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Friday, November 12, 2010

The First Pope

I'll Probably Die With Boots On., originally uploaded by Christopher Rauch.

Alrighty...this is my first paper, for my Religion 213 class (an overview of the New Testament). Gotta 97! whoo hoo. I made a small edit, and seem to have lost the copy of the file that had my works cited page. I pulled from Scripture, Grace Awakening by Swindoll, and If You Want To Walk On Water, You've Got To Get Out Of the Boat. I have been SO busy, it seems I have no time to write for pleasure, lately. :D
The First Pope

We tend to forget that Simon Peter walked on water. Not that most of us would get the question wrong on a test; it’s just a fact that seems to float under the radar. It seems almost fashionable to take a friendly swipe at Peter anytime he comes up in a conversation, or a sermon. He has had several hi-profile embarrassing moments that Pastors love to use as illustrations. To give Simon Peter credit for a little humility, much of this information is purportedly from his own mouth, recorded by Mark in his Gospel. Peter’s fame for dropping the ball, and his chronic attacks of hoof in mouth overshadow a down to earth forthrightness, an insight into his own shortcomings, and a childlike regard for Jesus. This simple, flawed love for Christ, so easy to poke fun at, was the vehicle chosen by God reveal the ultimate reality. Peter, in spite of all his flaws, intuitively knows that his friend, this man he follows, is the Son of God. Peter’s all too human foibles leaves the common man uneasily aware that, though he may be the antithesis of a spiritual giant, great piety is nonetheless within his grasp and with it the potential (and perhaps obligation) for remarkable performance in furthering the Kingdom of God.
Peter has echoes of everyman within him. We may be judgmental of Peter's hypocrisy, and amazed at his ability to put his foot in mouth. Nonetheless, in our dismay and amusement, as we take note of his performance, he jogs our memory, and we recognize ourselves in his failings as we also see in his faith and bravery a benchmark that we can aspire to. Peter resembles us at our most unflattering and therein lies the attraction: Even Simon Peter can walk on water when he is focused on Jesus. Naturally faith can falter when our attention is centered on our fear. We see this when Peter starts to sink because he “saw the wind” and we relate immediately. The dynamics of this are so familiar they seem almost humorous. We would expect the same of ourselves and privately feel we may have actually lacked the courage to get out of the boat, as over ninety percent of the passengers did that day .
According to Zondervan’s Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Peter and Andrew were fishermen like their father, called John or Jonah, depending on which Gospel you consult. The family had relocated from Bethsaida when Jesus met them in Capernaum, and it is speculated they may have been in business with James and John. Peter also had a mother-in-law with everything that implied.  The Encyclopedia goes on to detail Simon Peter’s prominent role in the New Testament. Not only is Peter the first individual introduced to Jesus by a Disciple (his brother, Andrew) but few dispute Peter’s leadership of the early Church. Galatians (2:8-9) tells us that Peter had a special commission to carry the message to the Jews, and of course Simon Peter is a main character in the gospels, and the Acts of the Apostles. Peter is also well represented in early Christian apocryphal writings.
It can seem puzzling, that Jesus left Peter rather than John in charge. We would expect Jesus to entrust the care of his mother to the man who was kindest, closest to him, and most dependable. John also has a less spectacular record in misadventure. In terms of how the World chooses the leader of an important organization, Peter is a dark horse, an unlikely candidate, not the most qualified applicant. Why does Jesus leave Peter in charge?
 Perhaps Peter’s character, with its clay feet, is held up to keep us from discouragement, and provide example and inspiration to people like Peter... people famous for dropping the ball, and  chronic attacks of hoof in mouth. Studying Simon Peter comforts people who aspire to forthrightness, but have an insight into their own shortcomings. People seeking to cultivate a childlike regard for Jesus can look to Peter for an example.  Aware of our less than pristine condition as Simon Peter was (Luke 5:8), we can perhaps come to terms with our audacity as we consider reasoning through doctrine, or accepting a leadership role among our peers. As we look at Peter’s resume we can be reassured that our all-too-visible human nature does not disqualify us from service to God. Though Peter displays cowardice, He grows in stature and later approaches his death with dignified clarity. If we can believe the apocryphal Acts of Peter , Peter requests “I beseech you the executioners, crucify me thus, with the head downward”.
Peter is also famously guilty for having “little faith”, and doubts that can sink a miracle. These memories play a part in shaping the humility Peter develops with maturity. We see the benefits of this in instances where Peter is cautious in his endorsement of doctrine:
For it seemed best to the Holy Spirit and to us  not to place any greater burden on you than these necessary rules: that you abstain from meat that has been sacrificed to idols  and from blood and from what has been strangled  and from sexual immorality.   If you keep yourselves from doing these things,  you will do well. Farewell.
Peter was a Jerusalem Rock Star. He was a redneck fisherman who hung with Jesus, and healed people miraculously in public. More then once, the bible portrays Simon Peter as having a defective filter between his brain and his mouth. Now if this man heard audible direction from God, in an environment where such things were known to happen, We would expect him to say something like "God told me that was WRONG”, not to use a word like "seems".  Perhaps this is the proper model for assimilating newcomers of a radically different lifestyle into the Church family. Peter is careful not to present his prayerful consideration as the clear directive of the Holy Spirit.This cuts down on a man's tendency to burn heretics

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