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“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 Read the rest of this entry »

“….the Holy Spirit fell upon those who heard the word……And those who were of  the circumcision…..were astonished…..because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.”  Acts 10:45

“Then Peter answered: ‘Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”  Act 10:47

I am saved!  I am forgiven!  I’m going to glory!  I don’t dance!  I do dance, to the Lord!  I don’t do this or that!  I pray!  I pray to the Saints! I don’t pray to the Saints! I…….I………I’M SPECIAL!!!!!  Aren’t I?

Peter had every reason to feel special.  And he and those who traveled with him, had a behavior about what was special and what was not.  Peter was a Jew; not only by birth but by the covenant of circumcision.  Jesus was a Jew.  And while the Risen Jesus Christ had told them to go and preach to all the world; Jesus himself, during his time on earth had stayed, taught and preached mainly to the Jewish people.

For the most part, the early church in Jerusalem was made up primarily of Jews.  When the church was being persecuted and many disciples were dispersed, they went to Jewish Synagogues in the outlying towns.  That’s where Saul (later to become Paul) was going to was the Jewish Synagogue in Damascus to arrest the disciples who were spreading the Gospel there.

Special.  Special people with special food.  Peter’s awakening to Our Heavenly Father’s grander plan starts with a vision that he has.  God shows Peter a great sheet filled with unclean animals which devout Jews were not to eat.  Peter was hungry and the voice of God came to Peter and instructed him to kill and eat from the sheet.  Peter at first refuses saying he will not eat anything unclean.  Yet God responds telling Peter that whatever God has cleansed is no longer unclean.  Peter would soon learn that God was talking about more than just food.

For there was a man named Cornelius, a Roman Centurion.  Normally a man like that would have been the sworn enemy, a vile and disgusting, low life less than human person to a Jew.  To even meet with that person or go into his house would make a Jew unclean.  Except Cornelius was different.  Unbeknownst to Cornelius, by the Grace of God, through the Holy Spirit, Cornelius had heard about God, prayed to God, gave alms to God.  I say unbeknownst to Cornelius because the salvation through Jesus Christ had not been preached to him.  So God told Cornelius to send for Peter and Peter would instruct him on what to do.

So here we go; Peter going to meet with a gentile; a Roman Centurion at that.  This can’t go well.  But God had told Peter before hand to go to Cornelius.  And what Peter found in Cornelius was a devout and humble man.  A man who, along with his entire household, revered and feared God.  So Peter gladly preached the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; the Son of God, all mankind’s Savior.  When Peter completed his preaching an amazing thing happened.  The Holy Spirit came upon Cornelius and his family and they began speaking in tongues.  This greatly perplexed the Jews who had traveled with Peter because they thought the Holy Spirit would only come to those who were of the first covenant, circumcision.  So both Peter and those with him saw the Power of God to save all who believed on Him and were born again, baptized in the Spirit and professing Jesus Christ as God’s Son.

We live in a world today where people strive to differentiate themselves in someway to show that they are special.  Maybe it is by a degree that they have, an obstacle they have overcome, a position or title they’ve obtained, an amount of wealth they have acquired and on and on; to be special is to be worthy.  It is one thing to say you are special but truly you should have some way; show some deed, some measure of why you have earned the distinction of special.

According to a 2012 article in the Washington Times, 84% of the world says they follow some religion but only 1/3 say they are Christian.  So right there we might start to think there is something special or unique about us.  Yet the world tells me, if I’m going to claim that I’m special, I must show that I’ve done something to earn that title.  And should I buy into that theory, then I can be justifiably proud of claiming to be a disciple of Christ.  And I can look down upon all the others who are not as special.

But God knows different.  By His mysterious and all encompassing Grace, while I was yet a sinner, God came to me.  Completely destroyed in my sin, Jesus Christ lifted me up and said: I died for you that you may live in fellowship with Me in My Father’s Kingdom.  The gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out upon me that He might dwell in me so that I might gain a level of understanding.

Special? You bet.  But not of my doing, not of your achievement.  So let us live out our special nature, in humility, in joyous praise to Him, in total love to Him and to all of His creation.  Not calling any person common or unclean.  Knowing that God’s Special Nature can and will come to those whom He chooses.  That we are chosen, out of His Divine Mercy, is something very special indeed!

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, we humbly proclaim that we are not worthy of the Gift of Salvation that you have bestowed upon us.  We praise Your Most Holy Name for the sacrifice of Your Son Jesus Christ.  Forgive us when we try to lift ourselves up as worthy of this gift and perhaps look down upon others who have not received it.  Help us to see all of your human creation as someone to love that they might see through that love, the Love you have for them.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

“Simon, Simon!…Satan has asked for you…..But I have prayed for you, that your faith shall not fail and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brothers.”    Luke 22:31-32

Can there be anyone one worse than a betrayer?  Don’t we call those people traitors and think of them as the worse kind of villans?  Think of the names down through history, Brutus, Benedict Arnold, Judas.  Isn’t it interesting that Peter’s name is not one of those whom we name?  Isn’t betrayal even that more heinous when it comes from your very closest friend, one in whom you have put so much trust?

Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter:  “the Rock”.  Peter had been the first one to openly and definitively declare among the disciples that Jesus was the Son of God.  Peter had been one of Jesus’ three disciples in his inner circle; James, John and Peter.  There seemingly would have been no one on earth closer to Jesus than Peter.  And we all know the story.  Jesus has been taken by the mob to the residence of the high priest.  They take Him into the high priest’s house but Peter does not follow.  Instead he stays outside in a courtyard warming himself by the fire.  Then it happens; this man, the closest friend, this man who had seen the power of Jesus first hand as he, himself walked on water at Jesus invitation.  This man who had pledged to die to defend and protect Jesus.  This man is approached and pointed out as being a follower of Jesus.  Once, then a second time and finally a third time, with one gospel saying that he became mad and started to curse, Peter vehemently denies that he knows Jesus.  A roster crows, Peter realizes what he has done, Luke even says Jesus turns and looks at Peter and Peter leaves, totally dejected, totally despondent, weeping bitterly.

Here’s the thing.  Jesus wasn’t shocked by this.  Jesus knew that it was going to happen.  AND, Jesus knew that Peter would return, in faith to Jesus, thus Jesus forgave him.  Jesus forgave Him ahead of time.  The difference between Peter and Judas?  It seems to me it was the fact that Judas never returned to Jesus in faith.  Yes he felt remorse, but it was remorse for being a part of the condemnation of an innocent man.  Peter knew he had betrayed the Son of God.  Jesus knew that Judas would never return to him in faith.  Jesus knew that Peter would return.  Jesus also knew where Peter’s downfall was going to come from; Satan.  Jesus could have told the other disciples to never trust Peter again.  Jesus could have given Peter a lengthy set of tasks to accomplish to prove his worthiness to be trusted again.  Jesus didn’t.  Jesus simply asks him to be Peter; the Rock; and to use his strength as the Rock to strengthen his brothers.

Okay, fine for roughly two thousand years ago and yeah for Peter!  But what does that have to do with now?  Perfection, Jesus Christ was and is and we are not.  Jesus knows.  Jesus knows ahead of time that we are going to fail.  He knows the power of Satan to deceive and tempt and that we are going to willfully choose the wrong path.  Peter was nor forced to deny Jesus, he did that of his own free will.  The same way today, He knows we are going to sin.  And, this is crucial to understand, Jesus knows that we will return and thus He has already forgiven us.  He does not half way welcome us back:  “Now I’ve got my eyes on you!”.  He does not give us arduous tests to complete to get back in His good graces.  No that is what the world requires.  He tells us ahead of time, “You are completely forgiven, come back.”

Think about this in comparison of how the world (Satan) would handle this.  If you mess up, make a mistake, somehow come up short of perfection; you need to be punished.  If you have betrayed, you can probably never do anything to receive complete redemption.  We have a right to judge people and hold them to that standard.  Now the other side of the perfection coin that we use to judge ourselves is quite different.  Satan tells us and we sometimes act upon, perfection is impossible to obtain so don’t bother trying.  Good is good enough.  Then, good is impossible to obtain so not bad is good enough.  Finally, bad is okay because everyone is being bad so why shouldn’t I?  (Don’t believe me?  Try driving the speed limit on the interstate) .

We have an amazing Savior!  He knows perfection because He is perfection.  Yet He knows us.  He asks us to try for perfection because He knows, every time we try, every time we are generous, every time we love unconditionally, every time we decide not to judge, every time we forgive, we get closer.   Jesus Christ knows that we won’t always do what is perfect.  He knows we will sin.  AND Jesus Christ, in perfect love, has forgiven us already.  AND because Our Heavenly Father’s plan was for Jesus Christ to sacrifice His life for ours, Our Heavenly Father has forgiven us as well.  May it always be that in our striving, there is turning, as well as in our falling, there is always returning to Our Heavenly Father, through the Grace and Sacrifice of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Our Most Gracious and Heavenly Father we proclaim that You are perfect.  We further testify that You created all things in perfection.  Yet we humbly confess, Dear Father, that we, Your Creation, have fallen short of perfection.  We acknowledge that we are sinners and are deserving of Your judgement.  Yet, Most Merciful Father, we are so exceedingly thankful that instead of the judgement we deserve, You saw fit to send Your Most Holy Son Jesus Christ to die as a sacrifice in our place that we might be forgiven.  Pour out Your Spirit on us, we pray, that we might strive to live a life worthy of that sacrifice.  That we would not do as the world teaches but do what Jesus Christ taught.  We can not express adequately, Most Gracious Father, our gratitude that when we fall, You are there to pick us back up and welcome us back through the body and blood of Your Most Precious Son.  And although, in this life, we may not perfectly attain it, may it be that we live a life of obedience and praise  to Your Most Holy Name.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

Do not be afraid, from now on you will catch men.  Luke 5:10

He said to him:  Feed my lambs.  John 21:15

Peter, a fisherman by trade.  We don’t know how successful a fisherman he was, but we do know that he thought of himself enough of a fisherman to question Jesus.  In the story in Luke when they first met, Jesus told them to let down their nets, to which Peter replied, that they had been fishing all night and caught nothing.   The implication being, if we’ve been at this a long time with the results that we have why should we listen to you?  But they do and have a miraculous catch of fish.

Redemption.  Jesus then calls Simon (whom he, at that point had not surnamed Peter “the Rock) to come to be a ‘fisher of men” (used in other gospels).  And Peter follows.  I think that it is interesting in the account of Luke, that Simon’s first response to the extremely large catch of fish is to know that he did not have anything to do with it.  Simon is confronted with the power of Jesus Christ, which Simon can see as a righteous power and his initial response is to ask Jesus to depart for he says, “I am a sinful man, Oh, Lord”.  Yet Jesus knows that Simon is a sinner and redeems him; calls him to join Jesus.

Of course, one might think that once redeemed, the journey becomes easy.  Well, maybe not.  Let’s see; Jesus names Simon, Peter (good thing).  Jesus calls Peter, Satan (not so good thing).  Peter asks Jesus and Jesus calls Peter to walk on water; which he does (good thing).  Peter almost drowns and Jesus asks him why his faith is so little. (Not so good thing).  Jesus tells Peter that Peter is going to be the rock, the foundation on which he is going to build the church (great thing).  Jesus tells Peter that Peter will deny knowing Jesus three times (terrible thing).  So we can see, that even once redeemed, Peter goes through trials in his faith walk with Jesus.

And as we might expect; Peter is mortified at his last failing of Jesus.  When he denies knowing Jesus, not once, not twice, but three times; we are told that he left and wept bitterly.  I wonder if his mind harkened back to their initial meeting and he found himself saying:  “See I told you, you should have left, that I was a sinful man!”

Jesus, could have left Peter there; in the bitterness of his failure.  Yet what does Jesus do with and for Peter?  He restores him.  In a sense, Jesus tells Peter, it is okay, I still have need of you and still want to work with you; as He tells Peter; “Feed my lambs.”  For they are Jesus’ lambs and they all knew how precious were Jesus’ lambs to him and Jesus was entrusting the care and feeding of the lambs to Peter.  And Peter did not disappoint.

So what are we to take from this?  First the enemy will try to keep us from Jesus Christ at all costs.  He will try to convince us that we are not good enough to come to Christ so don’t even try.  Jesus Christ tells us, do not be afraid, I know you, I love you and take you just as you are and I will redeem you.  The enemy will say, maybe you have confessed Jesus Christ the son of God but look, look at the sin you’re committing, you must leave the presence of Jesus Christ as you are no good.  What does Jesus Christ say?  I not only know of your sin but I did what you can not.  I took your sin upon myself so that I can restore you, if you will believe on me and repent.

Dear Heavenly Father, may those who do not know you, hear the call of redemption offered by Your Precious Son, Our Savior Jesus Christ.  May those of us who have declared Jesus Christ as ou personal savior, call upon Jesus Christ to restore our relationship when we have stumbled.  That in the both the redemption and restoration, brought through the death and resurrection of Your Only Son our Lord, Jesus Christ.  That Your Most Holy Name will always be praised Above All others.

Amen

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OUJ-kqpCppM

 

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