Useful to God (part 2)
Lesson 5

Lesson Five

Peter: When Courage Becomes Exaggerated Confidence

Text: Matthew 16:21-28

The measure of a person's greatness often is not measured by how he/she handles failure, but how he/she handles success. It is fairly simple to acknowledge your limitations when you fail (you are vividly reminded of your limitations frequently by the consequences of your failure). It is much more challenging to admit to yourself your limitations when you are successful. It is simple to think we are insightful in every way when our insightfulness in one matter is confirmed by someone we respect.

No person is perfect--not me, not you, not anyone else! Blessed is the person who sees accurately human limitations, for this person will prevent himself/herself from being ridiculous. These people will not open their mouth before an audience as the audience watches them insert their foot in their mouth. They will not pretend to be an authority on that which they know too little about. If not careful, they will embarrass themselves and never know it.

Peter had confirmed to him by Jesus himself that he correctly understood that Jesus was the Christ (God's promised Messiah), the living God's son. That was a huge confirmation by the most important person who ever lived! In Jewish society, nothing was bigger than correctly recognizing the Messiah! To have the confirmation affirmed by the Messiah himself was heady stuff! Peter correctly had revealed what no one else understood.

When a person is correct in one matter, it is easy for him/her to assume he/she is correct in all matters. Peter assumed his insights and understandings were unique, special. He assumed because he understood who was the Messiah by God's revelation that he also understood (a) what route Jesus would take to being the Christ and (b) what Jesus becoming the Christ would mean for Peter in the future. Because Peter correctly knew one thing, he was confident that he knew everything.

From the time Peter correctly declared who Jesus was, Jesus began to declare (a) he had to go to Jerusalem, (b) he would suffer a lot in Jerusalem, and (c) the Jewish leadership would reject him. The end result was (1) he would be killed and (2) resurrected in three days. Jesus would not "turn loose" of that message! Jesus did not preach it publicly yet--he just kept telling the 12. What a discouraging thing for Jesus' most devoted friends to hear! What a discouraging message! What a ridiculous thing for the Messiah to say about his future! After all, what did that message mean for the 12's future? They were making a huge investment in Jesus and his future. Was what they had to look forward to no more than his rejection and death?

This could not continue! Something had to be done! Someone had to stop this! First, it would not happen. Second, those who were the most loyal to Jesus would be discouraged. Who better to end this message than the man who by God's revelation understood Jesus was the Christ. Who was better suited to end Jesus' message than the man Jesus said correctly understood who Jesus was? Peter saw himself as having the courage to do the necessary, so Peter took action.

What did Peter do? First, he took Jesus aside. Peter did not want to make a bad situation worse. In Peter's estimation, the other 11 had been discouraged enough by Jesus' "inaccurate" message. They did not need to see Peter correcting Jesus. His objective was to build Jesus' image, not to tear it down further. Jesus was the Messiah. He needed to start acting and talking like the Messiah. Peter was not the Messiah, and had no desire to replace Jesus. He was just going to "help" Jesus start sounding like the Christ.

Second, Peter began to rebuke Jesus. "Jesus, this is a ridiculous message! Do you not realize what you are doing? Do you not realize how this message is affecting us? What you are saying to us will never happen! You are the Messiah--start sounding like the Messiah!"

We had better understand God's purposes before we criticize God's methods! We know Jesus was the Messiah. We, because we can look back, know Jesus being the Christ included his death and his resurrection. We, because we can look back, understand how his death and his resurrection were (are) the core and essence of Jesus becoming and being Lord. Yet, Peter could not look back. That was not what Peter nor the Jewish people expected of God's promised Messiah. The Messiah was supposed to be a king! The Messiah was supposed to reign over a territory! The Messiah was supposed to get rid of the Jews' enemies! The 12 were supposed to be his privileged advisors! For Jesus to be Messiah, he had to meet expectations! He had to be Christ the way they envisioned! So Peter "the wise" dared to confront Jesus "the ridiculous." However, now we know Peter was the ridiculous, and Jesus understood clearly God's purposes.

Jesus now called Peter Satan! Peter went from "revealed to you by the Father" to "Satan!" What a huge comedown! Instead of being blessed for insight, Peter is declared Jesus' stumbling block (the bait stick in a trap). He is told he is concerned about a human perspective, not a divine perspective. The man who thought he had all the answers had no answers!

Jesus said (a) following him would involve humiliation and suffering, (b) eternal existence is more important than physical existence, and (c) the Messiah will examine people's deeds. What he told them would happen quite soon.

May Peter caution all of us not to assume we understand more than we know. Never allow your human expectations to be your spiritual enemy!

For Thought and Discussion

  1. Often a person's greatness should not be measured by what? In those incidents, what should be used to measure his/her greatness?

  2. No person is what?

  3. What was the significance of Peter having his insight confirmed by Jesus?

  4. When we are correct in one matter, what does that NOT mean?

  5. What three things did Jesus declare to the 12 after Peter's confession? What would be the end result?

  6. For what two reasons did something have to be done?

  7. What two things did Peter do?

  8. What could Peter not do that we can do?

  9. What did Jesus call Peter? Peter went from what to what? Why?

  10. What did Jesus say his disciples' should understand?

Link to Teacher's Guide Lesson 5

Copyright © 2008
David Chadwell & West-Ark Church of Christ

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