This is part of a series studying Peter’s life and ministry. Click here for the entire series.
As Jesus neared the latter part of His earthly ministry, He spent time teaching His disciples. Not surprisingly, Peter was often the most vocal of His students. You know, the kind of kid who’s the first to raise his hand and jump around to be noticed in class!
On one occasion, Jesus responded to the Pharisees’ question about why His followers didn’t follow rigorous rules about washing hands before they ate (Matthew 15:1-20). Jesus taught about what really pollutes a person—not what goes into his mouth but what comes out of his heart. On this occasion, Peter simply asked Jesus to explain a short parable He taught about the blind leading the blind.
Another time when asked whether Jesus’ followers paid the tax to support the Temple (Matthew 17:24-27), Peter replied in the affirmative. Jesus asked Peter whether the sons of kings were exempt, and Peter said they were. Jesus agreed but then said to avoid offending the religious authorities Peter should pay their taxes, even though by implication they were sons of the Heavenly King. He directed Peter to go fishing and use a coin he would find in a fish’s mouth to pay their taxes.
Jesus often used conflict to teach His followers a valuable lesson (Matthew 18:21-35). Once the disciples asked Jesus who was the greatest person in the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus said one had to become like a little child just to enter the kingdom. He instructed His followers not to offend a little child. Then He launched into a sermonette on forgiving others. Peter wondered out loud, “How many time shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus said, “Not seven times but seventy times seven.” Scholars tell us that rabbinical law said forgiveness should not be extended more than three times. Likely feeling he was outdoing the law, Peter suggested he should forgive his brother seven times—more than twice what was required. Jesus pushed the requirement even further to seventy times seven (490), or, as some have suggested, so many times that one loses count.
Peter broke into Jesus’ teaching on yet another occasion (Matthew 19:16-30; Mark 10:17-31; Luke 18:18-30). A wealthy young man came to Jesus to ask how he could get eternal life, fully confident that by keeping all of the law he would probably qualify. Knowing how attached this man was to his money, Jesus told him to sell everything he owned and follow Him. That was too high of a price to pay, so he left Jesus. He then warned that the love of money would keep many rich people from entering the Kingdom of Heaven.
Peter reminded Jesus that he and the other followers had left everything to follow Him. “What then will there be for us?” he inquired. Other words, “Are there any special benefits for those of us who have given up our livelihoods and normal lives?” Jesus said they would sit on special thrones and “judge the twelve tribes of Israel.” He also said they would be repaid a hundred times over for their sacrifices and, oh yes, they would be given eternal life (Matthew 19:27-29).
Finally, Mark records that Peter along with James and John asked Jesus what they should look for as a warning sign for the destruction of Herod’s Temple (Mark 13:1-37) or “the end of the age” (Matthew 24:1-25:46). Jesus used this question as a springboard to teach His followers about the “end times”, some of which was fulfilled with the Roman capturing and burning of Jerusalem in AD 70 and some of which has yet to be fulfilled.
What kind of a learner/student are you? Passive? Active? Inquisitive? Or, do you take things at face value?
What do you think you can learn from Peter’s example?