5. Domine, quo vadis?
There are many ancient writings whose provenance is questioned. They are apocryphal, meaning that their origin and authorship are uncertain and therefore they are not included in the canon of Scripture. One of them is the Acts of Peter. Bible scholars and academics date it around 200 A.D. and attribute authorship to a companion of the Apostle John. While it is not considered Scripture, the Acts of Peter does provide historical data of note. The texts portrays Peter on mission in Rome. There is no mention in the Acts of the Apostles, the fifth of our New Testament books, of Peter's being in Rome. However, 1 Peter 5:13 sends greetings from the church in Babylon. Many believe this is a disguised reference to the persecuted and suffering believers in the seat of the Roman government.
In Sections XXXV thru XL of the apocryphal Acts of Peter, the author describes Peter's leaving Rome and his eventual death. You can read a rendering of the the Acts of Peter by clicking here. Whether the circumstances are legend or myth, they are compelling. Let me be brief. Peter had decided to leave Rome, fearful for his life. After Christ's resurrection persecution of the Christian community was severe and harsh. On his departure via the Appian Way Peter experienced a vision of encountering Christ. Peter asked, "Domine, quo vadis?", translated roughly, "Lord, where are you going?". The text further expresses Jesus' response: "Romam vado iterum crucifigi", translated, "I am going to Rome to be crucified again." According to the Acts of Peter, Simon Peter reversed his departure, returned to Rome and was crucified. The Acts of Peter is the oldest source of data regarding his death upside down on a cross, unworthy of dying as Jesus had died.
What is the point of these five reflections about the life of Simon Peter? At the top of the list for me is the truth that the risen Christ can change a human life. Simon Peter is a favored Apostle for many believers because he was so human and so like many of us---wavering, tentative, impulsive, and strong-willed. His faith was real, his love for Christ was genuine, and his personal strengths were impressive. Still, his best was so often over-shadowed by circumstances. When challenged prior to the empty tomb he was fearful and insecure. In Christ's darkest hours he followed at a distance, slept while Jesus prayed, and denied knowing him three times. His human nature, the fluttering bird, predominated many of his actions. The solid rock was slow emerging.
In my opinion one particular Scripture illuminates this confusion. Jesus had spoken clearly about his death. John wrote---
Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am
going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.”
John 13: 36, ESV
Jesus told Simon Peter that he could not follow him "now". He promised Peter that he would follow "afterward". "Afterward" what? In my heart Peter was not ready to follow Christ at that time. He would be ready after Christ's death and resurrection. Peter's visit to he empty tomb, and the other change points mentioned, prepared him to follow.
Most believers want to be strong, dependable, reliant disciples. We cannot become what Jesus envisions for us in our own self-controlled systems. We must experience those spiritual change points that shift our focus from the things of this world to the things of heaven. Jesus said---
If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow
me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake
will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his
soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
Matthew 16: 24-26, ESV
Thus endeth the lesson.