The In-Between Years - Part 6

Series: The In-Between Years

June 07, 2020
Brad Shockley

Episode Notes

The In-Between Years - Part 6

Things have been moving along nicely in our study of Acts as we’ve almost finished chapter 1. Chapter 1, if you recall, is intended to set us up for what happens in chapter 2 with the birth of the church. And then everything in the rest of the book propels out of that.

But this section, these few verses we have left in chapter 1, seems to slow us down. It tells an odd story of how another disciple was added bringing the total back to twelve. What purpose does it serve in the narrative?

I should probably just skim over it and move on. And I might have if I hadn’t learned you often find the most impactful things in the Bible from texts like this.

Today we’ll look at just one half of one verse.

15 In those days Peter stood up among the brothers… Acts 1:15a (ESV)

Believe it or not, there’s an incredible story behind these nine words, and I’m going to try and tell it in the short time we have this morning.

“In those days” — that’s the time the disciples waited for the Father’s promise in Jerusalem. No one knew quite what to do but sit and pray. There was a sense, however, of hope and expectancy. Jesus left it that way.

Peter” — Good old Peter. He comes on the scene early in the gospels when Jesus chose his band of twelve disciples, the very ones who would become apostles later on, pillars of the early church, the men who would turn the world upside down with the gospel. Now Peter was not a seminary student, not a diplomat, not a nobleman as you’d might expect for such a monumental task. He was a simple, ordinary fisherman habits, hang ups, and hurts just like us all.

Study the person of Peter in the gospels and you discover a man of burning passion and foolish impulse, a man who rose to the occasion one minute and crashed the next, a man who got it and didn’t get it at the same time. For example…

One day the disciples were in a boat far out on a lake and they saw Jesus taking a stroll on top of the water!

Matthew 14:28…

28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.

Way to go, Peter. While the other disciples cowered in fear, you jumped out of the boat! 

30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”  Matthew 14:28–31 (ESV)

Aww, Peter.

Another day Jesus took three disciples — James, John, and Peter — up on the mountain, allowing them to see him transfigured in all his glory and actually talking to Moses and Elijah.

Luke 9:33…

33 And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. 34 As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!”  Luke 9:33–35 (ESV)

And on another day, this: Matt. 16:21…

21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 

That would be like me getting on to Nick Saban for calling a certain play.

23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”  Matthew 16:21–23 (ESV)

And then on another day when Jesus washed the disciples’ feet to demonstrate the servant leader model of God’s kingdom in John 13:8…

8 Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” 9 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.”  John 13:810 (ESV)

See what I mean? But then Peter could surprise you. Like the day he really hit a home run in Matthew 16…

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”  Matthew 16:13–19 (ESV)

We’ve already looked at this because it’s the first mention of the church in the Bible. We saw how Jesus not only gave Peter a new name, the rock, he made him the figurative rock on which the church would be founded. He would become the leader of the early church. Peter? Really? Are you sure Jesus? He must have seen saw something in this former fisherman.

As his story progresses, we see Peter show his passion and loyalty. The night before Jesus was crucified, as they finished up what we call the Last Supper, we see this in Matthew 26…

30 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 31 Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ 32 But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” 33 Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” 34

I don’t have the slightest doubt that Peter meant what he said. But I also don’t think he truly realized what he was saying. There’s an old saying among Christians, from those who’ve learned by experience: never tell God never.

Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” 35 Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.  Matthew 26:30–35 (ESV)

Maybe Peter thought Jesus was saying one thing but meaning another as he often did. All the time the disciples misunderstood Jesus because he talked in parables. Unfortunately, no, this wasn’t one of those times. We see Jesus’ prophetic words concerning Peter play out in Matthew 26:69, after Jesus had been arrested and placed into custody…

69 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came up to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” 70 But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you mean.” 71 And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 72 And again he denied it with an oath: “I do not know the man.” 73 After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.” 74 Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed. 75 And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.  Matthew 26:69–75 (ESV)

This is painful. When being Jesus’ disciple brought hardship the rock turned to jelly. At Jesus’ darkest hour his most passionate follower abandoned him. The one who swore on his life he’d never deny the man who walked on water did so not once but three times with cursing and swearing. Judas betrayed him, the other disciples save one deserted him, but Peter actually disowned him. I’m not sure which is worse.

If this is all we knew about Peter, we’d look at Acts 1:15 and wonder why he’s even there in that upper room praying with those disciples. He denied the Son of God for heaven’s sake! 

But as they say, there’s more to the story. Peter left Jesus to his suffering and crucifixion in tears that night thinking it was over. Thinking he had utterly failed. Thinking, I’m guessing, that even if Jesus came back from the dead his place in the kingdom had been forfeited. A disciple of Jesus of Nazareth no longer he was.

In Mark’s gospel, though, we find an almost imperceptible detail that speaks to this. See if you can detect it. The women who went to the tomb discovered Jesus had come back from the dead. Angels were waiting there to tell them…

6 And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”  Mark 16:6–7 (ESV)

Did you see it? The angels had been charged to specifically mention Peter. Evidently Jesus wasn’t finished with him after all.

There’s even more to the story. And you discover it when you back up a bit where Luke gives us more detail on what happened that night just before Peter denied him. Jesus pulled him aside and said… 

31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” 33 Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” 34 Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”  Luke 22:31–34 (ESV)

That’s a perspective painting Peter’s failure in a different light. Jesus’ choosing of Peter as the rock on which the church would be built did not go unnoticed by the enemy. Neither were his passionate declarations of loyalty. It made him a target. I’ll never forget Charles Stanley saying in a sermon, “What you profess in public Satan will test in private.” Peter found that out the hard way.

Yes, by all accounts Peter failed the test. But look at what Jesus said in Luke 22:32…

32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”  Luke 22:32 (ESV) 

Not if you turn back but when. Jesus had factored Peter’s failures into his plans all along. He, of all people, the one who denied Jesus would be the very one who strengthened the other disciples. That is the grace and mercy of our Jesus in all its glory.

I really identify with Peter, more than any other person in the Bible. You see, there was time as pastor I was tested. A horrible trial came into my life. It felt like Satan was sifting me like wheat, though there’s no way I could have been a threat to his kingdom. God allowed some of my worst nightmare’s to come true.

Instead of trusting him and staying faithful, I turned and ran. In a way I denied him and lived for three years like a lost man. I shook my fist in his face cursing and swearing NEVER to serve him again. Never tell God never.

When I came to my senses, I thought God couldn’t use me again, not after denying him. I was wrong.

Conclusion: Back to Acts 1:15…

15 In those days Peter stood up among the brothers…  Acts 1:15a (ESV)

The most unlikely and unworthy among them takes up the mantle Jesus gave him that day he confessed him as the Christ, the Son of the living God. The one Satan desired to sift like wheat becomes the rock Jesus called him to be. We will see him stand up again shortly and deliver the first sermon ever preached after the birth of the church.

Peter gives us undeniable proof that Jesus uses broken, imperfect people to accomplish his will. 

Peter shows us you can fail miserably and still be on

Content Copyright Belongs to Pleasant View First Baptist Church