Point of Reference
by Fred Price
People tend to idealize and even idolize those they admire, Christians being no exception. And while respect should be shown, we must never forget that all of us have our own peculiarities and foibles – weaknesses and strengths. Placing others on a pedestal virtually guarantees disappointment, discouragement and failure on their part and ours; unrealistic standards being unattainable for them, unapproachable for us.
The twelve Apostles are no exception. By virtue of their association with Christ they became huge over-achievers ( Ephesians 3:20), accomplishing more than they would have dreamed of earlier in their lives. And while we can do nothing but marvel at how God used these twelve ordinary men to accomplish extra-ordinary things in his name, we must never gloss over their inherent shortcomings; in part because they allow us to identify with these men in ways that would be impossible otherwise.
For instance, Peter would appear to have been a bundle of contradictions. Loud and impetuous, often speaking first and thinking later; he could be courageous yet was at times cowardly, sincere in his desire to serve while egotistical in his outlook on others. (Years later still occasionally disappointing some in his struggle with peer pressure. See Galatians 2:11-16) He possessed natural leadership skills that were at times squandered by his impulsive behavior. Being gregarious, he was probably drawn to large groups of people, even as he attracted crowds to himself by virtue of his physical stature and personality. ( Acts 2:14-41) Peter could be decisive ( Matthew 16:16,) yet over-reaching; speaking out of turn and assuming too much ( Matthew 16:21-23) – being reprimanded as a result. He could stand strong when others didn’t ( Matthew 26:35; John 18:10), yet when unexpectantly confronted with danger, he denied his Lord repeatedly. ( Matthew 26:69-75)
How did this vacillating though well-intentioned man become the pre-eminent leader of the 1century church? By finally grasping the truth of a statement he had previously made concerning others who had begun deserting Jesus in the face of harassment and troubling conversations; Jesus asking if he too was contemplating deserting him, Peter replying ‘Knowing you to be the Holy One of God, where else can we go – who else would we listen to?’ (My paraphrase of John 6:66-68)
Peter was inquisitive, genuinely desiring to know more and fully understand. As such, he was usually the one posing questions of his Lord, not particularly in disbelief or as a challenge to authority, but in response to an innate curiosity and desire to comprehend the more obscure points of an argument or principle. ( Matthew 15:15,18:21,19:27; John 21:20-23) In doing so he created opportunities for deeper fellowship; intensifying instruction through discussion and heightened awareness of the opportunities at hand. ( Mark 11:20-23) He seemed to instinctively realize that knowledge is powerful and that comprehending the finer points of an issue is fundamental to effective discipleship.
His failures did not disqualify him from God’s love nor from the possibilities of ministry. He was rebuked and challenged to re-think his priorities while repenting of self-centeredness; but he was willing to learn through correction – in the process being re-commissioned for service. ( John 21:15-17) As a consequence, he walked on water, however briefly – even attempting to do so being more than most others would consider ( Matthew 14:29) – he healed the sick and raised the dead, albeit through the power of the Holy Spirit ( Acts 3:1-10,9:36-42) and preached powerfully to Jews and Gentiles alike. In fact, it was Peter who delivered the first Christian sermon to the Jews of Jerusalem at Pentecost and who opened the door of salvation through the Gospel of Christ for the Gentiles, starting with Cornelius the Centurion. (Acts 10) For various reasons and in a number of ways, Peter attracted others to himself and his Lord in large numbers, yet individuals with these skills often don’t relate well one-on-one.
And so there’s Andrew . Peter’s brother was undoubtedly overshadowed and probably overlooked because of the attention his brother attracted. Even scripture relates little specifically about him, but what it does reveal is significant! For without the Andrews of the world, engaging in relationships while investing time and effort in personal ministry, the Peters of the world would have few prospects to preach to.
Andrew appears to have been quiet and reserved – the polar opposite of his brother; yet focused, having developed strong character and emitting an aura of confidence and well-being. Knowing what his abilities were as well as his limitations, he accepted who he was as he strove for excellence in all he did. More importantly, he recognized the needs and potential of the people he met and dealt with them as individuals with unique needs and possibilities of their own. Indeed, it is Andrew who went out after his encounter with Jesus to find his brother, introducing Peter to his new-found mentor and friend. ( John 1:40-42) He was in part responsible for the miracle of the feeding of the 5000, finding a single little boy with five small loaves and two fish; which Jesus blessed and used so proficiently. ( John 6:8-14) Andrew’s fellow disciples apparently recognized his people skills as well, as evidenced by Philip bringing a number of interested Greeks to him first, Andrew then promptly introducing them to his Lord. ( John 12:20-22) By ministering patiently to people’s needs on an individual basis, Andrew wasn’t in competition with those who ministered to them in large numbers; he rather verified that the world is ultimately changed one person at a time.
Primary resource material taken from John MacArthur’s, Twelve Ordinary Men – Subtitled: How the Master Shaped His Disciples For Greatness, and What He Wants To Do With You and Follow Me , Christ’s Call, Our Response
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Fred Price - married (50 years), father of two grown children, grandfather of six.
Fred retired earlier this year after 42 years as a factory worker. He has always had a heart for young people and the challenges they face today. Over the years Fred has taught Discipleship Groups for High School and college students.
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