The New Testament records several miracles that the Lord Jesus performed especially for His disciple Peter. Those miracles and their stories teach us many things because the same lessons Peter had to learn were written for our instruction today. They help us to serve our Master.
The First Miracle – The Master’s Power And Attraction
“He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat … They caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking.” —Luke 5:3,6 NKJV
By Alfred Bouter
Peter and his co-workers had the tremendous privilege of receiving a visit from the Lord Jesus, whom they had met some time before. Now He revealed Himself to them as the Master, yet kindly asking Peter to make himself and all he owned available to Him. Similarly, the Lord desires believers to become instruments for Him, “useful for the Master, prepared for every good work” (2 Tim. 2:21). Our Lord no longer walks on earth as in those days, but through His Spirit He is at work in many different ways, using His willing servants. Do we listen to Him by reading His Word and through prayer? Let’s make ourselves available to Him just as Peter did – despite his protests.
Through a great miracle the Lord sent many fish into the net and we read that “their net was breaking,” which refers to some form of failure on man’s side. How many more shortcomings there are today! Nevertheless, the Master is the Same, “yesterday, today and forever” (Heb. 13:8).
This Miracle Is The Beginning Of Happy Service
“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. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” —Luke 5:7-8 ESV
The Lord explained the parallel between catching fish and catching people (v.10). Today our Lord wants to have and use believers as His servants despite their shortcomings. The fact that the Lord used failing people made this miracle so much more noticeable; and it made Peter realize that he needed others to help him. In the Lord’s “gospel enterprise” we are at His disposal and are to help each other as co-workers, partners and co-disciples.
This great miracle made Peter aware of his lack of faith – even of sinfulness: stubbornness, selfishness and hardness of heart. All these things must be judged in the Lord’s presence and removed from our hearts and lives so He can use us. The miraculous catch caused Peter to fall down at the knees of the Lord Jesus as he was drawn to Him in an irresistible way, ready for service and worship. Peter had become willing to submit and commit himself entirely to Christ. Are we? Furthermore, the Lord knew what was in His disciple’s heart, so He did not do what Peter asked – to depart from him (v.8). Instead, the Lord said, “Fear not” or “Do not be afraid” (v.10).1
The earlier amazement caused by the Lord’s words in the synagogue (Lk. 4:36) had not brought anyone to his knees before the Lord, but here Peter fell down at Christ’s knees, giving Him homage and worship. Peter had been made ready for the Lord to use him and his boat, and now the Lord could prepare him for yet another service – catching people. In Acts 2, on the day of Pentecost, Peter brought 3,000 souls into the net of the gospel. At that time the net did not break, neither did the ship sink! Today, still, the Lord desires us to be His devoted servants.
The Second Miracle – Peter’s Mother-In-Law Healed
“Immediately He left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told Him about her. And He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them.” —Mark 1:29-31
The healing of Peter’s mother-in-law was the second miracle the Lord performed for the benefit of His disciple – of great significance to Peter and a lesson for us as well. In the privacy of the home the disciples brought this need to the Lord’s attention even though He already knew it. This shows how important it is to bring our needs to the Lord immediately or “straightway” – a keyword in Mark. We are to go right away to Him, not trying to find remedies according to our own thinking first.
The feverish condition of Simon’s mother-in-law reminds us of the overly active Simon himself: a lot of “heat” or “energy” but without any results for God – she was just lying there. How much activity, purpose-driven or not, is taking place in our days in the Christian profession? But are there any results for God? Without relying on our own efforts, may we turn to the Lord, what He thinks and teaches, counting on what He can do.
Taking Simon’s mother-in-law by the hand, in His grace and compassion the Lord identified with the great need. The One in whom there is no sin – who knew no sin, who did no sin, being apart from sin – went and took her by the hand. Then, in His power He raised her up “and immediately the fever left her” (v.31 NKJV). How wonderful! As a result of this intervention by the perfect Servant, Peter’s mother-in-law became a useful servant, for we read that “she served them” (Mk. 1:31). Matthew, which presents Christ as the King, records that “she served Him” (8:15). The energetic Peter needed the object lesson provided through this miracle – and so do we. Before leaving His disciples the Lord Jesus told them that all power had been given to Him and that He would be with them all the days to the end of the age (Mt. 28:20). Also today, in His compassion and grace the Lord is with us, working from heaven to help, heal and guide.
The Third Miracle – Peter Walks On The Water
“Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out His hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” —Matthew 14:28-31 ESV
This account describes the third miracle performed especially for Peter, as he learned to appreciate who the Lord really was. After having taken care of the multitudes and their needs through the miracle of multiplying the five loaves and two fish, Jesus withdrew that evening to the mountain to pray. The disciples, however, were by themselves throughout the night on the raging sea – but the Lord did not forget them. He had seen their toil and came to them walking on the stormy water!
Peter responded to the Lord’s majesty that He displayed when approaching His disciples, “If it is You …” Recognizing Christ’s power and greatness as King, which is Matthew’s distinct theme, Peter responded in faith by asking the Lord to have him walk on the water. Peter relied on Him against all worldly odds. It took great faith to leave the security of the boat behind and start walking on the water, but it was toward the Master. It is like going forth “to Him, outside the camp” (Heb. 13:13).
So far, so good – but as soon as Peter’s focus shifted from the Lord to the waves and the wind, he began to sink. Then, again in faith, he called on the Lord just as we are encouraged to do: “Call upon Me in the day of trouble” (Ps. 50:15). Peter’s soul was already saved, but now he needed the Lord’s salvation in a different way – and the Lord answered him without delay. He identified with Peter’s need and rescued him. All believers must go through this kind of experience, learning to trust Him alone without any doubt. The Lord Jesus Himself was marked by a complete trust in God (Ps. 16:1). Today it is up to us to follow Him through calm or storm, confiding in Him. In a soon coming day the Jewish remnant will have similar experiences, learning to put their trust in the rejected Messiah.
The Fourth Miracle – “For Me And For You”
“When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the tax?” He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for Me and for yourself.” —Matthew 17:24-27
Peter needed to learn how great the Lord is – that He cannot be put inside the box of human thinking. He understood that the Lord Jesus did not have to pay the temple tax because He was the King, the Son of God (Ps. 2). Yet there was another lesson for Peter. As a faithful Jew the Lord Jesus always kept the requirements of the Mosaic Law – not the man-made traditions. Even though Christ had the privilege not to pay the temple tax because He is the Son, He used great liberty and did pay for He did not want to cause any offense or reason for stumbling. In His grace the Lord first put Himself on Peter’s level and in his needs; but then He lifted Peter up to His own level when He said, “Give to them for Me and you” (Mt. 17:27). The Lord displayed His greatness, showing His omniscience and omnipresence when speaking to Peter and His omnipotence when providing the needed money.
Because of sin, the first Adam lost his power over the animal kingdom. But the last Adam, our Lord Jesus Christ, demonstrated His power in a miraculous way, as described by Matthew. Peter had something to do as well, taking a hook and not a net as this fisherman was used to, and he obeyed. The Lord rewarded Peter’s faith and obedience, for the very first fish he caught had a stater [a piece of money] in its mouth – a four-drachma coin, which was the exact amount for two persons’ temple tax: “for Me and you”! This miracle is only described in Matthew – presenting the King who is not ashamed to call us His brethren, placing us on His level (Heb. 2:10-11).
The Fifth Miracle – Malchus’ Ear Restored
“Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear.” —John 18:10
“But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And He touched his ear and healed him.” —Luke 22:50
“So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given Me?” —John 18:11
During the night after His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, the Lord Jesus was arrested. While this was taking place Peter, obviously with the best intentions, wanted to defend his Master. Many believe that as long as you are sincere in whatever you are doing, it should be “OK.” Peter’s action, although sincere, was not correct at all! Before this happened Peter had forcefully protested when the Lord had predicted His coming sufferings and Jesus had had to rebuke him. Now in the Garden it seems that Peter still had not learned his lesson. We are no better. These things have been written for our instruction and we learn a lot from the fifth miracle that the Lord performed to help Peter.
Only Luke, the physician, records how Jesus healed Malchus, restoring his ear that Peter had cut off – and this while Christ was being taken into custody. Otherwise, Peter surely would have been arrested as well. After Christ’s declaration of the accomplished work on the cross, followed by His death, resurrection and exaltation in heaven, Peter came to understand what the Lord had taught. Now he was ready to explain to the crowd in Jerusalem that God’s program, predicted in many Old Testament writings, had to be fulfilled (Acts 2:22-23) just as the Lord had told him (Mt. 26:54).
Taking up the sword, Peter in his zeal had been a stumbling block to the Lord and he would have caused himself great trouble as well if the Lord had not healed the servant. “Then Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword’” (Mt. 26:52). In Church history this command has not been obeyed, resulting in dreadful consequences. “Do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once send Me more than twelve legions of angels?” (v.53). Peter still had to learn to submit fully to God’s thoughts, which are higher than man’s thoughts (Isa. 55:8-9). The enemy wants us to take things into our own hands instead of leaving them in God’s. The miracle of the healing of Malchus’ ear, which the Lord performed for Peter’s benefit, teaches this lesson to us.
The Sixth Miracle – For Peter’s Sake After Christ’s Resurrection
“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. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask Him, “Who are You?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish.” —John 21:11-13
This sixth miracle performed for Peter’s sake took place the third time Christ manifested Himself to His disciples during the 40 days between His resurrection and ascension. It provided the context for Peter’s restoration after he denied his Master.2 When his co-disciple John understood and said, “It is the Lord” (v.7), Peter jumped into the water to go to Him as fast as he could; and then they all saw that Christ had already prepared everything for a meal. This proved that the Lord did not need their help, but He wanted them to be involved. Likewise, the Lord does not need us but He likes to involve us, working with Him. Peter understood and hauled the net, full of large fish, to the shore (v.11). The net did not break, in contrast to what had happened after the first miracle.
On the basis of Christ’s death and resurrection, a new foundation has been laid and in this setting the Lord wants His own to get involved and work with Him. There is no room for distrust, lack of confidence, criticism, hindrance or failure. Peter therefore needed to be publicly restored before He could strengthen his brethren (Lk. 22:32) and have a public ministry for the Lord. It is striking that the Lord used a meal – “come and dine” (Jn. 21:12) – as the context for Peter’s restoration. It reminds us of Paul’s instructions that each one must judge or examine himself “and so eat” (1 Cor. 11:28).
Peter’s Public Restoration
“When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” and he said to Him, “Lord, You know everything; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.” —John 21:15-17
The miracle described in John’s gospel that took place after the Lord’s resurrection (vv.6-13) provided the background for the final part of Peter’s restoration. The Lord had restored the personal relationship with His disciple and now He brought him back into full fellowship with the other disciples. Putting his trust in himself Peter once claimed that he would never deny the Lord (Mt. 26:33-35) – but with such self-confidence he had to fail. The Lord did not set His disciple aside, rather He brought him back and helped him to really put his trust in Him. John 21 puts special emphasis on what the Lord prepared; He had done everything that was needed. There was room still for Peter to do some work, to draw the net for example. These details show a remarkable balance between God’s work on the one hand and man’s responsibility and involvement on the other.
In a simple yet profound way, by the three questions He asked Peter, the Lord completely restored His disciple. Before denying the Lord, Peter seemed to think that he was better than the other disciples. Now in the presence of the Lord and his co-disciples he learned to judge himself completely and put his trust entirely in Him. On this basis the Lord entrusted to Peter special shepherd care – not lording it over the sheep (1 Pet. 5:3), but feeding and leading them according to their needs and for God’s glory. No doubt the restored Peter would agree with David’s prayer, “Search me, O God” (Ps. 139:23). We all need this attitude and prayer to stay close to the Lord.
The Seventh Miracle – The Glorified Lord Sent His Angel
“Peter was … kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church. And when Herod was about to bring him out, that night Peter was sleeping, bound with two chains between two soldiers; and the guards before the door were keeping the prison. Now behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the prison; and he struck Peter on the side and raised him up, saying, ‘Arise quickly!’ And his chains fell off his hands.” —Acts 12:5-7 NKJV
The seventh miracle that the Lord performed in relation to Peter’s needs was through His direct intervention from heaven – as He still does during the age of grace. The Lord sent “an angel of the Lord” because during the age of grace God sends angels3 to serve the believers (Heb. 1:14). Though in prison, the always active Peter was resting, fully trusting the Lord who had told him that his service would continue until his old age (Jn. 21:18-19). Peter knew, therefore, that the time for him to die had not yet come, so he was able to sleep even though he knew King Herod had ordered his execution for the following day.
The Jewish Passover had caused a lapse of time between Peter’s arrest and his execution as planned by Herod and this delay provided time for the believers to pray earnestly for Peter’s release. Without a doubt, God heard those prayers. Acts 12:8-17 provides more details about Peter’s miraculous deliverance, the praying assembly at John Mark’s mother’s home, Peter’s visit and the believers’ surprise in seeing him again.
The seven miracles the Lord performed for His disciple Peter equipped him to be used as an instrument, sanctified (set apart), fit for the Master’s use and prepared for all good work (2 Tim. 2:21). The Lord also worked miracles through Peter, using him as His instrument. Several incidents in Acts substantiate this point in much more detail.
Can the Lord use you and me to be His instruments today? May we echo the words of the hymn writer: “Make me a blessing to someone today!” (Ira B. Wilson, 1880-1950).
1. The specific verb form used in the Greek text – me phobou – occurs seven times in Luke’s writings (Lk. 1:13,30, 5:10, 8:50, 12:32; Acts 19:9, 27:24).
2. In His grace the Lord performed seven actions for Peter’s restoration. Before Peter’s denial they were Christ’s prayer (Lk. 22:32), warning (v.31) and counsel (v.46); then, right after Peter’s denial we see His look (v. 61). After Christ’s resurrection (Mk. 16:7) He had a message for Peter that was followed by His private interview with him (Lk. 24:34; 1 Cor. 15:5). The seventh part of the full restoration took place in the presence of the other disciples, as described in John 21:15-17. Also, the sixth miracle that the Lord performed for Peter (vv.11-13) is the third one that was linked with fish (see the first and fourth miracles).
3. It is not clear whether this refers to “the Angel of the Lord” as known in the Old Testament. If so, it would be quite striking that the Lord in heaven, as the glorified Man, sent an angel who is the Angel of the Lord (the LORD Himself).