Acts 10-11 by Robert Dean
A commentary on the election presents the sad state of our republic and its worldview shift away from the purposes of our founding fathers. The realization is we have come full circle into the final cycle of civilization. The solution is not a shift of circumstantial issues but a crisis-driven hope in the truth of God’s Word to shine as a light in the midst of a wicked and perverse generation.

The apostles lived in a degenerate, hostile environment, and except for John, lost it all, were tortured, and died as martyrs. Peter was a commercial fisherman, living on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. He met Jesus through his brother Andrew. Peter’s home was the base of operation for Jesus in the area and many miracles took place there. Peter is representative of many men, impulsive, assertive, loyal and prone to get his eyes on circumstance. But Peter spoke profound truths and Jesus set him apart as a leader. Learn about Peter as the small rock and Jesus as the chief cornerstone, and about Peter’s travels to Babylon and possibly to Britain. Witness his eventual torture and death in a barbaric dungeon in Rome.
Series:Acts (2010)
Duration:1 hr 12 mins 1 sec

Gods Choice Men: Peter: Faith in Christ makes Pebbles, Rocks


What begins in Acts chapter thirteen is the outreach to the Gentile world. This is the Gentile world of Rome. They lived in the midst of an empire that was one of the most pagan cultures in all of history. There were horrible things that went on; there were some good things. Nothing is totally without some ray of light, some sort of silver cloud.

Peter and Paul and all of the apostles are living in this hostile environment. They didn't have the wonderful blessings that we have had living in the kind of country that we have lived in. We have benefited from all that they taught and all that they did when they were alive. But all of the apostles with the exception of John died as martyrs for the faith, and most of them were horribly tortured before they died. They lost their family, they lost their livelihood, they lost everything but their faith in Jesus Christ; and that is what sustained them in all of those dark hours. And we just think that things look dark around us! We don't even have a clue. But just imagine what is was like to be a believer—a Plymouth Brethren type believer—living in Nazi Germany in the 1930s. They loved the Jews. They saw what was happening and many Plymouth Brethren secretly worked to get the Jews out of Germany.

We never know what glorious opportunities we have as believers as the culture begins to shipwreck. We have seen this again and again in history. We go back to the Reformation period, other times in British history and American history, when things were pretty dark. And we look at other cultures, other times historically when things cultures were collapsing, there were strong Christians who were the real basis for hope and prosperity. But they didn't get to go home every night to watch TV and be with their families and their kids out in the front yard. That is not to say there is anything wrong with that, we would all love to do that, but we can't sacrifice the focus on reality for what we would like because things have changed.

As a little sub-series we will look at the apostles. What happened to them? God's mighty, choice men that He chose to take the gospel throughout the world. Peter was a fisherman, like his brother Andrew. He lived in a fishing village on the shore of the Sea of Galilee and he is first introduced physically, not in an American evangelical slang sort of way, to Jesus by his brother Andrew in the first chapter of John. This isn't when he was called to be a disciple but when he first meets Jesus.

The scene is down on the Jordan. John 1:36 NASB "and he looked at Jesus as He walked, and said, 'Behold, the Lamb of God!' [37] The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. [38] And Jesus turned and saw them following, and said to them, 'What do you seek?' They said to Him, 'Rabbi (which translated means Teacher), where are You staying?' [39] He said to them, 'Come, and you will see.' So they came and saw where He was staying; and they stayed with Him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. [40] One of the two who heard John {speak} and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. [41] He found first his own brother Simon and said to him, 'We have found the Messiah' (which translated means Christ). [42] He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, 'You are Simon the son of John; you shall be called Cephas' (which is translated Peter)." Cephas was his Aramaic name; his Greek name was Petros [Petroj].

Peter was subsequently chosen to be a disciple. But when we really begin to see Peter as a key spiritual leader that rises to the surface from the disciples is in Matthew chapter 16. Jesus has gone north to the area of Caesarea Philippi, north of the Sea of Galilee and close to the northern extreme of the land of Israel and not far from the city of Dan.

Matthew 16:13 NASB "Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, 'Who do people say that the Son of Man is?' [14] And they said, 'Some {say} John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.'" The term Son of Man comes out of Daniel chapter seven, it is a term for the Messiah. So Jesus is clearly making a messianic claim by the way He is asking the question. [15] }He said to them, But who do you say that I am?' [16] Simon Peter answered, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.' [17] And Jesus said to him, 'Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal {this} to you ..." In other words, you didn't get this from empiricism or rationalism but because of divine revelation: not because God revealed it to him on the spot by having a blinding flash of the obvious in terms of a spiritual, mystical insight, but because he was focused on the Word. He understood what the revelation of the Old Testament said, and he saw the Jesus fitted what the Old Testament prophecies have said. That is how it is revealed to him by the Father. "... but My Father who is in heaven. [18] I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.'"

This is an interesting backdrop and it is important to understand some of the geography of the area. There was a temple to the Greek god Pan there at Caesarea Philippi. It was built in front of a huge opening in the rock face. Now understanding that rock escarpment in the background is important for understanding the play on words here on the name Rock. Peter's name Petros is a ledge or a pebble or something that has been broken off. Jesus will say, "On this rock," and He shifts to a different word, from a masculine noun to a feminine noun, and it is Petra which refers to a large, immovable, solid rock-faced escarpment. That is what is in the background. Jesus is not only playing off on the words, He is standing here in this location and playing off of this particular location.

There is a sign that has been put up at the cave entrance that behind the location of the Pan temple:

This cave is the nucleus beside which the sacred sanctuary for Pan (Arab's can't pronounce P, so they say the Letter B instead, so rather than this being the location for the worship of Pan it became Ban. This area is known as Baneas). In this abode of the shepherd god the pagan cult began as early as early as the third century BC. The ritual sacrifices were cast into a natural abyss reaching the underground waters at the back of the cave. If the victims disappeared in the water this meant that the god had accepted the offering. If however signs of blood appeared in the nearby springs the sacrifice had been rejected.

So this opening is "the gates of hell." When Jesus is talking He says, "Upon this rock [His immovable self] I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.'" That hole in the rock behind the Pan temple is the gates of Hades.

So Jesus says, "I also say to you that you are Peter ..." Petros is a small broken rock. So he just a chip, a pebble, easily crushed. The circumstances of life can roll over him and he is depressed and despondent, and he feels hopeless and helpless. And we are all that way. Peter is so human. He talks before he thinks, boasts about what he is going to do and then doesn't carry it out. He has a great heart but he can't always pull it off. Most of us identify with him in all of his failures and all of his humanity because we are like Peter. We are out there on the water and looking at Christ, and then all of a sudden we take our eyes off Jesus and look at the waves coming up and we are sinking. We focus too much on the circumstances. All of these different miracles and things that happen with Peter are great illustrations, but the walking on the water is one of the best because that is how we are. When circumstances turn a little bit unfortunate and as soon as they start getting a little bit rugged we get our eyes on the circumstances and say it is helpless, there is nothing we can do. But as long as we can preach the gospel we have all that we need, because it is the gospel that changes the hearts of men. It is the gospel that changes cultures and it is only the gospel that is going to strengthen anyone to be able to understand why you don't want to opt out for slavery—a nanny government to take care of you.

So Jesus says to Peter, "You are Peter—this easily crushed pebble—"and upon this [immovable] rock ..." This is alluding to the identification Peter has just made—You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." It is on that reality that Jesus is the Messiah that He will build His church. "... I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it." No matter what any human kingdom may do, and they will rise and fall. Human kingdoms are on the descent. They are going from great gloriousness to that which is mundane and that which is common, but it is all on a negative trajectory.

Matthew 16:19 NASB "I will give [future tense] you the keys of the kingdom of heaven ..." He gives that to Peter and the other apostles when He ascends to heaven and transfers the authority from His physical body to the body of the church. "... and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound [Corrected translation: will have already been bound—perfect participle] in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven." This verbiage to bind and to loose was an idiom in rabbinical decision-making. These are terms for whatever you say will be saved and whatever is lost is lost, and it is basically saying whatever you choose, the decisions you make, will reflect the eternal absolutes of the Supreme Court of heaven. Because that is the mission that has been given you. You represent the heavenly court and so whatever decisions you make as you go forward establishing the foundations of the church (Ephesians 2:20) is going to be the outworking of an already establish plan of God.

All of this is in the future, there has been no church up to this point. This is one of those great verses which shows that the church doesn't begin until Acts chapter two. Peter understood that Jesus wasn't talking about him, that Jesus was talking about something else. Jesus was talking about Himself because in 1 Peter 2:4 NASB "And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God [5] you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." [6] For {this} is contained in Scripture: 'BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A CHOICE STONE, A PRECIOUS CORNER {stone,} AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.'" Jesus is that chief corner stone.

Peter was a fisherman and he lived in a village on the Sea of Galilee. He and his brother Andrew had a fishing business and their village and their house was the centre of many things Jesus did in His ministry in Capernaum (The village of Nahum). It is thought that this is referring to Nahum the prophet.

Matthew 4:18 NASB "Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen." This was after the events of John chapter one. [19] And He said to them, 'Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.'" Jesus calls Peter from there and there are a lot of things that happen from Peter's home. This was the site where Peter and Andrew lived. Jesus also stayed there and He also had a house. In the home of Peter He healed his mother-in-law—Mark chapter one.

Mark 1:30 NASB "Now Simon's mother-in-law was lying sick with a fever; and immediately they spoke to Jesus about her. [31] And He came to her and raised her up, taking her by the hand, and the fever left her, and she waited on them. [32] When evening came, after the sun had set, they {began} bringing to Him all who were ill and those who were demon-possessed. [33] And the whole city had gathered at the door. [34] And He healed many who were ill with various diseases, and cast out many demons ..."

Mark 2:1 NASB "When He had come back to Capernaum several days afterward, it was heard that He was at home. [2] And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room, not even near the door; and He was speaking the word to them." Jesus was back in the back of the house and all these people were pressing in to be healed. This is when the men who brought the paralysed man came and realised that the only way to get to the back where Jesus was was to get up on the roof and then dig up the thatching and drop the man down into the room.

Jesus taught the Sermon on the Mount very close to here. He met with His family here, they think He has lost His mind—Mark 3:31. He embraced a child in chapter nine to teach humility. Many things happened right around Capernaum.

Peter had a strong personality, his faults were pretty obvious to most and so we can relate to him. He is not too modest, he certainly was assertive and was loyal—sort of loyal to a to a fault, the fault of betrayal. He had leadership potential as we see in the Gospels but it was not until he gets the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost that we really see Peter blossom.  He is the one who preaches in Acts chapter two and again in chapter three. He and John are the only two disciples mentioned in the first four or five chapters of Acts. He was the key leader who God chose to take the gospel to the Gentiles with Cornelius. So God clearly chose Peter for a leadership role. But he is transitioned out, we don't hear anything more of him after Acts chapter fifteen.

What happened to Peter? Eusebius, who loved in the fourth century and was one of the bishops from Caesarea who went to the Council of Nicea—where they wrote the Nicene Creed in 325—wrote a church history. He tells us that Peter left Jerusalem and Judea and moved north to Antioch.  We don't have any mention of Peter in the Antioch church in the Scriptures, other than Galatians chapter two where Paul talks about Peter coming to Antioch.  And when he came to Antioch it was not very complimentary, he was going to segregate himself with the Orthodox Jews.  Galatians 2:11 NASB "But when Cephas came to Antioch, I [Paul] opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned." What we don't hear is that Peter is on his missionary journeys and if we read 1 Peter he writes to the churches in the area of Bithynia and Pontus—which is the area on the northern part of modern Turkey and the south shore of the Black Sea—and Cappadocia, which are not areas where the apostle Paul went to. Those are areas that Peter went to. So Peter leaves Jerusalem, is in Antioch for a while—there is a tradition that he was the leader of the church in Antioch for a period of time—and then he heads east. Off to the east is Babylon, the location from where he writes 1 Peter. It was the second largest Jewish community outside of Jerusalem. It was the diaspora, they hadn't gone back to the land, and there was a tremendous Jewish community there until the 20th century.

From there he eventually goes to Rome, and there is also evidence that he went to Britain. We don't know how much of this is just tradition or how much is really documented, but from various statements two or three centuries later (unfortunately) indicating that there was a belief, a tradition that Peter had gone to Britain. There was a monument in Whithorn in Britain, a tablet that had an inscription that read: "This is the place where Peter the apostle came." There is another place near London where they found a statement: "This is the first church dedicated to Peter. It was founded by King Lucius, the British king who was the first by royal decree to name Christianity the national faith of Britain in Winchester in AD 156, and they erected a church there in 179. This is all not certain though. Too much of this is based on legend. Eventually Peter went back to Rome and Nero had him imprisoned and tortured before he was executed.

A French church historian wrote about Peter's time in Rome:

He was maliciously condemned and cast into the horrible fetid prison of the Mamertine dungeon. There for none months in absolute darkness he endured monstrous torture manacled to a post. Never before or since has there been a dungeon of equal horror. Historians write of it as being the most fearsome on the brutal agenda of mankind. Over three thousand years old it is probably the oldest torture chamber extant, the oldest remaining monument of bestiality of ancient Rome, a bleak testimony to its barbaric inhumanity, steeped in Christian tragedy and the agony of thousands of murdered victims. It can be seen to this day with the dungeon and the pillar to which Peter was bound in chains. 

This very place is known by two names. In classical history it is referred to as Gemonian or the Tulian Keep. In later secular history it is known as the Mamertine Dungeon. It is described as a deep cell cut out of solid rock at the foot of the capital consisting of two chambers, one over the other. The only entrance is through aperture in the ceiling. The lower chamber was the death cell. Light never entered and it was never cleaned. The awful stench and filth generated a poison fatal to the inmates of the dungeon, the most awful ever known. Even as early as 50 BC a historian described it in the following words: In the prison called the Tulian there is a place about ten feet deep that is surrounded on the side by walls and it is closed above by a bolted roof of stone. The appearance of it from the filth, the darkness and the smell is terrible. No one can realise what its horrors must have been a hundred years later when Peter was imprisoned in its noisome depths. In this vile subterranean rock … was starved and went stark raving mad…. It is said that the number of Christians that perished within this diabolic cell is beyond computation. Such is the glory of Rome.

Nero, publicly announcing himself as the chief enemy of God, was led on in his fury to slaughter the apostles. Paul is therefore said to have been beheaded in Rome, Peter to have been crucified under him, and this account is confirmed by the fact that the names Peter and Paul still remain in the cemeteries of that city even to this day. But likewise, a certain ecclesiastical writer, Chaius by name, gives the following statement of where the apostles were buried:

But I can show the trophies of the apostles, but if you will go to the Vatican or the Ostian Road you will find the trophies of those who have laid the foundation of this church, and that both suffered martyrdom about the same time. Dionysius the bishop of Corinth bares the following testimony in his discourse addressed to the Romans:

Thus likewise you by means of this admonition have mingled the flourishing seed that had been planted by Peter and Paul at Rome and Corinth, for both of these had planted us at Corinth. Likewise instructed us having in like manner taught in Italy. They suffered martyrdom about the same time.

So when we think about nine months that Peter was in the Mamertine Dungeon. Whatever suffering and whatever hardship we face pales in comparison to what they went through, because of their love for doctrine and their love for the Word because it is true. We have to change our thinking to conform to truth and just to conform to what we would like it to be.