Peter (Part 2)

This dream was finally over.  We were about to wake up.

Only a short time before, we had taken a short retreat to Caesarea Philippi.  It’s such a peaceful place, with the springs of water feeding into the Jordan and the sense of life in the land all around.  We walked past the niches, with Pan and Echo singing songs over the shepherds and flocks, gods and stories leaving their mark on the very earth itself.  It was good to get away for a time and we took some much needed time to rest and recharge.

At one point He asked us, “who do men say that I am?”

The answers came in a staccato beat: Elijah, John the Baptist returned, one of the prophets come back to speak over Israel again.  Looking at me, He asked us directly, “who do you say that I am?”

And suddenly I knew.  It was like a fire in my mind.  Everything we had seen, everything we had heard came together in the thunderclap of realization.  The very word of God burning in me caused my voice to surge like a river.

You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

Jesus was right, it wasn’t cleverness, or the available evidence that led me to believe He was the One.  God Himself spoke it over all of us in an instant.  There was no possibility of doubting the truth of it.  And He named me.  And His words were amazing.

I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell will not stand against it.

He was Messiah and that truth would be the foundation of the new thing He was doing.  The way He said it led me to believe that I, as Peter, would also be foundational to His work.  I’ve never felt more honored or more excited to be a part of what God was doing.

It was why I was so confused when He told us of His coming death and execution.  I pulled Him aside and passionately expressed what we all were feeling; that we would never allow that to happen.  He immediately chastised me, angrily calling me an enemy and stumbling block.

I was crushed by His words, wondering what all of this could mean.

There are so many things I don’t understand.  When we saw Him Transfigured, I knew how it was going to end.

The Son of Man would move aside the veil of the ordinary and people would see Him for Who He really was.  He would stand before the officials and with the weight of His voice he would lower them to their knees.  The high priests would understand that Messiah had come and the entire region would rise up with one voice to support Him.  The nation of Israel would stand to its feet and gather around God walking among us.  The pieces would fall into place quickly after that.

Fully in power, the very awe of His presence would sweep aside the Roman legions come to contain Him, and we would go in force to the capital city.  Satan had tempted Him with the nations earlier on, but then the time wasn’t right.  God works in mysterious ways and His timing is all His own.

We were going to Rome.  It was inevitable.  Nothing else made any sense.

He would stand before the Senate and their money and position and power and speeches would genuflect in utter baseness before the glory of the One True King.  He would be Revealed to everyone as He was revealed to us and it would be undeniable.  They would name Him and appoint Him to rule over all the earth.  A thousand years of history had paved this road to a King and Kingdom that would know no end.  The Pax Romana was the very handiwork of God, preparing the world as a farmer prepares a field.  It was so close, I could feel the earth holding its breath in anticipation.  The seeds of Messiah we had planted were about to bear fruit as the world had never seen.

Jesus would be Caesar.

And He would rule the earth with justice and wisdom and the love we had come to know.  The little play emperors would tremble to speak His name aloud.  The Counsels would proclaim that the Lord, He is God and would offer sacrifices.  The nations would cease to be and we would all become one people under Him.  He would be Divine, not just in title or idea, but in sheer, utter reality and God’s chosen people would be restored to the place He had prepared for us.

The Day of the Lord that the prophets had spoken of was finally here.  Your kingdom come, Your will be done indeed!  We would be by His side to rule and reign with Him.  I would sit at His right hand, surrounded by my brothers and friends.  We would share this new day with Him.  We were born for this moment in time.

As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you.  Follow Him to the house that He enters, and say to the owner of the house, “The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”  He will show you a large upper room, all furnished.  Make preparations there.

We found the room exactly like He said we would.  But something was wrong.  Not with the preparations for Passover, but with Jesus.  He wasn’t acting like the time for triumph had finally come, it was more like He was about to say goodbye.

We tasted bread from His Hands and drank wine from His cup.   Jesus spoke of so many things, most of them we didn’t understand.  He spoke of suffering and death, of kingdoms and God’s perfect plan, even of our place in the coming Kingdom.  He spoke of betrayal and loss and hope and then He spoke to me.

Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat.  But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.

I boldly responded that I would never leave Him.  Prison or death, come what will, I was His and would never turn away.  He didn’t take any pleasure in telling me that I would deny Him before the next morning came.  The weight of His words made me believe Him, but in spite of that, I couldn’t accept it, how could I betray Him?

I resolved to do anything but that.

We only had two swords and I claimed one of them for myself.  When they came to arrest Him I found myself looking at the moment as if it were from the outside.  Time slowed down.  It was time to act.

This must not be allowed to happen.  Drawing the sword I stepped in front of the Teacher and struck.  I could feel my heartbeat in my ears, a pounding rhythm that felt immediately wrong.  I just couldn’t see any other way forward.

Jesus immediately stopped me.  The sharp crack of His voice froze all of us and immediately I was ashamed.  He healed the man I had struck and let Himself be arrested and taken away.  I was confused and my heart was disoriented completely.  Had we misunderstood?  Things couldn’t end this way.  The dream of our movement seemed powerless and there was a sense of dread in the air.

I followed them at a distance.

When they took Him into the house of the high priest and the men started to gather, there was a murmuring crowd that was accumulating after the fires of the courtyard.  I quietly moved in among them and sat; trying to listen for anything I could gather.  I could see Him, but their voices were just far enough away to be indistinct.

A servant girl tilted her head at me and motioned to her friends saying, “This one was with Him.”  I told them she was mistaken, I didn’t know the one they called Jesus.  I held my breath and prepared to run if the others didn’t believe me.  They looked at me without understanding and the moment passed.  People came and went, whispering rumors in the chilled night air.  I shifted in my cloak and made myself as small as possible, watching and listening again.

A little later someone else recognized me as well. He pointed in my direction, “You are also one of them.”  I replied too loudly and too forcefully that I was not.  Again, others turned in interest and I felt a cold wash of fear come over me as people moved away.  They didn’t want to be caught up in any trouble and it was a dark night of fear and accusation.

The proceedings continued and the Sanhedrin was deliberating, arguing back and forth, though I still couldn’t hear what they said.  The people around me were speculating about Him.  Most seemed to think He would be imprisoned for the heresy of His teachings, perhaps He would be beaten or fined.  Some time passed among the whispers before a newcomer entered our circle and with a short cynical laugh said, “Certainly this fellow was with Him, for he is a Galilean.”

I vehemently denied knowing Him again and the sound that pierced my soul followed immediately after.  Breathing heavily I looked past the people and their suspicious stares, meeting the eyes of Jesus Himself.  He was looking right at me.  I’ll never forget the sadness written in the lines of His face, half in shadow, eyes dark and hurting.  He turned back to the high priest and I ran.

Pushing past the people gathered I ran until I couldn’t run anymore, breathing, shaking and in agony.  Seeking a place to hide, I sank into a shadowed corner.  It wasn’t supposed to end like this.  A rapid flash of multiple scenes of memory surged through my mind, made poignant and vivid in my distress.

The nets that were suddenly, inexplicably full.  The look on Andrew’s face, which communicated hope beyond measure.  I saw again the blind man weeping at seeing the world for the first time. I felt the crowd gratefully taking fish and bread from my hands and buzzing about the miracle of His prayer and provision.  I was surrounded again by the brightness of His glory as He spoke with Moses and Elijah.

I heard His words that pierced to my heart.  I saw Him take on the Pharisees as they cowed before the weight and truth of His love.  I saw Him with the children.  I walked out to Him on the water.  I heard His words to me earlier that evening and felt my soul tear itself into pieces, sifting like wheat, separating in ways that I couldn’t possibly survive.

In my mind’s eye, I denied Him again.

And again.

And again.

The thing that hurt the most was the cold realization that my words around the fire were true.  The tears that had begun now turned into a wracking, shaking flood that I couldn’t hold back or stop.  My denials of my Lord and my God were true.   All of them were true.

I didn’t know Him at all.

It was the death of a dream.

Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.”  And he went outside and wept bitterly.  (The Account of Luke, 22)

Devotional Thought for the Day

Like Peter, we too will face moments where our faith in the Lord will be exposed to the evil one’s attempts to crush it like wheat. Such moments are not to prove to the Lord that our faith is real – He already knows. Such moments are for us; to bring a revelation about our true relationship with Him.

As Peter “entered” his moment of truth he faltered;  however, what is truly important is he “exited” from it a better man as he went on to do great things for the Kingdom.

Have you ever experienced a sifted moment? If so, has your relationship with the Lord been weakened or strengthened? If you have been weakened, own it like Peter and then lift that weakness up in prayer. Then seek someone who can help you persevere through your pain.

If you know of a leader who has entered their sifting moment how can you reach out to them to help them persevere?

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  (James 1:2-4)

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