Peter, we might say, was one of the most human and natural of the disciples and we can learn a great deal from him. He was one of the three great leaders of the Lord’s followers. He was always ready to defend his Lord and Master, yet he made some great mistakes. As believers we, surely, can learn from them too. He was a disciple who admitted his mistakes, and it is well that all came right in the end. Read through the early chapters of the Acts of the Apostles to see how grace triumphed in his life.
1) Luke 5. 1-11
As the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, Jesus stood by the lake of Gennesaret and saw two ships nearby. The fishermen were gone out of them and were washing their nets. So He entered into one of the ships which was Simon’s, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. Then, sitting down, he taught the people out of the ship. When he had finished speaking he said unto Simon, ‘Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a draught’. Simon said to the Lord, ‘Master, we have toiled all night long and have caught nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net’. When they had done this they caught such a great number offish that they beckoned to their partners to come and help them pull the net in.
Firstly, was it not a mistake to let down only one net when the Lord had said let down the nets? How often we may limit the power of the Lord today.
Then ‘when Simon Peter saw the great catch of fish, he fell down at Jesus knees, saying, Depart from me: for I am a sinful man, O Lord’. What a mistake to tell the Lord to depart! When they had brought their ships to land they forsook all and followed Him. Let it be true of the Lord’s people today that following Christ becomes their chief occupation.
2) Luke 9. 28-36
Jesus took Peter, John and James and went up into a mountain to pray. The time must have been at night as our Lord was accustomed to spend whole nights on mountain tops in prayer. The overpowering sleep that mastered the apostles, until the transfiguration glory was on the point of passing away, suggests also that it was night. Also, it was the next day when they came down from the mountain. Luke says that when they were awake they saw His glory. While praying, the fashion of the Lord’s countenance was altered and His raiment became white and glistering, and behold there talked with Him two men, which were Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spake of His decease which He should accomplish at Jerusalem. The appearance of Moses and Elijah added greatly to the spectacle. Moses was the representative of the law and Elijah of the prophets. When they had departed, Peter said unto Jesus, ‘Master it is good for us to be here: let us make three tabernacles, one for thee, one for Moses, and one for Elijah: not knowing what he said’. It was an ill-considered suggestion, or in other words a great mistake on Peter’s part. Christ being unique, no one can be put on a par with Him. Well might there come a cloud to over-shadow them, and a voice from out of the cloud saying, ‘This is my beloved Son; hear Him’. Looking round they saw no man save Jesus only with themselves. What a mistake and what must they have missed when they were asleep!
3) Matthew 16. 13-23
When Jesus came into the coast of Caesarea Philippi, He asked his disciples, saying, ‘Whom do men say that I the Son of Man am?’ Some said He was John the Baptist, some, Elijah, and others Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. He said to them, But whom say ye that I am? Simon Peter answered and said, ‘Thou art the Christ the Son of the living God’. That was marvellous. Flesh and blood had not revealed it to him, but the Father which is in heaven. From that time forth began Jesus to show to His disciples, how that He must enter Jerusalem and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. On hearing this ‘Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from Thee Lord; this shall not be unto Thee’. What a grave mistake this was! But the Lord turned, and said unto Peter, ‘Get thee behind me Satan, thou art an offence unto me; for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men’. Peter was utterly mistaken, of course. If anything, he ought to have said, Your way must be best, O Lord’. But Peter had yet to learn that what looked like pointless suffering and tragic death was actually the heart of God’s purpose of grace and salvation for all who will believe.
4) Matthew 14. 22-31
In verses 13-21 the disciples had heard of the death of John the Baptist. They had come and taken up the body and buried it, and gone and told Jesus. And when Jesus heard of it, He departed by ship to a desert place apart, but the people followed Him. Then Jesus went forth, and seeing a great multitude was moved with compassion toward them and He healed their sick. Then He fed that hungry multitude of about 5000 men apart from women and children. He then told His disciples to get into a ship, and to go on before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitude away. Jesus then went up into a mountain apart to pray, and when even had come He was there alone. By this time the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed about with the waves for the wind was against them. In the fourth watch of the night (a little while before dawn), Jesus went to them walking on the sea. When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea they were afraid and troubled saying, It is a spirit, and they cried out for fear. But straight away Jesus spoke to them saying, ‘Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid’. Peter answered, ‘Lord if it be thou bid me come unto thee’. Jesus said, ‘Come’. Although Peter walked on the water to Jesus, really he was afraid and began to sink. Then in fear he cried out, ‘Lord save me’, so Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him and said ‘Oh thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?’ What a mistake! When they came into the ship, the wind ceased. How easy it is for each of us to doubt the Lord’s power today, and like Peter to make the mistake of only half trusting. Let us examine our own hearts,
5) Mark 14. 32-42
They came to a place which was named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, ‘Sit ye here, while I shall pray’. He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be very heavy and said to them, ‘My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death; tarry ye here, and watch’. He went forward a little and fell on the ground and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. Nevertheless, He was prepared to bow to His Father’s will. He came, and found them sleeping, and said unto Peter, ‘Simon, sleepest thou? Couldest not thou watch one hour?’ What a rebuke it must have been for Peter: ‘Sleepest thou Simon’, as if to say, ‘You never thought you would, did you, Simon? Again he went away and prayed the same words and when he returned he found them asleep again. He came the third time and said, ‘Sleep on now and take your rest: it is enough, the hour is come … Rise up, let us go; lo, he that betrayeth me is at hand’.
Peter fell asleep when he should have been at prayer. What a grievous mistake that was. When the Lord most looked for loyal supporters, alas, Peter was asleep. Would we have been any different?
6) Luke 22. 54-62
Then took they Him and led Him, and brought Him into the high priest’s house and Peter followed afar off. When they had kindled a fire in the midst of the hall and were sat down together, Peter sat down with them. It was then that he was challenged three times, first by a maid who said, This man was also with him’. But he denied it saying, ‘I know him not’. After a little while another saw him and said, ‘Thou art also of them’. But Peter said, ‘Man, 1 am not’. About one hour later another confidently affirmed saying, ‘Of a truth this fellow also was with him; for he is a Galilaean’. Peter said, ‘Man, I know not what you are saying’. While he was speaking, the cock crew, and the Lord turned and looked upon Peter. Peter then remembered the words of the Lord, ‘Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice’. What a sad failure on Peter’s part to have been ashamed of Jesus and to have repeatedly denied Him.
That look the Lord gave Peter broke his heart, for he went out and wept bitterly.
A look of penetration and reproach, and yet a look of tender compassion which wrought repentance in the heart of His erring disciple as nothing else could have done. Perfect Master, indeed!
In the early chapters of the Acts we learn that Peter, having made his mistakes, has now learned invaluable lessons from them. He is now no longer self confident, but bold in the Spirit to give all honour to His Lord.
7) Acts 3. 1-10
Peter and John went up into the temple where they met a lame man who expected alms from them. Peter said to him ‘In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk’, and taking him by the right hand lifted him up. In the name of the One he had formerly disowned he now boldly speaks, and witnesses the power in that same Name to change the crippled beggar into an exultant worshipper.
We all, like Peter, make our mistakes. And yet from them we too may learn great lessons. God would teach us that self-confidence, pride, and the fear of standing alone need have no place in the lives of those who humble themselves under His mighty hand, 1 Pet. 5. 5-7.