YOUNG WORLD

The `first' Pope

REBECCA CHANDY

At Jerusalem: Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu.

At Jerusalem: Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu.  

On Good Friday, Christians remember the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, on a hill outside the city walls of Jerusalem. His enemies thought that this would be the end of the "Jesus movement". On the contrary, it became a worldwide movement because of his disciples, the chief among them being a man called Peter.

Simon (later named Peter) was a fisherman. He was known as the Big Fisherman because of his height and leadership qualities. Peter was amazed at Jesus' message to the people.

When Jesus called Simon to follow Him, Simon forsook all to follow Jesus. Jesus healedpeople suffering from leprosy, gave sight to the blind, healed the sick and on three occasions even raised the dead to life.

The Bible records that Jesus told Simon, "And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it." Unfortunately, Peter and all the followers of Jesus did not understand that the kingdom of Jesus was not of this world, but of the kingdom of truth, righteousness and peace, into which all who believed may enter. People thought that Jesus was going to establish in Jerusalem the kingdom of heaven by driving out the Roman rulers and freeing the Jews from the Roman yoke. So, they felt terribly let down and completely demoralised when the enemies of Jesus, the Jewish religious leaders, in agreement with the political leaders arrested him on charges of blasphemy (His claim that He was the Son of God) and of sedition (He had stated He was a King).

Following the arrest, all the disciples except Peter fled in terror. Peter waited in the courtyard for the judgment and there some servants identified him as a follower of Jesus. They questioned him thrice and each time, Peter denied that he knew Jesus. Immediately a rooster crowed and Peter was reminded of what Jesus had told him. "Before the cock crows today you will deny me thrice." And Peter ran out and wept bitterly.

The Big Fisherman: A statue of St. Peter.

The Big Fisherman: A statue of St. Peter.  

He stayed in that state of despair, in his own hell of shame and grief throughout the day of the crucifixion of Jesus and the days following. On the third day he then heard that the tomb of Jesus had been found open and the body missing and that some women had seen the risen Jesus. He then joined the other disciples hiding in an upper room and Jesus suddenly appeared in their midst in that closed room. He showed them His wounded hands and feet and told them to witness His resurrection and give out the message of repentance and remission of sins. But, for Peter he had a special word. Three times he asked him, "Do you love me?" and Peter replied, "Yes." And thrice Jesus said, "Feed my sheep."

Peter, strengthened by the spirit of Jesus began at first to shepherd the believers in Jerusalem. He then proceeded to Asia Minor and finally went to Rome, to minister to the persecuted "Jesus believers" hiding in the catacombs of Rome. He was arrested by Nero and crucified upside down. It is believed that the Church of St. Peter in Rome rises over the grave of Peter. The Pope as the official successor of Peter now shepherds the millions of Roman Catholic Christians over the world.

If you happen to visit Capernaum in Galilee you will see a 11 ft high bronze statue of Peter with a fish at his feet, a key in his right hand and a shepherd's crook in his left hand. These symbols represent the high and low points of his dramatic life. In Jerusalem in all works of art, depictions of Peter have a cockerel in the corner. Peter is the supreme example of a man who turned his life around at a great challenge from God, who being human failed miserably but redeemed himself by the grace of God.

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