“Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you…’” (Mathew 16:16-17)
“He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling-block to me!” (Matthew 16:23)
All in one chapter, we see the mixed nature of Jesus and Peter’s special relationship. Because of his devotion, Peter begs Jesus to stop angering the priests and scribes who wish him harm. Jesus’ response? “Get thee behind me, Satan!” No word of acknowledgement for his concern and love, Jesus appears simply irritated by Peter’s fear.
In my life, the best relationships are full of these painfully honest moments. I have two roommates right now, both of whom I like very much. One is particularly funny, the other especially compassionate; we all share a penchant for romantic comedies and good books. However, we do not always get along. One night one forgot her keys and woke me up at two in the morning to let her in the building. I was about as nice as a grizzly bear woken up in the middle of winter. But these difficult times build trust for relationship. Later, the same roommate timidly explained that my boisterous demeanor frightens her, so I have learned to speak more slowly and quietly when we are together, and she feels more free to express her feelings at home.
In the midst of these painful moments, relationships are built upon the refusal to walk away and the hope to try again tomorrow. Again and again, Peter was impetuous, and Jesus stuck around anyway. Peter climbed out of the boat to walk on the water, got scared, started to sink, and Jesus reached out to hold his hand and save him. Jesus called this friend Satan, told him to go away, but a week later the two men climbed up a mountain together so Peter could witness the transfiguration!
Complex relationships carry great potential for joy. Later in his life, Peter said of Jesus, “You have made known to me the ways of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.” Peter’s moment of fear on the water allowed for Jesus to show exactly how much he cared about Peter remaining alive. My roommate’s vulnerability in sharing enabled a deeper than previously imagined intimacy. Because God really DOES love this crazy, messed up world, a baby was born in a smelly stable. God did not abandon the world, but stuck around to show us love and hope. God does not abandon us, but sticks around to show us love and hope.