Luci Shaw said that Protestants, in their desire to avoid the error of worshipping Mary, the mother of Jesus, have put her into an evangelical limbo. Though she is not a god capable of interceding for billions of prayers, she was very important. Likewise, we can fail to appreciate the importance of Peter. Michael Card helped me to see that I was like that through his book, “The Fragile Stone.” I am praying we all learn some fresh truths about Peter, for he was a man like us, who began by asking Jesus to depart from him, and who had great failures — to a radically transformed believer whom God used mightily in establishing the early church. Card helped me to see I had misunderstood the passage when Jesus tells Peter “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.” (Matt. 16:18)
History says Peter was crucified upside down, for he said he was not worthy to die as his Lord died.
As with Mary Magdalene, we’ll need two weeks with Peter. and then one more on Pentecost Sunday. They both have so much to teach us. As Brennan Manning writes in Ragamuffin Gospel:
“The confessing church of American Ragamuffins needs to join Magdalene and Peter in witnessing that Christianity is not primarily a moral code but a grace-laden mystery; it is not essentially a philosophy of love but a love affair; it is not keeping rules with clenched fists but receiving a gift with open hands.”
“Depart from me, for I am a sinful man!”
God Hunt Sunday
- How did you experience “the risenness of Christ” or spy God in the last week?
Monday: Because you say so.
Michael Card says that Peter is the only apostle who dares to say no to Jesus. We see him coming close in a passive-aggressive way when he first meets Jesus. He really doesn’t think letting his net down again is going to work, but he says, “Because you say so, I will let down the nets.” (Luke 5:5) Watch this from The Chosen:
2. Read Luke 5:1-11
A. What stands out to you from your initial reading and why?
B. Jesus knew how to reach people by connecting with them first. Find the ways He connected with Peter in verses 1-4.
C. What are some ways you could better connect with the unsaved people in your path following Jesus’ model?
D. How well do you think the above clip from The Chosen caught this scene? What did you like or not like and why?
E. Why do you think Peter reacts as he did in verses 8-9?
F. Have you ever been traumatized by the holiness of God? If so, share.
G. What does Jesus tell Simon? How do Simon, James, and John respond?
3. Sometimes we don’t like what Scripture tells us to do, we want to pull a Thomas Jefferson and clip it out of our Bibles. Yet, “because He says so,” we obey. Can you think of an instance like that in your life which bore fruit despite your doubt?
4. When fish are caught, they go from life to death. When people are caught they go from death to life. Can you share one story of being a part of catching a person and seeing life flood into them?
Tuesday: You are Peter and Upon This Rock
Reacting to what I believe is an erroneous view of Peter in making him the first pope, I now believe I went to the other extreme. I always thought that when Jesus said to Peter: “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my church,” he meant Peter’s confession of faith, not Peter. I’m seeing this differently. Stay with me!
5. Before we look carefully together, how have you interpreted Jesus’ words to Peter in Matthew 16:18?
6. Read Matthew 16:13-20
A. How can you see that the crowd is confused about the identity of Jesus?
B. What matters to Jesus is the opinion of His apostles. Who speaks for the twelve and what does he say?
C. Why did this take courage in the face of strict Jewish monotheism?
D. Who revealed this to Simon according to Jesus? What does this teach you about praying for the unsaved people in your life?
In “A Fragile Stone” Michael Card says: “It may make my Protestant readers uncomfortable that I am making so much of Peter…and it may make my Catholic friends uncomfortable — perhaps even angry — that, though I will make much of the primacy of Peter, I will not be able to conclude that this leads to his supremacy.” Card believes, and now I agree, that both Catholics and Protestants have missed it.
Instead of interpreting “on this rock, I build my Church” as being Peter’s confession, Card believes “the rock” is Peter. He is not the Cornerstone, which Scripture clearly tells us is Jesus,” but He is the first rock. Card writes:
Jesus begins to build the church on the first person who, by faith, confesses who he is. Millions will follow through the ages.
So Peter is not the cornerstone — that of course is Jesus. But he is the first rock on the cornerstone. And indeed, reading the first half of Acts bears that out.
7. How does Peter himself articulate the above in 1 Peter 2:4-5?
8. What thoughts do you have on Michael Card’s interpretation of Jesus calling Peter “the rock?”
9. Soren Kierkegaard said: “In order to fully understand what it means to be a Christian, you must stand in the crowd, point to a man and say, “He is God.” Share a time when you shared with another that Jesus is not just a moral teacher or a prophet, but God.
Wednesday: A Stumbling Stone
Prepare your heart with this:
Matthew tells us what happened right after Peter is blessed by Jesus, who told him he would be the first rock in the building of His church.
10. Read Matthew 16:21-23
A. Describe what happens in this passage. How does Peter say “NO!” to Jesus?
B. Progressive Christianity wants to move beyond the cross, beyond the blood. Why, do you think?
In A Fragile Stone, Michael Card tells how his sister Caroline first lost one infant from birth defects, and a year later, another child from a ruptured appendix. Michael said his family did not grieve well and even his sister and her husband drifted apart. He remembers shaking his fist at God, telling Him: “If this is the sort of thing you do, I don’t want any part of you!” But in time he healed and realized Jesus can be a stumbling stone even to believers, for He does things so differently than we would. For this reason, Card believes Peter’s confession in John’s gospel is his most important one, for it is spoken in the midst of people turning away from Jesus after he has spoken about eating his flesh and drinking his blood. This was so hard to understand.
11. Read John 6:67-68. Who speaks for the twelve and what does he say?
12. Can you think of a time when you did not understand what the Lord was doing but you stayed with Him? If so, how did it turn out?
13. Is there an area now where you must trust Him though He seems either confusing or silent? Share and then pray!
Thursday: Peter’s Defining Moment
As a baby Christian, I was witnessing to my neighbor, Carol Erwin. We’d often have coffee together while our firstborn sons napped. She felt I was narrow-minded in saying Jesus was the only way. “How do I know,” she asked, “that Jesus is the only way? How about Mohammad and Buddha?”
I was so new to Scripture I said, “I don’t know, Carol, but I think if you ask God, He will show you.”
She went home, opened her Bible, and put her finger down for an answer. She landed on Mark 9:2-10.
14. Read Mark 9:2-10
A. How does God show them the supremacy of Christ?
B. What do they now understand? What do they still not understand?
Carol came running over in excitement to tell me what happened. I asked her if she was therefore going to give her life to Christ. She deferred, saying, “Not yet.” A few months later she began to miscarry her second son and she told God if she didn’t miscarry she would give Him her life. She didn’t miscarry. But instead of giving Him her life, she gave $50 to C.A.R.E. Thirty years later I was speaking in Indianapolis and a radiant Carol Erwin came. I knew right away she was “in Christ.”
“Bob (her husband) died of a brain tumor and I couldn’t go through that alone.”
15. God often shakes our world to help us realize what is transitory and what it eternal. That may bring us to Him or it may help us to release our grip on our idols. How has He done that for you in your life?
Friday: A Fragile Stone
I HIGHLY recommend Michael Card’s book A Fragile Stone. It’s available in print and audio. Listen to him below and then share anything that stood out to you.