Conversations with Peter: Good job and then SMH

Anyone who has ever worked in Youth Ministry has the fist pumping, lights from above, “YES” moment when a kid or kids you’ve been pouring into finally get it.  The realization of who CHRIST is and what HE can do in their lives and when all you can do is look up with tears in your eyes and say “It’s all you GOD”, and then moments/days/weeks later that same kid or kids leave you with either an SMH (smack my head) or pinched-bridge-of-the-nose-head shaking moment when all you want to say to them is shut up, you’ve lost your talking privileges.   This next section is Peter’s moment.   This is why I love learning about Peter because he reflects me perfectly.  Personally, lately I see GOD having a lot of the pinched-bridge-of-the-nose moments where HE’s left utterly perplexed by my actions.   Of course, that’s just me thinking that, I doubt GOD is perplexed by my actions because HE’s GOD and HE knows my heart and head better than me.  What’s truly amazing to me is that the people he poured into here on earth were extremely fallible; people like Peter who often engaged his mouth before his brain, but whose worship and faith were sincere and from the heart.  Let’s look a bit deeper into this section, because, personally, while brief little snippet like devotionals are good to whet the appetite, I think it’s better to serve a full course.

Matthew 16 13-28, Mark 8:27-38, Luke 9:18-27

13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples,Who do people say the Son of Man is?”14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 “But what about you? he asked. “Who do you say I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter,[b] and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades[c] will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be[d] bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be[e] loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

This was Christ’s “fist-pumping-YES-he-saw-the-light-finally moment” with Peter.   He and the disciples are pretty much just hanging out and HE asks them a simple question.   Who do people think I am?   There are multiple answers, because, let’s be honest, the general public wasn’t sure what to make of Jesus at this point.   They don’t know what HE’s trying to accomplish or HIS goals, and for that matter, weren’t really sure what HIS mission was.  All they knew is HE could perform miracles and HIS teachings were inspiring, so HE must be at the very least a prophet.   Now, in my head, the conversation takes place as they’re taking a break in their walk and they’re sitting and talking, so when he asks the question and get’s the answers, (again, in my mind) I believe there’s a little pause and maybe HE plays with a stick in the dirt, and then looks at them and asks the REAL question:  Who do you think I AM?   WIthout hesitation and before anybody else can even blink, let alone answer it’s Peter that pipes up and says “You’re the Messiah”.   Personally, I believe that Christ did what many Youth Pastors/workers do at times like that a big smile that covers up the fact that inside they’re doing their happy dance and fist pumping the HOLY SPIRIT.   Christ goes on to praise Peter and also give him a hint of his future.   That Peter would be one of the rocks, the foundation for a new faith, and I’m betting that at this point Peter is humbled by the praise, but also a little cocky about it.  He was just singled out and praised by his mentor.  How many of us get like that also?  When our mentor praises us publicly, we say thanks, but inside we do our own fist pumping happy dance and if we’re not careful, we let it go to our heads, because evidently, it went to Peters head.

21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

AND, now we come to the bridge-of-the-nose-head-shaking-you-lost-your-privilege-to-speak-moment.   Now that the disciples (including) Peter have finally understood WHO Christ was, it was now time for CHRIST to reveal the why, and so HE starts explaining that HIS death and resurrection is necessary.   The reaction?   Well, Peter, now that Christ had singled him out and praised him, believes it’s his position and place to correct JESUS on HIS vision and HIS mission, so he pulls CHRIST aside and begins to, well, not rebuke, but correct HIM.   The result:   SMACKDOWN!!  In Mark 8, it says that Jesus turned and looked at the disciples first, and then rebuked Peter.   HE had to burst Peter’s bubble and he did it pretty brutally.   HE recognized that this was Satan influencing Peter and HE needed Peter to realize it also.   In effect, this was CHRIST applying the frying pan to Peter’s brain pan.  Peter wasn’t listening, he was still basking off of the praise and thinking his place and position were probably equal with CHRIST, so of course he had to set CHRIST straight.   Does this happen to us?   Oh, most definitely, I know it’s happened to me.  Recently in fact.  We have a tendency to get cocky when GOD allows amazing things to happen in ministry, and if we don’t keep the right GOD perspective, we tend to start dictating or at least try to maneuver the HOLY SPIRIT to things we want.  The result….well, it’s pretty much the same thing:  A rebuke from GOD, and a little public embarrassment because we let our pride get in the way.   Let’s the play the WHAT IF game for a moment though.   WHAT IF Peter had not said anything to CHRIST, would things have been different?   Maybe, who knows.   Maybe Peter would have kept his ego under control and let CHRIST do HIS thing, or maybe PETER would have internalized the praise and just continued with the belief that he was superior to the other disciples.   GOD knew his heart though.   HE also knew Peter better than Peter knew himself, so when Peter shot his mouth off, CHRIST wasn’t surprised and HE used it as a teachable moment, both for Peter, the disciples, and us.  The same with us (me).  Christ knows us (me) better than we (I) know ourselves, do these moments catch HIM by surprise?  Nope.  Does HE use them as teachable moments?  Yes, or at least I hope so.  I hope to learn from these moments, and I am learning from these moments.   There’s more to this story though, it doesn’t just stop with Peter’s smack down.

2Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life[f] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Mani s going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.28 “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

This was JESUS’s mission.   HE was putting it out there to HIS disciples what it was going to cost them to be HIS followers.   In Mark and Luke, there’s additional statement that Matthew doesn’t record, and that’s  “26 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”  (Luke 9:28).  That’s a pretty tough mission statement.   CHRIST is calling us out to lead a life different from what the world offers.   Does that mean HE want’s us to commit mass suicide or live as beggars?  NO.   CHRIST values our lives and our dreams and expects us to value our lives, our dreams, and our hopes as well, but to also follow HIM and allow HIM to lead us to the better things that HE has for us.   Since HE values and cherishes us more than we can imagine, then we need to TRUST HIM and follow HIM and allow HIM to do the things and lead us to the places that HE needs us to be.   That includes the SMH moments in our lives.   It’s part of the journey.  Are they avoidable?  Possibly.  Some of, if not most, of these moments are results of choices and decisions we make that, personally, I think as they’re developing GOD shrugs and says: “Ok, let’s see how that works out for you since you’re being a bit cocky and not listening”, kind of like what happened with Peter.  Peter could have kept his mouth shut and chose to listen instead of trying to correct CHRIST on HIS mission, but he couldn’t stop himself and I have no doubt, that as soon as the words were out he was left with a “holy crap, did I just say that?  Why did I just say that?  What the heck was I thinking”  look on his face.   The rebuke was probably a huge sting and deflating of his ego, which, let’s be honest, GOD does that to us quite a bit.   That’s not the end of Peter’s story though.   Did Christ give up on him?  NO!!  In fact HE keeps him close, and continues to pour into him.  We’re getting to some more moments when CHRIST gives Peter an opportunity to see HIM in ways the others aren’t given the opportunity to see  CHRIST, and still, those SMH moments keep happening.  But that’s for another time.

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