• P. Frank

Peter's Faith Fire

Simon was a complicated, yet ordinary person. He was eager, aggressive, bold, and outspoken. The outspoken part often got him in trouble – his foot seemed to fit perfectly in his mouth because he didn’t always think before speaking. Does that sound like anyone you know? Maybe even yourself?

One day, Jesus was standing by the Sea of Galilee. The crowd pressed in and He needed to get a bit of space, so He stepped into Simon’s boat and asked him to push it in into the water. Jesus continued to teach the crowd on the banks. Simon listened to Him too. When Jesus finished, He turned to Simon and told him to go into deeper waters and cast his nets for fish. Simon replied, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at Your Word I will let down the nets.” (Luke 5:5).

Ah, what a surprise Simon (and Andrew) received! “They enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.” (Luke 5: 6–7). Simon, shocked, rebuked himself because he realized he was in the presence of true holiness. Then Jesus said to Simon, Andrew, James, and John: “’Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.’ And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him.” (Luke 5:10–11). Jesus also gave Simon Bar-Jonah a new name – “Simon Peter.”

As often as Peter put his foot in his mouth, he also professed the glory of Jesus too. When Jesus asked His disciples who they thought He was, Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16). What a faith-filled answer! Jesus told him, “I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:18–19).

Whoa! To have Jesus Himself bestow this duty on you would be the honor of honors. Peter’s faith must have been blazing, right? Well, his faith was probably hotter than that of the other disciples, but it might have been better described as a smoldering, bed of burning coals.

The Greek word “ἀνθρᾰκιά” (anthrakia) means “a bed of burning coals.” It is used only two times in the Bible. The first is when Peter denied knowing Jesus for the first time: “The servant girl at the door said to Peter, ‘You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?’ [Peter] said, ‘I am not.’ Now the servants and officers had made a charcoal fire (anthrakia), because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves. Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself.” (John 18:17–18).

I wonder what Peter was thinking right then. Was he wondering why he, so full of boldness and eagerness for Jesus, had denied Him? He probably stared into those coals and felt his faith cool off. Peter denied Jesus again and probably felt his faith bed of coals grow colder still. Finally, “one of the servants of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, ‘Did I not see you in the garden with Him?’ Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed.” (John 18:26–27). After realizing that he had denied Jesus three times – as Jesus has told him – his faith must have felt like a bed of coals nearly extinguished.

Peter, the rock, left ashamed. We don’t know where he went, but I’m sure it was a dark place. His Messiah would be tried, beaten, crucified, and put in an empty tomb. All the while, I’m sure Peter dwelled on his last words regarding Jesus – that he didn’t know Him. I’m sure Peter remembered every detail about that moment for the rest of his life. I wonder if every time he stared into a bed of coals, those words of denial rang loud in his ears.

Then, Easter came. Peter saw Jesus when He appeared to the disciples and relit their faiths. Later, Peter and some other disciples went fishing on the Sea of Galilee. Maybe it was in the same spot where Jesus first called Peter to be His disciple, we don’t know. But just as before, they caught nothing that night. As day broke, they saw a man standing on the shore. The man asked if they had caught anything and the disciples replied “No.” So, the man said, “’Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.’ So they cast it, and they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish.” (John 21:6). At that moment, Peter’s mind must have been flooded with his initial calling, because he jumped into the water and swam to shore!

“When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire (anthrakia) in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.’ So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn.” (John 21:9–11). This was the third time Jesus had revealed Himself to His disciples after He was raised from the dead. Peter’s faith was probably burning hotter, but his memory of denying Jesus still dampened it.

Jesus knew this, so He asked Peter three times, “Do you love Me?” Peter brokenheartedly answered Him each time with, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus told Peter, “Feed my lambs. Tend my sheep. Feed my sheep.” (John 21:15–17). Jesus’ death covered all sins and Peter replied in repentance for his denial.

Then came the day of Pentecost. “Suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:2–4). In attendance were Jews, Parthians, Medes, Elamites, Mesopotamians, Judeans, Cappadocians, people from Pontus and Asia, Phrygians, Pamphylians, Egyptians, Libyans, Romans, Cretans, and Arabians. Each one of them heard the disciples speaking in their own native tongue!

Some people were amazed, some were confused, and some claimed the disciples were just drunk. That is when the Holy Spirit, with a literal tongue of fire resting on Peter, ignited Peter’s faith into an inferno! Read Acts 2:14–36 for Peter’s Sermon, which ended with: “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts 2:36).

When the people asked what they should do, Peter answered, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself.” (Acts 2:38–39). On that day, Peter’s witness and testimony helped save 3,000 souls!

Is your faith anthrakia growing colder or simply smoldering? Or is it ablaze like Peter’s? Sincerely repent of your sins, trust Jesus, and let Him ignite your faith into an inferno!