On the Life of Peter
Peter was God’s role model for humanity, a luminary who was known to all. Why was someone so unremarkable raised up as an exemplar by God and extolled by successive generations? It goes without saying that this is inseparable from his expression of love for God and resolve to love God. As for how Peter’s heart of love for God was manifested, and what his life’s experiences were actually like, we must return to the Age of Grace to look again at the customs of the time and observe the Peter of that age.
Peter was born into an ordinary Jewish farming household. His parents supported the entire family by farming, and he was the eldest of the children, with four brothers and sisters. This, of course, is not the main part of our story; Peter is our central character. When he was five years old, Peter’s parents started teaching him to read. At that time, the Jewish people were quite erudite, and were especially advanced in such areas as agriculture, industry, and commerce. As a result of their social environment, both of Peter’s parents had received higher education. Despite being from the countryside, they were well-educated and comparable to the average university students of today. Evidently, Peter was blessed to have been born into such favorable social conditions. Clever and quick on the uptake, he readily assimilated new ideas. After beginning his studies, he figured things out very easily during lessons. His parents were proud to have such a bright son, and made every effort to allow him to go to school, hoping that he would be able to distinguish himself and secure some sort of official post in society. Without realizing it, Peter had become interested in God, which meant that, at fourteen, when he was in high school, he grew fed up with the curriculum of Ancient Greek Culture he was studying, especially with regard to the fictional people and made-up events in ancient Greek history. From then on, Peter—who had just entered the springtime of his youth—started trying to find out more about the human life and the wider world. His conscience did not compel him to repay the pains his parents had taken, because he clearly saw that people were all living in a state of self-deception, they were all living within meaningless lives, ruining their own lives in their struggle for wealth and recognition. His insight was largely to do with the social environment he inhabited. The more knowledge people have, the more complex their interpersonal relationships and internal worlds are, and therefore the more they exist in a void. Under these circumstances, Peter spent his free time making wide-ranging visits, most of which were to religious figures. In his heart, there seemed the vague feeling that religion might be able to account for all that was inexplicable in the human world, and so he would often go to a nearby synagogue to attend services. His parents were unaware of this, and before long Peter, who had always been of good character and fine scholarship, began to hate going to school. Under the supervision of his parents, he barely completed high school. Swimming ashore from the ocean of knowledge, he took a deep breath; from then on, no one would educate or restrict him any longer.
After finishing school, he began to read all sorts of books, but at the age of seventeen, he still did not have much experience of the wider world. After graduating from school, he supported himself by farming while making as much time as he could to read books and attend religious services. His parents, who had had high hopes for him, often cursed Heaven for their “rebellious son,” but even this could not stand in the way of his hunger and thirst for righteousness. Peter suffered no small number of setbacks in his experiences, but his was a voracious heart, and he grew like grass after rain. Before long, he was “fortunate” enough to encounter some senior figures in the religious world, and because his longing was so strong, he started associating with them ever more frequently, until he was spending nearly all of his time among them. Immersed in contented happiness, he suddenly realized that, most of these people believed with their lips, and they had not given their hearts to their belief. How could Peter, whose soul was upright and pure, tolerate such a blow? He realized that nearly all the people he associated with were beasts in human attire—they were animals with a human countenance. At that time, Peter was very naive, so on several occasions he pleaded with them from the heart. But how could these wily, cunning religious figures possibly listen to the entreaties of this impassioned young man? It was at this time that Peter felt the true emptiness of human life: At the first step upon life’s stage, he had failed…. One year later, he moved away from the synagogue and began living independently.
The setback made the 18-year-old Peter much more mature and sophisticated. No longer was there any trace of his youthful naiveté; the innocence and artlessness of the young had been callously smothered by the setback he suffered, and he began a life as a fisherman. Thereafter, people would be seen listening to him preach on his boat. As he made his living fishing, he would spread the message wherever he went, and all he preached to were mesmerized by his sermons, for what he spoke of struck a chord in the hearts of the common people, and they were all deeply moved by his honesty. He often taught people to treat others from the heart, to call on the Sovereign of the heavens and earth and all things, and to not ignore their consciences and do shameful things, in all matters satisfying the God whom they loved in their hearts…. People were often deeply touched after listening to his sermons; they all felt inspired by him and were frequently moved to tears. At the time, he was greatly admired by all of his followers, who were all destitute and naturally, given how society was at the time, very few in number. Peter was also persecuted by the religious elements of society at the time. All of this meant that, for two years, he was moving from place to place and living a solitary life. During these two years of extraordinary experiences, he gained many insights and learned a great deal about things of which he had no previous knowledge, such that he became unrecognizable from his 14-year-old self, with whom he now seemed to have nothing in common. Over these two years he encountered all kinds of people and saw all sorts of truths about society, as a result of which he gradually started to rid himself of all manner of rituals from the religious world. He was also profoundly affected by developments in the work of the Holy Spirit at that time; by then, Jesus had been working for many years, so Peter’s work was also influenced by the work of the Holy Spirit at that time, though he had yet to meet Jesus. For this reason, when Peter was preaching, he gained many things that previous generations of saints never had. Of course, at the time, he was marginally aware of Jesus, but he had never yet had the chance to meet Him face-to-face. He only hoped and longed to see that heavenly figure born of the Holy Spirit.
At dusk one evening, Peter was fishing from his boat (near the shore of what was then known as the Sea of Galilee). He had a fishing rod in his hands, but there were other things on his mind. The setting sun illuminated the surface of the water like a vast ocean of blood. The light reflected onto Peter’s young yet calm and composed face; he seemed to be deep in thought. At that moment, a breeze stirred, and he suddenly felt the loneliness of his life, which immediately gave him a sense of bleakness. As the waves of the ocean glistened in the light, it was clear that he was in no mood to fish. As he was lost in thought, he suddenly heard someone behind him say, “Simon Barjona the Jew, the days of your life are lonely. Will you follow Me?” Startled, Peter promptly dropped the fishing rod he had been holding, which immediately sank to the bottom of the sea. Peter hurriedly turned around to see a man standing in his boat. He looked Him up and down: The man’s hair, hanging to His shoulders, was slightly golden yellow in the sunlight, He wore gray clothing, was of medium height, and was dressed from head to toe as a Jewish man. In the fading light, the man’s gray clothing looked slightly black, and His face seemed to have a slight sheen. Many times, Peter had sought to meet Jesus, but had never succeeded. At that moment, deep in his soul, Peter believed that this man must be the holy one of his heart, and so he prostrated himself in the fishing boat and said, “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.” By then, Jesus had moved to the boat’s cabin, where He was sitting calmly: “Get up and sit next to Me!” He said. “I am here to seek those who truly love Me. I have come especially to spread the gospel of the kingdom of heaven, and I shall travel throughout the lands to seek those who are of one mind 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 You?” Although Peter’s words were rife with religious notions, Jesus smiled and nodded His head in satisfaction. At that moment, a feeling of fatherly love for Peter grew inside of Him.
Peter followed Jesus for a number of years and saw much in Him that was not in other people. After following Him for a year, Peter was chosen by Jesus from among the twelve disciples. (Of course, Jesus did not speak this aloud, and others were not aware of it at all.) In life, Peter measured himself by everything Jesus did. Most notably, the messages that Jesus preached were etched in his heart. He was utterly dedicated and loyal to Jesus, and he never spoke any grievances against Him. As a result, he became Jesus’ faithful companion everywhere He went. Peter observed Jesus’ teachings, His gentle words, what He took for His food, His clothing, His shelter, and how He traveled. He emulated Jesus in every regard. He was never self-righteous, but cast off all that was outdated, following Jesus’ example in both word and deed. It was then that Peter felt that the heavens and earth and all things were in the hands of the Almighty and that, for this reason, he was without personal choice. Peter also assimilated all that Jesus was and used it as an example. Jesus’ life shows that He was not self-righteous in what He did; instead of bragging about Himself, He moved people with love. Various things showed what Jesus was, and for this reason, Peter emulated everything about Him. Peter’s experiences gave him an increasing sense of the loveliness of Jesus, and he said such things as, “I have searched for the Almighty throughout the universe, and I have seen the wonders of the heavens and earth and all things, and I thus have gained a profound sense of the Almighty’s loveliness. However, I had never had genuine love in my own heart, and I had never seen 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. I have finally discovered that it is not just God’s having created all things that makes humanity love Him; in my daily life, I have found His boundless loveliness. How could it possibly be limited to what can be seen right now?” As time passed, much that was lovely also emerged in Peter. He grew very obedient to Jesus, and of course, he also suffered quite a few setbacks. When Jesus took him to preach at various locations, Peter always humbled himself and listened to Jesus’ sermons. He never became arrogant because of his years of following Jesus. After being told by Jesus that the reason He had come was to be crucified so that He could finish His work, Peter often felt anguish in his heart and would weep alone in secret. Nevertheless, that “unfortunate” day finally arrived. After Jesus was arrested, Peter wept alone in his fishing boat and said many prayers for this. But in his heart, he knew that this was the will of God the Father, and that no one was able to change it. He remained anguished and teary-eyed only because of his love. This is a human weakness, of course. Thus, when he learned that Jesus would be nailed to the cross, he asked Jesus, “After You leave, will You return to be among us and watch over us? Will we still be able to see You?” Although these words were very naive and full of human notions, Jesus knew the bitterness of Peter’s suffering, so through His love He was considerate of Peter’s weakness: “Peter, I have loved you. Do you know that? Although there is no reason behind what you say, the Father has promised that after My resurrection, I will appear to people for 40 days. Do you not believe that My Spirit will frequently bestow grace upon you all?” Though Peter felt somewhat comforted by this, he still felt that there was one thing missing, and so, after being resurrected, Jesus appeared to him openly for the first time. In order to prevent Peter from continuing to cling to his notions, however, Jesus declined the lavish meal that Peter had prepared for Him, and disappeared in the blink of an eye. From that moment on, Peter finally had a deeper understanding of the Lord Jesus and loved Him even more. After His resurrection, Jesus frequently appeared to Peter. He appeared to Peter three more times after the forty days were up and He had ascended to heaven. Each appearance was right when the work of the Holy Spirit was about to be completed and new work was about to be begun.
Throughout his life, Peter fished for a living but, more than that, he lived to preach. In his later years, he wrote the first and second epistles of Peter, as well as several letters to the church of Philadelphia of that time. The people of this period were profoundly touched by him. Instead of lecturing people using his own credentials, he provided them with a suitable supply of life. He never forgot Jesus’ teachings before He left, and was inspired by them throughout his life. While following Jesus, he resolved to repay the Lord’s love with his death and to follow His example in all things. Jesus agreed to this, so when Peter was 53 years old (more than 20 years after Jesus’ departure), Jesus appeared to him to help fulfill his aspiration. In the seven years following that, Peter spent his life getting to know himself. One day, at the end of these seven years, he was crucified upside down, thus bringing his extraordinary life to an end.