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Lesson 8: From Folly to Faith: The Apostle Peter *

Introduction: Can you think of a Christian who is not a very good witness for Jesus? I'm not referring to someone who only talks about being a Christian. I mean someone who is a serious Christian, but who does not have a very good sense of how to get along. The world calls the ability to relate to others "emotional intelligence," the Bible calls it "wisdom." Our study this week is about the apostle Peter who had a great deal of growing to do in the emotional intelligence department. Let's plunge into our study of the Bible and see what we can learn about Peter and improving our own emotional intelligence!

  1. Faithful to Death: The Promise

    1. Last week we studied how Simon Peter and John first came to be disciples of Jesus. We now move to the very last days they were with Jesus on earth. Read Mark 14:26-29. Why does Jesus say what He does and why does Peter say what he does? (Jesus is quoting the Bible ( Zechariah 13:7) and making the application to Himself and His disciples. Peter disputes whether this prophecy (and Jesus' statement) applies to him. He believes he is better, more faithful than the others.)

    2. Read Mark 14:30. What does Jesus do to reinforce the truth of what He has said? (Jesus now adds His own prophecy, and He attaches a narrow time frame and specific details - that day, before the rooster crows twice, Peter will deny Jesus three times.)

    3. Read Mark 14:31. What character trait of Peter do we see here? (Pride. Determination.)

      1. What emotion do we see?

      2. Read Proverbs 12:15-16. This is one of the texts on Bible-based emotional intelligence. What rules do you find here, and how has Peter violated them? (Jesus has twice given Peter advice about the future, and Peter rejects it. Peter shows his annoyance at once.)

        1. How might the future have been different if Peter had said, "Lord, how will this happen, and what can I do to avoid it?"

      3. Read Proverbs 13:10. How are pride and the emotional intelligence of taking advice in conflict with each other? How was this true in Peter's case? (Because Peter's pride and arrogance did not allow him to think that he could deny Jesus, he could not learn from Jesus' advice.)

    4. Let's continue on with this story from another gospel. Read Luke 22:35-36. This immediately follows Jesus' discussion with Peter about his upcoming disloyalty. Why is a sword now more important than a coat?

  2. Faithful to Death: The Fight

    1. Read John 18:1-3. Jesus' words to Peter about his disloyalty are just a few hours old. Tell me what is going through Peter's mind when he sees Judas and the soldiers? (This confirms Jesus' prediction that He will be betrayed by one of His disciples. Peter is no doubt thinking "This is the test!")

    2. Read John 18:10. Who was right on the issue of Peter's loyalty: Jesus or Peter? (It looks like Peter proves what he said - he was willing to die for Jesus. He stood right there, he did not deny Jesus, he pulled his sword so that he could fight for his Lord and struck a blow in the direction of the representative of the high priest!)

  3. Faithful to Death: The Confusion

    1. Read John 18:11. What is going through Peter's mind now? (He must be confused. He had just proven Jesus wrong about his faithfulness, and Jesus is now rebuking him! He remembered Jesus' advice about having a sword and not only does he have it, he is using it!)

      1. What is Jesus talking about when He refers to "the cup the Father has given Me?" (Jesus had been talking about a cup ( Mark 14:20-24) at the same time He was talking about being betrayed and Peter's disloyalty. Imagine all these thoughts racing around in Peter's head!)

    2. Read Mark 8:31-33. What caused Peter to get into trouble here? (The same lack of emotional intelligence that he demonstrated later. His pride and arrogance cause him to reject Jesus' statements about the future.)

      1. Has Peter forgotten this event in his confusion about what he should do to be loyal to Jesus? (This is an important lesson for us. Peter resisted the idea that Jesus came to die. He wanted Jesus to rule. Because he refused to give up his own ideas, he thought being loyal meant fighting for Jesus to rule.)

  4. Faithful to Death: The Failure

    1. Let's continue with our story in John. Read John 18:12-16. How is Peter able to get into the courtyard of the High Priest? (The "other" disciple (John) speaks with the girl on duty and gets Peter in.)

    2. Read John 18:17. Is this how Peter expected the temptation to deny Jesus would come to him? (It would come with soldiers when he had a sword in his hand. It would not come with an unarmed "girl on duty.")

      1. Could Peter say that this was unfair? When he pulled his sword to fight, wasn't it "game over" for the issue of whether he would deny Jesus?

      2. Read Proverbs 19:20-21. How would these rules of emotional intelligence have helped Peter? (If the first time that Jesus rebuked Peter about Peter's vision for the future ( Mark 8:31-33), Peter had accepted Jesus' advice, he would have understood Jesus' purpose and how he might play a role in that plan. If Peter had accepted Jesus' advice about his upcoming denial, he could have sought wisdom about how he could avoid being disloyal. This text in Proverbs teaches us that whatever our plans, it is God's purpose that will prevail. We can avoid a lot of trouble and confusion by paying attention to God.)

  5. Faithful to Death: The Redemption

    1. Read John 21:14-15. What difference, if any do you see in Peter's attitude? (Jesus primes him to compare himself to the other disciples by saying he loves more than the other disciples. Compare Mark 14:29. Peter does not say he is better than the others when it comes to loving Jesus.)

    2. Read John 21:16. What is suggested by the fact that Jesus asks Peter this question a second time? (It suggests that Jesus is uncertain of the truth of Peter's first answer.)

      1. What would you be thinking if you were Peter? (I would immediately have guilty thoughts of my last unfaithfulness. I would know Jesus was thinking about my failure, and it would tear my heart.)

    3. Read John 21:17. The text confirms that Peter feels hurt and guilty. What argument does Peter make to convince Jesus that he will now be faithful? (He doesn't really try to make an argument, he simply says "God, you know all things." Thus, you know whether I'm telling you the truth or not. You know whether I will be faithful or not. I love you and I intend to be faithful.)

    4. Read John 21:18-19. What would the Peter of earlier days have said to this? (For a clue, re-read Mark 8:31-33. Jesus told Peter that he would be killed at the hands of others. The expression "you will stretch out your hands" suggests crucifixion. "Early church tradition supports this manner of death for Peter." Wycliffe Bible Commentary. The Peter of yesterday would have rebuked Jesus - no one was going to die - they were all going to rule!)

    5. Friend, what about you? Do you follow the Bible's rules of emotional intelligence so that you put away pride and take advice? Do you accept God's word rather than your own goals and preferences? Or, will it take a spiritual failure to teach you the lessons Peter learned?

  6. Next week: A Pillar of Mission: The Apostle Peter.
* Copr. 2008, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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