Friday, August 04, 2017
Fresh Look at Matthew: Matthew 26:31-35
Was Jesus prediction of Peter’s denial a self-fulfilling prophecy? Was his saying that a planting of the act in Peter’s mind. No, look at the whole context. Again Jesus predicts the crucifixion and resurrection. Again he quotes from Zechariah, a clear verse from an unclear chapter. Jesus personalizes it, because the original is a command and Jesus puts it in first person, presumably God speaking. When the shepherd is stricken, the sheep scatter. When the leader is destroyed, the followers lose focus and don’t know what to do.
Peter has a problem with Jesus authority. Living in close proximity with him causes Peter to equalize Jesus, and thus to argue with him when Jesus says something that doesn’t fit his shema, although that schema is a little hard to pin down. One aspect of that schema is that Peter sees himself as loyal, as perhaps numero uno in leadership and faithfulness. So, if we put it in context, this is rebellion on Peter’s part. He’s done it before, that is, trying to set Jesus straight. “You are Lord but you don’t know what you are talking about.” “You can make a prediction about the others, but it doesn’t apply to me.” “My level of spirituality is a cut above, so I won’t disappear.”
Does Jesus think Peter needs some cutting down? Well, he needs a reality check. If he is going to be the leader of the nascent church, he’s going to have to get it right about who is in charge, about Jesus’ authority, about the need for the cross, and about his own self-deceitfulness. Peter may think he is brave, loyal, a warrior, but he’s not, and he’s going to “fold like a cheap suit” in front of a servant girl, that’s how wrong he is about himself.
Only Jesus and his word can get us right about who and what and how we are. We can take all the personality inventories in the world but if we skip the Scripture we will miss real self-understanding, which is of course secondary to God understanding. The self, if such a thing exists, is malleable, changeable, fluid, elusive. We have a soul and spirit; we have a heart and mind and will. We grow and learn and think and change. I moved from being an introvert to extravert over 20 years because I had to, according to one of those tests, but some days I am one and some days another. All that is well and good but I don’t want to pin my hope on my understanding of “self.” It’s shifting sands.
Peter still has some work to do. Even after Jesus says he will deny Jesus three times before daylight, Peter still insists he will never deny Jesus. After the resurrection he doesn’t, so that part is true. But it’s going to get worse before it gets better. Peter has to come face to face with the deceptiveness of his soul and how needy a sinner he is, he has to be reminded of that time with the great catch of fish when he said “depart from me because I am a sinner.” We are great sinners but the answer is not departure from Jesus to let us live our own way. Jesus did not depart from him. God is ready. We are the ones delaying the redemption.
But Peter is not alone. All the others said they would not deny him either. We don’t know about them, what happened for those “three days.” But they were scattered.
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