It was the worst of times. Was the ancient one dead? No one heard from him in 400 years.
It was the best of times. All of a sudden, the Promised One had arrived under cover of darkness.
With apologies to Mr. Dickens, this is a story of hope, so I took the liberty of changing the order of his opening to A Tale of Two Cities.
This is Part 2 of a continuing series called On This Rock. The introduction and prologue can be found here. It’s the true story of how a great revolutionary leader – the greatest of all time – launched a campaign the likes of which the world had never seen. And will never see again. It started with himself – and one man from his inner circle of twelve men. That one man – Peter. The revolution is still under way. Things aren’t looking too good right now. But the members of this revolution still believe the ancient one – the one they call Father – who said victory is certain. They are still looking for new leaders. New “Peters”. Do you have what it takes to be Peter? Read on and see.
OK – you’re name probably isn’t Peter.
But that doesn’t mean you aren’t Peter.
When the leader of the revolution tells you that you are Peter, what can you do but answer? No matter how bad things may appear, you’ve given everything for the revolution. For the leader.
No matter how bad things could be …
So how bad could things be? Well, you saw at the top of the page how things got started. The ancient one called Father had been sending messengers – the people called them prophets – to warn them about straying away from the ancient one. As we saw though, there were also messages of hope – because the Promised One was supposed to “fix” things and make them right.
But then there was this 400 year period of no messengers. Nothing. Had the ancient one given up? Had they strayed too far? So far that the ancient one decided not to even try to make things right with the Promised One? The people couldn’t have helped but at least silently wonder – was the ancient one dead?
It was the worst of times.
All of a sudden though –
It was the best of times.
Word was spreading incredibly fast about some good news. (Well – at least it was spreading as fast as it could with no radio – no television – no cell phones – and (gasp) no internet).
The Promised One had arrived. Suddenly. Under cover of darkness. And in a stroke of genius – disguised as a little baby – under very difficult circumstances. But he was here. The ancient one was still alive – still cared – and had fulfilled his promise.
It was the worst of times. Again.
But there was an evil king ruling over the people. He also heard about the Promised One’s arrival. And he was none too happy. In fact – he was afraid. Afraid that this Promised One would overthrow him as king. As I said – things spread rapidly for that time – but it was still a couple years before he got enough intelligence information to do something about the threat. So he ordered that all the boys in the region who were two years old and younger be put to death. As I said – an evil, wicked, mean, and nasty king!
The ancient one though – his intelligence was impeccable. He knew about the threat, and took actions to make sure the Promised One was safe.
There was little intelligence on the Promised One – other than an incident at the Temple when he was twelve years of age – until he was 30 years old. Then – as when he first arrived – he burst onto the scene. The difference though – the ancient one had sent someone to begin to announce his presence this time. Someone to let the people know that The promised One was about to begin his mission. Someone to let them know that it was time to turn back to the ancient one – by way of his Promised One – and that the Promised One was recruiting followers. Followers that would at long last begin the long awaited revolution!
It was the best of times. Again.
The Birth of Jesus Christ
Mt 1:18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
Mt 1:20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
Mt 1:22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.”
Mt 1:24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
The Visit of the Magi
Mt 2:1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”
Mt 2:3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
Mt 2:6 “ ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’’”
Mt 2:7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
Mt 2:9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
The Escape to Egypt
Mt 2:13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
Mt 2:14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
Mt 2:16 When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 17 Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:
Mt 2:18 “A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.”
The Return to Nazareth
Mt 2:19 After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.”
Mt 2:21 So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, 23 and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: “He will be called a Nazarene.”
John the Baptist Prepares the Way
Mt 3:1 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” 3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:
“A voice of one calling in the desert,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’ ”
Mt 3:4 John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. 5 People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. 6 Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
Mt 3:7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
Mt 3:11 “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
This was a roller coaster mission that the Promised One was on. And he was inviting Peter – one of his inner circle – to get on this roller coaster mission in a really big way.
We’ll get more into exactly what the mission is for Peter. For now, let’s start with the question of – why Peter?
The inner circle
We’ve already seen that the Promised One had an inner circle. At this point in time – twelve men.
For the women / girls reading this, I am not one of those who believes that “Peter” today has to be a man. At the time, it was culturally “correct” – much as things are politically correct today. However – politically correct is so often incorrect. The truth is – the Promised One, as well as one of his later followers (Paul) who is often “credited” with being the one who restricted certain tasks to women – didn’t really deserve all the “credit” he got for this. He, in fact, had women in his inner circle – such as one called Priscilla.
So – to the ladies out there – this is for you ad well.
So – twelve men. Let’s look at the kind of people the Promised One chose.
Among them, there were 4 fishermen, a tax collector, and even a revolutionary. Nothing is mentioned about the others. So from what we do know – this wasn’t exactly an upper crust set of society people. Not even middle crust. But for whatever reason – this is the kind of people the Promised One chose. Interestingly enough – although he turned out to be a great revolutionary leader – the one revolutionary that was in his inner circle wasn’t even involved in the same kind of revolution!
So if you’re thinking that you would not have been “good” enough for his inner circle – you’re probably wrong. You may have been exactly what he was looking for.
On the other hand – if you’re thinking you would have been “too good” for his inner circle – you may be 100% correct. Unless you’re willing to admit the truth about who / what you really are.
Peter – key member of the inner circle
How did he get chosen to be in the inner circle to begin with?
The promised one was just walking along the shore – saw Peter and his brother and said “Come, follow me”.
No tests. No background checks. No character or professional references. Just “Come, follow me”.
And it’s not like Peter wanted to know anything about the job being offered either. Didn’t ask a single question.
It had to be the easiest job interview ever. On both sides of the table. He didn’t even say “OK”. He just dropped everything and started the new job.
How can this be?
Because the Promised One was that special. He knew. And his inner circle knew. That’s all that was needed.
Mt 4:18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him.
Mt 4:21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
Why would Peter be such a key member and be given this mission?
So – out of this group of almost stereotypical rag tag group of people in the inner circle of this great revolutionary leader – why Peter?
I mean – seriously – let’s look at this guy –
- The promised One could do things that looked impossible. Heck – they didn’t just look impossible – they were impossible. And yet – out of the entire inner circle – Peter was the only one who even wanted to do these impossible things. Apparently – Peter wasn’t just any fisherman. There was something about him. Something the Promised One saw.
Mt 14:25 During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
Mt 14:27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
Mt 14:28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
Mt 14:29 “Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.
Sounds pretty unbelievable, right? But that was Peter. If the Promised One could do something he wanted to try it as well.
But then –
30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Mt 14:31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
Peter failed. It’s like the cartoons we used to watch as kids – like where Wiley Coyote chased the Road Runner off the cliff. The Road Runner kept on running in mid air. Wily Coyote did the same – until he realized that he wasn’t on solid ground any more – and then he’d fall. And fail.
But still – The Promised One saw something in Peter. Even though he failed in this instance.
- The Promised One used to speak in parables – like allegories – where he’d make a point without actually making the point. Encrypted messages – so that people who weren’t with the revolution wouldn’t understand. Only those who were part of the revolution understood the true message. It was ingenious – encrypting his message inside words that would make sense to everyone, but would be understood entirely differently by people who were involved in the revolution. This is a level of encryption that we don’t have even today. As I said – the Promised One was special.
For instance –
“Listen and understand. 11 What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean,’ but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean.’ ”
This was the encrypted message. The inner circle knew that the leaders of the opposition weren’t happy about what they heard. Had the opposition actually understood the encrypted message – they would have been even more angry. Wanting to kill the Promised One.
To that, the Promised One added this statement – but only to his inner circle.
Mt 15:13 He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. 14 Leave them; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”
Given the purpose of the encryption – and that all of the followers of the revolution being led by the Promised One should be able to decrypt it – that should have been more than enough said.
And yet – with the next words out of Peter’s mouth he’s asking the Promised One to decrypt the message for them –
Mt 15:15 Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.”
And the Promised One’s first words in response –
Mt 15:16 “Are you still so dull?”
Things aren’t looking too good for the inner circle at this point. But the Promised One – while obviously not pleased – doesn’t disband them. In fact – he did give them the unencrypted message.
Things may be looking even worse for Peter. After all, he was the one that asked the question. The others probably didn’t get it either. But Peter was the one who openly admitted that he didn’t get it. Most people would have been silent and pretended that they got it. But not Peter. No matter how it looked – he didn’t get it – and he wanted to know.
Maybe that’s part of what the Promised One saw. Peter’s answer to the question of whether or not he was still so dull was something along the lines of – yes, but I want to learn – I need to know. Like I said – the Promised One was really special. Honesty was more important than being super smart.
- One time, The Promised One was talking about how the opposition leaders were going to succeed in bringing about his death. There’s a scene in Star Wars that’s reminiscent of what this was all about –
You can’t win, Darth. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.
Yes – this was all part of the plan. And the Promised One had tried to explain this to his inner circle. But they didn’t get it. Not exactly the brightest group. And Peter – again – proves that he’s not the brightest bulb on the string when he says that this isn’t going to happen on his watch! No one will take down the leader of the revolution if he (Peter) has anything to say about it.
Mt 16:22 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”
And if you thought the last response to Peter’s words were tough – these were even harder. He told Peter that he was the leader of the opposition, and that he was getting in the way of the revolution. Worse yet – that his mind was busy, not with the things of the revolution, but of the enemy. Ouch!
Mt 16:23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”
Nothing else was said of the matter.
Nothing else needed to be said.
Just like when the Promised One first hired Peter – there was this kind of understanding between them. No matter how incapable Peter appeared to be, the Promised One still relied on him – and Peter understood that. And Peter kept on being himself. And kept on learning by asking “dumb” questions, saying “stupid” things, and doing the “wrong” thing. And learn from all of them.
- Here’s another instance of Peter saying something and getting an unpleasant response. Peter tells the Promised One that if necessary – he was willing to go to prison with the leader of the revolution. Even die with him, if it comes to that. The Promised one then calls him a liar.
Lk 22:33 But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”
Lk 22:34 Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”
- Just before that, The Promised One let Peter know that the opposition forces were going to sift him (Peter) like wheat. Further – Peter is told that this “sifting” – whatever it is – will cause Peter to turn away from the leader. But then – the most amazing thing – the Promised One tells him that when he turns back to the revolution – after this “sifting” is over – that he (Peter) should help the others in the inner circle! Exactly what the Promised One sees in this man Peter is often hard to figure out. But he does see something. And he lets Peter know. The leader of the revolution doesn’t hesitate to tell Peter bad news – to let him know when he’s way off the track. But he also never fails to encourage Peter either. Again – this Promised One is very special.
Lk 22:31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
- By this time – many of us would have grown weary of all this. We’d be wondering – can it possibly be worth all of this? In fact, many of those who were following the Promised One did end up deserting him. He seemed to be asking too much. They didn’t think it was worth it.
His inner circle was still intact. But the Promised One asked them – point blank – if they were going to leave him as well.
As usual – there was Peter – the one to speak. The one to say that they wouldn’t think of going anyplace else. Once they had gotten to know this Promised One – nothing else could match what he taught. They weren’t going anywhere – except where the Promised One went.
Jn 6:66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
Jn 6:67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
Jn 6:68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”
So why Peter?
Hopefully you’ve caught the answer to this question by now.
Peter obviously wasn’t chosen for his spectacular skills. He was a fisherman – not a businessman.
Not for his ability to finish a mission with no collateral damage. In fact – Peter himself was often damaged.
Not even for his ability to stay on track during the mission. In fact – he was known to run away from the mission.
No – Peter was chosen “merely” for his ability to eventually return to the mission – and then see it through.
It was because he failed – frequently – but always learned from and grew because of those failures.
In other words – Peter has characteristics that many of us have.
Actually – they are characteristics that we all can have – if we’re willing to admit to them.
The Recruiting Poster
At the very beginning of this series – we saw this letter of congratulations from the leader of the revolution – The Promised One –
You have successfully figured out rule #1. Since you’re the first to do it, your task now is to get the rest of the world to believe rule #1. No pressure, but the fate of the every living person hangs in the balance. There are too many people for you to do this alone – so you must get others to help you. All of you will be hated, tortured, and rejected for what you believe. Some will actively work against you. Others will just not care. Either way, all of those who don’t believe rule #1 will die. Your task is simple – and yet difficult. But I know you will not back down. You will come to wish you hadn’t been the first. You will even deny knowing rule #1. But you will turn back to me – and complete your mission. As you know, I have already won. You will join in my victory – along with everyone else who comes to believe rule #1. I cannot be with you physically, but I will be with you until the end. You and those who believe rule #1 with you will be my representatives in this battle. I will see all of you at the celebration feast at the end.
Maybe now you can begin to imagine the recruiting poster that was read – that led to this letter of congratulations –
Wanted: Someone to be involved in the greatest battle ever – the battle of good versus evil. The battle will be intense. It will be like nothing you’ve ever experienced. The enemy is invisible. You cannot see them. You can only see the damage left behind where they have been. If you try to fight them one on one – by yourself – you will be crushed. Defeated. But join the Promised One – and victory is assured. You will still feel crushed from time to time – but in the end – the Promised One will prevail – and you will follow him into the victory celebration.
The rewards are indescribable. Everything you have now – everything you see now – everyone you know now – has been tainted by the prince of this earth. After the victory – this evil prince will be gone. Everything and everyone that is there at the victory celebration will be as the ancient one we call Father had intended from the beginning. It will be like Eden Version 2. Maybe even better.
If you are willing to give up everything to follow the Promised One – he wants you. If you are willing to leave behind anyone who insists that you are wrong and whose minds cannot be changed – he wants you. He must be number one in your life. You are allowed to fail. You will fail. But if he is number one, he will help you return to the mission. He will help you learn from your failures. And then, he will help you lead others.
The war will not be easy. It will come with pain. It will come with setbacks. You will want to leave the battlefield and return to your old life. Odd as it may seem though, the burden will be light. If you keep him at the front of your mind – and search for him when you lose your way – this will be the most rewarding experience of your life.
Warning: If you are not for us – then you are against us. There’s no in between. Which side do you choose?
If you are with us – please apply here – John 3:16.