IT’S A NOVEL WITH A MESSAGE: OUR UNITY IS IN CHRIST; NOT THE BALLOT BOX.
I love the times we do our devo’s together. I wish we had time to do this during the week, also.
Today we were reading about Peter’s declaration from the harmonization of Matthew 16:13-20, Mark 8:27-30, and Luke 9:18-21. And this is where Daniel’s book, A Harmony of the Four Gospels, is so brilliant. He takes us through the entire story, pulling a fragment of a verse from Mark and then Luke and then back to Mark before going to Matthew. I really love this way of studying the gospels. It just feels so full, so complete, so comprehensive.
I read, “Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. . .”[i]
October A.D. 29, Peter’s Declaration
“Why, oh why do we just walk around from town to town, making all kinds of friends, getting tons of people on our side, and still never talk about the coming political take-over of our God-given sovereign nation? After all, isn’t that what the political Messiah was prophesied to accomplish?”
I kicked a few rocks with my sandaled feet.
I love walking behind all of the disciples. For one thing, I can pillage the money bag when I need to, and for another, I can complain.
“But seriously, God,” Lately I have found myself praying about this, probably out of frustration. “God, why isn’t this Prophet doing the sensible things He should? He has every opportunity and He is taking advantage of none of them.”
We were outside Caesarea Philippi and I was hungry, but Jesus decided to stop and pray and he gathered all of us to pray with Him.
Frankly, I don’t like that. I think prayer is a private thing and I shouldn’t have to pray out loud in front of others.
As soon as I thought this in my brain Jesus said, “Judas,” looking at me, not the other one. “Would you lead us in your favorite prayer of Moses?”
“Yes, Jesus,” I answered respectfully. Everyone had turned to look at me and my hand was in the money bag. Fortunately, I put it behind me when Jesus turned to me.
“Did He see me?” I wondered.
“Noooo, He would have scolded me. Wouldn’t He have? I sure would have.” All this went through my mind as I closed the bag with one hand and left it in my belt, behind me, so no one knew what I was doing.
Then I lifted my arms to the heavens and quoted, a little harsher than I intended, “I don’t get to go into the holy land. . .” Lowering my arms I pointed towards everyone, ending on Jesus, although not on purpose, I don’t think. Anyway, I finished the passage, “. . .and it’s your fault!”[ii]
The disciples laughed and I added. “Well, that’s the way I would have spoken to them too. A simple thing like hitting the rock instead of talking to the rock kept Moses out of the Holy Land.[iii] That’s just not fair.”
Interestingly, while the other men were laughing, Jesus was not. He looked so somber. I wondered what was on His mind.
But I knew which prayer of Moses He meant,[iv] and so I began. . .of course, I quoted it with my own nuances.[v] I don’t think my stupid colleagues ever realized I took some liberty with my quotations. . .but Jesus may have, maybe. I began:
“Lord, You have been the dwelling place of our people and our great nation throughout all the generations. Before the mountains were born You brought forth this world from eternity and unto eternity, because You are God. When we die, You turn us back to dust. You even say, ‘return to dust you mortals!’ A thousand years according to You is no different than a day according to us. You sweep people away like the new grass of the morning gets swept away. In the morning the grass springs up but by the evening it has dried and withered like the nations of today.”
With that statement, Jesus cocked an eyebrow, like He did when I started this nuanced quotation.
I don’t think anybody else noticed it, but I sure did. Nevertheless, I continued.
“In the past we’ve been consumed by Your anger, Lord, and terrified by Your indignation. You set our iniquities in front of You, including our secret sins. They are opened up clearly in the light of Your presence.”
I paused for a moment, and as the men looked at me as if I should keep going, something about those words caught me. I don’t know what it was, but I stopped. ‘Was it the comment about secret sins?’ I couldn’t say. After a few moments I continued.
“All of our days have passed away under Your wrath and we finish our years with a moan. Our days are a mere seventy years on this earth, eighty, if we have some additional strength. But even if we do, our best days are filled with trouble and sorrow. And Father, I don’t claim to know the power of Your anger. But I believe there is a nation who will experience the great fear that is due You.”
This time I didn’t look at Jesus. I just continued:
“You have taught us to number our days and we know that with that has come great wisdom to us, often prophetic wisdom. So, we call upon You, Lord. We call upon You to relent. We trust You to have compassion on our nation very soon. We expect You to satisfy us in the morning with Your unfailing love, so we can sing for joy and be glad all of our days, no longer in bondage.”
I didn’t look up, but I heard Jesus clear his throat, as if He was trying to say something to me. I was almost done so I wasn’t going to let Him keep me from my glory, from my desire, from what I expect the God of Heaven to do in our nation very, very soon.
“You will make us as glad for as many days as You have afflicted us, You will even redeem the many years by which we have seen trouble. Instead, finally, we will see Joy. We look forward to Your deeds being shown to us, Your servants, with Your splendor to our children. May Your favor rest upon us and our nation Lord, our God. Establish the hard work of our hands. Yes, establish the hard work of the hands of us, Your people and Your nation.”
Finally, I looked up at Jesus who motioned to me, asking me if I remembered what God said to Moses at the end of the passage that I like to joke about.
“I don’t remember that, Jesus, no.”
Then Jesus, again looking solemnly at me said, “When Moses complained to the Lord about not getting what he wanted, God said to him, ‘enough of this Moses, quit speaking to me about this subject!’”[vi]
It was obvious, and a little embarrassing, what Jesus was saying to me. But I didn’t care. The other disciples were too stupid to know what Jesus was saying, and He was too foolish to understand this incredible moment in history, when the Romans could be overthrown.
Eventually He would listen to me. He had to. Oh, why do I keep hoping in this man, only to have my hopes dashed?
At that moment he turned to the other disciples and then asked them the most bizarre question. He asked, “Who do people say I am?
My idiot colleagues answered all kinds of stupid remarks like, ‘John the Baptist come back to life’, or ‘Elijah or Jeremiah’ or some of the other prophets of so long ago.[vii]
And then Peter stood up, cleaned off his robe and he soberly addressed Jesus. I was actually kind of impressed with Peter. That is, until he opened his mouth.
He said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!”
Immediately I thought, “What stupidity!”
And then Jesus surprised all of us by saying, “Blessed are you Simon, son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man but by My Father in heaven.”[viii]
“What?!?!” I wanted to scream. But Jesus kept going.
“And I tell you that your new name is Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church and the Gates of Hell will not overcome it.”[ix]
He went on to mention some more accolades on behalf of Peter, but I was getting sick to my stomach listening to this nonsense.
And then Jesus warned us. He said not to tell anyone He was the Christ.[x]
“I guess not!” I wanted to scream. “I don’t want You to be a religious head. I want You to be our political head.”
February 5th, Sunday Morning, Arlington VA
The last two weeks for Issy and I have been very busy. The campaigns are cranking up. Since this incredibly unique year had no challengers to either party, they both started their campaigning early.
We’re off to the races, so to speak. Both Issy’s candidate and mine are traveling nearly every weekend, and often during the week, making campaign stops, which we periodically participate in, depending upon the contacts our respective teams expect us to make.
This time I was out of town when I read our passage. After I read, I said, “Honey, I’ve got to go. We have an early morning, but as I read this passage, I couldn’t help wondering what it must have been like for Jesus with such diverse people around Him. He had the loving John, the doubting Thomas, the ever-faithful Peter, the traitor Judas. What a group.”
“I wonder that too, darling,” Issy answered as we said goodbye.
[i] Mark 8:27a
[ii] Deuteronomy 3:26a
[iii] Numbers 20:10-12
[iv] Psalm 90
[v] Remember, the quote of Psalm 90 is according to Judas, not strictly according to Scripture.
[vi] Deuteronomy 3:26b
[vii] Matthew 16:14
[viii] Matthew 16:17
[ix] Matthew 16:18
[x] Matthew 16:20