Sunday, June 8, 2014

Boldness - Where does it come from?

Our Life Group lesson today was on Peter, and how he became bold after the resurrection. It was my turn to teach. We have no lesson material to go on, so I had to develop something on my own. Fortunately Peter is an easy person to study and build a lesson around.

I started by asking them to tell me the last view of Peter in the gospels. Someone said it was Peter's denial of Jesus. While that wasn't the last view of him, I was going to work back to that. The last view was in Galilee, after the fishing, where Jesus thrice asked him, "Peter, do you love me?" Each time Jesus asked it in a different way, softening the question, while Peter never did really rise to answer it in the right way. Then he deflected the question by asking questions about John, and what his end would be. It wasn't a flattering scene.

Before that, working backwards, we see Peter in the upper room, behind locked doors for fear of the Jews, when Jesus appeared to them. This was the second time, for a week before, on Resurrection day, they were in the same position, under the same fears, and Jesus appeared to them (with Thomas missing). During that time the apostles reported to the two who had seen Jesus in Emmaus that Jesus had appeared to Peter (though the gospels don't describe this encounter). Before that it was Peter rushing to the empty tomb on Mary's report, and of his going in. Before that it was Peter's denial of Christ on the prior Thursday night.

Of interest is a couple of places we don't see Peter, most notable of which is during the crucifixion and the death watch and after. We don't know for sure everyone who was there, but Peter's name isn't mentioned. Quite possibly he was off cowering somewhere, or thinking he had failed Jesus so badly that he didn't want to show his face around him. We presume he was present at the time when Jesus gave the Great Commission, and at the Ascension, though none of the apostles are mentioned by name.

Fast forward to after the Ascension. Peter is the one who stands up and says that Judas must be replaced. He had boldness for leadership among the 120 followers of Christ.

Skipping for a moment to Chapter 3, we see Peter and John going up to the temple to pray. They encounter the crippled man and heal him. Peter preaches a sermon to those who gather to see the healed man. So we see Peter with boldness to heal and to preach. Then, in Chapter 4, Peter and John are brought before the Sanhedrin and questioned. Peter preaches to them as when. Then, when this body of elders tells them to preach no more in Jesus' name, Peter and John make there famous statement: Whether it is right to obey God or man you be the judge, but we cannot help but obey God. We see, at that moment, that Peter had the boldness to take a stand.

Of course two things occur within these events that are key to understanding Peter's progression. We have this progression to consider:

  • Peter denies Christ
  • Jesus dies
  • Jesus is resurrected
  • Peter goes to the empty tomb but is somewhat confused
  • Peter sees the risen Lord
  • Peter is behind locked door for fear of the Jews when Jesus appears to them
  • A week later Peter is again behind locked doors when Jesus appears to them
  • Peter is fishing in Galilee when Jesus appears to them
  • Peter is sort of reinstated by Jesus, though it's not a "ringing endorsement"
  • Jesus ascends
  • Peter takes leadership among the 120
  • The great outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, and Peter's effective sermon on that day
  • The healing of the cripple in the temple
  • The sermon in the temple
  • Peter takes a stand against the Jewish rulers

The two items highlighted are key. After the resurrection and until Jesus ascended, it was somewhat business as usual. Jesus had died but was back. They would go back to following him around. He would be their itinerant rabbi and they would follow him. But suddenly Jesus is gone. The disciples will have to make their way on their own.

Then came the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. From that moment forward, Peter is a changed man. Yes, the resurrection changed him, but not as fully as was needed. Peter had received the Holy Spirit on the evening of resurrection day, when Jesus had breathed on the disciples and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit." But somehow it wasn't full and complete. It took Pentecost for it to be so. He had boldness to lead, to heal, to preach, and to take a stand.

Today the physical presence of Jesus is not a factor. We know He's coming back, and live in expectation of that, but it's not something we put everything else aside to live for. The fullness of the Spirit is something else available to us, if only we ask. But do we ask? Do we fear that if we ask for this, our lives will be so changed that we fear what we would become?

It's something to think about.

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