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    237
    The Rock on Which the
    Messianic Community is Built

    The Life and Mission of the Apostle Peter
    by J. Alexander Findlay, M.A.

    With NCAY Commentary in the Footnotes

    (I) In a little volume of devotional talks published a few years ago entitled Swanwick at Prayer, the Church {Messianic Community} was compared with a Gothic cathedral. The western window is Paul, the eastern window John, but all the aisles meet in Peter, the prostrate man, and from him the tower rises to the sky. This Manual may be called a commentary on this text. We need not trouble ourselves either with the precarious edifice which advocates of the primacy of the Roman Church has built upon Matt.xvi.18, or with the ultra-Protestant evasions of its obvious meaning. Both are perversions. There is no certain evidence that Peter ever got to Rome; but, if he did, the Church {Messianic Community} in Rome was founded long before he got there, and he was certainly never its bishop. In order to dispel the claim of the Roman Church it is certainly not necessary to take refuge in ingenious evasions of the obvious meaning of this text. The fact is that it was Peter who rallied the scattered disciples between Easter [1] and Pentecost, and began the preaching of the risen Lord in the very city where He had been crucified, accusing the men who were chiefly responsible for the murder to their faces. And, if we want to know how the Christian Church began, we shall be well-advised to do what Paul did, first of all "to interview Peter". This we are going to do, and it will be well worth our while.

    (II) Simon the Fisherman. Whether the hero of our story was a pure-blooded Jew cannot be certain; his brother Andrew had a Greek name, and he came from a town (probably Bethsaida Julias, on the east bank of the Jordan a little north of the lake of Galilee) which was predominantly Gentile. But, whatever he may have been by birth and blood, Simon attended the synagogue devoutly, and was strict in his obedience to the law {Torah}, so far as he understood it [2] is probable too that he was an ardent nationalist, for the name 'barjonim' has been discovered as that of certain followers of the nationalist leader, Judas of Galilee; it means 'extremist'. Whether Jesus {Yah'shua} uses it here as a nickname, or we are to take it that this Simon, like the other Simon whose name appears among the twelve, was a zealot, we cannot be sure. But it is remarkable that at least three of the original members of the 'glorious company of the apostles' have names or nicknames that suggest revolutionary sympathies [3]. It is likely, too, that John the Baptist was a kind of patron saint on these ardent young men, and that the 'soldiers' who came to him for his blessing before departing on their campaign were not Roman soldiers at all, but irregulars. Like Ghandi, John preached non-violence (Luke iii.14), - perhaps with little more success than his [4].

    When we first hear of him, Simon is in attendance upon John; he had probably come up to the feast with his brother Andrew. John had been speaking of a Coming One, stronger than himself, and identified Jesus {Yah'shua}, who was also in the company, as the Stronger One in question. According to the Fourth Gospel he also called him "the Lamb of God {Elohim}, who beareth away the sins of the world". It is possible that he did so; for in his First Epistle Peter makes mjuch of this image: perhaps he did not understand John's words at the time, but he did not forget them.(Compare John i.29, with I Peter ii.24). Whether he can have spoken of Jesus {Yah'shua} as the Messiah at this stage, as the Fourth Gospel also implies, seems more doubtful; for, if Simon had known this when he first came to Jesus {Yah'shua}, it is difficult to understand whu his confession that Jesus {Yah'shua} was the Messiah, made so much later on in his career, should have been described as a heaven-sent revelation; 'flesh and blood', in the person of John, would, in that case, have revealed it to him. Andrew first found an opportunity to interview Jesus {Yah'shua}, and 'first thing next morning he found his brother Simon' (John i.41) - so he had the honour of bringing his brother to the Master who wad to make so much of him. Jesus {Yah'shua} was greatly interested in this new arrival; He cast upon him the searching glance with which He was wont to greet those who specially arrested His attention, and, according to the Fourth Gospel at once christened him [5] - the word is apt - Cephas {Kefa} or Peter. As this look is to come again in Simon's history, we should make a special note of it.

    (III) Simon, son of John. Jesus {Yah'shua} has two, perhaps even three, special names for Simon. He alone calls him Simon, son of John (John i.42; xxi.15-17); He must have asked Andrew what his father's name was. To be addressed as 'Son of so and so' is a recognition of social standing in the East. Perhaps Jesus {Yah'shua} was aware that others did not give Simon and his brother this honourable title. James and John are always called in the Gospels 'Sons of Zebedee; they were obviously of higher social standing than Simon and Andrew. Their request - or their mother's on their behalf - that they should have two places nearest to the throne in the Kingdom hints that they were not unmindful of this fact; the intention to oust Peter - is as plain as it is discreditable. Jesus {Yah'shua} quietly forestalls this by elevating Simon to their rank at his first appearance.

    As to the other constantly repeated nickname - Cephas, Peter - it need only be said at this point that 'rock' is a characteristic of Galilee [6]. It is mostly lava-rock, soft and crumbling at first, but growing firmer as the centuries go by [7]. The newly-christened Peter was a splendid specimin of the kind of man - hot-headed, warm-hearted, and absolutely loyal [8] - for whose sake Jesus {Yah'shua} chose the lakeside country for His memorable year of ministry.

    (IV) The Call to the Apostolate. The week of the feast soon came to an end, and Peter returned to his fishing, losing sight of Jesus {Yah'shua} for a long time. He knew He came from Nazareth, up in the hills eighteen miles away, and must have wondered if He would ever visit the lakeside. During this period the family moved to Capernaum, at the north-western corner of the lake; Andrew and he lived together there, with Peter's wife and mother-in-law. Luke says James and John were 'partners' in the fishing business 'with Simon' (Luke v.10). Zebedee was in a position to have 'hired men' (Mark i.20). Nowadays the possessor of a boat or number of boats has men upon whom he can lay his hands, if they are wanted; possibly this is what Simon and Andrew were. The fact that they were in a position to go up to the feast in Jerusalem suggests that they did not belong to the lowest class of hired labourer. Peter, along with John, is described as 'an unlearned and ignorant man' (Acts iv.13) in the opinion of the Sanhedrin at Jerusalem, but that need not be taken to mean that he was entirely without culture; it simply means that he could not read or write Greek - he could probably speak a kind of Greek fluently - and had not been trained in the Rabbinic schools. As practically the same thing was said of Jesus {Yah'shua} by his enemies (John vii.15) we need not attach much importance to this judgement.

    The site of Peter's call can be confidently identified. Nearly half-way between the lakeside Bethsaida and the ruins of Tell Hun (the most likely site of Capernaum) [9] there is a little headland. On the Bethsaida side of the headland - that is, to the south of it - a hot stream flows into the lake, and there is a tepid pool where the fish love to lie. This is the only spot on the whole of the lakeside - till you get to the place where the Jordan leaves the lake and its southern end, - where the bottom is good enough and the slope into deeper water gradual enough for the fishermen to wade into the water and practice the kind of hand-net fishing described in Mark i.16-20. Luke has quite another story of Peter's call, and his account includes a miraculous draught of fishes. Probably the story of Peter's first call given by Luke is another version of the story of the second call as told in John xxi. "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Master" (Luke v.8) certainly seems more appropriate after the denial that before it; and Mark, whose Gospel has all the signs of giving us Peter's own story, has the right of way here. The fact that Jesus {Yah'shua}, on that momentous journey north, left the great towns of Tiberias and Taricheae, which were on His route on one side, and went on towards the smaller town of Capernaum by the shore and not by the great north road, suggests that He had heard that His old friends had left Bethsaida Julias now, and had settled in Capernaum, and that He knew where to find them. We generally take it for granted that peter and the others forsook the fishing and their homes altogether when they followed Jesus {Yah'shua}, but it is worth noticing that only by Luke (Luke v.11) is anything of the kind stated. It is true that Peter makes the claim that he and his friends "have left all" (Mark x.28); it does not follow that at this stage he broke off all connexions with home or sold his fishing tackle. Indeed, Matthew xvii.27 (like John xxi.3) suggests the opposite. He certainly left home for long periods in company with Jesus {Yah'shua}. We can only wonder how his wife and mother-in-law were maintained during those absences, and conclude that the band of good companions of Jesus {Yah'shua} made themselves responsible for their support. If Peter and the others had, as the Fourth Gospel tells us, fallen under the spell of Jesus {Yah'shua} long ago by the Jordan, we can understand why their response to His call was instant and decisive, when He told them He would teach them how to "catch men".

    (V) One memorable day Jesus {Yah'shua} went home to Peter's and Andrew's house for the night, sleeping probably on the roof, while the family slept downstairs. It was Friday afternoon when Jesus {Yah'shua} met Peter, and on Saturday morning the whole party, except Peter's mother-in-law, who was unwell, would go to the synagogue. Peter has given us an incomparably lifelike account of the story of the next few hours; he must have been an expert story-teller. Jesus {Yah'shua} made a great sensation by His preaching, but a greater by the cure of a demon-possessed man. The synagogue at Capernaum, if it corresponded to the ruins which are now being reconstructed [8] from the great stones, some weighing as much as five tons, which were found lying on the hillside at Tell Hum, must have seated at least 1500 people; and the news of the amazing service would soon spread through the neighbourhood, for people would come to worship there from all parts of the district. Then followed the midday Sabbath meal; but having the Preacher to dinner was awkward, as there was sickness in the house. At the touch of Jesus {Yah'shua} the attack of malVerdana fever which had attacked Peter's wife's mother passed away, and she was well enough to go on waiting upon the diners - "waiting upon Jesus {Yah'shua}", says the First Evangelist for she would have no eyes for any one but Jesus {Yah'shua} now. Another shorter service would follow in the afternoon, uneventfully, and then a quiet time till ...the Sabbath ended. By that time the whole town had heard of Jesus {Yah'shua}, and the street was crowded with sick people. Jesus {Yah'shua} passed a busy evening going from group to group in the street lit up with lanterns. Usually streets in an Eastern town are silent at night, but this was not a normal evening. Such scenes had never occurred before, we may be sure, in the history of Capernaum. At last Jesus {Yah'shua} retires to His roof chamber, but in the morning He is up and way into the hills behind the town, before Peter and the others are stirring. He has quietly slipped away by the outside staircase at the back of the house without disturbing the family, and when Peter wakes, it is to find the street full of anxious inquirers. He goes to call Jesus {Yah'shua}, but the prophet's chamber is empty. A search-party goes out, and by and by they find Him at His prayers. "Everybody is seeking you," says Peter. "That is just the reason why I got away this morning," says Jesus {Yah'shua}. We can scarcely doubt that the whole vivid story comes from peter himself; we can alomost put a 'we' for every 'they' in the narrative of what happened in that glorious twenty-four hours.

    (VI) Peter, the prince of the apostles and the right-hand man of Jesus {Yah'shua}. It is clear that these were great days for Peter. Increasingly he becomes the spokesman for the twelve, and walks side by side with Jesus {Yah'shua}. Jesus {Yah'shua} is living in one world, and they in another, but he is so friendly, so companionable, listens so seriously to their suggestions, that they do not realize that yet. Sooner or later, their pleasant illusion that they understood Him was boud to be dispelled, but Jesus {Yah'shua} will not let them down a moment before it is necessary. This crisis came two months later at Easter [1] time. The twelve had often been puzzled by the habit of running away from His own popularity which had been growing upon Jesus {Yah'shua} lately; now their failure to understand - how could they be expected to? - come to a head. Most of the able-bodied men who could afford to go were away at Jerusalem at the feast, but they had left instructions that Jesus {Yah'shua} was not to be allowed to slip away again. John the Baptist had just been murdered by Herod, and Jesus {Yah'shua} was their only hope. So when he and His friends take a boat and row out into the middle of the lake, they are watching; and when they begin to pull towards the shore again, they hurry along to the place where He seems likely to land, - one of the few quiet spots on the Western lakeside. They can see Him, but He cannot see them, and, when He lands, He finds a crowd of poor peasant people waiting for Him. In His compassion for their forlorn condition He forgets His desire for privacy, and entertains them to supper. But the happy evening ends dismally. Fed and rested now, the peasant-people think the time has come to make Him their king; if He will not lead them against the Romans, surely He will take them away with manna from Heaven! The improtant thing for us to notice is that the twelve evidently sympathize with the crowd; so much indeed that Jesus {Yah'shua} has to exercise constraint, sending the crowd home one way, by land, and the disciples another, by water. Very much against their will they embark, and Jesus {Yah'shua} is left to contemplate the disasterous end to His public ministry in Galilee. Every time Peter and the others come in contact with the crowd, they get out of hand. Some time before that, He had sent them out in pairs to try their hand at preaching the gospel of the Kingdom, and they had returned in such an excited condition that Jesus {Yah'shua} had been obliged to take them away and steady them again.

    It must have seemed to Jesus {Yah'shua} that the little boat on which the future of the world depended might well capsize on its first voyage, for He could yet trust the crew. By and by he looks down at the lake, and there they are, struggling against the wind, making no headway, almost foundering! Whether Jesus {Yah'shua} actually walked on the water, as to His overwrought friends He seemed to do that night, we cannot say [10]; but the story of Peter's attempt to walk on the water too is richly suggestive. At least there was a man who was willing to 'launch out into the deep', to leave his own world behind, and walk on the water with Jesus {Yah'shua}. Twelve months later, once more he went out into the unknown to be with Jesus {Yah'shua}; again he began to sink, and once more Jesus {Yah'shua} set him on his feet again. It is easy to blame Peter because he so often set off, and so soon he faltered; - easy, and very foolish. It was a great thing, it was everything, that he should try. From that time forward, we may be sure, Jesus {Yah'shua} and Peter came to be more and more to each other. Peter was rapidly qualifying to be the rock on which the Church {Messianic Community} is built.

    (VII) The stonelaying. A long period of wandering outside of Galilee follows, culminating, perhaps three months later, at Caesarea Philippi. At a little distance from Paneas, the modern representative of Caesarea Philippi, 'lies a deep gorge, through which their roars a headlong stream, half hidden by bush.' Over the gorge there towers a high limestone cliff, and in the cliff there is a cavern from which the stream issues; it is one of the small streams that go to make the infant Jordan. At the top of the cliff was a marble temple, where the dead Roman Emperor, Julius Caesar, was worshipped as God. "These were two religions which were shortly to context the world" (Sir G.A.Smith). Was there ever such a unequal struggle! On one side the Roman world-power, on the other the peasant-leader of a small company of workingmen like Himself, not one of whom could understand Him. But He is sure of one at least of them, and knows that he will answer His challenge. Peter is ready now, though the sequel shewed how little he understood what he was saying. But the important thing was not what he said, nor even what he meant by what he said, but what Jesus {Yah'shua} made of his confession. At last a man has spoken for us, and earth has re-echoed the Heavenly voice at the Baptism. He welcomes Peter's answer delightfully, and tells him that now he has earned his name given him so long ago [11]; he is not only to be the 'rock on which the Church {Messianic Community} is to be built' but also its chief steward. Many years later a very humble Peter (I Peter ii.4) calls all believers 'living stones', Jesus {Yah'shua} Himself being the 'precious Corner-stone'. In his story of his life with Jesus {Yah'shua} Peter chose to ignore the unique position Jesus {Yah'shua} gave him, and in his Epistle he distinctly disclaimed it; but this should not rob him of the honour given him by Jesus {Yah'shua} Himself [12].

    (VIII) 'Get thee behind me, Satan'. One reason, perhaps, why Peter was shy about the honour that was done him at Caesarea Philippi was that it was so soon followed by a rebuke. We must remember that there was something else than loyalty in Peter's confession; he was still a 'Barjonah', the nationalist. We can almost imagine him shaking his fist at the temple on the rock! Ever since his boyhood, this political extremism, so natural and pardonable, had been our Lord's most persistent hindrance, and now it had driven Him out of Galilee and ruined His work, so hopefully begun there [13]. In Peter's face Jesus {Yah'shua} sees it again; that did not prevent Him praising him, but it made Him all the more determined that henceforth they shall be under no delusion as to what the next few months would bring them. So He begins to talk for the first time of rejection and death in Jerusalem. This prophecy, repeated as it was at intervals during this period with ever greater solemnity, was, as might have been expected, utterly unintelligible to the disciples; and after a time, urged on by the others, Peter, now their recognized spokesman, 'takes Jesus {Yah'shua} aside' - he never did it again - and ventures gently to chide Him. All he got for his pains was a look that he ahd never seen on his Master's face before, and the cutting words "get thee behind me, thou satan"! There is fortunately no reason to think that Jesus {Yah'shua} really called his true-hearted follower the devil; the first evangelist has explained the word 'satan' for us - it should here be printed without a capital letter - in the phrase "Thou art my hindrance" (Matt.xvi.23) [14]. But, whatever was meant by the phrase, peter was hurt; for the more we love any one, the more deeply they can wound us. From this time forward, he no longer walked side by side with Jesus {Yah'shua}, but folowed along behind, still faithful, but resentful [15]. It is easy for us to be wise after the event. To us the death of Jesus {Yah'shua}, followed as we know it was by His Resurrection, is the most glorious thing that ever happened; how could it be so to His twelve? They 'could not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask Him'; the manner in which Peter's well-intentioned protest had been received would effectually discourage them. So they follow afar off, wondering why Jesus {Yah'shua} was so unlike Himself in these days, and their spirits sank so low that by and by Jesus {Yah'shua} took three of them with Him to the snow-level on Mount Hermon, and was transfigured before them [16].

    (IX) The Transfiguration. Peter had probably never climed Mount Hermon before, though, like other Galileans, he lived in sight of it. But its foot is as least forty miles from the lake, and none of the great roads led in that direction. Moses and Elijah were both already associated in the minds of the Palestinians with those 'mountains on the other side', of which Hermon is the highest and northernmost. Whether they slept that night or not is not clear; at any rate in the morning they saw Jesus {Yah'shua} with His face brighter than the morning sun, His garments whiter than the mountain snow, and with Him Moses and Elijah, both of whom ahd disappeared from human ken on those mysterious hills, where they were supposed to be wandering, waiting for the advent of the Messiah. At first Peter's heart leaps up; Jesus {Yah'shua} is Himself again, for the shadow which had been so often there lately has gone. He would stay on the mountain-top and forget dismal prophecies of tragic failure in Jerusalem. Eager as he is, he has not forgotten what happened last time he dared to make a suggestion. He is unusually diffident; "if Thou wilt," he says, "I will make three huts, one for Thee, one for Moses, one for Elijah." While the three great Ones talk, the three little ones will be proud to lie out in the snow and watch. As he speaks the vision passes; a mist floats over them, and out of the mist comes the Heavenly Voice, the 'sign from Heaven' which was refused to the crowd down by the lakeside, and Peter's heart sinks again. Why was the face of Jesus {Yah'shua} shining? Was it not because at last he had found His friends? Moses had climbed those hills, and never returned, and so had Elijah, for Elijah had to come home alone. Now Jesus {Yah'shua} is here; is He going to stay with these other two, worthier than they to be His companions, or are they, the disciples, to go sadly back without Him? Jesus {Yah'shua} knows what he is thinking, and coming up to them in the mist, touches them, saying: 'Arise, and be not afraid,' as if to say, 'I like you best' [17]. So Peter, James and John remain with Jesus {Yahshua} for a little while longer, and Moses and Elijah fade away.

    (X) Down into the shadows. The Transfiguration was only a momentary gleam of sunshine; they are soon on the road again, becoming more demoralized every day under repeated prophecies of tragedy in Jerusalem. Separated as they were from their Master in these days, it was natural that they should become separated from one another. Peter was suffering from the repeated pinpricks of a 'brother' who was clever enough to make himself very objectionable to a simpler man than himself. Peter is too loyal to mention names, but when he ahs forgiven his 'brother' seven times, we can scarcely worder that his patience was exhausted, and that he complains. We can easily imagine who the offending brother was; for the fact that Judah had held, and still kept, the money-box is proof that he was 'the first of the twelve' when he was appointed; - perhaps he had been the first in the field. Jesus {Yah'shua} can only rell Peter that he must go on fogiving as long as he can, and longer. A little later, when the rich young magistrate had come and gone, Peter again ventures to remind Jesus {Yahshua} that there were some who had 'left all' to follow Him, and Jesus {Yah'shua} replies that they will be rewarded, in the same coin and at compound interest in the long run, but that they will have a long way to go, and before the end there will be many surprsing reversals of position. In any case, he goes on to say, in the very lively parable found in Matt.xx.1ff., they would do well to leave the qquestion of reward to Him.

    (XI) But why should the first become last? The most difficult of all lessons for young people, like Peter and the rest of us, is humility; and humility is the one essential of Christian character. People who have been or are down and out do not need to learn it, for life has hammered their inferiority home to them. That is why the 'publicans' and unfortunate women who came to Jesus {Yah'shua}, outcasts like thw woman of Samaria or the dying brigand on the Cross, got home so much more quickly than peter, James and John; and that is why men and women who have know the inside of a gaol may get converted and seem to have none of our difficulties; they still 'lie down' as the publicans did, with Jesus {Yah'shua} (Matt.ix.10), quite at home with Him. We need not envy them; they have suffered enough before they came; but it is well that we should understand why it is not easy for us, as it is for them. We should not complain, for what is true of us was true of Him. He 'the First' was to become last (Matt.xx.28); it would seem to be a law of the spiritual life that some time, somehow, every man must be brought low; and, as this was true of Him too, we can only reverently accept it.

    (XII) The Triumphal Entry and what followed it. The long slow pilgrimage to Jerusalem comes to an end at last. Before they enter the city, the other Galilean pilgrims to the Passover have caught them up, and some of the younger members of the twelve forget their depression in the contagion of the crowd's excitement. Whereas a short time before they had tried to keep the children away from Jesus {Yah'shua}, and to silence Bartimaeus in order to avoid attracting attention, now they are shouting 'Hosanna to the Son of David' ('God save the King') lustily in the streets of Jerusalem, defying Pilate and Herod to do their worst, while James and John are already scheming to get the two best places in the 'glory' which they are sure is coming at last. Peter would not be so easily able to forget the rebuke which had brought the ckouds across his sky. It is interesting to notice that when he saw the withered fig tree by the road up the Mount of Olives on Monday night, peter says "Look, Lord, the fig tree Thou didst curse is withered up" (Mark 11.21). Peter "remembered", he tells us; were the strange words spoken to the fig tree all that he remembered? We may be fairly sure that when Peter makes a general remark, he is thinking of himself. That was how he felt these days, as if his life had withered up at the roots under his Master's curse.

    (XIII) The upper room. On Thursday night Peter was still utterly bewildered. When, after supper, Jesus {Yah'shua} began to wash His disciples' feet and it came to his turn, he protested once again: "Lord, dost thou wash my feet?" Jesus {Yah'shua} answered: "What I am doing thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know later on," - just as He said the same evening, "Whither I go, thou canst not follow Me now, but thou shalt follow Me later on" - hard sayings indeed for so impatient a young enthusiast as Peter! He reiterates: "Thou shalt never wash my feet!" In His reply the undertone of warning becomes deeper in the voice of Jesus {Yah'shua}: "If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with Me." Peter sees now that his Master is speaking of something more than mere washing of dust from the body, and he goes straight away to the other extreme: "Lord," he says, "not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!" It is as if he said, 'If that is what you mean, wash all that has happened in the last six months away! I don't know what I have done to lose your confidence, but something has gone wrong lately! My clumsy hands, my bewilderd brain - I don't know what has come over me, but I want it washed away, whatever it is that has come between you and me!' Jesus {Yah'shua} answers reassuringly, 'Your heart is alright, Peter; indeed there is nothing seriously wrong with you; but trouble is coming, and I am doing this to prepare you for it.' A little later on he tells Peter that before cockcrow, that very night, he will disown Him three times over. This was the 'unkindest cut off all'; because all through these dragging weeks and months Peter has been falling back for comfort on his loyalty. 'I cannot understand Him, as I thought I could in the old days,' he would think, 'but at least I can fight, and the time will come soon when he will want me.' Now Jesus {Yah'shua} seems to question even his loyalty, and he bursts out into passionate protestations: "Though all men disown Thee, I will not!" What Peter said in his haste had a way of coming up again, and so it was now (John xxi.15). Still Jesus {Yah'shua} insists that it will be so, but in the same breath goes on to say "Let not your heart be troubled." In His Father's house there are many strange rooms, not all on the other side of death; and Caiphas' courtyard was by and by no become one for Peter, for when he got there he found Jesus {Yah'shua} waiting for him. He had gone before to prepare a place for Peter. All had been provided for before, and Jesus {Yah'shua} never feared for Peter; his heart was clean.

    (XIV) Gethemane. As they leave the room, and wend their way outside the city walls and down the Roman steps which bring one to the Kedron valley, the disciples gather more closely about Jesus {Yah'shua}, for they know now that there is danger in the air; they are 'with Jesus {Yah'shua}' (Matt.xxvi.36) for the last time before the tragedy that tore them apart. Peter, James and John are allowed to enter the garden with Him, but they are forbidden to come too close. When, on Mount Hermon, Jesus {Yah'shua} was happy, He could not have them too near, and when they delt themselves left out in the cold He drew them in; now, when he is stricken with mortal sorrow, he will not have them see more of His grief than their tired nereves can bear. They are to keep awake if they can, he tells them, and pray. What are they to pray for? 'That they may not enter into this trial,' He answers. Not so very long ago He had challenged them to follow Him, to death if need be; now His chief concern seems to be to save them from a share in what was coming to Him. Peter can see his Master's prostrate form in the moonlight, and hear His half-stifled sobbing; he would have given anything to have gone up and whispered a word of comfort in His ear; but he remembers what happened last time he tried to cheer Him in a dark hour, and he is afraid. Worse than all else is his intolerable weariness, for he is desperately anxious to justify himself, sure that the crisis is upon them. He was a naturally active man, used to strenuous physical labour in the open air; and now he has been living for months a life of comparative inactivity, his brain on the treadmill, with nothing to do but think - and all to no purpose, and with no outlet for his nervous energy. So he has lost his sleep, and is a bundle of nerves. Years afterwards, writing to Christian women, he bids them (1 Peter iii.6) 'not to give way to nerves'; and he knew what he was talking about. But with a healthy man nature will have its way, especially when everything conduces to sleep, the light night wind, his own utter weariness, the quiet garden. He half wakes to find Jesus {Yah'shua} standing over them, kindly excusing their disobedience, and bidding them try once more. The third time He comes, he says, 'Sleep on now, and take your rest.' Commentators have generally taken the words as ironical; I prefer to think that He meant that suggestion seriously, for He saw they were 'all in'. They might very well have gone further in under the shadow of the trees, and missed the worst of what followed. But they are not going to leave Him now; as they rise, he bids them look towards the city wall, and there through the trees they see flickering lights, and by and by hear trampling feet. 'It is all settled,' says Jesus {Yah'shua}; 'He's here.'

    (XV) Another rebuke. In a moment the garden is full of trampling men, confused voices and swaying lights. Six hundred Roman soldiers and every man upon whom the Sanhedrin officials can lay their hands, with the bludgeons for which the servants - we should call them gangsters - of the house of Annas were famous, and Judas leading them? Peter is wide awake now, and his hand is on his sword, which he has safely hidden under his cloak. But see! there is no need for anyone to fight, for Jesus {Yah'shua} is at long last Himself again, the look of power on His face which Peter had not seen there since he was transfigured before them; and there are His enemies where they ought to be, cowering at His feet. Then, to his yet greater amazement, Jesus {Yah'shua} lets them get up again and take Him, and, with a hand he cannot keep still, Peter lashes out in blind fury at the nearest of them, and only succeeds in slashing his ear. Then for the last time Jesus {Yah'shua} rebukes him, and what was there for them to do but go? Evidently Jesus {Yah'shua} has no use for them now! Scarcely knowing what they are doing, they turn and flee, one in one direction, one in another, cursing their humiliation. For the next hour or two, peter is wndering in the dark like a man demented. Jesus {Yah'shua} had told him earlier in the evening that Satan had asked to have them; that, not content with getting one of them into his toils, he was making a bid for them all; and Peter was never so near to being lost as he was then. Blind loyalty and blind resentment are fighting for the possession of his soul. Before we judge him, we should remember the courage of his solitary desperate challenge to at least seven hundred armed men. In later days, when he told thw story as Mark has handed it down to us, he passed it over, as he passed over everything else that could be said in his own defence. Telling this story, he contented himself with saying 'one of the bystanders drew his sword' (Mark xiv.47). That was how he found himself as he remembered that night - a mere clumsy meddler! We must take some trouble to see the course of events from Peter's point of view, for it is as easy as it is foolish to air the superior knowledge which is no credit to us at the expense of braver men than ourselves. How could he understand? The hardest discipline of all for a loyal man is to be told he is not wanted. Why had Jesus {Yah'shua} entered the city so defiantly on Palm Sunday to capitulate so completely on Thursday evening? Was it a failure of serve at the last moment? Why go to Jerusalem at all, just to give Himself up to His enemies? And, above all, why lead His friends into a trap, and then tell them He did not need them any longer, and humiliate them when they did try to shew their devotion? However, after a sharp struggle, loyalty wins; he cannot forsake his Master yet, thiugh there was nothing for him to do now, he supposed, but to 'see the end' (Matt.xxvi.58) - the end of all his dreams of being something better than a fisherman - and then to go back to Galilee and try to live it down and forget, if he could. By and by he finds himself climbing the Roman steps again down which he had come with his Master a few hours before. He sees in the distance a light from Caiaphas' house, and, scarcely knowing what he is doing, he finds his way to the door and knocks. The porter's daughter comes to the door, and slams it in his face; she is a city minx, and is not going to admit a Galilean fisherman man amongst gentlefolks. But before the door is quite closed, someone inside - a disciple of Jesus {Yah'shua} who is a friend of the high priest, and consequently had the entré into the hall where the trial of Jesus {Yah'shua} was taking place - catches sight of Peter in the doorway, and beckons to the girl to admit him. So Peter goes up to the fire which is burning in the courtyard, for it is a frosty night, and joins in the chatter of the servants to cloak his nervousness, giving himself away with every word he said. Galileans were a constant butt for the wit of Jerusalem; their Aramaic accent was regarded as provincial and their dress uncouth. The girl who had admitted Peter makes up her mind to shew her smartness at his expense; her betters were having their fun with this Galilean puppet-king in the hall: why should not she amuse herself with his lout of a follower? We have often heard eloquent sermons on the great text in Acts (iv.13): "When they saw the outspokenness of Peter and John, and recognized that they were uneducated and illiterate men, they realized that they had been with Jesus {Yah'shua}." Perhaps we have not heard so many on the fact that a servant-girl, seeing Peter's hectic condition, that he is a wreck of a man, comes to the same conclusion for a purely opposite reason!

    (XVI) 'Thou shalt understand hereafter.' When she is free from her duties for a minute, she accosts Peter, staring curiously at him in the light of the fire, as he tries to avoid her gaze: 'You were with Jesus {Yah'shua} of Nazareth, weren't you?' she says. Peter had gone through as much as he could stand lately. If the worst come to the worst, he had thought, I can make a fight of it. But to be the sport of servant-maids! He is like a beast in a net, struggling to get away from intolerable humiliation. His only instinct now is somehow to escape back back to the fishing on the lake, which he understood; that was all he was fit for. Anything to get away from the scrutiny of those mocking Judaeans [18], and forget his foolish dreams and their shameful consummation! ALl he can bring himself to say is, 'I don't know, I don't understand what you mean,' like a shamefaced schoolboy not even able to lie convincingly; then he turns away, she peers at him again, and this time says to the men standing round the fire, who are enjoying it all immensely, 'He is one of them.' They shout to him to come back, and he obeys; there is nothing for him to do now but brazen it out; and again this time with more assurance, he contradicts them. For a few minutes he is left alone, and the conversation passes to other topics. But his cup of bitter humiliation is not full yet; this time a man returns to the charge: ' You are one of them,' he says, 'for you are a Galilean; your dialect betrays you; any one can tell you come from the north, my lad.' Now he is talking to a man, Peter can let himself go, and he begins to 'curse and swear'. He had been, like most Galileans, a good swearer, though he had not done much swearing lately; now he comes all out, and for a little while he is Simon the fisherman again. he is still shouting and throwing his arms about, and the mocking laughter which he is trying vainly to shout down is at its highest, when a bugle blows. Jesus {Yah'shua} had wound Himself so closely about Peter's heart that he could never be Simon the fisherman again for more than a minute or two; only a very litle thing, any little thing, was needed to bring him back. Was it a cock heralding the greatest day in the world's history? The cock was an unclean animal, and no cock was allowed within two miles of the Temple, we are told. Perhaps it was the trumpet blown by one of the priests whose duty it was towards morning to look out for the first faint streak of dawn over the hills of Moab, and blow his trumpet once, and then as the light grew brighter, again. At the first bugle-call the city stirred in its sleep, at the second the priests rose and lit the fire on the golden altar of incense. Or it may have been the bugle in the Roman camp near by, sounding the reveille. In any case it was called 'cock-crowing' [19]. Peter half notices it, and something that he had forgotten begins to come back into his bewildered brain. his voice drops, and his face lights up, for he is remembering. The faces round the fire are fading now; they are still there, wondering at his sudden silence and the far-away look in their victim's eyes. Then with the second 'cock-crowing' it all comes back; it is not his tormentors, it is Jesus {Yah'shua} looking at him, as He looked at him when they first met. It was not a reproachful glance then, and it is not now, but it is enough to break Peter's proud heart. Caiaphas' courtyard has become in a moment a room in the Father's house, though it was only as he looked becak that Peter realized that it was so; just now his only feeling is one of overmastering shame. 'He set to, and burst into passionate weeping'; whatever he did, Peter did it with a will. How he got away he perhaps never knew; probably the 'beloved disciple' sees his friend in trouble, and takes him home.

    (XVII) Good Friday. But this was not Peter's zero-hour. It has generally been taken for granted that Peter was in hiding until Easter Sunday, but Luke tells us explicit°y (xxiii.49) that all the Galilean friends watched the crucifixion at a distance; they would surely include Peter. We often think of the Passion of Jesus {Yah'shua}, not so often of the passion of His friends. Every one there, friends and enemies of Jesus {Yah'shua} alike, believed that if He were the Son of God, He would 'come down from the Cross.' The Bible, the infallible Word of God, said 'Cursed' - that was taken to mean 'under God's curse' - 'is every one that hangs upon a tree.' It followed that, if Jesus was not delivered, He was under God's curse. As the slow hours dragged themselves along, and His body still hung there, the iron entered more and more deeply into the souls of the men and women who loved Him; and at last, to make assuredly doubly so, they heard His despairing cry, 'My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?' What was there, now He had confessed Himself forsaken - and we must remember that, standing at a distance, as they were, they would hear nothing more - but for them to live out the rest of their days under the shadow of God's wrath; whatever they had thought, God had the last word, and the worst of all was, God against Jesus {Yah'shua} and them; nothing could ever go right with them again. How they managed to live through to Easter Sunday [1] they could never tell. Perhaps a subconscious memory of something that he had said about 'after three days' (Mark ix.32) kept them in Jerusalem till then. We may wonder why Jesus {Yah'shua} left them so long in that darkness; thae answer may be that their sorrow brought them at last really together, as men and women will creep together in the dark for warmth and company. At any rate, there is no question now about who is the greatest. At last they really found each other, for Jesus {Yah'shua} had to go away, before they could realize what the fellowship, which was to become 'the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,' could mean. When they are really together, Jesus {Yah'shua} comes back; when the Church {Messianic Community} is made up into one, he will come back once more.

    (XVIII) Easter [1] Sunday Morning. On the Resurrection morning Peter and the beloved disciple are still together, when news comes that the tomb is empty; they start up and run together to see. Peter is out of condition with weeping and sleeplessness, and the younger man gets there first [20], but, being naturally timid, he does not enter [21], though the stone is rolled on one side. Peter goes in, but can see nothing except that the tomb is empty; the other disciple follows, and he 'saw and believed' (John xx.8). What he saw is a matter of controversy; at any rate it was wnough to convince him that Yahshua {Jesus} has risen from the dead.

    That afternoon Yahshua {Jesus} paid a special visit to Peter. This we know from the outburst of news which greeted Cleopas and his friend on their hurried return to Jerusalem from Emmaus: 'The Lord is risen indeed He has appeared to Simon'. His first thought had been of Peter. he had left word with the young man in white (Mark xvi.7) to bid any of His friends who came along, 'Go tell His disciples and Peter'; and now, as Paul also tells us, 'He appeared to Peter!' We would give much to know what passed between Yahshua {Jesus} and peter then; perhaps we have a hint in I Peter iv.6 (of iii.19), where we are told that 'the gospel had been preached to the dead' [22]. In that hour the old self-confident Simon died, and the Peter whom Yahshua {Jesus} had always seen in him was born.

    (XIX) 'Lovest thou Me?' Rather more than a week later the disciples go back to Galilee; Jesus {Yah'shua} had bidden them wait for His next reappearance there. As the days passed uneventfully, Peter begins to get restless to be on the lake again, and one night they all go fishing, though they were not all fishermen. That night they caught nothing, and towards morning are coming in to shore, when they catch sight of a fire burning on the beach, and by and by make out a man standing by the fire, and here Him shoult, 'Lads, have you got anything?' They shout back, 'No.' Then He bids them let down their net at the right side of the boat, and they make a record catch. The young disciple who is standing by Peter has by this time seen who the Stranger is, and, when peter is told, he puts his fisherman's jacket on and swims ashore. Jesus {Yah'shua} tells him to drag the catch to land, so he goes aboard again and tugs it to the beach by main force - he must have been a prodigiously strong man. Then he gives him his breakfast; I wonder whether Peter had had a wet net full of great fish to pull ashore and then a good breakfast that other early morning, he would ever have disowned his Master! After breakfast, Jesus {Yah'shua} turns to him, and, calling him by the old pet-name, asks him: 'Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than the others? You said you did, you know, the other night.' The old Simon would have burst out into passionate protestations of his loyalty, and would have meant them all; the new Peter is restrained and very humble, and answers, 'Yes, Lord, you know I love you.' 'Feed My lambs,' says Jesus {Yah'shua}. The second time of asking Jesus {Yah'shua} leaves out the others, and, when peter answers in the same words, He replies, 'Tend My ewes' [23]. The third time Jesus {Yah'shua} asked the question, it hurt Peter, because this seemed like 'rubbing it in'. Not so long ago, in front of a fire in the very early morning, three times over Peter had disowned his Master! But he keeps a tight hold of himself, and answers, ' You know it all, Lord; you know I love you.' 'Feed My sheep,' says Jesus {Yah'shua}. Then He gives us a biogarphy of peter in two sentences: 'When you were younger, Peter, you went where you wanted; now you are older, you will go where you don't want to go, because you have found your Master now.' The Fourth evangelist - or his editor - adds a note to the effect that this referred to Peter's eventual martyrdom; it also sums up his whole career.

    (XX) Peter at Pentecost. For a little while Peter is in the centre of the stage. After all his humiliation it is glorious to see him at Pentecost. No longer does his dialect betray him; no longer is he a well-meaning but awakward Galilean out of his depth. In the very city where only a few weeks ago he had watched his Master die in despair amid the mockery of the crowds, he charges them to their faces with the murder of Jesus {Yah'shua}, but adds, with his Master's own magnanimity,' I know you did it in ignorance'. What courage and what nobility! I hope the porter's girl from Caiphas' hall was there! After a time Herod dares to imprison him. He is miraculously delivered, and comes to the house of Mark's mother only to discover that another man, James, the Lord's brother, is in charge [24]. So Peter 'went to another place'. In this tantalizing fashion has Luke thrown the hero of his first twelve chapters overboard. Apart from the Epistles which bear his name, he only appears three or four times in the New Testament, once to make a progressive speech at the 'Council of Jerusalem', once or twice in the epistles to the Galatians and the Corinthians. From the former we learn that Paul and he had a difference of opinion at Antioch, and Paul charges him with 'inconsistent conduct.' It would be quite easy to make a case for Peter in this instance (Gal.ii.11ff), though it is clear that Paul was more far-sighted than Peter. But neither here nor elsewhere does Peter think it worth his while to defend himself. He must have read the Galation epistle; whether the First Epistle of Peter is authentic or not - I believe strongly that it is - at any rate the first verse proves that it was believed before the end of the first century that he was acquainted with Galatia. He could quite justifiably have found a way of putting himself right with the readers of the Epistle, but he has let the case go by default. He was by no means as great a man as Paul; may we claim that he was a humbler man? That he travelled as widely, and suffered not much less than Paul, is suggested by a hundred traditions from here, there, and everywhere. That he thought it his duty to 'go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,' while Paul went to the Gentiles, is quite probable, but such a quest would mean world-wide travelling. Moreover, according to the testimony of the Acts - and we have no right to reject it - he was actually the first to preach to a Gentile. It may be said that he went to Cornelius' house unwillingly, but the whole point of the narrative in Acts x. and xi. is not that peter was unwilling to preach to Cornelius, but that he was unwilling at first to eat with him - a very different matter, because that meant ceasing altogether to be a law-abiding Jew. Jesus {Yah'shua} had never once suggested that they should cease to be loyal members of the Jewish Church when they became His disciples; and Paul himself indignantly repudiated the charge that he was encouraging those who were born Jews to live like Geentiles. When it was amde clear to him that he was to go to Cornelius' house, he went, and - Paul is our witness for this - habitually disregarded his nationality in the company of Gentile Christians.

    (XXI) The prostrate man. But the greatest But the greatest proof of Peter's amazing humility after Pentecost is to be found in the Gospel of Mark. For there is no doubt that, though it may contain others things as well, it does contain stories of Jesus {Yah'shua} as Peter used to tell them. In that Gospel Peter and the rest of the twelve are made to play a sorry part; so much so, that some scholars have actually suggested that Mark is a Pauline pamphleteer, anxious to point invidious comparisons between the original apostles and Paul! The connexion between Peter and Mark is not only substantiated by I Peter v.13 and by early Church tradition, but by the way the Gospel lights up (Mark i.16ff) directly Peter appears on the scene. Is there any one of us who, if we had been called by Jesus {Yah'shua} the rock on which His Church was to be built, if we had fought single-handed against an army for Him, would not have found a way of letting tyhe facts be known? Even if we had been honest enough to include also the fact that he called us 'satan', and that we disowned Him three times over, we should have out in the other side as well. To follow in His steps (I Peter ii.21); to be no flaming missionary like Paul, but a gentle pastor of Christ's flock (I Peter v.1,2); though he was the veteran to call himself modestly 'your fellow elder' (I Peter v.1); to 'put on the apron of humility to serve the youngest (I Peter v.5); to humble himself, leaving it to God to raise him in his own good time (I Peter v.6); - this was Peter's way, for he had learned to stretch forth his hands, that another should gird him. That he was everntually martryred, as Paul was, in the time of Nero, is fairly certain; that he was crucified is extremely likely, for he was not a privileged person like Paul. Whether the 'Quo vadis?' story is true or not, it perfectly sums up his life after Pentecost. How greatly the Roman Church, still the largest in the world, has exalted him we know; its instinct was right, though the manner of the exaltation may have been wrong. We may be sure that he is more surprised by his enthronement at Rome than any one else.

    (XXII) Why Peter is the rock. Peter is the rock on which the Church {Messianic Community} is built, not only because so far as man could start it, he was responsible for there being a Church at all, but also and principally because he is far more typical of normal Christian experience than Paul. A study of his life before and after Pentecost will do more to explain the way we are being taken than any number of general discussions. Paul was abnormal in one way, because he was a religious genius: the publicans and sinners who followed Jesus {Yah'shua} were abnormal in another, because they had sounded the depths of self-despair before they found Jesus {Yah'shua}. Most of us belong to neither of these categories, and people like Peter and ourselves are, and always have been in an overwhelming majority in the Church {Messianic Community}. Moreover, fortunately for us, he was an unusually outspoken and unsophisticated person; that is why he becomes spokesman for us as he was for his fellow-disciples. He began his career as a disciple of Jesus {Yah'shua}, as we did, in a spirit of hero-worship, inspired by a love of adventure and a passionate desire to set the world right. When Jesus {Yah'shua} on coming to Capernaum picked up again the threads of the friendship begun in those early days of part religious, party nationalist revical associated with John the Baptist's mission by the Jordan, Peter may have said, as Luke tells us he did, 'Depart from me, Sir, for I am a sinful man,' and meant it; but it is interesting to notice that Jesus {Yah'shua} did not 'improve the occasion'. It is not true to say that our young idealists have no sense of sin; no one can be so utterly overwhelmed by self-despising as the idealist adolescent, and Peter was an adolescent, whatever the number of his years may have been. The trouble with youthful penitence is that it does not last; natural cheerfulness, and the self-confidence which is so attractive in the young, 'will keep breaking in'. So, too, when Peter, in another mood, says, 'Bid me come to Thee over the water,' Jesus {Yah'shua} does not damp his young ardour by prophecies of failure, but simply says 'Come.' We have the very best authority for refraining from trying to convince young people of the fact of their own utter helplessness; Jesus {Yah'shua} did not say, 'Without Me you can do nothing,' until He had brought His eager young companions to the place where they would discover for fact for themselves. We may be sure that he welcomes the devotion of those who sing 'Just as I am, young, strong, and free'; but we can also be sure that before very long He will carry these young disciples on His, whom he has always lavished so much of His care, to the place where they will discover for themselves, perhaps very painfully, how inadequate, how remote from any kind of reality, such airy protestations are. In Peter's history we can trace all the marks of our soul-pilgrimage; hot and cold fits, mountain-top experiences fading quickly away the moment we try to analyse them and make them part of the warp and woof of our religious life; moments of clear insight followed by deeper bewilderment; the companionable Jesus {Yah'shua} of Galilee giving place in our own experience to the unintelligible Jesus {Yah'shua} of the road to Jerusalem; the thrilling sense of fellowship made difficult by petty personal rivalries which we thought had passed away for ever. Indeed, this man has 'stretched forth his hands' in utter surrender, has given himself away that we might understand him, and, understanding him, understand ourselves. So, by understanding him, we may be saved from such agonies of despair as he endured from Thursday night to Sunday morning, when his heart, being broken, was made strong enough to 'strengthen his brethren', and carry the Church {Messianic Community} from the upper room 'where the doors were shut for fear of the Jews' [18] to Pentecost, after which no prison-doors could hold it back.

    Peter's story is more vivid than ours because he went through in the outward life of that body what we may experience in the inner life of the soul. His thrice-repeated denial - and this manual has utterly failed in its purpose if it has not made clear how inevitable that denial was after all that had gone before - was uttered aloud; our denial of our Lord, more than thrice repeated, may not have been uttered aloud. It may have taken the form of what we call being 'fed up' with the whole business, letting disappointment get the better of us, rapping out - whether to ourselves or other people does not make any difference to the culpability of our action, though it may have amde a difference to its consequences - all kinds of foolish charges against the Church {Messianic Community}, which is the only Body of Christ that we are free to disown in these latter days. The absolutely vital thing is that we should realize what we have done, that the last traces of self-importance should be rooted out, swept away, and made for ever impossible for us again. In the mercy of God, ministered to us by the warning Peter has left us in terms of his own soul's despair, we may be saved from his outward humiliation, but an inward humiliation there must be. We 'must be born again'; and for grown people any kind of new birth must of necessity be a very painful process. We have sentimentalized beyond recognition our Lord's words about becoming like 'little children'. There is only one thing common to little children, and that is a sense of utter helplessness when left alone. All our disillusionments with oruselves and other people are meant to hammer that home upon us. Till we have realized that we are, as a matter of hard fact, 'helpless, hopeless, undone sinners,' we are simply playing at being Christians, and our well-meaning service is futile.

    (XXIII) The way to Jerusalem, and what happened there. There were two bitter ingredients in the cup that peter had to drink; one was felt in all its intensity early on Good Friday morning, the other on Good Friday afternoon. His Master, upon whom he had set all his hope, was rejected by the world and seemed to have been forsaken by God, and he (Peter), so far from being any use to the Master he loved so well, had only meddled to make matters worse. At the crisis of his Master's fate his conduct has been marked by steadily increasing futility, culminating in the humiliation of complete disgrace. We can make excuses for him; he never attempted to make any for himself, Jesus {Yah'shua} had suffered shipwreck, and peter had not even gone gallantly down to death with Him. For us the heaviest part of this burden has been lifted before we come to the Cross, as it was for Peter on Easter Sunday [1]; but we have still to deal as faithfully as Peter did with the fact that our world, like his, has rejected Jesus {Yah'shua}, and 'will not have this Man rule over' it, and that we are not yet the kind of men and women fit to play anything but a sorry part in this endlessly repeated drama of the Cross. The hardest discipline on earth is the discipline Pater had to endure, that of conscious futility; God knows we have had enough of this. And the reason for our futility is written in unforgettable colours in the story we have followed together. It is not that we are not brave enough - both statements may be, in a measure, true - but that we are not yet humble enough. Strong and sufficient consolation can be found in our certainty that he did call us - though when we began our discipleship we little knew what we were letting ourselves in for; that he knows and is responsible for the way we are being led; and that the companionship of Galilee, even though it must bring us into collision with disillusioning reality in Jerusalem, issues at length in the triumph of Pentecost.


    Footnote Commentary

  • [1] This is the pagan name of Passover which has become fastened onto Western and Eastern Christianity.
  • [2] It is interesting that Yahweh used men who were strict law-keepers to found the Messianic Community (Church) and be its leading luminaries. Not only did this give them a true understanding of grace which the lawless can never fathom or appreciate, but is a reminder that the Messianic Community (Church) of Elohim (God) is built upon order and structure.
  • [3] This comes as no surprise to Messianic Evangelicals who may be said, relative to other Christians, to be 'revolutionaries' themselves. The New Testament Assembly of Yahweh (Church of God) was built upon a Presiding Patriarchate of these 'revolutionaries' - Peter, James and John - men of dynamic ability, implaccable hostility to sin and fallen human nature, devoted to Messiah and loyal to each other even unto death, strictly obedient to the Torah (Law) of Yahweh, and yet full of grace and emet (truth).
  • [4] This article was originally written in 1932 and at that time Ghandi was making little headway. By 1947 India was an independent nation.
  • [5] What we in NCAY would call giving someone a 'firstborn' or a 'temple name'.
  • [6] As it is of Norway and Sweden where NCAY was birthed.
  • [7] This is a beautiful picture of the maturing Christian/Messianic who is weak and vunerable at first but who, through maturity, becomes hard and immovable. Teachability is everything (OB 115:13-14). The division between unordained members, the Deaconate, and the Eldership reflects this spiritual reality well, reminding us not to hastily ordain men and women to the ministry who have not first been tried and hardened through time to be worthy of the burdens of responsibility.
  • [8] Reminding one of the Messianic Evangelical ideal - after the hot-headedness has been burned out! cp. the Olive Branch's, "A warm heart and a brightly beaming countenance".
  • [9] This was subsequently verified by archaelogists who have extensively excavated the site and which has since become a major tourist attraction. The synagogue in which Yah'shua (Jesus) ministered has also been found and partially restored.
  • [10} Here we must disagree with the author and state for the record that Yah'shua (Jesus) most certainly did walk on the water.
  • [11] The same principle is followed in NCAY. The firstborn name (see footnote #5 above) must be realised through various spiritual tests as the disciple progresses in his spiritual endowment.
  • [12] Messianic Evangelicals believe the picture to be a little more complex that the one given by the author here. That Peter was the first to arise into his calling is by no means denied but this is to ignore the special position and favour given by Yah'shua (Jesus) to James and John too. The inner circle (the three members of the Patriarchate privy to special manifestations and instructions) was to develop in importance towards the end of Yahshua's (Jesus') ministry where John is assigned the watchcare of Yah'shua's (Jesus') mother and is known as "the beloved talmid (disciple)" (a unique favour) - and afterwards where we observe James occupying the pre-eminent position as the Messianic Community's (Church's) Chief Steward at the Council of Jerusalem. John is without doubt the 'mystic' navi (prophet), seer and revelator who is privy to heavenly mysteries, and although Peter has his own share of divine manifestations (such as the important vision on diet) he is not the equal to John in esoteric matters. Messianic Evangelicals believe that these Three had rather different ministries within the Patriarchate, with John the steward of the mysteries and hence the president of the Patriarch-Apostles, James the steward of the overall running of the local assemblies (congregations) of the Messianic Community (Church) and the president of the Messianic Community's elders, with Peter the steward of the more practical aspect of the Kingdom and the president of the Messianic Community's deacons. We see, then, how the Messianic Community (Church) is first built upon the Deaconate, or the ministry of service, from the ground upwards, using a humble fisherman and one willing to take risks for his Master. Peter was not a theologian and we find him actually apostatising at one point and requiring the sharp corrective hand of the apostle to the Gentiles, Paul, for backsliding to Talmudic Judaism. With this we must not forget the pre-eminent women also, one of whom - Mary - was the first witness of the resurrection and who, albeit it briefly, stood above even the Three for her great ahavah (love) and emunah (faith), and is believed to have been a female Apostle by NCAY. The picture is, then, we maintain, more complicated that the author has realised or admitted.
  • [13] We would exactly not go as far as the author in saying that it was 'ruined' - a better description would be 'impeded'. In any case, what happened was most certainly divinely forseen and incorporated within the wider plan of Elohim (God). The author does, regrettably, have liberal relapses occasionally.
  • [14] That 'Satan' also meant a hindrance in the person of Peter is accepted. However, there is not doubt in our minds that Yah'shua (Jesus) was in actual fact addressing the person of the Devil who was giving Peter his utterance, and it was this - more than being a mere obstacle - that so shocked Peter. Therefore our Master was actually speaking to Satan himself who had placed such dark thoughts in the apostle's mind. He was, if you like, momentarily possessed.
  • [15] To us this indicates that Peter's primacy was local in time and that it subsequently became subordinated to the other two of the Three who were at length to arise into their positions of prominence in the Patriatchate.
  • [16] That Peter's action was providential is clearly suggested by the order of events since we see at this stage the Master calling the Three, making Peter begin to understand that he is not the 'big boss' of the twelve but must begin to prophetically understand that James and John too have important positions of rulership in the Messianic Community (Church) which may well exceed his own position. He remains, however, the de facto head of the apostles even after the Mount of Transfiguration since it is he who is their spokesman and offers to erect tents for the distinguished visitors, Moses and Elijah.
  • [17] Or better, "I'm not leaving you just yet."
  • [18] The writers of the New Testament - and especially the Gospel of John - are often accused of being anti-semitic because of the frequent disdainful reference to 'the Jews' who are blamed for the martyrdom of Messiah. It is unfortunate that most of our English bibles are thus translated for a more accurate rendition would be 'the Judaeans', meaning those Jews of the province of Judaea, surrounding Jerusalem, in southern Israel whose contempt of Galilean northerners (not to mention their hated Samaritans) is clearly shown in the incident involving Peter here. The Jewish New Testament (Stern) corrects this mistranslation, giving a better sense of the original writers who were criticising the religious practices and snobbery of the southerners and not the Jewish people as a whole. That anti-semitism has been read into these apssages is, in any case, quite absurd in the light of the fact that the writers and chief players of the infant Messianic Community (Christian Church) were in any case Jews themselves!
  • [19] Though this is a fascinating theory as to the incident that brought back Yah'shua's (Jesus') prophecy to Peter's mind there is no reason to dismiss the plain sense of the texts which indicate that a literal cock crowed.
  • [20] In this prophetic imagery was are shown how John is to assume the pre-eminent position as chief apostle or Presiding Patriarch in the Messianic Community (Church) following the passion of Messiah, as was hinted to us when Yah'shua (Jesus) assigned the care of his mother to the "beloved talmid (disciple)". Though Peter's leadership r˘le as the Third Patriarch remains vitally important, as we shall see, we are being introduced into a new phase of messianic life. Prior to this it has been a fellowship of Deacons or Servants; after the first messianic Shavu'ot (Weeks, Pentecost), it will assume a new dimension and move into its mature Eldership phase - a ministry of power, represented by James who assumes the presidency of the General Assembly (Church) in Jerusalem.
  • [21] He is still deferring to the older and more charismatic Peter as he has not yet taken up his position as the Presiding Patriarch.
  • [22] If this so, then it is most significant, because this key passage about consciousness after death and the possibility of those who had never heard the Gospel whilst alive on earth having the opportunity whilst in the spirit world, is a nightmare to 'soul-sleepers' (Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Worldwide Church of God, Christadelphians, many Messianics, etc.) and to hell-bashers who teach that those who do not hear the Besorah (Gospel) whilst in mortality are condemned to eternal burnings contrary to the justice of Yahweh. We would expect Yah'shua {Jesus}, having announced the Good News of ahavah (love), justice and mercy on earth, to next be concerned about the same Good News being announced in Heaven to those who had never had the opportunity to hear about it on earth. The most common 'fudge' made by those who will not accept Elohim's (God's) justice is that Yah'shua {Jesus} merely 'made an announcement' and that there was no saving value in this mission. This being so, He would have merely been heaping coals of fire on a people already denied hope, painting an even more ghastly picture of Elohim (God) that is in any case nowhere warranted in the Scriptures.
  • [23] 'This is surely the right translation if we keep in mind Isa.xl.11. Greek has no separate word for mother-sheep, while Aramaic, the language which Jesus {Yah'shua} used to His Galilean disciples, like Syriac - this reading is found in the old Syriac versions - has [Author]'.
  • [24] the Messianic Community (Church) has quite suddenly shifted into what Messianic Evangelicals call its 'Enochian level', that is, the government of the Eldership, whereas before it was in its 'Zadokian level', or the government of the Deaconate. James, the Master's half-brother, has suddenly arisen to prominence and assumed the position of the other James as the second member of the Patriarchate. James (son of Zebedee) was dropped from view in the narratives because of his early martrydom (Ac.12:2) for we find Peter and John repeatedly associated apart from him. How and why James suddenly rose to prominence is not explained, for before the resurrection he had been a sceptic of his own Brother. It has been claimed that James was not an apostle but only an elder in the local Jerusalem assembly (congregation) but this hardly fits the deference given to him by Paul and the other apostles at the Jerusalem Council. According to Messianic Evangelical belief James the brother of Yah'shua (Jesus) assumed the position of James the brother of John after the latter's death. How this selection and appointment was made is not related to us.

    This page was created on 15 September 1999
    Last updated on 12 June 2017

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