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The Apostle Peter's Test

Peter was admittedly a man of strong character, very courageous, but rather too impetuous. He is one of the two disciples of whom it is written that "The people perceived that they were ignorant and unlearned men." (Acts 4:13) Peter, after ups and downs of trial and discipline, passed to a reward of glory, honor, and immortality with his Master, ranking among the highest of the Apostles.

Our newsletter for today deals with the special "sifting" which came to Peter at the time of our Lord's death, and of which he was forewarned by Jesus, "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." Peter's courage, manifested on so many occasions, was really his weak point. Notwithstanding all that Jesus had said to forewarn him of the sifting experiences that were just before him, Peter seemed to have no dread or fear. Therefore, he did little watching and praying in comparison with what he should have done, and self-confidence led to his undoing for a time.

Before the Cock Crew

It was the same Peter who, when told that he would deny our Lord before the time for the cock to crow (changing of the guard) the next morning, declared that it surely was a mistake, for he was ready to die with his Master. It was the same Peter who drew his sword and cut off the ear of the high priest's servant, afterward healed by Jesus. It was the same impulsive Peter who was the first to acknowledge the Messiahship of Jesus.

Jesus had inquired of his disciples what people were saying about Him ¾ who they said He was. Finally Jesus asked them, "Whom say ye that I am?" Then Peter answered, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God." (Matthew 16:15-16) Jesus replied that this answer indicated that Peter was in a blessed condition of relationship with God, or otherwise he would not have had the knowledge to make this statement. He said, "Flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto thee, but My Father which is in Heaven." Who could think that this same noble character would, in a few short days, be so overwhelmed with fear that he would deny his Master, even with curses!

Peter’s Trial Unexpected

Temptations will come in unexpected ways. We cannot imagine that at the time when he cut off the ear of the high priest's servant, Peter had any sympathy with the thought of denying our Lord. But circumstances and conditions changed. The Master was taken a prisoner. To see his Master delivered over to His enemies had a paralyzing effect upon Peter.

Peter was in the courtyard. It was cold, and he sat by the fire to warm himself. In the light of the court, surrounded by the gossiping servants of the palace, he was keenly scrutinized by one of the maids, who said, "This man was also with him."

Stunned by the identification and wondering to what it might lead, Peter promptly denied that he had any knowledge of Jesus. Then he moved away to another part of the court, where the shadows were deeper and the people fewer. But again he was recognized as a Galilean and accused of being one of Jesus' disciples. Again he denied the charge. The third time he was approached with the same charge that he was one of Jesus' disciples and a Galilean, and that his speech betrayed him. Again, and this time with cursing, he denied that he knew his Master.

Terrible! we say. And surely Peter felt afterward that it was terrible; for just at that time, the early morning, came the cock-crowing (changing of the guard), and he remembered the Master's words that Satan had desired to sift him as wheat and that before the cock crew he would have denied his Master three times. The whole matter came upon him with crushing force. Wrapping his cloak about his head, he hastened away into the darkness, weeping bitterly; for just about the time that the cock crew, Jesus was led forth not far from him, and as he looked at Jesus, the Master lifted up His eyes and looked at Peter. It was a sympathetic glance, not an angered one. But it went straight to the heart.

Peter's repentance is abundantly testified by his subsequent loyalty even unto death. Tradition has it that Peter was condemned to be crucified and that, remembering how once he had denied his Master, he felt that it would be too great an honor for him to share exactly the same death as his Lord. So at his own request, Peter was crucified head downward.

 The Lesson to All Christians

1 Corinthians 10:12 expresses to all Christians the lesson of Peter's experiences ¾ "Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall." When we are weak in our own estimation and, full of faith, clinging tenaciously to the Arm of the Lord, then we are really strong in the might which God supplies through His Eternal Son. Another lesson is that however different the experiences of God's people, all who fall into line for the great promotion to the First Resurrection must expect to endure severe siftings, proving their love for the Lord, the Truth, the brethren, and their loyalty to all these.

Let us never forget that siftings are permitted to those who have consecrated their lives to follow Christ, not because the Lord has no interest in us, but because only those who can stand siftings, trials, and tests are fit for places in the Church to rule with Christ in the heavenly Kingdom.

Send for the following book, The Atonement Between God and Man, (Volume V of Studies in the Scriptures), which has a chapter (Study V) entitled The Mediator of the Atonement “Made Like unto His Brethren” and “Touched With A Feeling of Our Infirmities” which covers how Jesus was tempted in all points, like as we are tempted, yet without sin; Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness and how they resemble our temptations; and in what sense Jesus was made perfect through sufferings.


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Last modified: 11/09/13