“Once when Jesus was prayingz in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?” 19 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist;a others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.”b 20 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “God’s Messiah.” Luke 9.18-20
Peter had a great reputation as a leader. He does many “firsts.” (Not in order of occurrence.) He was one of the first to follow Christ. He was first in jumping into the water when he saw the resurrected Christ (fully clothed!). He was first to deny Christ (along with Judas). He was the first to repent of his ways. He was the first to cut off the ear of the servant of the arresting high priest at Gethsemane. He was one of the first to go into the tomb of Jesus. He was the first to preach at Pentecost. He was first to offer to set up tents when Jesus was on the Mount of Transfiguration. And here, in this passage, he was first to reply to Jesus’ question of who do you say I am,” by saying, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God,” (Matthew 16.16 NIV).
Sometimes for Peter, these “firsts” were impressive. Besides the demons, no one else really understood the identity of Jesus. His confession, “You are God’s Messiah,” was impressive. But in other instances, Peter’s firsts were shameful, sinful or silly. This is why Peter has been described as impulsive in his early days of following Jesus. He makes decisions or speaks quickly, and then depending upon the result, he makes a course correction if necessary.
Some might rebuke Peter saying, “Be more measured, gain better control. Get hold of your ‘emotional IQ!’ But Peter’s creative, impulsive, spontaneous nature is what makes him such a great follow of Jesus. Sure, he made some whopping mistakes! But he also some impressive moves — preaching, teaching and leading the early church of God; leaving fishing to follow the Messiah. And here, proclaiming and following Jesus as God’s Messiah.
Maybe you are like me and as you walk by faith, you sometimes chose the correct path and sometimes tend to wander in the wrong direction. We are sinners who are saved by grace through faith. We are not perfect religious robots. Our pathway to Christ comes through a body of flesh filled with spirit. We are not now or ever going to be perfect. Which gives us no excuse to sin, rather, it gives reason to forget the guilt and move forward in love toward Christ.
What a pleasure to watch Peter run towards to Christ. To fling himself in a lake fully dressed or to proclaim his identity to all who would listen. I want to certainly be more like Jesus, but also like Peter, even if it’s just a little.
“O Lord God, you are good. I am clay in your hands, helping build and bring about your kingdom. My gifts are very specific as is my identity in Christ. I thank you Lord that I can walk with you in faith, by grace, without guilt and shame. For my faith is built upon you as my Rock. Come now, Holy Spirit, fill me with power and love. Help me be all you have called and created me to by by your grace and for your glory. For you are good and your love endures forever.” Amen