I like Peter. I like his loyalty, his enthusiasm, his work ethic. And, I can identify with his confusion, frustration, and grief when he failed to get it right. Jesus liked Peter, too. In fact I would hazard to guess that it was Peter and not John who was “the disciple whom Jesus loved”, if He indeed had a favorite. (I know, John’s point in referring to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” was to say that Jesus loves us all more than we can imagine or comprehend and he, John, felt that love profoundly). Still, Peter had a teachable spirit even if he was not always a quick study and Jesus liked that. In fact, because of Peter’s teachable spirit Jesus is able to teach us all a thing or two. By continually turning the tables on Peter and pushing his comfort zone Jesus is able to encourage us to see a new way, to think of and function in the world from a His Kingdom perspective, which is not to be misconstrued with a humanistic global world view.
Let me explain. A kingdom has a king. And, this Kingdom’s king is the all knowing, all loving creator, God. A humanistic global world view might be able to drum up some compassion. But, when the sacrifices become personal and the dividends quit coming in our man made compassion often takes a sabbatical.
In Matthew 17:24-27 Peter is asked if “his master” pays the temple tax. Peter says that he does but then when Peter is alone with Jesus, Jesus asks Peter if they really need to pay the tax. After a little more discussion Jesus finally sends Peter off on a fishing expedition, so they do not “offend” the authorities.
I can almost hear what Peter must be telling himself. What is going on here? Why can’t I just find Judas and get the money from the money pouch? How in the world does He know that some fish out in that lake with a coin in its mouth is going to bite my bait? How in deed? By this point in time Peter has been with Jesus over three years–long enough to know that things were not always as they seemed. He knew Jesus heard from God. But why bother with such an elaborate means of getting the coin? What is Jesus really showing Peter? Is He trying to shock Peter?
Perhaps, but Peter already knew who Jesus was. He calls Jesus “the Christ, the son of the living God” in Matthew 16:15-17. And, by verse 21 Jesus had begun to predict His death. He accused Peter of being Satan when Peter argued with Him about what was going to happen to Him in verse 22. And, Peter, along with James and John, witnessed the transfiguration in 17:1-9. Life with Jesus was getting a little strange and very intense. Peter might not have understood everything Jesus was doing but he was beyond being shocked by it.
So, if Jesus is not trying to shock Peter, is He just funning with him? No. Once again Jesus is counseling Peter, as well as the rest of us, to adopt a different world view. Trust Me, Peter. “Put out into deep water and let down the nets for a catch.” (Luke 5:4-11). Trust Me Peter. Walk on water (Matthew 14:27-31). Trust Me Peter. “Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But, I have prayed for you” (Luke 22:31-32). Trust Me Peter. The provision, the protection, the means, the hope are in me. Trust Me Peter. “I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 16:19a). Trust Me Peter. “Fed my sheep” (John 21:15-17).
Turn for a moment to the widow’s mite. “She,” Jesus told His disciples, “out of her poverty, put in everything.” Everything! All she had to live on. The best she could come up with. This magnanimous gesture, perhaps an act of desperation or perhaps made with great confidence, summarizes the whole of Christ’s message to a lost generation, “Let go of what you have. It will not, can not, sustain you. “Trust Me. Abide in Me. And I will give you rest.” That is Christ’s message.
We cannot do it. Only God can. And, He will. When we turn our meager attempts to control our lives (to find our lives, to secure our lives) over to Him, He gives us life. Are you poor? Give Him your poverty. Are you rich? Give Him your wealth. Are you confused? Give Him your confusion. The world’s systems fail us. Our human relationships disappoint us. But God so loved the world He gave His only Son. The love of our Sovereign Lover is unconditional. Absolute. Constant. It gives us the hands and feet we need to go to a dying people. It gives us the breath of life with which we can resuscitate a gasping world.