Christian leadership, be it a council member, a pastor or a synodical president?
> Do you have to be in control of your own life? Why or why not?
Next lesson: Clean-Unclean
Chapter 2: Clean and Unclean
Chapter 3: Pride Goeth Before the Fall
Chapter 4: Was Peter the First Pope?
Chapter 5: The Pebble and the Rock
Peter is a central figure in the Gospels, second only to Christ. The events of his life are well-known, but a closer look reveals characteristics of Peter which are building blocks in his relationship to Christ.
Last chapter we looked at Peter’s struggle to grasp what it meant to be a follower of Christ with the “come-go” motif of the Gospels. Who would end up following whom? It was a pretty nuanced study. This chapter looks at something a lot easier to grasp—food!
For a man such as Peter in food production (fishing), eating is huge. Then add the fact of Peter’s Jewishness. “Clean-unclean” will be a fruitful search, going past the Gospel accounts into the book of Acts and beyond.
When we think of fisherman, we shouldn’t think of it in terms of a low-life occupation. It was dangerous and dirty. Most of the jobs held by non-Romans in the ancient world were. But it was a respectable, middle-class sort of thing. The towns and villages around the Sea of Galilee got most of their animal protein from fish. Rabbinical writings are full of praises for this or that type of fish and its preparation. As it has been up until recently, fish was a food affordable for all and blessed were those with full nets coming to market!
If we look at Peter’s Gospel, food is mentioned in two out of every three chapters of the Gospel according to Mark, including the pivotal chapters regarding Christ’s Palm Sunday entry into Jerusalem, his suffering and death and his resurrection! Like any Jew bound by ceremonial dietary laws of his day, Peter was tuned in to food.
Read Mark 7.1-23 (Matthew 15.1-20)
Jesus did not only have the disciples with him. Often he had “anti-disciples,” the investigators from the Sanhedrin (usually Pharisees), who were sent to tail him and flush him out, discrediting him as the Christ.
They come up with an infraction of the law on the part of Christ’s disciples. What is it?
They don’t wash their hands before they eat. The Pharisees had various laws about cleanness, notably washing your hands before you ate.
Is that really a sin?
No. It was a man-made law.
Christ reacts very badly to their objections. What is a hypocrite and how does he prove they are hypocrites?
One who appears to be a believer when he is not. Their hearts are far from God, because they adhere to the teachings of men rather than the commands of God.
What command of God had the Pharisees put aside? Explain it.
The fourth commandment—honor your father and your mother. For a payment to the Temple treasury (probably a fraction of what it would otherwise cost), they would be free from the responsibility of taking care of an aged mother or father.
Now Christ addresses the issue of clean and unclean food.
Who had instituted these dietary laws of the Jews in the first place? (see Leviticus 11.46-47).
God, not man
What astonishing statement does Christ make regarding clean and unclean foods?
Nothing you put into yourself can make you clean or unclean.
What biological proof does Jesus give?
The food doesn’t really enter a person, it merely is falling through him.
What does make a person unclean?
What comes out of his heart, the various vices Christ mentions.
How did Christ’s words strike Peter?
He specifically mentions that here is when Jesus does away with all the Old Testament ceremonial dietary laws. Whether Peter realized that at the time it occurred remains to be seen.
How could Jesus simply annul Old Testament ceremonial laws? What was the purpose of these Old Testament ceremonial laws?—see Galatians 3.23-25.
Note: Paidagogos (paidagogos) was a Greek slave entrusted to keep the wealthy teenage boy out of trouble, sort of like Jiminy Cricket to Pinocchio! The kid literally had to do what the slave told him to—go to school, do your homework, get home, don’t throw those dice in that dark alleyway and never, ever try to draw on an inside straight!
To keep the Jews Jewish until the Savior would appear.
Did the Jews need this paidagogos when they “reached age,” namely, when the Savior appeared? Explain.
No. They had freedom to live their faith as adults.
Can you prove it from this passage?
Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. Colossians 2.16-17
The Ceremonial Law is abolished in Christ. It no longer serves a purpose, just as you don’t look at the shadow when the person who casts that shadow is there. To keep the Ceremonial Law is neither morally commendable or damnable.
Read Mark 2.23-28 (Matthew 12.1-8, Luke 5.33-39)
While “clean-unclean” had not come up before, observances of the ceremonial law had. Most of the time Christ was at the center of it—he took a (the way the Pharisees looked at it) fiendish delight in healing people on the Sabbath, many times right during the Sabbath worship service! But there was one time when the disciples were not safe bystanders—they were in the Pharisee cross-hairs!
What day was it?
What was not permitted on this day?
No work of any sort was permitted on this day. The Pharisees counted work a little differently than the Israelites had throughout their history.
What was the problem with the disciples?—see Matthew’s account
They were hungry. Jewish custom did not consider taking a little bit of someone’s grain harvest as stealing.
Jesus cites the story of David at Nob. David had been warned by his friend, King Saul’s son, Jonathan, that Saul was intent on killing David. David quickly flees with his most trusted aides. They do not even return to the palace to get food or retrieve their weapons. He makes a beeline for the priestly city of Nob, where his friend, the high priest Abiathar, lives.
But David is unpleasantly surprised. There’s no food for him! There is only the Bread of the Presence which the priests would put in the Holy Place for a week and then eat when it was replaced with fresh loaves. Abiathar is puzzled that David is alone and without weapons. David lies to Abiathar, hoping to keep Abiathar from becoming hurt. (It is a futile hope—Doeg, a pagan shepherd of Saul, who happens to be at Nob that day, squeals on David and, after Abiathar is arrested, questioned and condemned by Saul, Doeg slays him and all the entire town of Nob.) Abiathar in good faith gives David both food and the sword of Goliath which had been kept there.
How is the disciples’ predicament exactly like David’s predicament.
They were hungry.
To compare David’s plight with the disciples’ plight almost seems mock heroic, but think about it. Would the Pharisees condemn King David, even for eating sacred food contrary to the given law of Moses?
No. He was their hope and inspiration, for they were also waiting for the Messiah to come, but as a second David, a royal, political ruler.
How could they condemn the disciples for simply eating ordinary, raw heads of wheat?
They couldn’t, without seeming utterly biased.
What was the purpose of all God’s laws?
To help man, not to be a burden to him.
This will make a big impression upon Peter, as we will see later, when the Christian Church is faced with a Pharisaic strain of living in its own midst.
Read Acts 10
Did Peter understand what Jesus had said in his parable about food going through a person, but what comes out of the heart makes a person clean or unclean?
For a considerable period of time, the apostles had only spread the Good News to Jews. Granted, the Jews may have been converts to Judaism, as the foreigners on Pentecost were, the Ethiopian eunuch and Simon Magus. They were observing, consciously or not, the ceremonial laws that prevented Jews from closely associating with Gentiles.
Describe Cornelius. Was he or was he not a convert to Judaism?
Centurion, a Roman commander of 100 men, devout and God-fearing. No. The “God-fearers” were not circumcised.
Was he an Old Testament believer?
Yes. God had heard his prayers.
What is significant about Luke’s mentioning that Cornelius sent “a devout” soldier who was one of Cornelius’ attendants?
Cornelius shared his faith, not only with family and family servants, but with those of his century.
The next day Luke shifts the scene to Joppa and Peter. What is Peter’s problem?
He is hungry and lunch isn’t ready yet!
He sees a vision.
What is Peter supposed to kill and eat?
All sorts of unclean animals, really unclean animals.
How does the old Peter show himself?
He blatantly and forcefully refuses to obey the Lord.
How deeply ingrained were the ceremonial dietary laws in Peter?
These dietary laws were so ingrained in Peter that even in a vision when he is being commanded by the Lord, he instinctively recoils from getting near those animals.
Are there certain foods you would not even try? Why or why not?
Rattlesnake and all other foods which the punch line “tastes just like chicken,” come to mind.
Why would Peter have even more reason to dismiss certain foods out of hand?
These dietary laws were not the result of a mother’s instruction, family tradition or personal squeamishness, but these dietary laws were the result of God giving all his law to Moses on Mt. Sinai.
What was God’s punch line?
Don’t call anything impure that God has made clean.
How many times does this scenario play out?
Does Peter go to Cornelius’ home because he has figured out the meaning of the vision? Why or why not?
Yes! He goes because, as he tells Cornelius, he shouldn’t call any man impure. It certainly didn’t hurt that the Holy Spirit tells him to go, because the Holy Spirit has sent the men to Peter.
How does Peter’s entry into Cornelius’ home get off to a bad start?
Cornelius bows to him, showing reverence. This is what the Gentiles did to show respect to men of high standing, but they also did this to their idols and Peter is clearly put off by it, for a Jew bows to no man.
How sold is Peter on all this, according to his words?
Not very. He simply raises no objections. He isn’t overjoyed to be there.
What does Cornelius reveal that changes Peter’s tune?
We are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.
Cornelius and his circle evidently knew some things about Jesus and were ignorant of other things. What did they and what did they not know?
They knew of Jesus’ life, but they didn’t know about Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, as well as his post-Easter appearances.
What is the apostle’s role in all this?
Peter is a witness to all this and his is to tell of what he has seen.
What proof does Peter give Cornelius of the validity of his testimony?
Peter claims to be an eyewitness to all this and claims the prophets testify about it.
What is the heart of all the prophetic promises about Jesus?
All who believe in him will be saved.
Do you remember your answer whether Cornelius was a convert to Judaism? Can you pick out a phrase in verse 45 that shows you were right?
The circumcised believers. This sets them off from Cornelius and his circle, who were obviously uncircumcised believers.
What had happened to Cornelius and his circle?
The miracle of Pentecost had been repeated upon them, for they spoke in tongues.
Can you prove Cornelius and his circle were speaking in foreign languages?
Peter claims they have received the Holy Spirit just as he had and he spoke in foreign languages on Pentecost.
How did Cornelius and his circle become “fully Christian?”
They were baptized in the name of Jesus.
Peter has vividly learned a lesson about the scope and breadth of God’s love. He will subsequently stand up to a group of accusing Christians at Jerusalem who are angry that he has gone in unto uncircumcised people. But further pressure and controversy await. Now that “unclean” people have been admitted by God into his Church, how “unclean” can they still be?
“Judaizers” are active in Antioch, claiming one could only be fully a Christian if they were circumcised. Paul and Barnabas object and the question is taken to the elders in Jerusalem, a church council, if you will. Paul and Barnabas report about their considerable missionary activity among uncircumcised Gentiles and how the Word of the Lord grew. Then the Judaizers step forward with their claims that Christians must obey Moses. In the deliberation Peter plays an important role and the council decides that no other rules should be imposed upon the Gentiles than that they keep themselves from idolatry and eating blood.
Read Galatians 1.11-21
Some years pass. Peter has moved up to Antioch, where Paul and Barnabas are at work.
What was the custom at Antioch when it came to their fellowship meals?
Jews and Gentiles (uncircumcised believers) ate together.
What changed Peter’s custom?
Men from James’ circle in Jerusalem came up. It would appear that, being in Jerusalem, there were very few Gentile believers, so the church there was in the habit of keeping Old Testament dietary laws as a matter of habit or personal choice. When they came, Peter stopped eating with the Gentiles.
Why would Peter feel constrained to change his eating habits?
He felt pressured by the Jerusalem Christians, though there is no indication of overt pressure exercised by them. It is Peter Paul lays into, not the visitors from Jerusalem.
How dangerous was Peter’s example?