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By Ronnie Bennett-Bray, Moroni Channel
One was a provincial, rough in manners, unrefined in speech that wore the clothes of a rustic. He was used to being in charge so that much of what he said and did had an air of authority. He was used to being obeyed, didn’t take kindly to criticism, and especially disliked being contradicted.
His livelihood could be dangerous depending on the fierce gales that blew in without warning requiring him to make spur-of-the-moment decisions for his own safety and that of the men working alongside him.
He was a family man that took his household duties seriously, which explains why they and his friends thought he had gone mad when he walked away from his business and took up with a band of vagrants.
People wagged their tongues, and then wagged their fingers before touching them to their temples, signifying the sad case they judged to be him for leaving a loving family, a thriving business, and his community to follow after another that had done much the same.
He became the pupil of an itinerant teacher who was so poorly regarded that his fellow villagers cut him off as though he was dead. That was a hard blow for the big man but he brushed it aside because he was sure that he was doing what God wanted him to do, and that mattered more than what people thought about him did.
His wife understood him better when he visited on one of the teaching journeys of his preceptor and was able to sit with her and explain what had happened, and what had taken over his life.
He was not estranged from his family and did not love them any less than he always had, but he had come to know that a unique event of unprecedented importance was coming that would have far-reaching advantages for the entire world.
His wife’s eyes widened and her heart warmed as he explained what would shortly come to pass and what it would mean for the human family. When they parted she understood his mission. She would see him twice more before hearing of his untimely martyrdom in a distant land.
He returned with his master to the south country to continue teaching. Despite his conviction that the course he was pursuing was God-intended, from time to time he experienced some difficulties connected with his personality that some commentators say made him an unreliable and poor example for others.
While he would agree with this estimate, it is not the picture of him that we should hold as the essence of his being.
One minister of religion deplored his behaviour, roundly condemning him for vacillating, for being prideful, and for not praying. He concluded his bitter lament by pleading.
"Let us as people, especially those who are Christians and claim to abide by the Word of God, not make the same mistakes and fall as he fell."
It is certain that he vacillated when he let down his leader by feigning ignorance of him. It is possible to see the pride of which the minister complained, and he did fall asleep once when he ought, perhaps, to have been praying. But, in his defence, perhaps none of us were wholly free from similar shortcomings when we were weak in faith. And can we doubt that the accuser will recognise some flaws in his own history?
But what strikes me as unacceptably harsh is that a man who is known to have overcome his weaknesses and become a bulwark of faith and practice should be left suspended by such a shallow judgement
But with whom shall we compare this man of faults that we might competently judge him and provide substance for comparison? There is a man that springs readily to mind that seems to fit the bill. He was bold, energetic, decisive, fearless, and submitted to a dreadful death rather than deny what he recognized as eternal truths.
This second man was arrested for preaching about an unpopular man that said he was the Messiah: a claim that so angered the people that he was seized and delivered to the Roman authorities who obliged his accusers by nailing him to a wooden cross to hang by his hands and his feet until he was dead. And that was supposed to be the end of that Messiah-nonsense: but it wasn’t.
Some weeks later a man stood up in the midst of the crowds celebrating the end of the Jewish Feast of Harvests in Jerusalem and proclaimed with astonishing boldness that the murdered Messiah had come back to life, and that he they had put to death was the Son of the Living God, and that if any would be saved they could only be saved by believing in the Son of God and entering into communion with him through immersion.
In a single day three thousand souls responded to this man’s preaching and entered the Church of Jesus Christ through the waters of baptism. The response of those officials that had brought about the death of Jesus arrested the preacher and gaoled him, but he was set free by the intervention of heaven that sent liberating angels to loose his chains and unlock the doors of his prison.
Thus loosed, a lesser man might have counted his blessings and made good his escape. But not this man. Without regard for his personal safety he defied the order not to teach Christ any more, and returned with his companions again and again to the precincts of the temple to proclaim Jesus as Christ, raised immortal, and forever the Savior and Redeemer despite the danger to which his presence in that place made him liable.
No one in the world, including Caesars, High Priests, and members of the Sanhedrin could match this man’s authority to speak of sacred things, and none could speak with the power he had, his inspired eloquence, his matchless courage in the face of those with power to return him to prison, to scourge, and even kill him, as they had so recently done to his Master.
His voice rang across the sacred precincts so recently the scene of God’s veil rending anger at the failure of His chosen to recognize His Son. Ignoring the legal proscription, the Galilean declaimed, challenging civic authorities, religious leaders, and the people of the city.
Some time later the group divided and set about a series of missionary journeys that established the Church of Jesus Christ in every place where men believed their testimonies and turned to Jesus Christ as Saviour for their crowns of eternal life.
The second man we have examined as a comparative by which to judge the first, eventually arrived at Rome where he was crucified as a martyr in the cause of Jesus. The second man’s name is Simon Peter, the man Jesus called to be president of the College of Twelve Apostles. He is recognised as one of the foremost Christian leaders in history and the example of his life held as one worthy of emulation by Christians.
The first man, the one spoken of in the minister’s condemnatory epistle is also Simon Peter.
We could say that the first Peter we meet is human, and that the second Peter is divine. However, that is not the case. Both Peters were superlatively human, but the second Peter had undergone a conversion that went far beyond recognising Jesus as the Son of God and Saviour.
The first Peter had been converted to Jesus in the hour he was called from his nets. But discipleship is a process and not a destination, and that Peter was at the beginning of the process that continued until he was firmly convinced by what was revealed to him that all Jesus had said was true.
The action of the Holy Ghost on the first Peter changed him from the impulsive, indecisive, fearful man, that had fallen through the water as his faith failed him when he attempted to walk to Jesus atop the waves of Galilee, and made of him the second Peter, fearless, decisive, purposeful, and unstoppable.
It is sad that someone drew the line under Peter’s life before the Lord had completed his arithmetic, the means by which the Saviour completes the sums of our lives in conformity to the destiny appointed to us by the Great God of Heaven who is our Father.
It is not fitting that we should judge another before God has done with him, and nor is it fitting that we should consider ourselves finished and totalled before we have been completed by the One, the only One, that knows what he is doing and when He has done with us.
Honours Degree, Theology, Religious Studies
Leeds University - Leeds, West Yorkshire, England UK
Honours Graduate the Department of Theology & Religious Studies
He has also earned:
Since January 2000, Ronnie Bray has written in excess of 600 stories, articles, and essays. He is the Author of:
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