Peter is an exemplar that God introduced to mankind, and he is a well-known personage. Why is it that such a humble man was set up as an exemplar by God and has been praised by later generations? Of course, it need not be mentioned that this is inseparable from his expression and his resolve of love for God. As for where Peter’s heart of love for God was expressed and what his lifetime of experiences was actually like, we must return to the Age of Grace to take another look at the customs of the time, to see the Peter of that age.
Peter was born into an average Jewish household of farmers. His parents supported the entire family by farming, and he was the eldest of the children; he had four brothers and sisters. Of course this isn’t the main part of the story to tell—Peter is just our main character. When he was five years old, his parents started to teach him to read. At that time the Jewish people were quite erudite—they were very advanced in the areas such as agriculture, industry, and commerce. Under the influence of that kind of social environment, Peter’s parents had both received higher education. Even though they were from the countryside, they had a quite rich body of knowledge, comparable to an average university student today. It’s clear that being born into such excellent social conditions was Peter’s good fortune. He was very bright and picked up new things easily. After he started school, in his lessons he was able to draw inferences from other things without seeming to expend any effort. His parents were proud of having such a smart son, so they made every effort to allow him to go to school, hoping that he could get ahead, and would be able to secure some sort of official post in the society of the time. Without realizing it, Peter developed an interest in God, so when he was fourteen and in high school, he became fed up with the curriculum of Ancient Greek Culture he was studying, and he particularly despised the fictional people and things in ancient Greek history. From that time on, Peter, who had just entered the springtime of his youth, began to investigate human life and to come into contact with society. He did not repay the pains his parents took with conscience because he clearly saw that people were all living within a space of fooling themselves, and they were all living within meaningless lives, ruining their own lives for the sake of fighting for fame and fortune. The reason he saw this was largely related to the social environment he was in. The more knowledge people have, the more complex interpersonal relationships are, and the more complex people’s internal worlds are, thus the more of a void there is where people are. Under these circumstances, Peter started making inquiries all over the place in his free time, and religious figures accounted for the majority of those who he inquired with. It seemed that he had a vague feeling in his heart that all of the inscrutable things in the human world could be clarified in the religious world, so he frequented a chapel near his home to attend worship services. His parents did not know about this, and before long Peter, who always had excellent conduct and academics, began to hate going to school. Under the supervision of his parents he barely finished high school. He swam ashore from the ocean of knowledge, took a deep breath, and from then on no one educated or restricted him.
After he finished school he began to read all sorts of books, but at the age of seventeen, he was still lacking social experience. After he graduated and left school, he supported himself by farming while also making as much time as he could to read books and attend religious worship services. His parents, who had been full of hope for him frequently cursed Heaven over this “rebellious son.” But in spite of this, his heart which hungered and thirsted for righteousness could not be stopped. He suffered no small number of setbacks in his experiences, but he had a voracious heart, so he sprung up like grass after a rain. Before long he was “fortunate” to encounter high-level people in the religious world, and because his heart of longing was so strong, he was in contact with those people more and more frequently and he spent nearly all of his time among them. Just when he was immersed in the happiness of his satisfaction, he suddenly discovered that among those people, the majority had faith in word only but none of them were dedicated in their hearts. With his upright, simple heart, how could Peter withstand such a blow? He discovered that nearly all the people he dealt with were beasts in human attire—they were animals with human countenances. At that time Peter was very naive, so on several occasions he pleaded with them from the heart, but how could the wily, cunning religious figures possibly listen to the entreaties of a young man full of vim and vigor? It was at that time that Peter felt the true emptiness of human life, and as he took his first step toward the stage of life, he failed…. One year later, he moved out of the chapel and began his own independent life.
After 18-year-old Peter suffered one setback, he became much more mature and sophisticated. All of his youthful naiveté just disappeared, and all of the youthful innocence and artlessness that he possessed was mercilessly smothered by that setback. From then on he began a life as a fisherman. After that, one could see that there were people on his fishing boat who were listening to what he was preaching; he was fishing for a living and preaching all over the place. Everyone he preached to was mesmerized by his sermons because what he spoke of was very much in line with the hearts of the common people at that time. People were all deeply moved by his honesty, and he often taught people to deal with others from the heart and to call on the Master of the heavens and earth and all things in everything, and to not ignore their consciences and do those unpresentable things, but to satisfy the God that they love in their hearts in all things…. People were often deeply moved after listening to his sermons. They were all inspired by him and would often weep bitterly. At the time, everyone who followed him had deep admiration for him. They were all destitute, and because of societal influences at the time, of course he had few followers; he was also subject to the persecution from the religious world in the society of that time. For this reason he was constantly moving around, and he lived a solitary life for two years. He gained quite a bit of insight in those two years of extraordinary experiences, and he learned a great deal of things he hadn’t known before. Peter was then an entirely different person from who he had been at the age of 14—it seemed they had nothing in common. Over those two years he encountered all kinds of people and he saw all sorts of truths about society; from then on he gradually rid himself of every kind of ritual from the religious world. Because of the trend in the Holy Spirit’s work at that time, he was deeply impacted. At that time Jesus had also been working for a number of years, so his work was also impacted by the work of the Holy Spirit at that time, however, he had not yet encountered Jesus. For that reason, when he was preaching, he gained many things that generations of saints had never had. Of course, at that time he was marginally aware of Jesus but he had never had a chance to meet Him face-to-face. He only hoped and thirsted in his heart to see that heavenly figure born of the Holy Spirit.
He was fishing on his boat during twilight one evening (near the shore of the Sea of Galilee mentioned at that time), and although he had a fishing rod in his hands, he had other things on his mind. The dusk light illuminated the surface of the water like a pool of blood in the expanse of the ocean. The light reflected on Peter’s young, yet calm and steady face, as if he were deep in thought. At that moment a breeze came up, and he suddenly felt that his life was lonely, and thus suddenly he experienced a feeling of desolation. The water in the sea reflected the light wave after wave, and it was evident that he did not have the heart to fish. Just as he was lost in his thoughts of all sorts of things, he suddenly heard someone behind him say: “Jewish Simon, son of Jonah, the days of your life are lonely. Will you follow Me?” When Peter heard this he was shocked, and he dropped the fishing rod in his hands, and it soon sank to the bottom of the water. Peter rushed to turn around, and he saw a man standing in his boat. He looked Him up and down: His hair, draped to His shoulders, was slightly golden yellow in the sunlight and His clothing was gray. He was of medium height and His attire was entirely that of a Jewish man. In the light of twilight, His gray clothing looked slightly black, and His face appeared to have a bit of a sheen. Peter sought to see Jesus multiple times but each time was unable to do so. At that moment he believed in his spirit that that man was certainly the holy One in his heart, so he bowed down in his boat: “Could it be that You are the Lord who has come to preach the gospel of the kingdom of heaven? I have heard of Your experiences but I have never seen You. I have wanted to follow You, but I could not find You.” Jesus had already walked to the hold of his boat and had quietly sat down. He said:[a] “Get up and sit next to Me. I have come to seek those who truly love Me, and to spread the gospel of the kingdom of heaven. I am going everywhere to seek those who are of one heart with Me. Are you willing?” Peter replied: “I must follow he who is sent by the heavenly Father. I must acknowledge he who is chosen by the Holy Spirit. As I love the heavenly Father, how could I not be willing to follow?” Although the religious conceptions within Peter’s words were quite strong, Jesus smiled and nodded His head with satisfaction. At that moment, a feeling of fatherly love for Peter grew inside of Him.
Peter followed Jesus for a number of years and he saw many things in Jesus that people do not have. After following Him for a year, he was chosen as the head of the twelve disciples by Jesus. (Of course this was a matter of Jesus’ heart, and people were completely unable to see it.) Jesus’ every move acted as an exemplar for him in his life, and Jesus’ sermons were particularly engraved in his heart. He was very considerate of and dedicated to Jesus, and he never had complaints of Jesus. This is why he became Jesus’ faithful companion everywhere He went. Peter observed Jesus’ teachings, His gentle words, and what He ate, wore, His daily life, and His travels. He followed Jesus’ example in every way. He was not self-righteous, but he cast off all of his previous outdated things and followed Jesus’ example in word and deed. It was then that he felt that the heavens and earth and all things were within the hands of the Almighty, and for this reason he did not have his own choice, but he drew in everything that Jesus was to act as his exemplar. He could see from his life that Jesus was not self-righteous in what He did, nor did He brag about Himself, but instead, He moved people with love. In different situations Peter could see what Jesus was. That is why everything in Jesus became the object that Peter modeled himself after. In his experiences, he felt Jesus’ loveliness more and more. He said something like this: “I searched for the Almighty in the universe and I saw the wonders of the heavens and earth and all things, and I thus had a deep sense of the loveliness of the Almighty. But I never had genuine love in my heart, and I never saw the loveliness of the Almighty with my own eyes. Today, in the eyes of the Almighty, I have been looked upon with favor by Him and I have finally felt God’s loveliness, and finally discovered that for God, it is not just creating all things that would make mankind love Him. In my daily life I have found His infinite loveliness; how could it possibly be limited just to this situation today?” As time passed, many lovable things were also found in Peter. He was very obedient to Jesus, and of course he suffered quite a few setbacks. When Jesus took him to various places for preaching, he always humbled himself and listened to Jesus’ sermons. He never became arrogant because of his years of following. After Jesus told him that the reason He had come was to be crucified to finish His work, he was frequently very sad and would weep alone in secret. However, that “unfortunate” day arrived. After Jesus was arrested, Peter wept alone on his fishing boat and prayed a great deal for this, but in his heart he knew that it was the will of God the Father and no one could change it. He was constantly sorrowful and weeping because of the effect of love—of course, this is a human weakness, so when he knew that Jesus would be nailed to the cross, he asked Jesus: “After You leave will You return to be among us and look over us? Will we still be able to see You?” Although these words were quite naive, and they were also full of human notions, Jesus knew the taste of Peter’s suffering, so through His love He was considerate of his weakness: “Peter, I have loved you. Do you know that? Although there is no reason in what you say, the Father has promised that after My resurrection, I will appear to mankind for 40 days. Don’t you believe that My Spirit will frequently bestow grace upon you?” After that Peter had a little bit of comfort, but he always felt there was a drawback in what was otherwise perfect. So, after Jesus was resurrected, He appeared to him openly for the first time, but in order to prevent Peter from continuing to hold onto his notions, Jesus declined the lavish meal that Peter had prepared for Him and disappeared in the blink of an eye. At that moment Peter finally had a deeper understanding of Jesus, and loved the Lord Jesus even more. After His resurrection, Jesus frequently appeared to Peter. After 40 days when He ascended to heaven, He appeared to Peter three times. Every time He appeared was when the work of the Holy Spirit was about to be completed and new work was about to be begun.
Peter made a living by fishing throughout his entire life, but even more so, he lived for preaching. In his later years, he wrote the first and second epistles of Peter, and he wrote several letters to the Philadelphia church of that time. People at the time were very moved by him. He never lectured people based on his own credentials, but he provided them with suitable supply of life. In his life, he never forgot Jesus’ teachings during His lifetime—he remained inspired. When he was following Jesus he resolved to repay Jesus’ love with his death and that he would follow Jesus’ example in all things. Jesus promised him this, so when he was 53 years old (over 20 years after departing from Jesus), Jesus appeared to him to realize his resolve. In the seven years following that, Peter spent his life on knowing himself. One day seven years later, he was crucified upside down, ending his extraordinary life.
a. The original text omits “He said.”