Introduction: Aliens and Strangers
Simon, son of John (Johnson), first appeared in the biblical narrative as a fisherman turned fisher of men. Jesus called him to be his disciple, renaming him “Peter” (“Rock”), despite a personality that vacillated from fired up to shrinking back. Peter took the radical step of walking away from his livelihood and his family to become a wandering disciple of the traveling teacher from Nazareth. Peter demonstrated a zeal to follow Jesus even into a stormy lake saying, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” Yes, he sank in the face of the wind and waves, but who else can say they walked on water?
Peter was at times overprotective, commanding Jesus to avoid suffering, which resulted in a stern rebuke from the Master, “Out of my sight, Satan!” Peter’s famous declaration of undying loyalty, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I will never desert you” ironically preceded not one, but three denials. Despite his impetuous nature, Peter remained one of Jesus’ closest companions as he eventually earned his nickname, “Rock.” Peter clearly learned the value of grace and forgiveness as Jesus repeatedly forgave him and Peter learned to forgive himself.
After Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, Peter stepped up as the young movement’s first leader, speaking boldly in Jerusalem at Pentecost and to the authorities, declaring, “Salvation is found in no one else. For there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Facing opposition from the authorities, Peter boldly proclaimed, “we must obey God rather than man” (Acts 5:29). Peter preached the rst gospel sermon in Acts 2, went to jail as one of the first persecuted Chris- tians (Acts 5), and even baptized the first Gentile (Acts 10-11). By the time he was crucified upside down in Rome around AD 67, Peter earned the reputation as one of the most influential men to ever live. Luke, the author of the Book of Acts, revealed the “secret” of his courage, boldness, and power: “these men had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).
Near the end of Peter’s life (AD 60-65), he wrote his first letter to the Christians scattered throughout Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). 1 Peter contains some of the most practical instruction for Christians of any book of the Bible. These first-generation Christians faced the challenge of being “aliens and strangers in this world” including persecution, the struggle to not blend in with their culture, and the temptation to lose their perspective on just how special Jesus was. First Peter proclaims the good news about Jesus from an “eyewitness” point of view, understanding Jesus as the suffering Messiah from the Old Testament who set an example that we should “follow in his steps.” Peter also provided guidelines for godly living including specific instruction for wives, husbands, and elders.
As persecution increased in the early days of the church, Peter found himself imprisoned in Rome. Then, the unthinkable happened. The Romans beheaded the apostle Paul. Peter took the baton from Paul—in the shape of a pen—writing his second letter (2 Peter). Through 2 Peter, he continued the apostolic ministry to a wider audience throughout Asia Minor, the very region (Galatians, Colossians, Ephesians) that Paul both visited and ad- dressed in his letters. Knowing that his death, as predicted by Je- sus, was imminent (John 21, 2 Peter 1:14-15), Peter’s tone in 2 Peter became even more intense. Peter echoed Paul’s warning about false teachers (Acts 20:29-30, 2 Peter 2) and even identified Paul’s writing as scripture (2 Peter 3:15-16). He appealed to Christians everywhere to be on their alert, knowing that “the Day of the Lord” is near (2 Peter 3:10-13). Peter believed that God wants all men to be saved (2 Peter 3:9), pleading with the Christians to maintain a lifestyle that would distinguish them from the world so that the lost would have an example to follow.
This 36-day study explores Peter’s perspective as he wrote these two letters. Each devotional presents an embellished narrative created from the gospel accounts with some personal interpretation to paint a picture of the disciples’ encounters with Jesus and provide background to Peter’s writings. The narrative emphasizes Mark’s gospel because tradition tells us that Mark received his gospel account through Peter. My hope is that insights from Peter’s life in Mark, the other three gospels, and the teaching from his letters will help us to find both inspiration and application to our lives today. Today’s world is a very different place from the first century, but God’s nature and people’s needs have changed very little.
I need this study because I grow weary in my pilgrimage—my attempt to walk like Jesus today. I get discouraged when people reject the gospel, I lose perspective when I get consumed by my own affairs. My motivation wains when I forget Jesus’ passion for me. Then my example no longer represents Jesus because I blend in to this ungodly world. My hope is that these devotionals will help you and I live as “aliens and strangers” in this world, bringing people a picture of the Kingdom of God as Jesus intended.
1. Papias (~100 AD) and Iranaeus (~200 AD), along with others, attributed the content of Mark’s gospel to Peter. http://coldcasechristianity.com/2014/is-marks-gospel-an-early- memoir-of-the-apostle-peter/.