Ready for Paul?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Continuing studies in Acts with Peter's Journeys



(9) Peter’s Journeys
We all know stories about Saint Peter, from the Gospels, from Acts, from the Epistles, or just from tradition. Before we start this study, which story comes first to your mind? What do you think of when you think about Peter?
Ministry Journeys with Jesus
Peter traveled with Jesus during his ministry on earth. What Gospel stories come to mind first?

1.       Peter’s calling. Who led him to Christ? What were Peter’s beliefs then? (Read John 1:40-41, Matthew 4:18-19)

2.       Peter’s faith. Do you remember when Jesus said “On this rock I will build my church”? What was happening then? (Read Matthew 16:16-18)

3.       Peter’s folly. When does Peter seem less than great in the gospels?

4.       Peter, James and John. Why do these three names go together? (Read Luke 5:8-10, 8:51, 9:28-29)

Journeys with the resurrected Jesus
After Jesus’ death and resurrection, Peter’s name is still prominent
1.       Why might some people say Peter was first to see the resurrected Christ? (Read 1 Corinthians 15:5)

2.       How easily did Peter believe in the resurrection? How did he feel? (Read Luke 22:34, 24:11-12)

3.       Why was Peter told to “Feed my lambs”? (Read John 21:17)

Journeys in Acts
1.       We’ve already looked at Peter’s first journey in Acts, to Samaria, with John, in support of Philip. What position do you think Peter held in the church at that time? And James? (Read Acts 1:21-22, 2:14, 3:4, 4:19, 5:8)

2.       Peter’s second journey takes him along the coast toward Caesarea. Why is he traveling? Can you remember what happens on the way? (Don’t read it yet; we’ll look at the details later)

3.       Can you remember what happens when he gets back? How do the Christian Jews receive him? How do non-Christian Jews view him? And how do the civil authorities view him? (Read Acts 11:2-3, 12:2-3)

Journeys beyond Acts
The Book of Acts only lists two journeys undertaken by Peter, but other trips are mentioned in the Epistles.
1.       Peter goes to Antioch (Read Galatians 2:11)
2.       Assuming Peter wrote 1 Peter, he also traveled to Babylon (or Rome) (Read 1 Peter 5:13; Mark is traditionally considered to be the founder of the Church of Alexandria in Egypt, but Babylon is sometimes code for Rome)
3.       Tradition says Peter was Bishop of Antioch for 7 years. Some families still claim to be descended from him.
4.       There was a “party of Cephas” in Corinth, which suggests he may have traveled there. (Read 1 Corinthians 1:12)
5.       Catholic tradition, from 2nd century, says Peter was Bishop of Rome. According to the apocryphal Acts of Peter, he was crucified upside-down (Read John 21:18-19). Paul is believed to have died at the same time, soon after the great fire of Rome. The expression “Quo Vadis?” comes from the story in Acts of Peter.
Okay; that’s enough background. Now for the study.

Peter sets out on his journey
1.       Read Acts 9:31. Stephen died a few years ago. Saul has fled to Tarsus. What’s the situation of the church in Judea now? And elsewhere? How far do you think the church has spread at this point?

2.       Read Acts 9:32-35. Why is Peter traveling? Where are Lydda and Sharon? Is there any connection between this journey and Philip’s journey?

3.       Read Acts 9:36-42. What was all the rush about? Do you think the women expected Peter to raise her or just pray over her?

4.       Read Acts 9:35,42. What purpose do these miracles serve, besides being acts of God’s kindness?

God prepares the ground
1.       Read Acts 10:1-8. How far is Caesarea from Joppa? How long might the journey take?

2.       What kind of faith might Cornelius have? Could he have met Jesus?

3.       What might the Italian regiment mean?

4.       Read Acts 10:9-16. God seems to use a lot of threes with Peter. Which other threes come to mind? Is three a special number?

5.       How big a deal might this be to Peter? Can you imagine a message that might seem equally huge to you, or that might have seemed equally huge to some American Christians in recent history?

6.       Read Acts 10:17-23. It’s not so hard to see why Peter needs divine inspiration to overcome his unwillingness to visit a Gentile. But why might he need divine inspiration just to open the door?

Peter preaches again
1.       Peter arrives in Caesarea and the centurion explains why he’s called him. Then Peter preaches a sermon the Roman household. Who might be included in the household?

2.       Read Acts 10:34-43. How is the emphasis in this sermon different from in previous sermons (Pentecost, before the authorities...)?

3.       Read Acts 10:44-48. Was Peter traveling alone? Who might have traveled with him?

4.       How did those traveling with Peter respond to the Holy Spirit falling on Gentiles?

5.       Does this passage say you have to be baptized with the Spirit first, then with water?

6.       Read Acts 11:1-3. Peter goes home to Jerusalem. How do the Christians react? How do we react if God doesn’t seem to be following our rules?

7.       Read Acts 11:17-18. Peter tells the story of what happened, and now their reaction changes. What is so powerful about Peter’s message? What would it take to make that sort of change in divisive Christian attitudes today? (e.g. in Northern Ireland, where Catholics spoke in praise of Ian Paisley on his death.)

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