Was Simon Peter a father? That thought never crossed my mind until today. We know he was married. Jesus healed his mother-in-law. But did he have children? And if Peter did have children, how does that knowledge affect the way I read the words Jesus spoke to him.
In Matthew 17-18, Mark 9 and Luke 9, we find Jesus back at His home base in Capernaum with His disciples. Those who collected the temple tax asked Peter why his Teacher did not pay the temple tax. This was a tax on all males 20 years of age or older for the upkeep of the temple (Exodus 30:13).
Then we read that Peter came “into the house” to speak with Jesus. Whose house was this? Peter lived in Capernaum. Did Jesus stay at Peter’s home when they were in Capernaum?
After Jesus sends Peter down to the lake to catch a fish that had a coin in its mouth, enough to pay the temple tax for both of them, we read that the other disciples came into the house and asked Jesus, “Who then is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
At this point, Jesus took a little child, picked him up in His arms, and told them, “Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me…”
Then Jesus continued teaching, “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin….” And again, “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father….” And yet again, “Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.”
I’d always imagined that Jesus just plucked a child from the crowd for this teaching. But if they are in a house in Capernaum, possibly Simon Peter’s home, isn’t there the very real possibility that Jesus called over Peter’s own toddler? At the very least, being in this home, the child was likely known by or related to one of the disciples.
The context gives the words more weight, more depth. Imagine the emotion Peter would have felt seeing Jesus hold his child as he speaks these words. If Peter was a father, as I am, he would have understood childlike faith in a much deeper way. And Jesus’ words about not causing one of these little ones to stumble? Peter would have taken that as a personal challenge. I think he also would have imagined someone doing that to his child and felt anger as well.
But thinking of Peter as a father, it also makes me look more carefully at other things Jesus said to Peter and how he would have heard Jesus’ words.
“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters- yes, even his own life- such a person cannot be My disciple.”
If Peter was a father, this depth of commitment, this level of sacrifice, would have been even more costly. Leaving his nets, leaving everything, to follow Jesus would have been no small sacrifice. As a husband and father, your priorities and commitments don’t just impact you. Everyone sacrifices. Everyone feels the impact.
As a father, I get excited about looking back at Peter’s relationship with Jesus and seeing it through a new lens.
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