My Sunday morning Bible study is taking a fresh look at Peter and how his life often mirrors our own at various times in life. Many Christians are sports nuts, real fanatics when it comes to their favorite team. There is excitement, confidence, discussions, and even boasting about the greatest team ever. Take this same sports fans and follow him to his local church, and what might we find? Rather than a game face he puts on his hymn face, he’s looking at his watch rather than the game clock. He might be more familiar with the team’s program and statistics than with God’s playbook, the Bible. Peter’s zeal for God put him in a few interesting situations:
Walking on Water (Matthew 14:22-23)
His zeal brought out a bold attempt at the impossible, to walk on the water. Jesus is not with them; He sends them into the boat while he dismisses the crowd (Matthew 14:22) and then he goes to the mountain to pray (Matthew 14:23). The boat is fighting with the waves while the wind was against them (Matthew 14:24). Jesus comes to them walking on the water (Matthew 14:25) and the disciples become afraid (Matthew 14:26). Peter makes an amazing statement, “Lord, if it’s you, command me to come to you on the water” (Matthew 14:28). He does not necessarily ask to walk on the water; he asks that Jesus command him.
Jesus gives one command, “Come” (Matthew 14:29). There is no assurance that everything will be alright, that he would be safe, even that he would be able to walk on the water. Peter knew nothing except his Lord gave him a command and in obedience he steps over the rail and starts walking toward Jesus. From our perspective we see eleven frightened men sitting in the boat, and one guy stepping into the unknown for no other reason than, out on the water is where Jesus is. Jesus is not in the boat, he’s out on the water, so that’s where Peter wants to be. Jesus invites him to come.
After a moment, Peter sees the wind and waves, perhaps realizing where he is, and that water walking is impossible, so he sinks (Matthew 14:30). So, where are we in this story? Imagine what God can do through you if you would only keep your eyes on Jesus. When Jesus calls you to step out of the boat and attempt something great for the kingdom, on what do you typically focus your attention?
Witnessing the Transfiguration (Mark 9:2-8, Matthew 17:1-8)
Only a week after some extended teaching time with his disciples, Jesus takes the inner circle (Peter, James and John) to a high mountain (Mark 9:2). Scholars tell us this was probably Mt. Hermon or Mt. Tabor, but location is not as significant as what happened there, Jesus was transformed before their eyes (Mark 9:2-3). They had a vision of Jesus in all his glory. After the vision came the visitors, Moses and Elijah, appearing and talking with Jesus (Mark 9: 4). Moses represented the Law of God and Elijah represented the prince of prophets. Impulsive Peter then speaks up and interrupts their conversation, something about it’s good for them to be there and three shelters (or tabernacles) should be built (Mark 9:5). Fear also surrounds them, not knowing what to say (Mark 9:6).
Catch this. Matthew 17:5 adds an interesting comment, “While he was still speaking.” God interrupts Peter to tell him that “This is My beloved Son, listen to Him.” Scholars tell us that the word for “beloved” is actually “unique” or “priceless.” Peter had Jesus in a box called, “Great Men of History” and did not see the uniqueness of Jesus. Notice he recommended three tabernacles be built, rather than only one (Matthew 17:4); because only one person deserved to be honored. Stop speaking, stop planning, and just listen to Jesus. After we encounter God, the proper response should be the same as the inner circle, fear (Matthew 17:6). When we finally “get it” and realize the awesomeness of God, we should fear. Max Lucado says, “Fear of the Lord is the deeply sane recognition that we are not God.”
So, Peter was passionate about God, even though he did not have all of his theology in order. How can we develop a similar passion? How can we get out of our comfort zones?