When it comes to Jesus's disciples, Peter has always been the one who most interests me. Peter is the first one to come up with the most outlandish, inappropriate statements, but he's the one who comes up with the most insightful statements as well. One of my favorite "Peterisms" is in John 6, when Peter basically says to Jesus, "Leave you? We don't have anywhere else to go! You're the only one who has words of life!"
But, as interesting as Peter is, I would have hated having him in my classroom. Actually, now that I think about it, I've had students like Peter. If you've ever been a teacher, either in school or church, you may have met a student like Peter...
Peter is the student who hears you make some inconsequential remark that was not at all the main point you were trying to make, and while you're proceeding forward to talk about the really important stuff, his brain is stuck on that one comment you made.
You see him sitting there, with a deep and puzzled look on his face, and you think "Oh, look at how carefully Peter is considering my words!" But then he raises his hand and asks a question that's related to what you were saying ten minutes ago, and you realize: he hasn't heard a word you've said in the last ten minutes!
Peter did this to Jesus on their very last evening together. Jesus was going to the cross the next day, and He had some very important information to impart.
"I'm going to be leaving you," Jesus says, "so I need to give you one final, great command. It's a New Commandment. Love one another as much as I love you. If you do this, the whole world will recognize that you are my followers."
What a powerful bit of teaching that is! To love one another as Jesus loves us, that will demonstrate itself in both small ways and big ways, just as Jesus himself served us in both the big and the small -- the cross, the washing of feet, and everything in between!
But Peter, he got stuck on the very first thing Jesus said. "Uh, Jesus? What do you mean, you're leaving?"
I don't think Peter heard a word Jesus said after that!
Of course, I don't blame him. I mean, don't I do the same thing? When I read something in God's word that might be challenging, difficult, or force me to change something about myself, don't I also let myself get distracted?
I think it is a common failing of God's people, that whenever God's word makes us uncomfortable, we let ourselves get distracted by issues of lesser importance, issues that have no eternal consequence, and yet we persuade ourselves that they are the issues of most importance.
I'm determined that I'm not going to be like Peter. I'm not going to let myself get distracted; I'm going to hear what Jesus has to say to me, and I will follow with my whole heart, instead of getting sidetracked by every little detail that comes down the pike.
My parents have a very foolish dog. He's a boxer named Duke. They got him when he was more than a year old, which is unusual for them -- they like to train a dog from when he's just a puppy.
This dog has been a source of frustration for my parents. He's got a tongue about the size of the state of Rhode Island, and with one lick he can cover you with drool from your big toenail to your forehead.
He also enjoys chewing on things. Shoes. Jackets. Furniture. Electrical cords. Yeah, electrical cords.
He's even been known to chase after my father when he's trimming the lawn with a weedwacker. That's right, he chases the weedwacker. Remember how I said he has a tongue the size of Rhode Island? Now he has a tongue the size of Rhode Island with a notch in the side of it.
And still he chases the weedwacker. Not the brightest dog I've ever seen.
He does one thing which I find very interesting. When he's in trouble, he knows he's in trouble, because my mother puts on her "scolding voice" and says: "DUUUUKE!" It's a tone of voice that inspires consternation in the bravest of both dogs and boys.
But Duke has figured out an interesting way of dealing with this particular tone of voice -- the moment my mother starts to say "DUUUUKE!" before the word is even completely out of her mouth, Duke has turned his head to look the other way. He seems to think that if he's not looking at her, if he doesn't make eye contact with her, he can pretend he didn't hear her.
Of course, it doesn't fool anyone, particularly not my mother.
I remembered that in Psalms 95:7-8 we are told "Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts."
And isn't that what we so often do to God? When we hear His voice, when we know what He expects of us, we act like Duke, pretending we don't hear. We harden our hearts toward God, and turn our faces away from Him.
But we don't fool Him, any more than Duke fools my mother. How much better to just simply listen, and not end up being the fool.