“And Peter answered and said to Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. For he wist not what to say; for they were sore afraid.” (Mark 9:5,6).
Simon Peter had a flaw: He was a fool. I am Peter. Peter misspoke; and I misspeak. Simon had to be corrected; so do I, but not often enough. The voice of the Father sent Peter into prostration. God wasn’t being mean or railing on the unwise creature, but He was displeased with the rude interruption to this only respite for His Son.
“And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, He took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray.” (Lk. 9:28).
“These words spake Jesus, and lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify Thy Son, that Thy Son also may glorify Thee… And now, O Father, glorify Thou Me with Thine own self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was.” (John 17:1,5).
It had been over 30 years since Michael said in the courts of heaven, “Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not, but a body hast Thou prepared Me.” (Heb. 10:5). Now, Father and Son reunited in an embrace broken by Christ’s incarnation, which had been a long trial for Them both. It had felt like an eternity to Them, for, “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years.” (2Pet. 3:8).
But, Peter opened his mouth; and, out came Peter things. Things important to Peter. Unthinking things, the wisdom of man, which is foolishness. Peter couldn’t help it that out of the abundance of the heart his mouth spoke. It wasn’t that there was a disconnect between his brain and his mouth; the problem was Peter’s brain. He needed a new brain; and so do I.
Peter needed a brain that could trust God; a brain rewired by grace. He needed lots of transforming, which would call for lots of grace and patience. But it would also necessitate lots of training; and that is what the Father did for this undisciplined grandson of His. “While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him.” (Matt. 17:5).
“And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid.” (Matt. 17:6. “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.” (Job 28:28). Peter needed to be humbled.
Peter needed to be put in his place. We see a person putting another in his place, and it often ends in permanent ill-will between the parties involved. Humbling needs to happen; but too often the one doing the humbling is not humble. So the proud troublemaker refuses the abusive lesson. Too often we are like Israelites just recently freed from Egypt and at each others’ throat. Not that we literally choke and fist fight one another. No; we are too sophisticated for that. But the picture we glean from Ex. 21:18 and Deut. 25:11 says something to us about us today. Those free slaves were a pretty wild bunch. Centuries of subjugation, suffering, and pent up anger had turned the justified and sanctified brethren of Joseph into an unruly crowd of miscreants.
Even if we don’t go as far as the freed children of Israel and act out our aggressions, in God’s eyes our hearts are no different than the unruly slaves that were taken out of Egypt and still needed Egypt to be taken out of them. It would require decades of humiliating discipline. But, eventually each Israelite who would submit to the Lord’s humbling, and who would surrender to His wisdom and love, would enter the promised land. “The meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” (Ps. 37:11).
“And as He prayed, the fashion of His countenance was altered, and His raiment was white and glistering.” (Luke 9:29).
The patience of Jesus for Peter was unfaltering. Here He was, receiving His only chance for relief from His body with a fallen nature that continually harassed His divine nature, and living on a planet that each waking moment sought to intrude into His private communion with His Father. Christ glowed in heavenly power, the glory with which His Father had filled Him on His throne. He had been burdened down by the possibly permanent loss of His union with His eternally beloved Father at Calvary; He was harassed by Satan’s soon-coming last and best chance at Golgotha to tempt Him into responding in like wrath to the evil hatred always brooding in his own hell-filled heart, and by the horrors of physical torture and death and spiritual agony of His Father’s eternal rejection, all for a race that didn’t know the depths of its own sinfulness and unworthiness. Yet, all this He was determined to accomplish, for the love He had for Adam’s race.
His victory over the devil hinged on a spotless sacrifice. But no one on the doomed planet comprehended the reality of this, not even among His closest followers. Their faith was so shallow. It seemed there was not enough time to prepare them for the monumental test of their faith in Him speeding toward them. All this continually weighed on Jesus, together with the distress of the everyday sapping of His body’s vitality for healing virtue, teaching, and counseling.
Finally, He was freed to forget the agony He had been carrying, as His body was transformed into the heavenly being He once had. He could breathe deeply again the rarified air of heaven. “He was transfigured” (Mark 9:2) into “the glory of [a] terrestrial
(1 Cor. 15:40), “a spiritual body.
” (vs. 44). He was in the Spirit “together in heavenly places” (Eph 2:6) with His Father, the counsel of peace between Them both, and communing with Moses and Elijah. “And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias: who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:30,31). This “refreshing…from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19) was good news from a far country, and “cold waters to a thirsty soul.” (Prov. 25:25).
But, soon, oh, too soon, His children woke up, and promptly chased away the wonderful blessing. Typical of Peter, his mind racing with tons of great ideas, his mouth immediately opened and poured forth a torrent of inconsideration. Open eyes, open mouth. But, before God could shut it again, the blessed connection with heaven vanished. And it never came back to Jesus again until after all the coming trouble was thrust upon Him—the sacrifice issues which had cast a long shadow over His joy and for which He had so desperately needed heart to heart converse from His heavenly compatriots.
Peter had essentially offended God’s little One. How does God feel about that? “Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in Me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!” (Matt. 18:6,7). I look back at my many offenses toward God’s little ones—my own children now fully grown, new people come into the church, people I’ve studied the Bible with, etc. and I see people offended by an unsanctified knäve. I’ve seen their tortured heart try its best to be accepting. I am worse than Peter. But I’m thankful the Lord chose the beloved fisherman to unite with Him in training for the ministry.
“God takes men as they are, with the human elements in their character, and trains them for His service, if they will be disciplined and learn of Him. They are not chosen because they are perfect, but notwithstanding their imperfections, that through the knowledge and practice of the truth, through the grace of Christ, they may become transformed into His image.” Desire of Ages, p. 294.
Peter loved his Master, but he had a mountain of character flaws that would need to be overcome before he could ever be a leader in God’s cause. He would have to see his Master wounded many times by his own sins and mistakes before the recognition of his foolishness would sink in. It would require long lessons of grace and truth for Jesus and patient holding fast to Jesus by Peter.
Peter needed to see his true condition—that as much as he loved his Master, his love was only a shallow love from a fallen nature; it was a love without much faith in God or love for excellence. He had lots of filial love, but only a mustard seed amount of selfless agape love, which is the kind of love that Jesus sought the most. This left Simon always reaching deeper for own self-promoting cleverness and proud self-dependence, skills that have nothing to do with leading people to trust God. Peter wasn’t connected with Christ in the deeper, godly love that settles the soul and makes it usable by the Spirit of God.
Peter tried his best to help build the kingdom of God, but his best wasn’t enough. He wasn’t sanctified and sealed. “Folly is joy to him that is destitute of wisdom: but a man of understanding walketh uprightly.… The heart of the righteous studieth to answer.” (Prov. 15:21,28). “A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoken in due season, how good is it!” (Prov. 15:23). “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.” (Prov. 25:11).
Simon Peter acted and spoke from an unsettled soul. “He wist not what to say; for they were sore afraid.” (Mark 9:6). The basic fear that comes from disunion with God by sin kept Peter from collecting his thoughts and speaking aright. This was a constant liability to his Master; but, Jesus loved His misfit disciple, as He loved them all. “Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour was come that He should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end.” (John 13:1).
Even in the midst of the night of His unjust trial, Jesus must witness the confusion played out by Peter, praying and hoping against hope that Peter would not be overwhelmed and lose his small, hard fought faith. One look of disgrace or disappointment from Jesus would have sent His beloved disciple to his gallows; and Jesus—in between punches and spittle—could never let that happen. In a last effort to save His conflicted one, Jesus met His beloved’s look with forgiveness at his denials of God. And Peter at last saw himself painfully opposed to the true strength, the Everest of righteousness, the true goodness and love of the greatest Man that ever lived.
The disparity between his worth and Christ’s sent him into a tailspin that God skillfully guided as Peter fled for a refuge to Gethsemane, where “he came to himself” and found himself (Luke 15:17; Matt. 16:25). He finally came to the end of his rope, to the end of his long string of merits. He had nothing within himself anymore to hope in.
He had no place to hide from a new, living conscience, accusing and blaming him with all the wrath of God. He had no hole into which to stick his head; for God had watched his every self-preserving, loathsome move, word, and thought at the high priest’s palace.
There in the garden Peter faced himself and ratified his first surrender back at the seaside with his new Friend and King. He was forced to look at his sinfulness. Simon stood before the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. And, he ministered to Jesus from afar as he plunged into his Master’s soul affliction, baptized in humiliation.
As he ground his face into the dirt, where Jesus just hours before had collapsed and writhed, holding on to His hope in a God of wrath, Peter now sobbed and begged God to change him. He was doing exactly the same as every great saint of the Old Testament had done. He was finally opening the door to the transforming work to humble him forever. He was doing “the first works.
” (Rev. 2:5). He was crucified with his Master; nevertheless he lived on and resolved to fix every character flaw, as long as God should spare him.
In the morning, when “the sun rose upon him” (Gen. 32:31), Peter stumbled out with his new resolve. Crushed into rubble, he was a new creature. He had met God and his life was preserved. Now, Simon had a testimony. “I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.” (Ps. 40:1,2). Satan had fled, and had left Peter’s mind subdued and self-controlled. He was now quiet and teachable of the deepest truths. “The anointing which ye have received of Him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in Him.” (1Jn. 2:27)
Now, Peter could speak from a mind settled and filled with wisdom. Now, God would speak through him, and Satan’s kingdom would shake with terror.