Peter was one of four fishermen that Jesus called to be a member of His special group—the twelve Apostles of the Lamb. These men were entrusted to take the message they would learn during the three year ministry of Jesus and spread it to the ends of the earth. It would be no small task. However, the Lord would send the Holy Spirit to empower and enable them for the job.
As a fisherman, Peter was a member of a hard working and physically strong class of men. Fishermen in Palestine during the first century were not models of moral behavior. They were:
- Gruff – abrupt and rude in speech
- Unkempt – shabby, untidy, disheveled in appearance
- Vile – morally bad
- Used Vulgar Language – cursing
- Had Boisterous Tempers – hot headed
- Fearless – willing to face the sudden and dangerous storms on the Sea of Galilee.
Of all the disciples, Peter was the one the others looked to for leadership. He was willing to take the lead, even to his own embarrassment, when others stood passively by. Let’s look at Peter’s fearlessness. He was willing to fight for Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane when the soldiers came to arrest him…he even cut off the ear of Malchus, one of the soldiers. And yet, this fearlessness as a tough guy, a fisherman, a man’s man, was not enough to stand for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
After his arrest, Jesus was taken before a kangeroo court in the High Priest’s palace. Peter was outside, as close as he could be, waiting to get word in order to find out what the religious leaders would do with Jesus. As he waited we read where he denied even knowing Jesus...three times! The first two times were to young girls (maidens). (Mark 14:66-72) The final time, as John reveals in his gospel, was to a relative of Malchus. (a cousin perhaps) (John 18:26)
Then the cock crowed the second time…Peter was a failure. His strength as a rough fisherman was not enough to hold up to the spiritual pressures of sharing the gospel.
Think of it—this rough fisherman, who was fearless in the storms of Galilee and a leader of men, was afraid of two young girls and a cousin. Their inquiry was more than he could handle. After denying that he knew Jesus, he finally began to curse and swear. (Mark 14:71) He had fallen back into his normal character—abusive speech and cursing.
The strength and fearlessness of the flesh is not enough to make someone genuinely bold in the Spirit for the gospel’s sake. Peter’s boldness and fearlessness as a fisherman could not hold up to the pressure of standing for truth in the face of opposition; even the oppisition of two young girls and a cousin.
However, after the Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost these men were changed. They experienced the power of the Holy Spirit coming into their lives and they were filled with boldness. Guess who the Lord used to preach that first sermon? Yep…it was Peter. He stood up to the mockers and skeptics and preached the gospel to the crowed at Jerusalem. (Acts 2:12-15) Three thousand were saved that day.
Peter had gone from the fearlessness of the flesh, to the fearfulness of the flesh, to the fearlessness of the Holy Spirit. Even the religious leaders, after they had threatened Peter and John, commented on how these me were bold. (Acts 4:12) What had happened? What had changed them? Or rather, Who had changed them?
…and He will grant us boldness also, if we surrender our lives to Him!
The Lord used two young girls and a cousin to reveal to Peter that the boldness of the flesh wasn’t enough to accomplish the preaching of the gospel. He will use similar experiences to reveal that to us also. Peter needed strength and boldness from on high…from the throne of God.
And so do we!