They were a small group standing on a hill gazing into the sky. They had just watched their closest companion, best loved friend and hope for Israel disappear before their eyes. We can only imagine what they were thinking and feeling. The angels nudged them from their reverie to remind them it was not the end after all. With this hope, they roused themselves to walk back to Jerusalem to the upper room where they were staying with other Jesus followers.
Between the time Jesus ascended and the beginning of Pentecost it seems as if a huge shift occurred within the eleven men on the hill. It seems as if one minute they were standing with Jesus still asking Him questions, ever the students (disciples). The next time we hear from Peter, he is leading the others with authority and confidence for a decision on a replacement 12th apostle for their ‘apostolic ministry’. These men, these disciples, became apostles that day and stepped into their life purpose. They had fully realized who they were born to be, in Christ! It was a powerful awakening and it was about to shake Jerusalem and the ends of the earth. Their response? They spent the next 10 days in prayer. Amazing isn’t it?
Here’s the thing: Just a little while beforehand, Peter had denied his identity in Jesus (and his identification with Jesus) three times publicly (John 18). It was the forgiving love of Christ that awakened Peter to who he really was. It grieved Peter that Jesus would ask him if he loved Him three times, until he realized that Jesus was forgiving him for each time Peter had denied Him. It was a loving act of affirmation of who Peter was in Jesus’ eyes. And if someone had asked Peter who he was just before Jesus ascended, he most likely would have replied “I am a disciple of Jesus”. A very short time later, if asked that same question, he would have answered, “I am an apostle of Jesus Christ!”.
It’s true that some of us see ourselves with cloudy vision, just like Peter. We have deeply embedded ways of thinking about ourselves. For some of us, others are more gifted, more anointed, more relationally adept and more qualified to speak, more unafraid and bolder, more of whatever we are not. We long to know what God thinks of us, who He sees us to be.
And to be honest, we are not looking for a spiritual answer. We can read the scriptures for that, we say! We want Him to free us from our life limiting views. We want to move in freedom in Jesus, right now, but we have this ‘thing’ that stops us. It’s maddening, isn’t it? It’s heartbreaking at times, also. I do not think Peter wanted to be the one to deny Jesus even once! Let alone three times. He loved Jesus. He was just afraid, period. And likely it was not the last time he was afraid either.
What made the difference in how he saw himself?
It turns out it may be a spiritual answer after all, if Peter’s experience is any indication. Could it be that when Peter really understood that he was already accepted by Jesus just as he was, his vision became a little clearer? Then when he realized that Jesus saw him much differently than he saw himself, it became clear to him that he was more than just his own opinion and a world of possibilities opened up. He had needed to see himself as Jesus did, even with all his shortcomings.
Jesus, in effect, spoke a ‘benediction of being’ over Peter. In a loving way, He acknowledged Peter’s weakness(es) and at the same time affirmed His purpose for Peter’s life as still being the rock on which “I will build my church; and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” Matt 16:18. Peter finally got it and went full steam ahead into the life he had been designed for and for which he had been given breath.
What does this have to do with you and me?
It has everything to do with “as I think within myself, that is what I am” Prov 23:7). There is no getting around this truth. We are created this way. Even science is catching up with this realization. This is precisely the ‘thing’ that limits us.
My question is this: Why can’t we ask Jesus the same question He asked Peter? “Jesus, who do you say that I am?”. And while we are asking, we can ask Him to give us eyes to see and ears to hear. Is it really OK to ask God this question?
The answer lies in this: Jesus said we may ask anything in His name and He will do it, John 14:14. And Jesus responded to Peter “this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in Heaven” Matt 16:17. This sounds like a ‘yes’ to me. If some answers are only revealed by asking in His name and are only revealed by God (through the Holy Spirit living within us, and through scripture inspired by God), why wouldn’t we ask? Where else will we get a straight answer, one we can believe? How else are we to know?
We need to know the answer to Jesus’ question: “Who do you say that I am?”. We need to have a clear understanding who Jesus is and believe He is who He says He is. Otherwise, if He’s not, where is the Power in His words to love, forgive, save, change and guide us? If He is not the Son of God, how can He speak for God and assure us we are designed by God for and with a purpose? So, there is a reason after all for Jesus asking Peter “Who do you say that I am?”. It needed to be answered then and it needs to be answered now by each of us individually.
If Peter, who had spent so much time being with Jesus, needed to know who he was designed to be through the eyes of Jesus, why would it be any different for you and me? It made all the difference in Peter’s life. Imagine if he had always only thought of himself as a disciple and never caught the vision that he was meant to an apostle of the gospel of Jesus Christ?
“That is why we have this scripture text: No one’s ever seen or heard anything like this. Never so much as imagined anything quite like this-What God has arranged for those who love Him. But you have seen and heard it because God by his Spirit has brought it all out into the open before you” 1 Cor 2:9-10 The Message.
We were designed for a purpose. My purpose is not your purpose, nor is your purpose mine. You are who Jesus says you are! I am who Jesus says I am! We each have a God designed purpose. Let’s go find out what it is! It all begins and ends with the conversations we have with Him while spending time with Jesus (which interestingly is exactly what the disciples did before their awakening and after).
It will be a powerful awakening! Our purpose is to shake whatever place the Lord has us in individually (for eternity). To Him, this is a big deal. To us it is just as big a deal; we cannot do it without His perspective, love and guidance.
Let’s go find out! I’m excited, are you?
Oh and one final thought: Let’s not forget that our purpose is all wrapped up with making Jesus known. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Act 1:8