Sunday, July 4, 2010

Peter is the New Testament Moses: Allow me to Explain

Peter is the New Testament Moses. Allow me to explain this bold statement. In the Old Testament, Moses starts off as the adopted son of the Pharaoh of Egypt. However, compassion for his people, the Hebrews, leads Moses to do the unthinkable: murder an Egyptian taskmaster to save a slave from sure death. Thus Moses is forced to flee Egypt to take on a new identity as a shepherd. From prince to shepherd…life couldn’t possibly get more absurd. Or could it?

Years later, Moses has grown accustomed to his new life. He is just a shepherd, but out of nowhere it seems God calls him, or rather sends him, to lead a whole nation to freedom. But how can this be? How can a murderer be called by God to lead a whole nation. God must be mistaken. Let’s listen to Moses’ response: “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11).

Moses’ response is rational, and yet God calls him to do the irrational, to go beyond himself. Here Jesus’ words ring true: “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). Moses is frightened. He believes in and honors his God, but he feels so inadequate. “O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant …O Lord, please send someone else to do it” (Exodus 4:10,13). True, maybe Moses stuttered when he spoke, but Moses, it is pretty clear, is also throwing out excuses to get himself out of this terrifying and demanding situation. What if Pharaoh kills him, or the people refuse to obey him? Then what? But Moses agrees, and the Jews are saved. Through God, one man does the truly impossible.

Now let’s visit the New Testament and focus primarily on his calling at the end of the Gospel of John. Peter is a fisherman in Galilee before he is called suddenly to follow Jesus. Peter obeys because he sees something truly special in his Master. He is the first to recognize Jesus as the Christ, and like the other disciples, listens to His teachings. Then, Jesus is betrayed, and in a moment of fear, Peter denies his Master three times. After Jesus’ death, everything seems to go back to normal again. Yes, there is a moment of chaos when the disciples are forced to hide, but very shortly, in just a few hours, everything seems to be over. Peter returns to his fishing life. He is just a fisherman. Things have changed of course; Peter is a changed man, but Christ returns, and He demands more. Peter, who constantly struggled with fear and other insecurities, is suddenly called to do the unthinkable: be a leader. It is not enough for Moses and Peter to pray to God; proof is required, and for Peter this will cost him his life. Caught in the Roman Empire first under the reign of Claudius and then Nero, Peter will not be able to save himself. Peter knows that he loves Jesus, but Jesus is not interested in mere sentiments, but true obeisance. Peter wants to be a normal person; he wants to escape from under the burden he is forced to carry. He doesn’t want to die, but Christ reminds him through his three questions and His story that true life requires sacrifice. In a moment of panic and despair Peter points to John and asks: Lord, what about him? (John 21:21). Jesus’ response is one of the most haunting found in the Gospels: “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me” (v.22).

Thus Peter, like Moses, becomes a leader not because of his own merits, but precisely because he was inadequate by societal standards. If we were honest, we would have to admit that often, Jesus’ commands incite in us responses like, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” (6:60). However, God requires us to accept and follow these same teachings. “You must follow me.” I must admit that I am frightened by this Truth. I’d rater follow my own desires than set out to do the seemingly impossible. But God continues to confound the laws of nature to show us that what is natural and acceptable by societal standards does not always correspond with God’s standards. Moses and Peter show us that the path of least resistance is not always the best path to take. After all, Jesus’ teaching still holds true: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:7).


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