One of the most illustrious personalities of the entire Bible is Simon Bar-Jona, commonly known today as Saint Peter, the Apostle. A very colorful character, a rough and rugged fisherman, he was always bursting with energy and action.
During his first years under Christ's personal leadership and teaching, Peter often bulldozed his way around like the proverbial bull in a china shop, and whatever he thought was right or should be done, that's what he did, with little regard for the consequences. By far the most outspoken of the 12 Apostles, Peter always said whatever was on his mind. However, quite often he seemed to contradict himself, and although a strong personality, his own wisdom, strength and self-confidence often hindered him and caused him to make mistakes.
But after Peter had followed Jesus for three full years, he underwent a tremendous and dramatic change.--And this transformation is what our story is all about. We begin at the closing hours of Jesus' ministry on Earth, at the last supper that He ate with His disciples, only a few hours before His arrest and eventual crucifixion.
Knowing that He would soon be crucified and suffer death for the sins of the World, Jesus looked around on His disciples, and sadly but firmly said, "You shall all be offended and shall leave Me this night: For it is written, 'I will smite the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered.'" (Matthew 26:31)
Upon hearing this, and overestimating his own faith and strength, Peter boldly proclaimed, "Though all men desert You, yet I will not!" But Jesus, knowing what was to come, answered quietly, "I say to you that before the cock crows, you will have denied Me three times!" (Matthew 26:31-35) Peter was shocked at such a prediction and even MORE adamantly insisted, "Lord, I am ready to go with You, both into PRISON and to DEATH!" (Luke 22:31-33)
But Jesus' prophecy was soon fulfilled! That very night, as Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane praying with His disciples, a band of soldiers sent by the chief priests and elders came with a multitude carrying swords and clubs and torches! They seized Jesus, and all His disciples, filled with fear, fled for their lives into the night!
As Jesus was taken away to the palace of the high priest, Peter, trying to gather his courage "followed Him AFAR OFF!" Arriving at the palace, Peter stood by the door, hoping to see the court proceedings from a distance. A woman gatekeeper at the the palace door noticed the nervous and distraught figure, & looking suspiciously at Peter, asked, "Aren't you one of this man's disciples?" "NO! I'm NOT!" Peter exclaimed.
Moments later, as Peter stood warming himself by the fire which the night guards had made, another woman said to the men who stood by, "This fellow ALSO was with Jesus of Nazareth! HE is ONE of them!" But Peter swore before them, "I do NOT know the man!"
As the situation became more and more tense, Peter felt more and more uncomfortable! Suddenly a man who had been present when Jesus was captured, pointed out Peter and loudly questioned him, "Didn't I see you in the Garden of Gethsemane with Him?" Again Peter denied it. But others who stood in the crowd joined in the accusation, saying, "Surely you ARE one of them! We can tell by your ACCENT that you're a GALILAEAN!" Desperately, Peter began to curse and to swear, vehemently insisting, "I don't know what you're talking about!--I know NOTHING about this man!" (Mark 14:70,71)
No sooner had he finished his denial than the cock began to crow. And the Lord, as He was being led by His captors to another part of the palace, turned and looked directly at Peter. Immediately Peter recalled Jesus' Words, "Before the cock crows, you will have denied Me three times!" When he realised what he'd done, Peter could barely control his grief. As tears began to well up in his eyes, he stumbled for the door, then ran blindly into the night. Finally in a deserted alley beneath the walls of Jerusalem, he sank to the ground and wept bitterly. (Luke 22:59-62)
Then, only three days after His trial and brutal crucifixion, Jesus victoriously arose from the dead! His disciples, meanwhile, were huddled in a small room, hidden away "for fear of the Jews". But knowing their hiding place, Jesus boldly appeared to them. It was then that the transformation of their lives began!
For the next 40 days, after His resurrection from the dead, Jesus walked among His disciples, encouraging their hearts and explaining details of their mission now that He would be leaving them. And on the fortieth day, just before ascending into Heaven, He told the disciples to return to Jerusalem, saying, "Wait for the promise of the Father, until you are strengthened with POWER from on High! For you shall receive POWER after the HOLY GHOST comes upon you, and you shall be My WITNESSES!" (Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:8)
The Apostles returned to Jerusalem, and with well over 120 other disciples and their women and children, stayed all together in an upper room praying and waiting in obedience to Jesus' last and final command before His departure. Ten days later an awesome manifestation of God's power occurred: "A sound like the rushing of a mighty wind filled the whole house where they were, and they saw the appearance of many tongues of fire that rested upon every one of them. And they all were FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them." (Acts 2:2-4)
This was it!--This was what they'd been waiting for, that supernatural strength from the Lord to enable them to continue His work now that He had departed! And another amazing thing happened! Peter, his entire heart and life transformed by the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit of God, led the disciples in one of the most phenomenal wit nessing adventures of all times!
There was a great religious festival going on in the streets of Jerusalem at that time, and visitors from many foreign nations had come for the annual celebration of the Jew's Feast of the Harvest. When Peter stepped into the streets with all those 120 disciples--now filled to overflowing with the Holy Spirit--they all supernaturally began to speak in the languages of the multitudes visiting Jerusalem that day, yet none of the disciples had ever known before how to speak those languages! And the disciples boldly witnessed to all of the crowds about the wonderful news of God's Love in Jesus and His message of Salvation.
Then Peter leaped up on the steps of a nearby building, raised his hands and shouted to the enormous crowd, bringing a hush over them all! He began to speak to them with such AUTHORITY and CONVICTION that an astounding 3000 people were not only saved, but committed themselves that very day to serve the Lord as fulltime disciples!
Peter had CHANGED! Here was a man who had acted so cowardly after the arrest of Jesus that he had denied Him three times! But now he stood before THOUSANDS--in the very city where Jesus had been crucified--boldly, unashamedly proclaiming God's Message to all! What caused this sudden transformation?--The white-hot power and might of the HOLY SPIRIT! As the Lord had promised, they had received POWER after the HOLY SPIRIT had come upon them.
Peter had gone through the most severe testings and trials of his life only a few short weeks before, but no longer did he remember the pain and the agony that he'd felt. There was no time for remorse. A tremendous explosion of witnessing and winning others into God's kingdom was underway, and the Lord was using him in ways that Peter had never dreamed would be possible. BEFORE he'd been so impulsive, always seeming to say the wrong things at the wrong times. But now he was "strengthening his brethren", just as the Lord had prayed he would! (Luke 22:32)
Not only was PETER encouraged, but ALL the disciples were overjoyed to see the Lord working so many miracles! Even though they had all forsaken the Lord in His most desperate hour, they knew that Jesus still loved them, and now they experienced a strength of faith that even SURPASSED those days when Jesus had walked right among them!
It seemed that Jesus was no longer gone, but was even CLOSER than ever before! They remembered the Words He'd spoken to them before, "It is necessary that I go away, for if I go not away, the Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit, will not come unto you. Right now the Spirit lives WITH you, but then He shall be IN you! And he that believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also. And GREATER works than these shall you do, because I go to My Father!" (John 14:12,16,17; 16:7)
Not long after that incredible day of winning over 3,000 new converts to their movement, there came another day in which a man who was lame from birth was instantly healed by Peter and John, right before the astounded multitudes! And when Peter spoke to the huge crowd that gathered to see the miracle, 5,000 more joined ranks with the disciples, increasing their number to over 8,000 men, not counting women and children! Truly these were the "greater works" Jesus had spoken of! Why? Because Jesus was no longer merely WITH them--but He was IN them by way of the Holy Ghost!
In the days that followed, Peter and John faced a wave of persecution from the same wicked religious leaders who had crucified their Saviour. But there was no fear, no cowardice this time, no denial! Peter stood before their councils testifying with such unflinching courage and authority of the Spirit that the Bible says, "When they saw the BOLDNESS of Peter and John and perceived that they were UNEDUCATED and IGNORANT men, they MARVELLED at them and knew that they had been with JESUS!" (Acts 4:13) Why did they marvel? Because they saw that same power IN them that Jesus had when He walked the Earth!
And the WONDERFUL thing about this story is that YOU can have this Power TOO by simply receiving Jesus into your heart, and then being FILLED with the Power of the Holy Spirit of God! "And you shall receive POWER after the Holy Spirit is come upon you, and you shall be My WITNESSES!" (Acts 1:8) "If you know how to give good gifts unto your children, then how much more shall your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit unto YOU, if you ASK Him!" (Luke 11:9-13)
Even though Peter was already a believer in Jesus, many things he did before he was FILLED with the Holy Spirit were a mistake! But it showed that whatever got accomplished was not of HIM, but of CHRIST that lived first WITH him, and then IN him. "For we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the EXCELLENCY of the power may be of GOD and NOT of US!" (2Corinthians 4:7) So we all certainly need the infilling, or "baptism", of God's Love and power and to be FILLED to overflowing with His precious Holy Spirit in order to have the STRENGTH to be what HE wants us to be!
The PRIMARY PURPOSE of the Holy Spirit is to give you the POWER to be a WITNESS. But the baptism of the Holy Spirit also helps you greatly in your personal RELATIONSHIP with the LORD. It gives you a STRONGER CONTACT with the Lord and BETTER COMMUNICATION through prayer, and much GREATER UNDERSTANDING when you read God's Word! (See Acts 1:8 and John 16:13)
"Have YOU received the Holy Spirit since you believed?" (Acts 19:2) Have you received the overflowing power of God's Spirit in your own heart since you received Jesus and were saved? All you have to do is ASK! You can't EARN it or be GOOD ENOUGH to deserve it, any more than Peter could! It's a GIFT, you just have to RECEIVE it!
Why not ask God for His Gift of the Holy Spirit right NOW? You can pray this little prayer:
"Dear Jesus, thank You for Your precious gift of the Holy Spirit. I ask right now that You FILL me to overflowing with Your Heavenly Spirit of Love so that I can love You more, follow You more closely, and have greater power to tell others about Your Love and Salvation! In Jesus' name, amen."