A man is driving down the highway when he sees a truck broken down by the side of the road. It catches his attention because along with a man studying the truck in confusion, there are also ten penguins with him. The Good Samaritan pulls over and offers his assistance. The man with the penguins says, “Well, I think I can get this truck running in a bit, but I really need to get these penguins to the zoo as soon as possible. Could you take them for me?”
The man is glad to help and hauls the animals into his truck, heading into town.
A couple hours later, the man with broken down truck has effected his repairs and heads to the zoo. When he gets there, the penguins are nowhere to be found. He panics. He searches the entire zoo. Still nothing. Desperate, he drives around town, hoping to spot them and the man by chance.
At last, his luck pays off; he spots the man and the penguins leaving a movie theatre. He pulls over and yells at the man, “What do you think you are doing? This penguins were supposed to go to the zoo!”
The man is befuddled. “I did take them to the zoo. But they seemed to be getting bored and I still had a few dollars leftover, so I thought I’d take them to the matinee.”
Sometimes you can get all the right words and miss the grand significance of the statement. It certainly happened with the disciples and it often happens with us too.
‘Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”‘
This statement is the climax that Matthew has been building up to for the last two chapters, but it should also be taken together with what happens in verses 21 to 28. We must especially hear the rebuke of Jesus:
“You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
The disciples have been observing all these miracles. They’ve been warned about going the way of the Pharisees, seeking authority over God Himself. Now will they get it? The answer, unfortunately, is ‘Yes’ and ‘No.’
Yes, Peter has figured out Jesus identity. He is the Messiah. But it is not an academic exercise; Peter gets no gold star for checking the correct box on this multiple choice quiz.
No, Peter has not realized the fullness of what this revelation means. Peter does not understand the kind of submission incumbent upon him if he is truly in the presence of the Son of God Himself. You do not at once acknowledge Jesus’ identity but deny His authority (i.e. does He know what He is talking about when He says He must suffer and die at the hands of the religious rulers in Israel?).
I am usually quite careful to avoid painting Peter in a negative light. Too often he portrayed by preachers as dense when really he just says what everyone is thinking. But I think Matthew is casting him in that negative role here, not as a biographical statement, but as an anthropological one. Peter is standing in for you and I in this story. And while Peter’s rebuke seems to spring out of a misunderstanding of Jesus’ mission, too often mine usually springs out of merely wanting my own way.
How often do those of us who profess to follow Jesus fail to submit to His authority? We can’t have it both ways. Matthew calls not just sinners to repentance, but also those who think they have it all figured out.
If you think you can call Jesus “Lord, Lord” but give up on important stuff like mercy, forgiveness and justice, you’ve got another thing coming.
Lord Jesus, I am stupid. It’s all laid out so plainly before me and yet I want to wander my own way. You are God. Bring me back to you.