It should now be more evident that the order of Jacob’s sons was divinely orchestrated to prophesy of the seasons of mankind. We’ve seen Reuben exchange his ideal nature, Simeon become a victim of sin’s pervasive influence and Levi deceive through the Law. Now the season has arrived for the mystery of salvation to be revealed through the prophesied lineage of Judah, Jacob’s fourth son (Matthew 1:1-16). After the bitter blessing of Simeon and Levi, the next portion of Genesis 49 proclaims Jacob’s prophecy about Judah.
Genesis 49:8-12 KJV
8Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise: thy hand shall be in the neck of thine enemies; thy father’s children shall bow down before thee. 9Judah is a lion’s whelp: from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up? 10The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be. 11Binding his foal unto the vine, and his ass’s colt unto th 12His eyes shall be red with wine, and his teeth white with milk.
It is easy to detect that much of this blessing speaks of Jesus and the hopeful future He would bring for all men. At the time that Jacob spoke these words, the Lion of the tribe of Judah was only a prophetic seed of the person to come, and Judah, Jacob’s son, likely bore characteristics that were indicative of the King who would come from Him. This is why verse 9 aptly calls Judah “a lion’s whelp” which is a lion’s cub. Although Judah’s correlating season is the easiest to presume, the revelation contained in the relationships between he and his brothers, Reuben, Simeon and Levi unveil the untouchable wisdom, grace and mercy of God in ways that are positively overwhelming.
Sin had vigorously progressed from the fall of Adam to the time of the Levitical priests, but it wasn’t too far gone for the triumphant arrival Jesus, who came through Judah’s lineage. In the short span of Jesus life, He would uniquely and individually address each of the three seasons which came before Him, validating the informative revelation contained within Israel’s story and reinforcing the irrefutable divinity of the Bible’s origins.
The Birth of Judah
Just as Jacob’s sons has continued to reflect the seasons of men, Leah’s emotional condition has also consistently been reflective of mankind’s unrecognized, spiritual disposition. Her mood and temperament have also been exhibited in the instabilities of her sons. As long as Leah continued to feel unloved, she produced children which suffered from her fears and anxieties, and this parallels the effects of sin upon all men. In each of her children, she hoped that her loneliness would leave, prophetically personifying the desperation of mankind as a whole. Just before giving birth to Judah, the lonely tone which she previously carried noticeably changed, and the words she expressed conveyed a new and encouraging expectation.
35And she conceived again, and bare a son: and she said, Now will I praise the LORD: therefore she called his name Judah; and left bearing.
Leah’s temperament had obviously improved, but why? While no apparent, natural indication is evident, there is a significant and discernible, spiritual reason. Leah’s soul was rejoicing at the arrival of Jesus who would provide an effectual resolution to the disunion caused by sin. As Jacob stated in his blessing, Judah would be one worthy of praise from all of His brethren before him as well as those after, and all of them would bow before him. The only thing that could cure Leah’s ailing heart—mankind’s separation from God—would come through Judah in the form of the Son of God
Bringing Simeon Close
With the arrival of Jesus, the season which Judah represented had come to correct the damage done by the seasons before it. As we begin to look at the life of Christ, there are powerful details which indicate how extraordinarily specific He was in His mission. As Jesus began His work during the season of Judah, Simeon’s issues were the first to be addressed. The book of John begins with the moments the first disciples were chosen. After hearing that the Messiah was passing through, Andrew ran to find his brother, and he brought him to Jesus.
John 1:41-42 ESV
41He [Andrew] first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). 42He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peterl).
Here in this passage, Simon meets Jesus for the first time, but this was not the first time that Jesus had encountered Simon. In masterful prophetic fashion, Jesus not only calls Simon by name but changes it afterwards. Imagine what Simon must have thought as he experienced someone he’d never met address him by his name and change it before he uttered a word. No, he wasn’t familiar with Jesus, but the One who had existed since the beginning of time was very familiar with him. Simon hardly knew that this name exchange was only a preview of the transformation he would soon experience.
The entire canon of scripture is written in about three languages. The Old Covenant is Hebrew and Aramaic, while the New Covenant is written in Greek. The name, Simon, is the Hellenized (Greek) version of the Hebrew name, Simeon. Therefore, Simon, the disciple, actually possessed the same name as Jacob’s second son, Simeon, who came long before him. This was a not coincidence; it was divinely arranged.
Simeon and Simon shared more than a name. Remarkably, both of them also shared the very same headstrong and stubborn confidence in self. Only now Jesus was dealing with Simon rather than Jacob. This time around, instead of rejecting or condemning him, Jesus favored him, and Simon who had inherited the uncontrollable nature of sin, was given a new name whose meaning is the very antithesis of that instability. He was given the name, Peter, which means “rock”. Calling someone beyond their birth name is not something you do unless you are extremely close to them, and that was exactly the way Jesus regarded Simon.
There are a few Simons mentioned in the New Testament, and many of them also carried great purpose, such as the Simon who helped Jesus carry His cross. It’s amazing that of all the people witnessing the crucifixion, it is another man named Simon who is made to walk closely with Jesus on the road to calvary.
Mark 15:21 KJV
And they compel one Simon a Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear his cross.
Then, there was another Simeon, in Luke 2:25-35, who held faithfully to a word of promise that he would not see death until the arrival of Jesus. This particular Simeon blessed the baby Jesus at the Temple according to Jewish Law and declared the prophetic purpose of the Messiah as an infant. These men, named Simon or Simeon, were a part of divine strategy, and their inherent strength had been chosen to closely assist Jesus in completing His mission.
This is how Jesus knew Simon before he ever spoke, and understanding this uncovers one of the most incredible demonstrations of Christ’s eternal omniscience and omnipotence. By renaming Simon, Jesus made it clear that he recognized Simon’s aggressive attributes and their connection to Simeon, Jacob’s son, and now intended to convert them into work for divine destiny. Satan’s most aggressive efforts to infect man with his sin nature were now being leveraged to benefit God’s plan, illustrating that all things truly work together for good no matter how negative they appear. During His work to transform Simon into Peter, Jesus used a parable to illustrate how and why this tactic would become so effective, and He even shared it with Peter.
Luke 7:40-43, 47
40Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said. 41“Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.” “You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.
47Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”
In this parable, specifically addressed to Simon Peter, Jesus displayed His unsurpassable level of wisdom. He taught that those who are forgiven of the greatest sin also express the greatest appreciation, and those saved from the most desperate situations demonstrate the most devotion. This is also true of modern ministry. The most effective ministers are often produced from seemingly hopeless situations. They are walking testimonies of the sovereignty of the Lord and passionate preachers of the One who rescued them from despair. Viewing the positive changes produced in a lost cause is a cause to seek the One who caused it, meaning the multitudes who would witness the transformation of the one known as Simon would be persuaded to follow the One who called Him Peter.
Throughout scripture Simon was notably the most aggressive and outspoken of all the other disciples. He was a deliberate selection and appropriate embodiment of the old covenant season of Simeon, Jacob’s son. Whenever the other disciples were afraid to ask questions, Simon Peter spoke up. When the other followers weren’t confident enough answer Jesus, Simon Peter gave his opinion. When the time came to defend a brother, even Jesus, Simon Peter was the one who guarded His honor. It is somewhat comical the way he continuously and expectedly displayed the confidence he clearly possessed in himself.
Matthew 15:14-16 ESV
14Let them alone; they are blind guides.c And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” 15But Peter said to him, “Explain the parable to us.” 16And he said, “Are you also still without understanding?
Matthew 18:21-22 ESV
21Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” 22Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
Matthew 19:27 ESV
27Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?”
20In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. 21Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!”
45“Who touched me?” Jesus asked. When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.” 46But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”
41Peter asked, “Lord, are you telling this parable to us, or to everyone?”
6He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” 7Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” 8“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” 9“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
10Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) 11Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”
It is clear that Peter wasn’t the least bit afraid to act on his convictions. The problem was that his convictions weren’t always correct, but Jesus saw the potential of these qualities in Peter. Where others saw a stubborn individual, Jesus saw a gifted leader. He knew that winning the heart of Simon would mean persuading the opposition’s strongest player to work for Him. Jesus was wisely aware that capturing the heart of Simon meant swaying an aggressive personality of sin into the strongest proponent against it, and the conversion of Simon Peter would mean the conversion of many more. Perhaps most significantly, Jesus was consciously reversing Jacob’s curse of his son Simeon, thereby demonstrating that the worst qualities of humanity could be overcome through Him. So the Lion of the tribe of Judah, praised by the spirit of Leah, began winning the respect of His brethren. Throughout the workings and miracles of Jesus, God continued to showcase His supreme power to triumph over the curse of sin. In undeniably divine fashion, Jesus would captivate the loyalty and trust of the one He had pulled so close by manifesting His saving grace through him.
The Conversion of Simon to Peter
*Matthew 14:22-33 KJV
22And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away. 23And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone. 24But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary. 25And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. 26And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. 27But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.
28And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. 29And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. 30But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. 31And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? 32And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased. 33Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.*
The infamous miracle of Peter walking on the water is loaded with meaning and symbolism, and the revelation contained within it is worthy of extensive elaboration. As it begins, the disciples’ ship is being tossed around by winds in the midst of the sea. Everything here is significant from the characters and their actions to the setting. The torrent waves are a visual symbol of the law, and the boat at their mercy is a depiction of the way all flesh had fallen under control of the law. Finally the winds that manipulated the waters represent unseen spiritual forces which deceive those who are subject to the law. Consider the following scripture.
12Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle? 13Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: 14But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
Scripture frequently uses water as a symbol for the word or law. The water which sprang from the struck rock of Moses in the wilderness, the water which flowed from the mouth of Satan in Revelation 12, and the water which covered the entire earth during the flood were all similitudes of the law and its authority over men guilty of sin. To the woman at the well, Jesus establishes Himself as the greater, living water which gives everlasting life. So, by walking on water, Jesus visually demonstrates that exact same truth. As he quiets the winds causing the waves to surge, He symbolically portrays His power to conquer the “unseen” spiritual forces that have been manipulating His Word for hundreds of years. Then, as Peter takes his faithful steps onto the raging waves of the sea, Jesus displays his intentions to convert the confidence of Simon Peter into the faithfulness needed to launch His church. This entire event is adequately summed up in Ephesians.
13Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men,
In this miraculous demonstration of Jesus walking on water, He emphatically proclaimed to all beings of physical and spiritual realms that He had come in greater power than the written law. He established His omnipotence over all the earth and served notice to the spiritual kingdom of darkness.
Jesus came to save His own, but He couldn’t afford to have His work conclude with His death; Peter was the perfect one for continuing that mission. Jesus would go on to prove His power in Peter on numerous occasions, and nearly every time Jesus performed significant works, Simon Peter was with Him. From the mount of transfiguration to the raising of the dead, Peter was kept in close proximity to Jesus, ensuring the transformation and captivation of his heart and strength.
67“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. 68Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
36Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” 37Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 38Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!
No one had been able to get to the heart of Simeon’s nature. No one had proven themselves to be wise enough or strong enough to break the stubbornness of the sin nature, but Jesus continued to demonstrate that all power and authority belonged to Him. The most significant exhibition of Jesus power to harness Simon Peter’s aggressiveness was actually revealed in Peter’s denial of Jesus. In his usual showing of arrogance, Peter adamantly rejected the notion that he could ever deny Jesus, but Jesus assured him that he would and more than once. As determined, Peter denied Jesus a third time before the cock crowed, creating the perfect opportunity for Jesus to deliver the knockout blow to sin’s dominance of the flesh.
Matthew 26:69-75 KJV
69Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee. 70But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest. 71And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth. 72And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man. 73And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee. 74Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. 75And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.
Let’s consider what just happened. In the most puzzling sequence of events, the strongest and most machismo of the twelve disciples was accused of knowing Jesus by a couple of young girls, yet he ran away crying. Here, the same Simon Peter that had recently chopped off the ear of a man coming to fight, ran away weeping from the questions of a couple of young girls. How embarrassing must this have been? Jesus, who endured shame and came to Earth, had allowed Simon Peter to feel such depths of humiliation that he was forced to surrender his self-confidence. This supernatural juxtaposition of Simeon’s weakness with Jesus’ prophetic prowess is a perfect lesson in humanity’s need of a Savior. The shame of Peter’s denial highlights the unreliability of his carnal nature, even in all of its strength. The lesson to be learned from his unavoidable shame is that our greatest abilities cannot be trusted or controlled, and the human attributes in which we misplace our faith will ultimately fail us. Yet, through this perfect storm, Jesus had a perfect resolution.
He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
In a way that only Jesus could, He provoked Peter to declare his love for Him three times, thereby reversing Peter’s three denials and the curse of sin’s shame upon him. But this demonstration was not limited to Simon-Peter alone, it was designed to be and observable indication that all men under the controlling influence of flesh can be be delivered from the bondage of sin and shame.
1Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.
The implications of Jesus frequent interaction with Simon Peter are immensely broader than the three years they spent together. Simon, the disciple, was specifically chosen to represent the shameful human condition. He was selected to stand proxy for the generations of sinners that came before and after him and presented to us all as an example of the transformational power of salvation through Christ. Then, as if that weren’t enough, Jesus uses Peter even further.