The joke among educators about experts is that they carried a briefcase and flew in from out of town. These were the people who were going to tell us how to make our classroom better. In many cases, they had good ideas. There is a stubborn streak in educators and quite often the outer response is to smile and compliment the expert and his/her ideas while thinking inwardly “there is not a chance in the world that I would try something like that.” Often, “experts” in the educational field are imposed on teachers, and their guard is usually up. Isn’t it true, though, that we often seek out experts in their field, and then ignore their counsel. We think we know better. Perhaps we sought that expert just to validate our own opinion, only to see that expert tell us something different.
Jesus was querying His disciples. He wanted to know who people thought He was. After hearing what others thought, He confronted the disciples with the same question and Peter aced the exam by declaring that Jesus was the Messiah. After Jesus complimented Peter for understanding, Jesus got intense with them. He began to talk about His upcoming crucifixion and resurrection. You would think that Peter would realize that Jesus, as the Messiah, might be the expert in the situation. But, he had other ideas about what the Messiah would do. So he let Jesus have it. “Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!’” (Matthew 16:22)
If Jesus were conversant with today’s movies, He might have looked at Peter and said something like, “Messiah. You keep using that word but I’m not sure you know what it means.” Peter’s problem was the he “knew” what the Messiah would be like and do. The Messiah would reveal himself at the front of an army that would throw out the Roman invaders and bring back the glory days of David. Or should I say “good old days.” I’m sure that Peter was getting ready for a good old-fashioned revolution that would include lots of battle scenes. In retrospect, he was the only one who swung a sword for the revolution and all he accomplished was cutting off a servant’s ear. And Jesus healed that. All that Peter knew and understood about the coming Messiah was all that Jesus wasn’t. As the old saying goes, “It ain’t what you know that causes problems, it’s what you know that ain’t so.” The message of Jesus broke down Peter’s misperceptions and Peter was slow to understand the message and purpose of Jesus the Messiah.
One of the things I like about Peter is that he is so much like us. Ok. He is so like me. I don’t really know about you as you read this. Peter has big dreams and great ideas and he isn’t afraid to tell you what he thinks. When he fails, which he does often, he fails gloriously. Ok, maybe my failures aren’t so glorious. Peter’s mistakes stem from the fact that he is ready to step out on faith, but he doesn’t wait for God to show him what that means. He had the faith to see that Jesus was the Messiah, but instead of understanding what the Messiah would do by listening to him, he started sharpening his sword. In a story to come soon, Peter sees Jesus in the company of Moses and Elijah and Peter geeks out thinking about how wonderful it is that Jesus could be mentioned in the same breath as those two, only to discover that God puts Jesus in a class by Himself. The lesson we learn from Peter’s mistakes is that we need to put aside our pre-conceived notions and listen to God’s plan. Rather than telling God what to do about an issue, you know you do that, we need to present our concerns to God and then listen to Him.
Oh Lord, remind me not only that You are the expert, but also why You’re the expert. Thank You for loving me even when I reject Your counsel. Thank You for drawing me back into Your mercy.