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Peter In The Storm

I respect Peter. I also think that Peter is kind of an idiot. I find his ambition admirable. I find his constant misunderstanding disturbing. I’m drawn to his faith and repelled by his lack. Throughout the gospel narratives, Peter is a guy that gets it. He indubitably believes that Jesus is the Messiah. And he demonstrates throughout the gospel narratives that he really has no idea what that means. He’s the guy who represents for me, “what you might naturally think the restored Kingdom of God is like but is not.” It’s very helpful.

I need Peter’s example. I don’t need his example because it has helped me avoid pitfalls of a wrong view of Jesus Messiah, although I’m sure it has. I need to see Peter because I am reminded that I am in good company when I make the same mistakes he did. For the times when I believe Jesus is the Messiah just as much and I pursue just as hard and I fail just as miserably. I need Peter because I’m a mess. I think that’s why I found myself thinking about him one night while listening to the story of the crucifixion.

Peter had a pretty confusing, frustrating, disturbing, fearful, shameful, and painful night when Jesus died. I think Peter’s action-inciting belief actually made it harder for him than for the other disciples. His night began with a nice quiet dinner celebrating the night God saved Israel, but then Jesus ruins everything.

After opening up the night by informing the disciples that one of them will betray him, then talking about his body breaking and blood being poured out, Jesus informs Peter that he will deny Jesus three times before the night is over. And Peter is like, “No.” The very idea that he could ever deny Jesus feels absurd to Peter. Peter believes in this man. He believes Jesus is the one to set Israel free. And Peter knows in his heart that he would fight and die for this Messiah Jesus. How could he deny Jesus? And three times before morning? It feels impossible to Peter. Based on what Peter knows about himself and what he believes about Jesus, Peter would never deny Jesus. How could his Lord and friend think such a thing? Peter had to be experiencing some pretty difficult emotions at this point: another disciple is going to betray Jesus, Jesus is talking all crazy again about death and stuff, and Jesus doesn’t trust Peter to even acknowledge that he knows Jesus. Confusing emotional mess. His night is just beginning.

In the garden, Peter fails Jesus three times by falling asleep when Jesus needs people to be praying for him. Judas comes and betrays Jesus. Suck. And then when they tried to take Jesus, Peter whips out his sword and heroically cuts off a man’s ear. His bold move to start the revolution against Rome and through the Messiah restore the Jewish Kingdom was not perceived as such by the Messiah. Peter’s ready to fight and die and bring the kingdom of God for the master he loves, but his Messiah isn’t inspired by Peter’s aggression. Instead, he heals the man whose ear was cut off and scolds Peter for his getting in the way. Painful. Peter acting out of his belief that Jesus was the Messiah ended up being counterproductive to bringing the Messianic Kingdom. Confusing.

Now Peter, not knowing what to do, followed Jesus who was taken by his captors. How terrifying it must have been to watch his friend and Lord, the one who he thought was to conquer Rome, be taken and led to his imprisonment and condemnation. Having followed Jesus despite the dangers, boldly going where none of the other disciples went despite surely being distraught, Peter found himself waiting for the results of the trial. And while he was waiting, people said they saw him with Jesus. And Peter did what he thought he would never do. What he set himself on not doing. But in his mess. In his confusion. In his terror. In his fear. In the pain coming from the love of his master. In his exhaustion. Peter forgot. Peter was less strong. Peter denied Jesus. Over and over again.

I don’t know if I communicated his story very well. But it has been my story. My heart beats with Peter’s. I have been the man who said he would never deny Jesus. I have been the man who believed God and in His plans. I was the one who couldn’t stay up and watch and pray. I have been the man who knew what God wanted and then went about trying to get what God wanted in my way of force and sword and aggression and violence. And that was the wrong. That wasn’t the way. How confused I was! And hurt by the words of my master. And I lived in pain and confusion following Jesus at a distance, terrified by what was happening. All the emotions and exhaustion left me in a place where I didn’t know what was going on and I was terrified of what could happen to me. And I denied Jesus in ways I never thought I would. Over and over again.

But, like so many good stories, that’s not the end. Peter and I had another experience with Jesus at a later date. In a time where the emotions weren’t quite so overwhelming and we were more ourselves, je asked us questions. We told him the truth of what was in our hearts. Jesus affirmed who we were. Jesus restored us to our place in his kingdom. Resurrection.

Categories: Miscellaneous
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