By John Greco
Jesus changes everything. If I were to try to summarize the message of the New Testament in one sentence, that might be it. Jesus’s presence required a response from everyone He enountered, including those closest to Him.
“Who do you say that I am?” Jesus asked His disciples (Matthew 16:15). I wonder if any of them knew this question would be the most important of their lives. Peter, for all his trademark bumbling impulsiveness, was the first with the right answer: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (v.16). It’s the “good confession,” one that every believer makes as they receive their adoption into God’s family. But it takes a lifetime to work out how this truth changes everything. It takes continual reminders to move this good confession from our heads to our hearts and then out through our hands. We are all in process.
I’d like to think Peter was only illustrating this truth for us when he decided to let his impetuosity take the wheel shortly after receiving a gold star for his confession. It happened when Jesus started talking about the plan—the one where He lays down His life and then takes it up again. You know, the plan where Jesus overthrows the forces of sin and death. The one where He reverses the curse that has befallen our world. That’s when Peter called Jesus over to rebuke Him. I catch myself shaking my head when I read that phrase in Matthew’s Gospel. But there it is: “Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him” (v.22).
Peter knew who Jesus was, but he wasn’t prepared for all that meant. He couldn’t believe that the Messiah would be killed. Or that Jesus must die because of Peter’s own sin. The rest of Peter’s story, recorded in the New Testament, reveals his ongoing struggle to reconcile who Jesus is—Peter’s own good confession—with how that truth can, and should, change the world. Peter tried to defend Jesus when Jesus needed no defenders (John 18:10–11), and he denied Jesus when his life was threatened because of their friendship (Matthew 26:69–75). But Peter also led the first Gentile to the Lord when he came to understand that Jesus died for people of every race (Acts 10:1–48), and later in life he was willing to die for his good confession (2 Peter 1:13–15).
Jesus changes everything. So, every day, we must be prepared for how He wants to change us. May we be people who can make the good confession with our lips, but not only with our lips. May this good confession of who Jesus is spill out into everything we say and do. Amen.
Written by John Greco