"One day Jesus left the crowds to pray alone. Only His disciples were with Him, and He asked them, 'Who do people say I am?'" (Luke 9:18)
This unlikely band of twelve young men had spent exhilarating days with Jesus. The blind received sight, the deaf could hear, the lame walked and the dead were raised to life. They watched in amazement as Jesus fed over five thousand people with only five fishes and two loaves of bread.
Now it was time to slip away - to soak in the silence, rest and pray. I imagine them sitting together on a hillside under a blue sky filled with fleecy clouds. Perhaps some of them stretched out and began to doze in the warmth of the sun.
Jesus broke the silence with one of those questions they had come to expect - the kind that made you search your heart and long to please Him with your answer.
"Who do people say I am?"
The diffident answers came: John the Baptist, Elijah, or one of the ancient prophets. Jesus sat quietly, a gentle breeze rippled the grass. Then: "But who do you say, I am?"
"You are the Messiah, sent from God!" It was a glorious moment for Peter. He got it right. His heart must have nearly burst with the thrill of it. He had taken another leap of faith and landed on His feet.
Peter - the impulsive leader - he had moments of greatness and moments of monumental failure. He went from recognizing the Son of God to denying he ever knew Him. How is it so easy to go from great faith to fear and doubt?
Truthfully, it isn't hard to understand. I can go from faith to fear in a matter of a few moments - about the time it takes for that phone call no one wants to get, or that dreaded doctor's report or any one of a number of difficult circumstances. Suddenly the things I thought settled in my heart come into question, and I fall hard.
The wonder is, Jesus is always there to do for me exactly what He did for Peter - after the denial, after His resurrection. There is grace and mercy and a call to a new beginning. Like Peter, when I fall or fail I want to run away and hide, but Jesus is never content to leave us there. He comes with forgiveness and love, and infinite patience. Then, when the time is right, He gently pushes us back into the fray - one hand on our back the other firmly holding ours.