“Blessed are you Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”  Matthew 16:17

“Get behind Me, Satan!  You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men!”  Matthew 16:23

First off, I’ll admit that I am a person who often reads the bible in small pieces.  Sometimes it may be a chapter but most often it is only a handful of verses within a chapter that make up a single thought or story and sometimes even a single verse.  While that can be appropriate for contemplating and praying for meaning, it can also cause me to miss the context of how messages fit together in the greater scheme of God’s narrative.  Take the two verses above.

Also first, I have to say that I find myself drawn in sympathy, empathy and admiration to Peter.  Why; let’s look at the two verses above.  In Matthew 16, Jesus starts out preaching against wrong teaching.  Some of the very basics of the wrong teaching is that people don’t understand who Jesus is.  So Jesus first asked who the people thought He was, with a string of wrong answers in reply.  Then Jesus asked; who do the disciples say that Jesus is?  Peter replies with the great answer:  “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God”, to which Jesus replies with the quote of Peter being blessed.

Just stop and imagine that for a moment and put yourself in Peter’s place.  You are a fisherman with no formal training.  You’ve been around people, learned people who claim that Jesus is a fraud, with others claiming Him to be merely a prophet or perhaps even Elijah.  But you (remember being Peter) step forward and give the answer you truly believe in faith.  Not only does Jesus, the One True Son of God, commend you and tell you you’re right, but goes on to say that you received that from God, Himself and; if that wasn’t good enough, that you will be receiving the keys to the kingdom of heaven!  Now we can’t be sure but one wonders when Jesus turned His back if Peter (and possibly you or I would have) was pointing at himself with both of his thumbs as if to say:  “That’s right you heard it from the Man, I’m the Rock!”

Ah, how fleeting is human fame.  Because the very next verses, the very next thing that is spoken of see’s Peter come crashing down.  The bible does not give us a sense of time between the two happenings.  We can’t say for certain if it was hours, days, or even weeks but it is the very next thing that the Word wants to stress in this gospel.  It is time to start to prepare the disciples for the true mission, the true reason for Jesus the Christ coming to earth; to die as a sacrifice at the hands of His own people and rise again on the third day.  To Peter, this is too much, the Son of God can not die, especially not being killed by the very people He came to save.  So Peter decides he must intervene.  In front of the disciples, Peter pulls Jesus aside and the gospel tells us, started to rebuke Jesus.

Again, please stop and let this sink in.  You’ve very recently declared that Jesus was the Christ, the Only True Son of God.  Now, you are going to pull the Son of God aside and chastise Him, tell Him that He is wrong!  No wonder the reply was as swift as it was devastating.  Peter had gone from being the Rock, to being Satan!  How did that happen?

Here is the lesson of Peter and it doesn’t just happen once.  Peter is blessed by God with the knowledge of Jesus as the Christ.  Then the world and the message of the world seeps in and Peter feels that he knows enough to rebuke Christ.  Christ’s Heavenly Father needs Him to die on the cross.  Peter’s human perspective needs Him to live and be an earthly conquerer and king.  Peter is the only disciple to walk on water.  He challenges Jesus to beckon him to walk on water and Jesus does just that.  Peter steps out and actually walks on water but then world seeps in.  The world, in the guise of winds and waves, causes Peter to fear, take his eyes of Jesus and he starts to sink.  Peter, is the only disciple to come to Jesus’ defense in the garden, standing up to the crowd and striking the slave of the high priest.  Jesus admonishes Peter and ends up arrested and the world crashes in.  The world tries to tie Peter just to knowing Christ let alone fighting for Him, and Peter denies it three times.

Ah Peter, Peter, Peter.  Yet truth in fact how many times could I look in the mirror and call myself or at least see myself as Peter?  How many times have I been blessed by God and instead of being truly humbled, felt that I obtained some sense of greater insight or wisdom.  Then, when I heard some preaching or read something in the gospel that I found different than my understanding, started to rebuke the gospel or disavow the preaching; letting Satan and his perspective seep in?  How many times have I asked for something and in the blessing of God’s granting it, found myself in some new and uncertain place where metaphorical winds and waves are crashing around me and fear tries to drive me away?  How many times have I been tempted to be less than bold in proclaiming my love for and followership of Jesus Christ allowing my silence or timidity to be a rejection?

Dear Sisters and Brothers, we can learn so much from Peter yet to do so we must be very frankly honest with ourselves.  But here is the final point I’d like to make and it comes from the Gospel of John.  With all that Peter does, Jesus Christ loves Peter.  Jesus Christ doesn’t judge Peter, He restores Peter.  Jesus Christ knows, not only the failures of Peter, but knows that, filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter will be the rock on which Christ’s church will be built.  Peter is not perfect but he is redeemed.  Likewise, Christ knows the plans He has for you and I and, like Peter did, when we humble ourselves and proclaim our love for Christ, He will redeem and restore us in Love, Mercy and Compassion as only Jesus Christ can do.

We must fight against the duality that the world will try to have us adopt.  Yet we can have faith, take strength and find peace, as Peter did, in the redeeming and restorative love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we humbly thank you for the revelatory nature of Your Word.  We equally thank you for the Holy Spirit who You sent to reside in us, to explain to us Your Word and the message of Your Love it has for us.  Forgive us when we allow the message and perspective of the world, of Satan to encroach on us and lessen the impact that Your Word can have in and through us.  As Your Son Jesus Christ did for Peter, restore us when we have fallen allowing us to return to You, Your Love and be feeders of Your sheep.  We pray this in the Name of the One True and Only Begotten Son who came to earth to be our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen

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