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Simon Peter: A Transformed Disciple

4 min

In the Gospel record, we meet a man who was much like us in many ways. He was a working man; in his case, he was an ordinary fisherman from Galilee. He struggled with pride, anger, and self-confidence. But his life was transformed by the Lord Jesus Christ, and God was able to use him mightily, even after his many failures. This man’s testimony can be an encouragement to us all. Let’s look at one particular moment in his life.

As the approaching blaze of torches illuminated the night and the grove of olive trees, the Lord Jesus Christ prepared to yield Himself into the hands of His betrayer. But among His disciples, there was at least one man who would not give up without a fight. Earlier that same night, Simon Peter had protested at Jesus’ own grim prediction of abandonment: “Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended” (Matthew 26:33).

Simon Peter tried to defend his Master with the arm of the flesh. In a downward blow aimed at the head of one of the Temple guards, Peter’s sword struck off the right ear of Malchus, the servant of the high priest (John 18:10). Immediately Jesus responded. Rather than commend His zealous disciple, Jesus patiently rebuked Peter: “Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:52–53).

Jesus then stooped down, took up the severed ear, and to the astonishment of all, restored the ear to the man who had come to arrest Him. It was probably a sight that Peter never forgot.

But that was not Peter’s only lesson on that long, dreadful night. Peter’s pride and sense of self-importance had to be stripped away if he was truly to become a disciple of the Master. He had vowed that he would never deny Christ, but on that very same night, he denied Christ three times, just as Jesus had predicted. When the cock crowed, the Bible says that the Lord “turned and looked upon Peter” (Luke 22:61). Shamed by his cowardice or attempt at intrigue, as well as overwhelmed by the realization of the absolute truthfulness and significance of Jesus’ prophecy of his denial, Peter “went out, and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:62).

However, that was not the end of Simon Peter. Just as Peter had denied Christ three times at His arrest and trial, so Jesus allowed Peter to affirm his love three times after His resurrection. This significant episode in Simon Peter’s life occurred on the shore of the Sea of Galilee (John 21:15–17). Christ had not forsaken Peter. In fact, before the denials in the Garden, Jesus had informed Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:31–32).

Those faithful prayers of His High Priest sustained Peter and transformed him. He changed from a man of pride to a man of humility, a man of anger to a man of meekness, a man of cowardice to a man of courage, a man of confidence in self to a man whose confidence was in the Lord.

On the day of Pentecost, it was Simon Peter who proclaimed boldly in the streets of Jerusalem: “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). A few weeks later, the disciple that had denied Jesus before a servant girl looked boldly into the eyes of the assembled Sanhedrin and confidently announced: “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

Peter who had tried to slay Malchus in the Garden of Gethsemane became the man chosen to enter the home of Cornelius. To this officer, Peter conveyed the life-giving news of reconciliation between God and man, between Jew and Gentile, and between sinner and Savior. Peter devoted the rest of his life to the work that Christ had called him to—strengthening his brethren.

It is to that end that Peter by the power of the Holy Spirit wrote the two epistles that bear his name. In the glowing words of eyewitness testimony, we see a changed man. “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (II Peter 1:16).

He was once a man of anger—a man who dared to rebuke Christ when He spoke of His redemptive purpose (Matthew 16:22), a man who joined the other disciples in pushing away the children who came to Jesus (Mark 10:13), and a man who tried to kill the servant of the high priest. But Peter’s heart was transformed to the extent that he wrote, “Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing” (I Peter 3:8–9).

He who once was a man of pride, disputing with the other disciples about who among them was the greatest, wrote these words, “Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble” (I Peter 5:5). Perhaps when he penned these lines, Peter was remembering the moment that Jesus laid aside His garments, girded Himself with a towel, and washed His disciples’ feet.

Peter’s hope and desire was that we, the readers of his epistles, might also be transformed by the power of the same Holy Spirit. It was Peter’s prayer for us that we might know the glorious truth of these words: “But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (I Peter 5:10–11). The same Christ that prayed for Peter is also praying for you. Jesus is able to transform you also.

This article is from our Matters of Life & Death teaching series.

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