And so the journey began. Neither Peter nor James, nor the other men who were called had any idea what they were in for. Sometimes in life you sign up for a weekend experience and get a world changing mission. One thing was sure; this Jesus was unlike anyone they had ever met. No one was even close. There was one thing they noticed; Jesus was in constant communion with One He called “The Father.” This Father was very different from what they experienced from the teachings of the Rabbi’s. Jesus spoke to The Father as if He were right there with Him, every step of the way. His communication with the Father was the source of His strength, and when He prayed He prayed as though the conversation was real and interactive; He prayed believing. When they observed Jesus praying something powerful was always happening, something outside of this world. Peter, in particular, would sit and listen completely intrigued. For Peter, prayer was something you did when you were in trouble or angry, and often the words that came out would be reverent, but filled with anger and disbelief. Peter was like a lot of people who believed in God, but not in prayer. What was the point? Peter had concluded that asking God for things was probably not the best idea. In fact, he had learned that if you never ask you are less likely to be disappointed with either the “no” answer,” or more likely, no answer at all. Don’t expect; it’s better that way.
And then there was this other reason Peter found it difficult to try to talk to God. Peter saw the world as a dark and harsh place. His closest connections were with a few fellow fishermen, and even those relationships were on and off, and Peter was not the kind of guy who would throw all his chips in to follow someone. People saw Peter as the leader. But Peter saw Jesus as one he was driven to follow. Peter saw and felt something from Jesus that was undeniable, intense, and compelling, something he knew little of – Love; authentic, unconditional love. This really is what kept Peter from the Father. He didn’t know the love. Peter struggled to feel it, and he struggled to give it. You didn’t send out love messages in the Roman Empire. Being the love guy meant being the soft guy, and soft guys, whether they were Romans or Jews, were ultimately crushed. Not only did Peter feel an unexplainable divine love coming from Jesus, he saw that Jesus gave that same love to every person he encountered. Jesus always had time for the one. Jesus was moved with compassion every time, everywhere, but Jesus was anything short of soft. Jesus had an undeniable authority and power, yet He displayed an intriguing meekness. How did these traits go together?
Peter was the guy who believed in God but wasn’t sure that God loved Peter. The idea of God loving anyone really made no sense. Peter knew there was a hole in his heart that nothing seemed able to fill, a lingering longing, a gnawing empty vacuum of the soul. Right now all he knew was that Jesus seemed to be answering some deep questions about God for the first time in his life, so much so, that Peter knew he had to forsake everything to find out if this was real. Nothing else seemed to matter now, these questions had to get answered.
Every day with Jesus was special. People who were demon possessed were freed. Peter saw people with deformed limbs healed. At one point he saw some men peel a section of roof off a man’s house to lower a paralyzed man in front of Jesus. The people who came were healed, everyone, every time. It was like living in a dream. The other thing they noticed was the reaction of the Pharisees. It seemed that most of the healings came on the Sabbath. Every time Jesus healed on the Sabbath, the anger of the Pharisees grew greater and greater. But another thing kept happening simultaneously; the crowds grew larger and larger. The amount of people who came to see Jesus was beyond comprehension; thousands and thousands.
One day, as they were walking, one of the rulers of the Pharisees came to Jesus, desperate. This made no sense. The Pharisees hated Jesus, but on this occasion, when one of them was in trouble, he came straight to Jesus, falling at his feet, begging him saying, “My daughter is dying, come and lay your hands on her and she will live.”
It is interesting how when trouble comes, people run for Jesus despite their doubts. They all thought for sure that Jesus would tell him to get lost. That’s what Peter would have done. Jesus and a large group headed for the man’s home. Not far down the trail another man came and said, “You’re daughter has died.” The man dropped to his knees and began sobbing in grief. Once again the harsh world claimed another victim. Everyone was silent except for the wails of the broken Pharisee. Jesus knelt, and looked into this man’s eyes and said, “Do not be afraid, only believe. Let’s go see your daughter.” Jesus helped the man up, and together they walked toward the home. Once there Jesus only allowed the father, Peter, James and John to go in with Him. As they entered the house mourning was everywhere. The stench and hopelessness of death was everywhere, the world filled with the agony of despair; the loss of a child. How unfair Peter thought. This is why I don’t pray. God and love; are you kidding me? The two never equal. And then Jesus said something shocking, “Why all this commotion? The child is not dead, but sleeping.” Peter, James and John looked at one another and thought, “Ok, we made a mistake in following this guy.” He is not well. What kind of foolish statement is this to make to a grieving family? The reaction of the people was expected; they ridiculed Him. How inappropriate Jesus! Who let you in here anyway? Their emotions went from mourning to mocking laughter. “Pathetic, wanna be prophet, you are disgusting.” Jesus asked for all of them to leave except the mother and father, and Peter, James, and John. They all entered the room together. Nothing convulses the heart more than sudden death, and the loss of an innocent one. There the little girl lie, cold, stiff, with the paleness of death all about her. The parents writhed in agony; such profound loss. Jesus moved toward the little girl, and then did something outside of logic. He took her by her little hand, and said, “Little girl, arise.” The room became completely silent. The parents looked on in complete bewilderment. Peter, James and John were stunned. What is happening? There was a quiet uncomfortable silence and then within a moment, suddenly the little girl’s eyes twitched, she popped up, arose from her bed, and walked over to her parents. The parents collapsed in a mix of grief and exuberant joy. The bedroom, and then the house, and then all around the house were filled with utter amazement. What just happened? Who is this man? Peter sat on the ground with his head in his hands in complete amazement. James and John were in shock also. The parents were overcome with a variety of emotions; joy, disbelief, intense gratitude. Peter was starting to believe in God in a new way, and so was everyone else. He was perplexed at how this Jesus loved each person, every time, every day. Peter wondered, does God really love me? Can this truly be? How can it be?