Kingdom Highs and Lows
As a disciple in 1st century Palestine, you ate, slept and followed your Rabbi pretty much where ever he went. Your Rabbi was teaching you through His words and, more importantly, through His actions. As a disciple, you observed how your Rabbi treated a shop keeper, prostitute, tax collector or anyone he came in contact with. That was part of the training.
The Apostle Peter’s Rabbi was no ordinary one, of course. Peter’s Rabbi performed amazing acts. He told pertinent stories about another Kingdom. A Kingdom that was yet to come. As His disciple, you couldn’t help but admire, respect and well, love this particular Rabbi.
Peter’s particular Rabbi would often take him and his fellow disciples aside for fireside chats, as it were. This particular conversation was on a “camping trip” in the hill country known as Caesarea Philippi, north of Jerusalem.
Jesus draws them into a conversation about who exactly people think He is? I imagine this conversation took place as the sun was setting and logs were being thrown on the fire against the oncoming night’s cool.
It’s the conversation that has divided our world ever since.
Jesus looks around the campfire’s flickering glow at the faces of His disciples and asks a simple question: “Who do the people say I am?”
The answers vary, as they do today. A prophet; a scholar; The Baptist; Jesus being Whomever you want Him to be.
Jesus, as was His way, makes it personal: “But who do YOU say I am?”
This is where Peter shows remarkable insight: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” his reply.
Being that kind of objective when you are emotionally attached to another person showed remarkable insight.
Jesus instinctively knows this and replies, “Flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father in heaven.”
Only God can reveal Himself to a person. A disciple’s job is to point the way through devoted lives.
Then Jesus confers upon Peter the Keys to the Kingdom, as it were.
The text doesn’t say, but I’m guessing that this goes to Peter’s head. I know it would mine.
And, just as we are experiencing our God-given highs, along come the lows.
Jesus now calls His disciples back together and explains a most difficult thing: this isn’t going to end like you’d hoped it would.
“Here’s the plan,” to paraphrase Jesus. “I’m going to go before the religious leaders and suffer many things at their hands. Ultimately, you will watch me be lifted up, crucified and die. But I will rise again on the third day.”
This is not hyperbole. This is not some script for a Hollywood movie. When Jesus said this, the disciples could picture it all too clearly in their imaginations. Crucifixions weren’t THAT common place, but everyone knew about them and had probably witnesses one or two.
The “plan” cuts Peter to his core. I’m sure he was not alone but given Peter’s new found authority as head of the church, well, time to take Jesus aside and say exactly what everyone is thinking:
“Plan sucks. Don’t even consider it anymore.” To paraphrase Peter.
Of course, one is forgetting the “rise again” phrase. Being raised from the dead was much more difficult to imagine. It is to this day.
Crucifixion, well, they didn’t need much of an imagination for that.
I often put myself in Peter’s position. I slightly shake my head at the plan. “Wow, really?! Why does the Son of Man need to die such a cruel, horrible death?”
I’m also thinking that Peter believes he will be watching this happen. Another good reason to think the plan sucks.
At least I didn’t need to be there.
The way the story ends, Peter is rebuked for his inability to see that God’s ways are not our ways; God’s plans are massively different than ours (Isaiah 55:8).
This is where the concept of “faith” is so important. I accept God at His word, no matter how much I may think that His ways don’t exactly line up with mine or anyone else’s.
I accept them by faith; and I slowly die to self and believe His will be done.
It must have broken Peter’s heart and soul to have gone through such an ordeal; most of us are not willing to suffer for our faith.
But perhaps that is Jesus’ point in rebuking Peter. What good is untested faith for Kingdom Living? Unless a faith has been “tested by fire,” as was Jesus’, then one will simply put their faith back in the idols of science, religion, good works, women, the list goes on and on.
I will never be asked to die the death Jesus died. But I will surely be asked to sacrifice my idols upon the altar of God. Pain is surely involved, but that is what it means to take up my cross.
This is the example Jesus gives us. If God loves us, separating us from our idols is the ultimate goal.
And this time, it is important to pay the proper attention to the all important phrase: "rise again on the third day."