Sunday, while my Mom is still recuperating from her recent surgery, I had the honor of teaching the Sunday school class she normally attends. It’s always a joy to teach the Bible but teaching the class at Mom’s home church is a special time.
For Sunday’s lesson, we examined Matthew 16:13-23, a rich section of Scripture that you could chew on for quite a long while before having plumbed every nook and cranny thoroughly. For our class discussion, I zeroed in on a character study of Peter, who is perhaps my favorite of the original disciples. That’s due in some part because I relate to his eagerness and impulsiveness. He’s loyal and genuinely wants to do the right thing. He’s the first one to jump out of the boat and run to Jesus. He’s also the one who takes his eyes off the Lord and soon finds himself underwater. He’s faithful yet flawed. In short, Peter is human, like the rest of us.
Peter Confesses Jesus as the Christ
13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of hellshall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.
So, in this opening passage, Peter is a hero. Jesus asks the 64,000-dollar question and Peter responds with the absolute answer. Jesus lauds His disciple and Peter must be feeling good about himself at this point. I know I would be.
And I think this is the way it is for us in our walk with God. We are eager to show the Lord that we’re ready. We’ll go anywhere and do anything. “Pick me, pick me!”
Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection
21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindranceto me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
Whoa! What just happened? Peter went from HERO to ZERO in three short verses. He didn’t know what train hit him. And as often the case with us, Peter meant well. He didn’t want any harm to come to his friend, Jesus. He was not about to let anything bad happen to the Lord. Not on his watch. Yet, as well meaning as Peter might have been, he was misguided. He was wrong. He didn’t fully understand why Jesus was here and what Jesus had to do. Peter did not fully grasp the will of God.
Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever done something with the best of intentions, hoping to please God, only to discover it’s not what God wanted or had planned?
Yes. Me, too.
But don’t be disheartened. This is where the rubber meets the road. It’s the place where spiritual growth occurs. It’s the point where our understanding and knowledge of God evolves. Faith is a journey, not a destination. We spend a lifetime uncovering all the mysteries of God—all the things we do not know. Faith is a continual process, fueled by God’s extravagant grace and generous mercy. Some days, we’re fortunate to be the hero. Other days, we will feel like we’re a big zero. The truth exists somewhere in the middle.
What do we do?
We stay humble when we feel successful. We press on, dust ourselves off, moving forward when we stumble. Remember, God is for you, not against you. The truth is that being faithful takes commitment. It’s not for the faint hearted. Thankfully, God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but one of boldness. So be bold. Shine a light where there is darkness. Where there is hate, may you sow love.
Know that YOU are loved!
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I believe that to experience life the way God intended, you and I must receive God’s gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. Through Jesus Christ, God has made this gift available to all who ask.
“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Will you personally receive the gift of eternal life so that you can experience the total forgiveness from your sins that come through believing in the atoning death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ?
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast.”