Champion the Person of Jesus
The C in the word REJOICE is for the word CHAMPION. What, I believe the Lord is trying to instruct us, is that we need to CHAMPION His Person. We need to rejoice in our Lord Jesus.
John 21:15-19 (KJV)
So when they had dined, Jesus saith to 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. 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. 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. Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake He, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He saith unto him, Follow Me.
Jesus challenged even the love of Peter when He asked Peter three times:
"Lovest thou Me?" Jesus wanted Peter to CHAMPION Him. To emphasize this desire to be championed by Peter, Jesus used the word "agapao" which refers to "a spiritual love, a love which can be used with even enemies, sinners of great evil." One can love (agapao) their souls, but disrespect their debased person, their evil character, and their wicked deeds.
Peter used a more strong word to indicate love, the word "phileo" which means "a love based on respect and admiration, as a close friendship." Peter used a word to indicate that he loved, and championed Jesus with a love deeper, than the word Jesus used. After the third time, Peter was broken by the challenging of his love by Jesus, and responded with "THOU KNOWEST THAT I LOVE THEE!"
CHAMPIONING our Lord will get us through many difficult times, through many failures, and through the persecution of the world. Peter was able to survive his weaknesses, frailties, and sins, because he kept on loving, trusting, and desiring to be with his Lord Jesus.
At the end of Matthew's, Mark's, and Luke's list of the disciples is the name of Judas. At the beginning of each list is Peter's name. Other names in the lists vary, but each list has the same name at the beginning and end. There is agreement on who belonged at the end of the lists, and agreement on who belongs at the end. (Compare Matthew 10:2-4, Mark 3:16-19, Luke 6:14-16, Acts 1:13.) Peter CHAMPIONED Jesus, Judas did not.
Peter is the central figure for the first twelve chapters of the book of Acts. He obviously CHAMPIONED Jesus. Peter became a central figure in the Lord's groups of disciples. He was the one chosen to deliver the first sermon following the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2).
Just what kind of man was this Peter before he CHAMPIONED Jesus? Originally, his name was not "Peter". His name was Simon, and he was the son of "Jonas", i.e. John. His brother was Andrew, and Andrew had been a disciple of John the Baptist. Peter was a fisherman by occupation. He was an inhabitant of Bethsaida, on the Sea of Galilee, and later moved to Capernaum.
"Jesus looked upon him, and said: Thou art Simon, the son of Jonas; thou shalt be called Cephas (Aramaic name meaning 'a small stone, the same as the Greek form, 'Petros')', who is by interpretation, Peter."
Peter began following Jesus with first a change of occupation, and with a change of name. Peter's whole discipleship was one of change. As he followed the Lord, the Lord re-styled, and reformed this man Peter. This call of Peter, along with his name change, occurred following Andrew having discovered the Messiah. Andrew immediately hurried to get his brother,
Simon, and "brought him to Jesus."
This man formerly called "Simon" now became a "small stone" in the building of the New Testament church. In the beginning, Peter was far from being a stone ready to fit its place in the building. Peter needed much trimming, changing. Before the Day of Pentecost, Peter seemed to have many objectionable qualities. These undesirable traits and qualities needed to be changed. Peter was: PROUD, EGOTISTICAL, BOASTFUL, SELF-CONFIDENT, and SELF-ASSERTIVE. (Matt. 26:31-35, Lk. 22:31-34, Jn. 13:36-38). This disciple of the Lord also showed himself to be: IMPULSIVE, RASH, VACILLATING, and UNSTABLE (Matt. 8:32).
Peter indicated: COWARDICE when he denied the Lord three times
on the eve of the crucifixion (Matt. 26:56,58, Mk. 14:50,54). This DISLOYALTY was an infidelity to Jesus. Peter probably shocked himself
when he was ashamed to be identified with Christ (Matt. 26:69-75).
This man we know later became a great leader of the early church even was: PROFANE, and cursed when he denied the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 26:74).
Some qualities that were shared by all the disciples, of course, apply to Peter also. All were: WEAK IN FAITH. Peter showed this when he began to sink while walking on the water (Matthew 17:14-21). The disciples were
SLOW TO UNDERSTAND (Mk. 9:32). Peter did not understand when Jesus often explained about His soon coming crucifixion on the cross.
All the disciples had a distorted view of what the coming of the Messiah would mean, and were AMBITIOUS FOR THEIR OWN SELFISH ENDS
(Matthew 18:1-6). The disciples were SECTARIAN in Spirit. Peter wanted to build three temples on the top of the mountain, and let others come to them (Mark 9:38-41). The disciples were RUDE to children who wanted to approach the Lord. Peter also had this quality (Matthew 19:13-15). Peter was a man who needed some drastic changes.
Peter needed to have all these undesirable traits altered, transformed, and corrected. He had become a disciple and was following Jesus, listening and watching the ministry of the Lord. Change was beginning to occur. Peter did not complete his changes until Jesus challenged him to CHAMPION Him.
There were some commendable qualities present in Peter. The Lord saw some FIRMNESS, and STRENGTH in Peter. Jesus changed Simon's name to "Cephas" (Aramaic), and "Peter" (Greek). "Cephas," and "Peter" mean "stone" due to this firmness and strength that was in the character of Peter.
The Lord saw POTENTIAL in Peter, for the Lord called him to be his disciple
(Matthew 4:18-20). Jesus saw a natural leader, ZEALOUS for he expressed opinion for the twelve, MASTERFUL for he asked questions for the twelve,
PERSUASIVE for he made suggestions for the twelve. Yet, he needed to be broken and changed by the Lord. Peter needed to be more than a quality person, he needed to CHAMPION his Lord.
Jesus said that "upon this Rock, will I build My church." Jesus said this referring to not Peter alone, but upon all who would be able to make
this same confession as Peter, and to truly love and CHAMPION Jesus.
In the book of Revelation, we see the New Jerusalem has twelve foundations
under its wall. Each foundation bears the name of one of the apostles. Peter is one foundation stone for that city. We too can be stones in this "church",
and can be changed, re-styled, chiseled, and altered to fit into the place of the church by our Lord Jesus. We all need to answer the question ‘LOVEST THOU ME?’ We need to CHAMPION the Person of Jesus.
This "stone", Peter, was at first only a WEAK MAN, a VACILLATING MAN, one that RAN IN FEAR from the garden of Gethsemane. He DENIED CHRIST, was FEARFUL OF A MAID, and a COWARD. Later, after the questioning of Jesus, we find Peter to be RIGHTEOUS, STRONG, STABLE, a man who PREACHED JESUS BRAVELY, and a man who was FEARLESS OF RULERS AND THREATS.
The CHAMPIONING of Jesus by Peter brought a transformation of Peter. Had he stayed at home, stayed a hard-working fisherman he would have missed some miraculous changes.
Peter did exhibit the ability to be a LEADER. He had INITIATIVE, BOLDNESS, and DARING. Peter was an ARTICULATE SPOKESMAN (Lk. 8:45). He was OPEN, HONEST, and ABOVEBOARD (Lk. 5:8). This man was also a SENSITIVE person who was RESPONSIVE to the Spirit of God. At times, Peter was PERCEPTIVE TO SPIRITUAL TRUTH. Peter could be HUMBLE at times (Jn. 13:6,8). This man had LOVE FOR JESUS, he CHAMPIONED Jesus (John 21:15-17).
Basically, Peter was a MAN OF FAITH, though at times, his faith faltered. Peter was a man of contrasts and contradictions. He had two natures, and the battle between the two showed many changes.
At times, Peter was LOYAL, and at other times he was DISLOYAL. At times,
he was INSPIRED OF GOD, and at other times, he was INSPIRED OF THE DEVIL. At times, he was BOLD, and then retreated to be TIMID. At times there was great BRAVERY, only to later show COWARDICE. At times, Peter had HIGH VISION of God's purpose, but later he pushed children away from Jesus with EXCLUSIVENESS. At times, Peter could be LOVING, HEALING THE SICK, and at other times he was VIOLENT, pulling out a sword to attempt to kill a sinner. At times, he showed PRIDE when told he would betray the Lord three times, and yet had that same night been HUMBLE, when Jesus washed his feet. At times, he could have FAITH and step out of the boat to walk on water, and afterward show UNBELIEF, FEAR when a maid pointed his finger and challenged him. At times, we find SPIRITUALITY, which later becomes CARNALITY.
So often, a strength has a corresponding weakness. The devil works on us in the same ways, as he did on Peter. The Lord said that the devil wanted to
"SIFT" Peter "AS WHEAT." You are not as different as you thought. We all seem to think that we are uniquely attacked by the devil, and no one has been attacked as we have. The answer for us, as it was for Peter, is to CHAMPION our Savior, Jesus.
This Peter, that Jesus wanted to change, was a very changeable man. Jesus wanted to make some permanent changes, and change Peter to an unchangeable man of faith and righteousness.
Peter was converted, and was a true follower of God before he backslid on the eve of the crucifixion. Yet, after this questioning of LOVEST THOU ME?, Peter’s reliability was established.
There are many signs of this in the Scripture. Peter believed Christ came down from the Father (Jn. 17:8). He confessed Christ (Matt. 16:16, Jn. 6:68-69). He received spiritual revelations (Matt. 16:16). He had eternal life (Jn. 17:1-3). He was convicted of sin by the Spirit (Jn. 16:8-11). He was cleansed of sin (Jn. 13:8,10, 15:3). His name was written in heaven (Lk. 10:20). He had the Spirit (Matt. 10:20). He had power over sickness and disease (Matt. 10:1-8). Yet, Peter backslid, changing from his loyalty and faith, to disloyalty and fear, and needed to be changed back again, and restored.
Some think that they can arrive at a point in salvation where they will never need to fear backsliding. Peter found that there is a way to insure that one will not backslide. He recorded the steps one needs to follow, if they want to stay saved. Peter is one who learned by experience that one can backslide
if careless with spiritual things.
The steps in the backsliding of Peter are these:
1. Boasting in self confidence (Matt. 26:33, Proverbs 6:18)
2. Disputed what he was told by Jesus (Matt.26:33-35)
3. Slept instead of praying (Matt. 26:40)
4. Failed to mortify the flesh (Matt. 26:4)
5. Resisted instead of submitting (Matt. 26:51)
6. Forsook Christ and fled (Matt. 26:56)
7. Followed afar off (Matt. 26:58)
8. Sat with Jesus' enemies (Matt. 26:58)
9. Gave up hope, was discouraged (Matt. 26:58)
10. Became afraid of men (Matt. 26:68-72)
11. Lied, denied the Lord (Matt. 26:69-72)
12. Cursed (Matt. 26:69-72)
This failure of Peter was devastating. How could he have failed the Lord
that he loved and respected so much? Peter was totally shaken by his failure. The memories of his 3 ½ years of Jesus' teachings made an indelible impression. The time that Jesus washed his feet probably weighed heavily upon Peter. Peter knew that Jesus had warned of the devil's desire to capture and to hurt him. Peter could remember that Jesus had promised only a few hours before that He would intercede for him. Jesus had also told Peter that he would be restored, and would strengthen his brethren. Jesus had even in detail predicted how Peter would have a three-fold denial. These recollections of his loving Lord Jesus brought Peter to the place where the Lord could have mercy and the Spirit could impart a godly, repentant spirit. Peter needed a change, again. He needed to once again be remodeled into a disciple of faith.
How anxious Peter must have received the word after the resurrection, to meet Jesus in Galilee. This special appearance to Peter lifted the devastation that he felt. After the weary night of fishing, Peter could still throw off his garment and swim ashore to see his Savior.
Jesus assured Peter that he would be of great use to the Lord's plan. (Mk. 16:7,Lk. 24:34, Jn. 21:15-19) We all face failure, for none of us are as perfect as we'd like others to think. We have the same loving, forgiving Lord. Jesus wants to restore and to change each of us back to useful service.
The discipleship of Peter shows a great lesson on the MERCY OF GOD.
Peter asked Jesus, "how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Till seven times?" Peter had likely been acquainted with people who would wrong him, repent, and wrong him again, and again. This changeableness of people is a trial we have all faced. Peter himself was that kind of person himself.
Jesus answered "until 70 times 7." Peter himself would sin many times,
even while following the Lord. The Lord Jesus kept pardoning him. Peter was learning firsthand of the MERCY OF GOD. Peter, who sinned and needed to repent many times found that the Lord could forgive this changeableness of Peter. However, the Lord Jesus forgave such changeableness with a purpose in mind, i.e. to change Peter to an unchangeable saint in place of a vacillating, failing-by-weakness, and imperfect person.
Peter's main problem was his PRIDE. Peter's boastfulness, over-confidence,
and arrogance made it necessary for the Lord to allow events in his life
to bring him to HUMILIATION AND DEFEAT. Peter had to learn SELF-DISTRUST.
Paul learned that "when I am weak, then am I strong" but Peter was striving for power, and wanting others to notice his power. Jesus allowed him to face failure, shame, and weakness. This broke his pride and he learned, as Jesus had taught: "APART FROM ME, YOU CAN DO NOTHING."
Before he came to that realization, he had over-confidently said: "THOUGH ALL MEN SHOULD BE OFFENDED IN THEE, I WILL NEVER BE OFFENDED."
Jesus said: "SATAN HATH DESIRED TO HAVE YOU, THAT HE MIGHT SIFT YOU AS WHEAT, BUT I HAVE MADE SUPPLICATION FOR THEE, THAT THY FAITH FAIL NOT."
"LORD, WITH THEE I AM READY TO GO TO PRISON AND TO DEATH."
Yet, before the night was over, he denied the Lord three times. His pride and over-confidence brought him to shame. Peter learned, and changed, due to the MERCY OF GOD.
Peter wrote in his epistles: "BE SOBER, BE WATCHFUL; YOUR ADVERSARY THE DEVIL, AS A ROARING LION, WALKETH ABOUT, SEEKING WHOM HE MAY DEVOUR."
It took much, and frequent MERCY from the Lord to bring about the changes in Peter. By the day of Pentecost there was a marked and distinct change in Peter. Nearly everything he did from that point was a witness of the power of God to change a life.
Because the Lord had MERCY time after time, many great things could happen in the life of Peter:
His mother-in-law was healed in Capernaum (Mt. 8:14).
He saw a miraculous catch of fish (Luke 1:1-11).
He walked upon water (Matthew 14:28).
He saw Moses and Elijah converse with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-5).
He saw the empty tomb, and later that same day saw Jesus alive (Luke 24:34).
He became a predominant figure in the apostolic church.
He counseled in the choice of Matthias (Acts 1:15-26).
His daring faith released God's miracle working power.
His first sermon resulted in 3000 conversions.
He was no longer timid.
He bravely told the lame man at the temple to rise and walk. (Acts 3, 4)
When arrested by the Sanhedrin, and told to cease preaching Jesus, Peter refused to be silent.
He was the spokesman for the church when the Lord cleansed the revival church of the sins of Ananias and Sapphira.
There were many other miracles in his ministry.
Even his shadow, falling on the sick, brought healings.
An angel released him from prison. (Acts 12)
Tabitha was resurrected at Lydda.
Aeneas was healed of palsy.
He was the one chosen to take the gospel to the Gentiles.
Then he defended the spreading of the gospel to the Gentiles to the others at Jerusalem.
These showed great, and abrupt changes in the person of Peter. Peter's nature had been refined by the Spirit. His constant and frequent changing to sin, and back again to sainthood had ceased. He had become an unchangeable saint. He had overcome his carnality. He had experienced a powerful change. Jesus had confronted Peter with a call for him to CHAMPION Jesus with love, and that transformed the imperfect Peter to a stable and reliable disciple.
Peter died as a martyr, according to tradition, in Rome about 67 A.D. when he was about 75 years old. His death had been predicted by the Lord in John 21:18-19, II Peter 1:14). One story in the traditions of the church tell that during the persecutions of Christians by Nero, Peter fled from Rome to avoid death. As he hurried along the Appian Way, about two miles from Rome, he met Jesus walking toward Rome. This startled Peter, for he knew Jesus had ascended to heaven, and yet, here Peter finds his Lord walking toward Rome. Peter asked: "Lord, where are you going?" Jesus answered: "I am going to Rome to be crucified a second time."Peter was shaken, and immediately returned to Rome, kept his head erect, and witnessed bravely for Jesus. He did not want to change again back into that fearful disciple
he had once been when the maid pointed her finger at him in accusation.
He wanted to stand firm in faith, and he CHAMPIONED his Savior, willing to even die with and for his Lord Jesus. Soon, Nero had him arrested and put on trial. Tradition says that he was hung upon a cross with his head downward. Peter had requested that they crucify him in this way, if he had to be crucified. He did not feel worthy to die in the same manner as was his Lord. Thus, even in death, he CHAMPIONED Jesus Christ.
How marvelously Peter had changed from denial when a maid pointed her finger, fearing a crucifixion, into a saint who championed Jesus unwilling to die in as comfortable a way as the Lord, dying upon a cross, upside down.
The love of Peter, for his the Lord Jesus, is very evident throughout the gospels. This Peter had left all to follow Jesus. The love for Jesus was the one unchanging thing in Peter's life. Because he had such love for Jesus, he allowed the Lord to work on his life, and bring about changes in his character and personality.
REJOICE in this year, and as impetus for this rejoicing, CHAMPION Jesus.