Life of Peter, by N.E. Rhodes Jr. — No. 22
AT THE GATE BEAUTIFUL
Simon Peter was on his way to prayer meeting. It was a Jewish prayer meeting. Peter had not yet forsaken the customs of the law of Moses. There is no sure evidence that he ever gave them all up. On this occasion he is entering the temple, when suddenly a figure at the foot of the Gate Beautiful caught his eye. It is just a ragged, dirty beggar. A poor suffering cripple. Peter is a servant of the kingdom. What can this poor, forlorn specimen of humanity possibly offer that kingdom?
On the other hand what does Peter have to offer the cripple? By his own admission, made a moment later, he has no silver or gold and this man is begging for money. There are some offices that the kingdom disclaims. In this case the servant of the kingdom quickly explains that he cannot offer money because he has none. Here is a remarkably good excuse to refuse to give. It is hard to think of a better. Yet Peter is not satisfied to mumble such an excuse and pass hastily on. Some men look for an excuse from giving and others look for something to give. Peter was of the latter type. “Whatsoever I have, I give.”
Peter Was a Channel
It seems that a great desire stirred within Peter. Not just the desire to drop a penny in an outstretched hand. There is born within him a great compassion. It was not simply pity, but something more. It was a sense of the unfitness of weak limbs. It was a longing to see before him and all around him the completeness of vitality. It was the unshakable confidence that this was the will of God, and that because it was the will of God, through him God would act. It was great thinking on Peter’s part but we need to remember that such thoughts had come to him only since he had met Jesus of Nazareth. It was the kind of thinking Jesus had done. It was the way Jesus had felt. These thoughts were not really Peter’s thoughts then. They were the thoughts of Christ. They were Peter’s thoughts simply because he belonged to Christ. Do you see what it means to have the mind of Christ? Jesus was the source of this new compassion in Peter. Consequently he was also the source of a new power in Peter.
Peter was simply a channel for the power of his Lord. He could believe in that power precisely because it was not his own. The channel could open freely knowing there was an abundant stream of love and power behind him. When Peter grasps the right hand of the beggar there is a tremendous significance in his words. “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.”
Whenever any man wields any sort of power he must decide just what he is in relation to the power he uses. Is he a source or merely a channel? The answer will determine the degree of his efficiency. If he is the fountain of the power he wields then his service will of necessity be limited and restricted by his own human weakness. But if he is a channel then he sees the power for his activity coming from an unlimited Christ and he works in a world unwalled. Perhaps with this we can better understand the words of Paul, “I can do all things through Christ.”
Any Righteous Activity Can be a Channel
May I now point out that any righteous activity we may engage in may be done in the name of Christ, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord.” This is not only true of preaching, praying, and singing hymns but of any worthwhile service we can render. And such an attitude adds dignity and nobility to what we do. The housewife and mother busily making beds, sweeping floors, and caring for young lives can whisper to herself, “In the name of Christ”, and do it to the glory of God. Any man can say it while doing any useful toil. Of course you cannot sell liquor to besot men’s lives and say it. You cannot say it while you engage in sharp and unfair business practices.
To Succeed We Must be a Channel
This has been a crucial turning point in the lives of many men. Often, well-meaning people find life difficult and frustrating. They give up tasks as too demanding which Jesus longs to see done. They do things every day which Jesus would never do. Their trouble is that they need to go deeply into a stream which at present they only touch. They need to lose their lives utterly in Christ in order to find life. Whatever Jesus calls us to do we can say sincerely, “In the name of Christ”, and find the power to do it. By such a means power is multiplied. But such a course will also limit certain areas of activity. Double your fist to strike an enemy and say, “In the name of Christ.” The hand falls useless at your side. Open your mouth to curse, lie, gossip, or boast, and say, “In the name of Christ.” You cannot continue. For the man who practices this a hundred old familiar doors will close. But one great door will open and the man passes through into new and glorious life.
Look at Moses with his arm raised over the rock. All God’s omnipotence is behind him. How impressive he seems as the mighty right arm of God. If only he will say, “In the name of God I bid water from this rock for these thirsty people.” But listen as instead he says, “Shall I bring water from this rock ye rebels?” Look how the little Hebrew shrivels even as he speaks the words. It is just Moses after all. And we were expecting God. In that moment death began for Moses. He might never enter into the land he had dreamed of for years. For man lives and triumphs only as an arm of God. Any greatness then that we see in Peter is the greatness of God. No man can love apart from God for God is love. Peter loving and serving the beggar is God loving through Peter for that is the only way we can love with this kind of love.
We must remember this for the remainder of our study of Simon Peter. We will understand him in no other context. It lies within the power of no man living or dead to live as Peter and the rest of the Apostles lived, except as they efface themselves and step out of the way that God may live through them. Jesus had explained this to them in John 15 when he told them, “Without me ye can do nothing.” If I insist on maintaining sovereignty over my own life then I doom that life to mediocrity and spiritual failure. Only as a man abdicates the throne of his life does that life gain significance. “If any man would come after me let him deny himself” sounds a trifle gloomy to the average reader till he goes on to read the glad result of this self-denial. “I am come that you might have life and have it more abundantly.”