This Lesson is part of John’s Gospel Easy Notes Series.
One of the highlights of John’s gospel is how each character comes to life through conversations with Jesus.
Peter emerges as the leader of men. We see his extraordinary courage, extraordinary fall, extraordinary grace shown him, and extraordinary restoration.
The First Six Instances of Conversations with Peter
The first instance:
Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas (which, when translated, is Peter) (John 1:42).” Have you ever had Jesus look at you? He sees what you can be. There are divine possibilities in your life that he alone sees. And he believes in you even when you look ordinary on the outside.
When Jesus saw him the first time, Peter was just an ordinary fisherman of the Sea of Galilee. This man was impulsive; he could act without thought. He was brave and courageous but also someone who followed Jesus at a distance (Matthew 26:58) when he was arrested. Yet Jesus saw in Peter a “rock.”
When you look into the mirror you see a person who has many flaws. When others look at you they see who you are on the outside. But when Jesus looks at you, he sees what you can become in him. He sees your hidden potential. And he points that out to you.
The Holy Spirit, our Counsellor, like Jesus does the same in our lives as well. He helps us what we are in Christ, and what we can become in him. “He sees us as we are, loves us as we are, but loves us too much to let us stay as we are. Lovingly and gently he prods us towards perfection.” – Selwyn Hughes
The second instance:
When many of the disciples of Jesus left him (6:66) after Jesus talked with them about eating and drinking his flesh and blood (see 6:53—56), Jesus asked the Twelve: “You do not want to leave too, do you (v. 67)?” See God does not force anyone to follow him. You always have the choice to walk away from him.
To that pointed question, Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God (v. 68, 69).” Here we find Peter loyal to Jesus. At that moment itself, Jesus is painfully pointing out the contrast that one among them was going to betray him.
Always remember that Jesus is not forcing you to follow him. At the same time if you want to follow him, he is asking from you loyalty and trust and obedience. Do not follow him for the sake of benefits you believe or someone else made you believe that he will give you on earth. Follow him because he is God!
The third instance:
Simon Peter is the first to ask, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet (John 13:6)?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand (v. 7).” Peter couldn’t accept the fact that Jesus was performing an act that slaves were supposed to do. Therefore he objected strongly: “No, you shall never wash my feet (v. 8).” But Jesus told him that unless he washed him, Peter had no part with him. Now Peter is all responsive. He said: “Then, Lord, not just my feet but my hands and my head as well.”
Let us look at the simplest lesson here. There are many things we don’t understand about God’s dealing with us. Sometimes we put up resistance. Yet isn’t it wise to be responsive to God when he deals with us gently but firmly?
Let us now look at the deeper lesson hidden in this act of Jesus. We often say that this was an act of humility. True. But is there more in this act than what we see? Let us look at it again.
This instance is acted out in the shadow of the cross. That means what Jesus did has to be understood in connection with the cross.
The washer of the disciples’ feet is the one who is to take away the sin of the world (John 1:29).
“Consider next the verbs which John uses to describe Jesus’ actions. Jesus ‘lays aside’ his garments, and, the washing over, ‘takes them again.’
These are the very verbs which the Good Shepherd had used of his death and resurrection (John 10: 11, 15, 17b).
Above all, remember that the motif [a recurring idea] of the whole story is cleansing and that Jesus said to Peter, ‘If I do not wash you, you are not in fellowship with me.’
The deeper meaning then is that there is no place in his fellowship for those who have not been cleansed by his atoning death.
The episode dramatically symbolises the truth enunciated [expressed in clear, definite terms] in 1 John 1:7, ‘We are being cleansed from every sin by the blood of Jesus.’ ” – The Cambridge Bible Commentary on John (New English Bible) by A. M. Hunter.
The fourth instance:
Here Peter, the natural leader of men and the Twelve, is not willing to speak directly to Jesus. “Simon Peter motioned to this disciple [John] and said, ‘Ask him which one he means’ (John 13:24).”
There are moments when we are at a loss when we do not have the courage to ask Jesus. Well, isn’t there something lovely about Peter here. He represents each one of us. There is something so much human about this man.
The fifth instance:
But soon Simon Peter can’t contain his curiosity: “Lord, where are you going (John 13:36)?” Jesus tells him that he can’t come now but will follow later. But Peter says he is willing to lay down his life for Jesus. At that point Jesus tells him that he will deny him soon.
We all have good intentions. But when it really matters, is it easy to stand for Jesus? Peter’s example tells us that in spite of being sincere and loyal it is possible for us to deny Jesus.
The sixth instance:
Jesus finds that Peter is fighting for the kingdom of God in a worldly way. He struck the high priest’s servant cutting off his right ear. Brave Peter. What did he think he could do against a detachment of soldiers who were carrying weapons?
Sadly, Peter was trying to prevent Jesus from going to the cross (as at an earlier instance in Matthew 16:22, 23) even though he was not fully aware of where Jesus was headed to. Therefore Jesus commanded Peter: “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me? (John 18:11).” [emphasis mine: Jesus was never in any moment of his life without the ability to command.]
Jesus is asking all of us to walk the way of the cross. We are supposed to carry the cross daily (Luke 9:23). That has only one meaning. In the land of Palestine in those days if anyone was seen carrying a cross and walking it meant just one thing: That person was going to his death!
So if we carry our cross it means that we are walking to our death. This death is tough. We need to die to our pride, our self-righteousness, our sin, and our worldly thinking. But like Peter we often resist going to the cross. We are called to be “living sacrifices (Romans 12:2)” but as someone has pointed out there is a strong constant tendency in us to wriggle out from the altar!