Sabbath School Lesson for March 25-31, 2017
Martin Luther wrote that the epistles of Peter were among the grandest books of the New Testament. He even said they were the true, pure gospel. Jesus told Peter to “Feed My sheep” and we are blessed to be among his flock with the practical advice left for us in his two letters to the early church.
If anyone were to know the saving power of God’s grace, it would be Peter, as we discover this week by reviewing the highlights of his life with the Messiah. Peter was one of the first disciples chosen by Jesus, and he seemed to be the spokesperson for the group on many occasions.
The mistakes of Peter are frequent and glaring. However, his life sketch reveals to us the possibilities available when we surrender and repent of our own wrongdoing.
Scripture Gem: “But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, ‘Lord, save me!’ And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’ “ Matthew 14:30, 31 NKJV
Jesus must have recognized that Peter’s outgoing, fearless personality would serve him well as a leader among the disciples. Only Peter was brave enough to venture out to Jesus when those in the boat saw the Master approach them by walking on top of the turbulent waves on the sea that night.
But Peter’s brave act was suddenly cut short by his own hidden fears, causing him to begin to sink. He must have started to regret his thoughtless request, when he began to sink like a rock. Calling out to Jesus to save him was evidently the thing to do. Jesus wasted no time in stretching out His hand to grab him just in time as they both stepped gingerly into the boat.
This one episode represents many of the experiences of Peter, as we see him repeatedly in the Gospels, one moment fearlessly defending His Lord, but the next one faithlessly denying he even knew Him. We are at times much like Peter in our Christian experience.
It’s easy to identify with Peter who was less than perfect, but nonetheless so great a figure in God’s service. We too can find grace, if someone like Peter can.
Sunday: Depart From Me!
Peter and his friends, fishermen by trade, were somewhat disheartened at the lack of fish in their nets one day. But Jesus, whom it seems they may have heard preach at least on one occasion, beckons them to cast their net one more time.
The load of fish they caught by following that strange directive of Jesus was enough to capture the heart of Peter, James, and John. Peter, recognizing the divine nature of Jesus, fell down at His feet and exclaimed, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”
Jesus surprised them further by telling Simon Peter that from that time on they would be catching men, not fish. They therefore left their boats and began to follow the Son of Man about the countryside and eventually became witnesses of His death and resurrection.
Discussion Questions: Read Luke 5:1-11, Mark 1:16-20, and Matthew 4:18-22. How do you account for Luke’s more detailed account of calling the fishermen that day? What was important for us to know from Luke’s retelling of the story, that we didn’t hear from the other Gospel writers?
Read Luke 5:8. What part did Peter’s response to Jesus make upon Jesus’ desire to have him as one of His disciples?
What do you suppose attracted Jesus to these humble fishermen in the first place? Why didn’t He seek followers from the religious leaders of the day?
Monday: Confessing the Christ
Jesus’ call to service was followed by a call to confess who Christ was. Jesus asked His disciples one day, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” Their replies were all truthful. Some people thought He was one of the prophets. But then Jesus asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered quickly that He was the Christ, the Son of the living God.
Jesus had given them a hint, by referring to Himself as the Son of Man. What a joy it must have been to hear from Peter’s lips that Jesus was the Son of God as well, the Christ, the true Messiah.
It was shortly after this revelation of who Jesus was that the Savior felt it necessary to explain and describe the reality of His mission to suffer and die at the hand of the elders and chief priests and be raised on the third day (Matthew 16:21).
Peter, speaking to Jesus in private, rebuked His Master for predicting such dire events. This caused Jesus to utter perhaps the harshest words spoken during His ministry. He said forcefully to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan!”
How it must have stung Peter to hear Jesus refer to him as Satan. But Peter’s words, reflecting a short-sided, selfish attitude, deserved the stark, unyielding response that Jesus was quick to give.
Discussion Questions: Read Matthew 16:13-20. Why do you think Jesus commanded that they tell no one that He was Christ?
Read Matthew 16:21-23. How could Peter, who recognized Jesus’s identity, still be so ignorant about His mission? In what ways do we similarly know who Jesus is, but not what He really wants to do with our life? How are we, like Peter, sometimes an offense, or a stumbling block, to others?
Read 1 Peter 4:12, 13. How well did Peter learn his lesson about the necessity for Jesus to suffer and die for us?
Tuesday: Walking on Water
Peter’s next great lesson involved their boat on a stormy sea, but most of all, Peter’s need for humility.
Simon Peter and his friends were frightened enough by the winds and waves about to sink their tiny vessel, but then they saw a figure approaching them, apparently walking on top of the water toward them. Naturally, they assumed it to be a supernatural spirit of some kind.
When Jesus got close enough, however, He called out to reassure them of His identity and calm their fears. They had just witnessed the miracle of feeding the multitudes of people earlier, but this new miracle which must have overwhelmed their senses.
Peter didn’t seem to be caught off guard though. He asked the Savior if he could join Him on the water, if it was truly Him calling. Jesus granted him his wish, and Peter proceeded to step out of the boat to meet Jesus on top of the waves. To our minds, this would have taken an extreme amount of faith on Peter’s part.
But Peter’s burst of faith suddenly got deflated. When his attention was drawn to the stormy sea, he began to sink. He managed to cry out, “Lord, save me!” before going under. This cry for help was answered immediately. The hand of Jesus reached out and touched him, pulling them both to safety in the boat.
Discussion Questions: Read Matthew 14:13-33. Both Mark and John’s account present the story of feeding the five thousand before the miracle of walking on the water. Why is it important to connect these events?
What were the lessons Peter and his friends may have learned from these two events?
Read 1 Peter 5:5, 6 and Matthew 25:40. Does Peter seem to have learned something about humility through his experiences with Jesus? Can we be humble before God without being humble and submissive with each other? Why not?
Wednesday: Denying His Lord
- call to service (leaving their fishing boats and following Him)
- call to confess Christ (when asked who He was)
- call to humility (sinking beneath the waves)
…Peter now gets a call to faithfulness. It actually began with being asked by Jesus to watch and pray, when they were in the Garden of Gethsemane. But of course, Peter and his friends kept falling asleep during Jesus’ momentous pleas for strength from His Father.
Still, Peter unflinchingly proclaims his desire to serve His Lord, but ultimately ends up denying Him three times in one night. Just as Jesus had predicted.
Peter thought by following Jesus at a distance in the courtyard, he would be fulfilling his duty to the Master. However, we must recognize that we are never safe in keeping Jesus at a distance. Only a close encounter and relationship will keep us from losing it all and eventually denying our allegiance to God. (Just as only by grabbing Jesus’ hand was Peter pulled out of the stormy sea earlier.)
Discussion Questions: Read Luke 22:31-34, 39, 40, 45, 46, 54-62. How were both of Jesus’ predictions in verses 32 and 34 fulfilled in Peter’s life that followed? What impact might their lack of prayer that night have on the faithfulness of the disciples?
Read Revelation 14:12. What things should never be compromised by God’s people according to this verse in Revelation? What compromises did Peter make that turned out to affect his loyalty to God?
Read Romans 5:20. Why are these words reassuring to us when our sins seem to outweigh everything? What brought Peter to value this grace in his life?
Thursday: Peter as Church Leader
Peter does seem to stand out as a group leader during Christ’s ministry on earth, and the record seems apparent that his leadership role continued into the early church period. Paul referred to him as a pillar to the church of believers in Jerusalem (Galatians 2:9). For example, Peter…
- proposed replacing Judas. After prayer and casting lots, Matthias was chosen as one of the twelve. (Acts 1:15-26)
- delivered a major sermon shortly after Pentecost. (Acts 2 14-36)
- was arrested, along with John, for their preaching about the resurrection and appeared before the Sanhedrin. (Acts 4:1-12)
- was led to Cornelius, who became the first Gentile to be accepted and baptized into the Christian faith. (Acts 10)
Sadly, but not surprisingly, Peter still had corrections to make and wounds to heal during his tenure as an early church leader. This fact should encourage all of us, whether in the ministry or not. None of us are immune to mistakes. God uses our blunders to humble us and perfect our characters. No one fits this description better than Peter, which is what makes him such an interesting disciple to study this quarter, as we particularly get ready to zero in on his two famous epistles.
Discussion Questions: Read Galatians 1:18, 19; 2:9, 11-14. What was the mistake that Paul accused Peter of making when visiting the Galatian church? Other translations are clear that Peter was dealing differently with the Gentiles when his Jewish friends were around. How was he being hypocritical here and do you think Paul handled it correctly by his public exposure of the behavior, which others were beginning to follow?
Read Galatians 2:15-21. What was Paul’s main line of defense for his Gentile friends, who weren’t circumcised?
Read Acts 10:9-16, 28. Why would it be difficult for Peter, and other Jewish Christians, to learn this lesson? Do we have any unnecessary church traditions that we are quick to require newly baptized church members to follow? How can we avoid Peter’s lapse of courtesy and kindness when it comes to cultural, ethnic, or even generational differences in the church?
The stages in Peter’s life of ministry include several calls to discipleship, such as his…
- call to service–leaving their fishing boats (Sunday)
- call to confess Christ–recognizing His divinity (Monday)
- call to humility–walking on water, holding on to Jesus (Tuesday)
- call to faithfulness–denying Jesus in the courtyard, and later repenting (Wednesday)
- call to leadership–helping to establish the early church (Thursday)
Peter’s zeal for Christ was always evident during his life with the Master. But there were several times that the grace of God was needed to temper his impetuous words and actions. Understanding Peter’s background will help us understand his writing to the early Christian followers. He knows what he’s talking about, because he lived it.
Embracing the Message
After reviewing the life experiences of the apostle Peter, reflect on your own life–the ups and downs that, no doubt, were part of your Christian walk. Think of major chapters of your life, such as your…
- schooling and graduations
- baptism and spiritual awakenings
- job searches and eventual employment
- search for friends and the perfect mate
- having children
- seeing children grown and having your grandchildren
- health/financial concerns
- grieving for loved ones along the way
No matter where you are right now on the continuum of life, how has God expressed His presence to you? When did you feel the closest to Him?
How then has God’s grace followed, covered, and informed you over the years? And how, like Peter, have you shared that grace with others?
There’s no time like the present to begin or expand your own faithful testimony for what God has done in your life.
Next Week: An Inheritance Incorruptible, Lesson 2
To read the Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly or see more resources for its study, go to https://www.absg.adventist.org/
All Outlook blogposts by Teresa Thompson, are at http://outlookmag.org/author/teresathompson/