4. Change points.
Few people will argue the visible change in Simon Peter after the resurrection of Jesus. The man who preached in the early chapters of Acts, most notably on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), wasn't the wavering, bumbling uncertain disciple who had followed Jesus from a distance. His brashness had become boldness, his fiery temperament had become genuine passion, his boastful words had been transformed into Gospel truth. Simon bar Jonah had slipped to the background and Simon Peter, the rock, had stepped forward. Interestingly, he was never called Simon again in the book of Acts, except several instances where people were looking for Simon, now known as Peter.
So, there are many opinions about the catalyst(s) for this drastic change. In my study I have identified four change points that raised disciple Simon to Apostle Peter. God used each of them as a reality check for Simon Peter, shift his life focus, and pursue his calling to lead the early church. Make note of them---
1. The Eyes of the Lord.
The first change point occurred prior to Christ's crucifixion and resurrection. As predicted, Simon had denied knowing Jesus three times in the courtyard of Caiaphas, the high priest. The rooster crowed as Jesus had promised. Luke wrote, "And the Lord turned and look at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, 'Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times'. And he went out and wept bitterly" (Luke 22: 61, ESV). It was a stunning, perhaps gut-wrenching moment of truth. Simon was challenged and broken.
2. The Empty Tomb.
Upon hearing from the women that the tomb was empty, most of the disciples were in disbelief, an idle tale that they could not believe. "But Peter rose and ran to the tomb, stooping and looking in, he saw the linen clothes by themselves, and went home marveling at what had happened" (Luke 24:12, ESV). Peter ran and marveled. Simon had not been the marveling type before these events. Now, he contemplated the empty tomb, made note of the burial attire, and went to his home in wonderment. Peter was deliberating and analyzing the truth of what had happened.
3. In the Sea of Galilee.
After the resurrection Peter and the others went fishing in the familiar Sea of Galilee. The Lord appeared to them on the shore but the disciples did not know it was Jesus. John, the disciple Jesus loved said, "It is the Lord" (John 21:7, ESV), John wrote, "When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea" (John 21:7, ESV). It was the moment of reckoning for Simon Peter. His eagerness to be with Jesus was a turning point for him. He wasn't tentative or following at a distance any longer. Peter was emerging.
It is a little known village on the Sea of Galilee, Tabgha. It is never named in the New Testament. After Jesus and the disciples had partaken of the fish Jesus had cooked for them, Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him. In their interchange Jesus had commanded Peter, "Feed my lambs", "Feed my sheep", and "Tend my sheep". A statue has been erected at Tabgha commemorating the restoration of Simon Peter. In my seven visits to the Holy Land Tabgha is my most memorable site. It was also the place where Jesus revealed Peter's death---"...when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hand, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go" (John 21:18, ESV). Here was the image of Simon Peter, genuinely passionate, even unto death.
Peter's next chapter was to lead the early church, preach and refine the Gospel message, and open the ministry of Christ's church to the Gentile nations. He was now the solid rock Jesus had envisioned.
And, then, there was Domine, Quo Vadis, our topic on Friday.