Have you ever had one of those days when everything was going along beautifully, and then a crisis suddenly hit? It may have caused you to say, “Why me, God? What did I do to deserve this?”
Maybe you thought God should work a certain way in a situation, yet he had the audacity to bypass your counsel and actually do it his own way.
The Bible poses the question, “For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor?” (Romans 11:34 NKJV).
I have – on many occasions. (I’m speaking sarcastically, of course.) And I’m relieved to know that I’m not alone. I’ve found my soul mate in the Bible’s outspoken, thoroughly honest Simon Peter. Not only are Peter’s great victories recorded in the Scriptures, but his defeats, foibles and shortcomings are there as well.
This doesn’t make me think less of him; it simply gives me hope that God can work in my life as well.
We have to love Peter because he was so utterly human. He said what we probably would have said, had we been in the same situation. He was impulsive, impetuous, hotheaded and at the same time very honest, courageous and intelligent.
When I look at the life of the apostle Paul, I admire him. When I look at the life of the apostle John, I think he was a great man. But when I look at Peter’s life, I realize there is hope for me.
Peter had watched Jesus perform miracles, even healing Peter’s own mother-in-law of a fever. Peter had the incredibly wonderful faith-building experience of personally walking on the water with Jesus. Each day, Peter’s faith grew, and his understanding grew. And then, at Caesarea Philippi, he was brought face-to-face with this inescapable question from Jesus that every person at one point in his or her life must answer: “Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15).
There had been a lot of confusion as to who Jesus really was. It hadn’t dawned on most people yet that he indeed was the long-awaited Messiah of Israel. And some, like Herod the king, thought he was John the Baptist, back from the dead. Others thought he might be Elijah. Still others thought he might be Jeremiah.
Maybe they saw the features of these individuals in Jesus. Maybe they saw the boldness and character of John the Baptist. Maybe they saw the miracle power of Elijah. Or maybe they saw Jesus’ grief and sorrow over the people just as Jeremiah grieved over the people in his day.
No one had quite figured it out yet.
In the same way today, people are confused as to who Jesus really was and is. But as C.S. Lewis wrote in “Mere Christianity,” “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. … Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. … But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.”
Jesus really only leaves us with two choices: Either accept him and believe that he is indeed God the Son, or reject him. But as Lewis pointed out, any other option has not been left open to us.
So when Jesus asked, “But who do you say that I am?” a flash of inspiration came into the mind and heart of this great fisherman. He gained an insight that was missed by the others, even the always-perceptive John. It was Peter who got it, and it was Peter who had the courage to say it publicly: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (verse 16).
I wonder if some of the disciples thought, Oh man! Peter is off his rocker now!
I don’t know what they thought. Whatever it was, they must have been amazed when Jesus said, “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (verse 17).
Then, after commending Peter for his insightful statement, Jesus talked about his impending death. The Bible tells us, “From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day” (verse 17).
I don’t think Peter heard anything else after that. He must have been thinking, What? Someone is going to try to murder you? That cannot happen. He might also have thought he was on a roll after Jesus told him, “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.”
So Peter decided to set Jesus straight. The Bible tells us that “Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things. ‘Heaven forbid, Lord,’ he said. ‘This will never happen to you!'” (verse 22 NLT)
But Jesus said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s” (verse 23).
Why did Jesus say that? Because it was the devil who wanted to stop Jesus from going to the cross. Jesus would not let anything deter him from his course. He knew that he had to go to the cross.
Poor Peter. One moment he was speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and the next moment he was speaking under the inspiration of the devil himself. It’s that continual struggle we all face between right and wrong. And the battle never stops.
May God help us to trust him when he doesn’t do things the way we think he ought to do them, when, like Peter, we say, “Lord, that is a bad idea. What are you doing? What are you thinking?”
I’ll tell you what he is thinking. He is thinking of His eternal purposes. We can only see the short term, what will benefit us in this moment. God is looking at the long term, the big picture. And he knows what he is doing.