SIFTING PETER(Part three)

AB GreggLet’s continue from yesterday. My brothers and sisters in Christ this is the Lords day and we are going to rejoice and be glad in it. Thanking God for this opportunity above the dead to sing praises and give thanks from the rising sun even to the setting of the same.

Romans 8:28 does apply to all the situations in our lives. God is working everything together for the good of those who love Him. For at that moment Peter was ready to be born again, made new in the attitude of his mind. The fact becomes achingly clear in the passage we call Peter’s reinstatement. It’s found in John 21:15-19. You really have to consult your Greek lexicon to understand it because the English translations miss the point entirely. Here’s the conversation.

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?”

He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

The key to understanding this exchange is in the word “love”. John used a different Greek word for “love” in the Lord’s questions than he did in Peters’ responses. In his first two questions, the Lord’s word for love is agapeo, which describes an all encompassing love that puts the needs and well being of the object of one’s love above everything, including one’s own needs, and does so irrespective of the object’s response. It’s the love the Lord has for us, demonstrated on the cross.

But in response, Peter used a different word, phileo, which describes the affection one brother would have for another. Finally, in His third question, the Lord substituted Peter’s word for His and they were able to agree. Both knew that Peter’s new understanding of himself would not permit him to brashly proclaim the extreme love that Jesus had asked for, and the Lord agreed that the level of love Peter could offer was sufficient. Peter’s re-birth was successful and he could now be restored to his leadership role.

From that point on the change in Peter is remarkable. His sermons in Acts chapters 2 and 3 could never have been possible had he not become submissive to the leading of the Holy Spirit within him, and throughout the Book of Acts it’s obvious that he was a changed man. And perhaps most important of all is the example his life provides for those of us who have experienced similar humbling and even humiliating failures on our way to becoming useful to the Lord.

Many great men have undergone trials designed to mold them for service to the Lord. Abraham was asked to send Ishmael away, and then to sacrifice Isaac. Moses endured 40 years in the desert while the reputation he had built in Pharaoh’s court as a Prince of Egypt was forgotten. After defeating the 400 prophets of Baal in one of the Bible’s greatest public displays of faith, Elijah was chased into the desert by the Phoenician woman Jezebel. Paul suffered through and was healed from numerous beatings and other public embarrassments. Are you any different today? Are you willing to take your trials for the common good of the faith?

But as dramatic as their stories are, it’s Peter who showed us that the very personality traits most admired by the world can be a great handicap when we undertake the Lord’s work, and often our only hope in becoming effective is to be divested of them. It’s a painful experience. Some are defeated by it and leave the ministry, but those who survive learn that the Lord’s response to Paul’s complaint is true for all of us. “My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9) Shalom

Your servant and brother,
+ Sir Godfrey Gregg
Archbishop and Presiding Prelate
Administrator and Apostolic Head

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Author: Godfrey Gregg