One of my favorite movies is The Blind Side, about a high school kid from the ghetto adopted into a white family committed to everything Old Miss. Without consulting him, they sign Michael (“Big Mike”) up for football, grooming him to get a scholarship to that university. He thinks the world of his new family so, indifferent to the sport, he suits up and practices with the team.
His heart isn’t into demolishing people lined up trying to demolish him. (Think Ferdinand the Bull.) But his new mom (marvelously played by Sandra Bullock) discovers that Michael’s percentile for “protective instincts” on his aptitude test is in the nineties. How this plays out when applied to seeing his own team as family and the opposition as a threat to them is delightful, hilarious even.
I see the apostle Peter as a big man–in fact, his famous biography by Lloyd C. Douglas, which I am about to read again, is The Big Fisherman. He can haul a net of 153 fish onto the beach single-handed when the other six men together weren’t able to hoist it up onto the deck. He may lumber; in the foot race to get to the tomb when they hear it’s empty he won’t be able to keep up with John, though he doesn’t hesitate to plunge into it first when they get there.
Peter’s “protective instincts” rate in the high nineties. I’m sure he sees himself as Jesus’ bodyguard and is ready to protect him at every turn.
But Jesus keeps telling him to “stand down.”
When Jesus describes the suffering and death he must go through and Peter objects, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to you–NOT ON MY WATCH!” Jesus pins his ears back with “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”
I can almost hear Peter grumble, “Gee whiz, Jesus. I was just trying to help.”
After dinner and a long discourse by his boss, Peter and the disciples are dozing off in the garden while Jesus goes aside and wrestles with his feelings. They’re keeping an eye on him, he’ll be all right. No need to be fully awake and on guard–but again, Peter has mis-guessed the play. Instead of resting, he was apparently supposed to be wide awake and–praying?
Suddenly alert, Peter hears noises, low voices, sees swinging lights. Dozens of armed men are approaching in formidable array. It’s clear the mob intends to capture Jesus. The need to protect their Master is obvious. The disciples all see it and while they are wasting time asking Jesus “Shall we strike with the sword?” Peter just DOES.
He swings, managing only to cut off the right ear of the man closest to him as the man dodges. Now this is more like! The battle is joined–but no, wait, WHAT? Inexplicably, Jesus is calling a time-out: “STOP! NO MORE OF THIS!” (Who is in control here?) “Put the sword into the sheath! The cup which the Father has given me, shall I not drink it?”
Now Jesus is giving a sermon about those taking up the sword dying by the sword, about appealing to his Father for “more than twelve legions” of angels to rescue him if he wants to be rescued–
Angels, Jesus? Really? Look. We’re right here! We can take on this crowd. Jesus, I’ve got this!
No, Peter, you haven’t.
In Peter’s confusion and rising anger at his humiliation he is aware that Jesus is actually fussing over the man he wounded, a minor wound, restoring the ear! An ear! Who cares about a _____ ear! If the guy hadn’t jerked back I’d have killed him–and done it for Jesus! Doesn’t he appreciate that I have his best interest in mind? I’m ready to give my life for him–I want to, if that’s what it takes to protect his! Why isn’t he letting me do my job!
Every time I try to step between him and danger, he stops me. He’s doing it again: “Don’t get in my way! I’ve got to do this!” He undercuts my ability to help him. He’s making a mockery of my loyalty to him! He praised me for recognizing him as the Messiah, the Son of the living God. He called me a rock, said he would build his church on my faith, gave me the keys to the kingdom. He gives me authority and then scolds me for using it. He empowers me and then waves my power away as irrelevant, like he doesn’t even need me.
Everything I do–he says it’s wrong. Well, what is wrong with him— with a controversial figure, a man destined for greatness, who will not let his retainers take care of him, for God’s sake?
I don’t understand this man. Whose side is Jesus on, anyway? Maybe he is not who I thought he was. Everything is backwards and inside-out. I don’t even know him.
NOTHING MAKES SENSE.
And Peter, it won’t, until the resurrection.
His kingdom is not of this world, his weapons not carnal, His enemies not flesh and blood. He is in control of His own arrest, His own sentence, His own crucifixion. Not King Herod, not Governor Pilate, not the Jewish sacerdotal hierarchy, not the commoners beginning to feel he tricked them with his Messiah-like character, words and deeds. (They know better now: Messiahs don’t die!) Though they will yell for it, even they are not in control of His death for their deliverance.
And in fact, from the cross, He will forgive them “for they don’t know what they are doing.” The apostle Paul will write, “None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”