I’m going to be honest with you. For the longest time, I underestimated Simon Peter, one of Christ’s first apostles. When Christ was on the earth and beckoned Peter to follow him and “become fishers of men,” we are shown a great many of Peter’s flaws. The man was wrung out to dry, showing all of his thinking errors and he repeated just didn’t understand all the Christ was trying to tell him, and all that Christ was trying to get him to do.
Christ knew that he was not going to be on the earth forever…in fact, he knew that his time ministering on the earth was limited, so he needed others to continue the work of teaching all man that the Messiah, the Son of God, and the Savior of the world had indeed come.
I teach Gospel Doctrine in my ward, and this year we are currently studying the New Testament. I used to swap Sundays and taught every other Sunday, but the other teacher was released from his calling, so it has just been me. I can’t think of a better thing to have happen to me in terms of serving in the Church. I have been able to read through the New Testament and get a much better perspective of those that Jesus Christ taught.
Back then, the Jews believed that the Savior/Redeemer/Messiah would be a literal king who would free them from the bondage that Rome put on them. We know better, having the opportunity to read the scriptures and understand that Jesus was indeed this redeemer who saved all mankind from ourselves. Peter was like all of the other Jews and didn’t quite understand when Christ would say things, “My kingdom is not of this world”….and “To this end was I born.”
I try to think about how the apostles felt when Christ was crucified, especially with the misunderstanding that Christ was supposed to free them from Rome. They were depressed and couldn’t believe that it was over. Little did they know that Christ would perform the final act of the Atonement by being resurrected and breaking the bands of death–saving them from more than just Rome.
In the Four Gospels, the time frame doesn’t all line up, because they are four different accounts written by four different men, each focusing on a different aspect of what happened. Having these accounts gives us a better picture of what happened. I am so grateful that we have these accounts of Christ’s ministry, so that we have a more complete picture of His perfect life.
I want to focus first on John 21. The Peter and a few of his fishing companions don’t seem to know what to do now that everything is over… or so they think. So they head back to the sea to do what they know best…being fishermen. Not being able to catch anything, they see a man on the shore who tells them to cast on the other side of the boat, which they do. They catch so many fish that they can’t reel it in. That is when Peter realized that it was Jesus and he jumped overboard to meet him.
Well, Christ prepared dinner for them, and after they had finished eating, Jesus turned to Peter… (v. 15) “Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him. Feed my lambs. (v16) He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him. Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. (v. 17) He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.”
Photo via The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
I look at the picture above and I see the kind and gentle way that Christ is explaining to Peter that there is so much more to this… that Christ needs him to continue to preach and serve the people. I believe that this is instance is one great stride that Peter makes in his faith and in his understanding of his calling as President of Christ’s Church… the leader of the Apostles, who are all charged to feed His sheep.
After that Jesus ministered among them, teaching them and training them for 40 days. However, the most important thing that He did during this time was that he gave each one of his Apostles the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. In my opinion, this is what changed things for Peter. It’s like he finally got it, and he was on fire! Through the gift of the Holy Ghost, his testimony converted thousands at a time!
After Peter heals a lame man, many people begin to marvel at him, and they start to believe that he is sent from God. He rebukes them and bears his testimony in Acts 3: 12-26:
12 ¶And when Peter saw it, he answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk?
13 The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go.
14 But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you;
15 And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses.
16 And his name through faith in his name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.
17 And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers.
18 But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled.
19 ¶Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;
20 And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you:
21 Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.
22 For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you.
23 And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.
24 Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days.
25 Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed.
26 Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.
This stirred up the Sadducees, but it didn’t prevent 5,000 people from hearing the words and feeling the Holy Spirit, because they all believed!
Furthermore, even though they were being held because of his testifying of Christ, the Sadducees and the elders Annas, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander…along with other high priests wanted to see Peter put to trial for basically blasphemy. However, Peter has a powerful response… which again bears his witness of Jesus Christ!
Acts 4: 8-12:
8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel,
9 If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole;
10 Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole.
11 This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.
12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
I am chagrined to say that I thought so little of Peter. I clearly did not take the time, in the past, to see how he changed and grew. One could say the same for me as well, since I have had to learn my lessons over and over again too. I now see the power that he was able to teach with, when he followed the promptings of the Holy Ghost, and when he sought to follow Christ’s commission to feed his sheep.
Peter truly fed Christ’s sheep. He is still converting by the thousands as we delve into these accounts. We can do as the apostle Paul counseled, the Thessalonians, to perfect our faith. To pray unceasingly, and to abound in love, and to feed Christ’s sheep, we can gradually become like Peter.