Life is Hard

Today’s reading is Matt 17 and Ps 90


As we read through Matt 17 today, my heart goes out to Peter. I know that the main focus of the Gospels is Jesus, but when I look at this (maybe) month of time in Peter’s life I feel like I can relate to the spiritual and emotional roller coaster he seems to be riding. Yesterday, Deb wrote about the disciples being questioned by Jesus, “Do you not remember what I have done? Remember just a few days ago I fed the crowd with a few loaves of bread? They had to feel frustrated by the fact that Jesus had to remind them who He was. Then Jesus asks them who they think He is. Definite high point for Peter as he answers correctly to Jesus, but I can’t help feeling for him again by the end of the paragraph as Jesus places the weight of the future of the church on his shoulders. Then Peter gets in a conversation with Jesus where Jesus predicts His death. Peter loves Him so much that he pulls Jesus aside and says, “Heaven forbid, this will never happen to You”. Jesus response seems harsh, “Get away from me, Satan! You are seeing things merely from a human standpoint, not from God’s”. I think I feel sorry for Peter here because I can hear myself saying the exact same thing if I were in his shoes. Because of Peter’s relationship with Jesus, he knows just enough about Jesus to be dangerous. He wants so much to love and protect Jesus and continue the good work that they have been doing as a group. He has walked away from his entire life to follow Jesus and has thrown himself at the work whole heartedly. He can’t possibly fathom that God’s plan is for Jesus to actually lose His life. It just can’t be!

Six days later, Peter goes with James, John and Jesus to get away to pray. While they are up on the mountain Peter witnesses Jesus transfiguration. I would say this is a spiritual “high” that none of us has ever come close to experiencing. Again Peter is eager to jump into action and commemorate this glorious thing they have witnessed by building altars as memorials. This time not Jesus but God Himself speaks to Peter and poor Peter is scared out of his mind. He falls face down on the ground. As the four men travel back down the mountain, a large crowd is waiting for them. They are instantly thrown right back into ministry with very little time to digest what happened earlier. A man comes to Jesus and asks for help for his son. He tells Jesus that he had earlier brought his son to the disciples to be healed but that they weren’t able to do it. Again what feels like a harsh statement from Jesus, “You faithless and corrupt people, how long must I be with you?, and Jesus heals the boy. Peter is there watching and listening to all, I’m sure feeling very small.

The next thing we know from Matthew is that the disciples and Jesus gather in Galilee, and Jesus again tells them that He will be killed, but on the third day He will be raised from the dead. “And the disciples were filled with grief”. Are you feeling for Peter by now too? I feel like his heart had to have felt twisted and pulled in so many different directions…His earthly mind was being taught and challenged to heavenly living. The plan was bigger than he could see or understand. He couldn’t make sense of his circumstances and he couldn’t possibly see how what he was going through was going to end up being good and a part of God’s plan. Have you ever lived in this space? Have you wondered what God’s plan is and how all that is happening to you can possibly be known by God because it is such a big mess?

The last four verses of this chapter are one more conversation between Jesus and Peter on a yet another issue needing to be dealt with. The tax collector is waiting for them when they get back to town. He is looking for what is due for Peter and Jesus’ temple tax. Jesus teaches Peter another lesson about who He is and how to live on this earth, heavenly speaking. To keep from causing a ruckus with the government at this time in His ministry, Jesus asks Peter to go ahead and pay the tax even though the temple is Jesus’ “home/kingdom”. Apparently neither of them had the cash on hand for the tax so Jesus has the goodness of heart to send Peter to the lake as he knows Peter loves to fish. Jesus has him throw out a line and open the mouth of the first fish he catches to find a large silver coin which will pay for their taxes.  I’m so glad that Jesus shows His love for Peter in this miracle. I’m thinking after all Peter has gone through in these last few chapters, he has to be about worn slick, at the bottom of his emotional barrel. Don’t you think that being cared for by Jesus in this personal and practical way, was meaningful to Peter?

Today I want to encourage you to take some time to look back through your life and see if you can see some personal touches from God at specific times in your life. Has He changed circumstances that you were powerless over? Has He comforted you or shown His presents in a personal way when you felt alone or abandoned? Has He provided money when you couldn’t pay for something you needed or really wanted to pay for? Has He gifted you with a relationship or another person when your heart longed for companionship? How about a miraculous intercession in a dangerous situation or accident where you know He stepped in to change circumstances to safe your life or a loved one’s life? I can’t possibly list all the ways God reaches out to show His love to us. I do think it is worth taking the time to look for and even list the ways that you know God has intervened in your life to show you personally how much He loves you and cares for you. Like Deb said yesterday, we need to remember because it helps us understand Him and His work.