Peter is an exemplar introduced by God to people and a well-known person in the limelight. Why was such an inconspicuous man set by God as an exemplar and extolled by later generations? Of course, it goes without saying that this has to do with his manifestation of loving God and his resolution to love God. Then, how exactly was Peter’s heart of loving God manifested? And what exactly was his experience in his lifetime? We need to go back to the Age of the Grace and have a look at the local conditions and customs of that time and have a look at the Peter of that age.
Peter was born of a common Jewish peasant family. His parents supported the family by farming. Peter was the first child in his family and had four young brothers and sisters. Of course, these are not the main things for us to tell, and Peter is the central figure of our talk. His parents began to teach him to read when he was five. At that time, the Jews were of quite profound erudition, particularly advanced in various aspects such as agriculture, industry, commerce, and so on. Under the influence of such a social environment, Peter’s parents also received higher education. Although they were rural people, they were of rather rich knowledge, just like the ordinary college students of this day. It is thus clear that it was a good fortune for Peter to be born under such a favorable social condition. He was clever and bright, and was apt to accept new things. When at school, he could draw inferences about other cases from one instance in every course he learned and had no difficulty in them. His parents were proud that they had such a clever and bright son, so they exerted all their efforts to support his study, in hope that he could come to the top and obtain an official post in the society of that time. Unconsciously, Peter took an interest in God. So, at the age of fourteen when attending senior high school, he was rather sick of “the culture of ancient Greece,” one of the courses he learned, especially sick of the fictitious characters and things in the history of ancient Greece. From then on, Peter, who had just stepped into adolescence, began to study life and contact society. He did not repay his parents for their painstaking efforts according to his conscience, for he had clearly seen that “men all lived in a space where they made a fool of themselves, and they all lived in a meaningless life, only to forfeit their own life because of fighting for high official positions and riches.” Why he could see that had much to do with the social environment he was in. The more knowledge people had, the more complex the interpersonal relationships were, and the more complicated their hearts were, and thus the more empty the space they were in was. In this case, Peter visited everywhere in his spare time. Among the people he visited, the religious people were in the majority. It seemed that in his heart he faintly felt that in the religious world all kinds of incomprehensible matters in the world could be explained, so he often went to attend the services in a synagogue near his home. His parents did not know that. By and by, Peter, who had always been excellent in conduct and learning, began to detest going to school. Under the supervision of his parents, he reluctantly finished senior high school. After swimming ashore from the sea of knowledge, he gave a deep breath of relief. From then on, no one would educate or restrain him.
After being free from school, he began to read widely all sorts of books. However, Peter of seventeen was short of social experience after all. After graduating from school, he took all the time to read books and attend the services in the religious world while supporting his life by farming. His parents, who had been hopeful about him, often cursed heaven because they had borne such an “unfilial son.” Nevertheless, that could not hinder his heart from hungering and thirsting for righteousness. In his experience, he suffered a lot of setbacks. But as his heart was hungry and thirsty, he grew rapidly like bamboo shoots after spring rain. Soon he was “lucky” to contact the upper-class people in the religious world. Because of his great thirst, he contacted these people more and more frequently that he was among them almost all day long. When he indulged in the happiness of satisfaction, he suddenly found that among those people, most believed with mouth, but none consecrated with heart. How could Peter, who was upright and simple in heart, stand such a blow? He found that almost all the people whom he contacted were beasts in human attire and brutes under a human mask. Peter at that time was too naive, so he sincerely gave advice to these people several times. However, how could the shrewd and crafty religious officials listen to the good advice of a hot-blooded youngster? Not until then did Peter feel the true emptiness of life. When marching toward the first step of life, he failed…. One year later, he moved out of the synagogue and started his own independent life.
After eighteen-year-old Peter underwent a setback, he became mature and experienced. The childishness of the young on him had disappeared, and the innocence and artlessness the young should possess was ruthlessly covered by the setbacks he suffered. From then on, Peter started his life as a fisherman. Afterwards, on his fishing boat there could always be seen some people listening to his preaching. Living by fishing, he preached everywhere. All those whom he preached to were attracted by his preaching, because what he preached very much accorded with the mind of the common folks of that time. They were all deeply moved by his honesty. He often taught the people that they should treat others in sincerity, pray to the ruler of the heavens and the earth and all things in everything, not do the unpresentable things against their conscience, satisfy God they loved in their hearts in everything…. The people, listening to his preaching, were often deeply moved and were all encouraged by him and wept bitterly from time to time. All those who followed him at that time had much admiration for him, and they all were the needy ones. Of course, because of the interference of the society at that time, his followers were very few. And in that society he was persecuted by the religious world, so he moved everywhere, living alone for two years. In the uncommon experience of the two years, he gained many insights and learned many things he had not known before. The Peter of that time and the Peter of fourteen were seemingly two totally different persons, as if there was not anything alike. In these two years, he contacted all kinds of people and saw all sorts of truths of society. From then on, he gradually broke away from various religious rituals in the religious world. And he was also deeply influenced by the movement of the Holy Spirit’s working of that time. At this point, Jesus had also worked for years, so his working was also influenced by the Holy Spirit’s working of that time, but he had not contacted Jesus yet. Therefore, when he preached, he gained many things the saints throughout the generations had not had. Of course, at that time he knew a little about Jesus, but he had no opportunity to meet him. He just hoped and thirsted in his heart to see the figure of the kingdom of heaven begotten by the Holy Spirit.
One evening at dusk, he fished on the fishing boat (that place was near to the shore of the sea that was called the Sea of Galilee at that time). Holding a fishing rod in his hand, he was thinking about something else in his heart. The evening sunlight was shining upon the water, which seemed like a boundless sea of thin blood; the afterglow reflected on the young but calm and steady face of Peter, and it seemed that he was thinking about something. At this point, a breeze blew. Peter suddenly felt his life was lonely, so he suddenly felt a sense of desolation. And the water on the sea rippled sheets of glistening light of waves. Obviously, he was not in the mood for fishing. Indulging in the thoughts of all kinds of things, suddenly he heard someone speaking behind his back: Simon Bar-Jonah, son of Jew, you feel lonely in your days of life. Are you willing to follow me? Hearing that, Peter was taken completely by surprise, the fishing rod in his hand sinking down and soon to the bottom. Peter turned around in a rush, and before his eyes he saw a man standing on his fishing boat. He looked him up and down: With hair flowing over the shoulders and looking slightly golden in the afterglow, he was dressed in gray and of middle height, completely in Jewish costume. At dusk, his gray clothes appeared blackish, and his face seemed slightly shiny. Peter had sought to see Jesus for many times, but his wish had never been fulfilled. At this time he felt in his inspiration that this man must be the Holy One in his heart. So he fell upon the fishing boat, saying: Are you the Lord who comes to preach the gospel of the kingdom of heaven? I have heard of your experience; however, I have not seen you. I have ever thought about following you; however, I could not find you. At this moment, Jesus had walked to the cabin and sat down quietly: Stand up and sit beside me! I have come to seek for those who truly love me and to specially preach the gospel of the kingdom of heaven. I just come to all places to look for those who are of one heart with me. Are you willing to? Peter responded: The one sent by the heavenly Father I will surely follow, and the one appointed by the Holy Spirit I will surely acknowledge. Since I love the heavenly Father, how can I be unwilling to follow you? Although in Peter’s words there were strong religious notions, Jesus nodded and smiled with satisfaction. At that moment, in his heart he had a father-to-son love for Peter.
Peter followed Jesus for years and saw many things in Jesus that man had not. One year after his following, he was chosen by Jesus as chief among the twelve disciples (of course, that was just something in Jesus’ heart, which no one could perceive). In life, every act and move of Jesus was taken by him as an exemplar. Especially all Jesus’ preaching was engraved on his mind. He was very considerate and faithful to Jesus and never complained against him. So, he became Jesus’ faithful companion in his traveling everywhere. Jesus’ teachings, Jesus’ soft words, and Jesus’ diet, dressing, dwelling, and traveling were all observed by him. He imitated Jesus in every respect, never insisting that he was right but casting off all his former old things to imitate Jesus’ every word and action. Only then did he feel that the heavens and the earth and all things were in the hand of the Almighty; so, he had no choice of his own and took all that was in Jesus as his exemplar. In his life he saw that Jesus never insisted that what he did was right and never showed himself off, but that he melted people with love. He could see Jesus’ being in different things, so everything in Jesus became the object of his imitation. In his experience, he felt increasingly that Jesus was lovely. He spoke this word: I once sought the Almighty who is in the universe, and I saw the wonderfulness of the heavens and the earth and all things. Only then did I have a strong sense of the Almighty’s loveliness. However, I never had a true love in my heart, and my eyes never saw the Almighty’s loveliness. Today, I am favored by the Almighty in his eyes, and only then do I feel God’s loveliness and do I find that in God there are far more things than his creating all things that are worthy to be loved by man. In my daily life, I have found endless loveliness of his. How could it just be so much as today? As time passed, in Peter there were also found many lovable elements. He obeyed Jesus very much. Of course, he suffered a lot of setbacks too. When Jesus led him to preach everywhere, he always humbled himself to listen to Jesus’ preaching, and he was never arrogant about his following Jesus for years. After Jesus told him that he had come for the purpose of accomplishing the work by being crucified, he often felt sorrowful in his heart and often wept secretly himself. Nevertheless, the “unfortunate” day came eventually. After Jesus was arrested, Peter wept on the fishing boat alone, praying much for it. But he knew it was the will of God the Father, which no one could change. He kept grieving and shedding tears just because of love. Of course, this is man’s weakness. So, when he knew Jesus was about to be crucified, he asked Jesus: After you leave, will you return among us to care for us? Can we see you again? Although his word was too childish and full of man’s notions, Jesus in his heart knew Peter’s sadness, so he still cared for his weakness with love: Peter, I have loved you, do you know? Your word is unreasonable, but my Father promised me that I would appear to people for forty days after rising from death. Don’t you believe that my Spirit will often bestow grace to you? Only after that did Peter feel slightly comforted, but he always felt there was something regrettable. Therefore, when Jesus openly appeared to him for the first time after rising from death, in order that his notions would not remain, Jesus did not have the wonderful meal he prepared for him, but instead, he disappeared in an instant. Only then did Peter have a deeper knowledge of Jesus, and he had more love for the Lord Jesus. After his resurrection, Jesus frequently appeared to Peter. After he ascended to heaven the forty days later, he appeared to Peter three times. Each appearing was at the time when the Holy Spirit’s working was about to end and a new work was to be started.
Peter lived all his life by fishing, and even more, he lived to preach. In his old age, he wrote the two Epistles of Peter and wrote several letters to the church in Philadelphia of that time. The people at that time were deeply moved by him. He never lectured others by his seniority, but gave them proper supply of life. In his lifetime, he never forgot the teachings given by Jesus when alive and was always encouraged by them. When he followed Jesus, he made a resolution to repay his love with death and to imitate Jesus in every respect, and Jesus consented to that. So, in the year when he was fifty-three (that is, twenty years after he left Jesus), Jesus appeared to him and meant to fulfill his resolution. In the following seven years, Peter lived just to know himself. One day seven years later, he was crucified upside down and ended his uncommon life.