You and I are forever reading of the antics of dumb crooks and caught-in-the-act celebrities or politicians and scratching our heads while wondering, “What were they thinking?”
Would it interest you to know the Lord felt the same way, not about dumb crooks and self-seeking bureaucrats, but about His own disciples.
It’s in Luke 9, and it’s enough to disgust you with them…and by inference, with yourself. Myself.
First, the background situation. The Lord and three of His disciples — James, John, and Peter — are atop the Mount of Transfiguration and overwhelmed by what they are seeing. The Lord suddenly becomes transformed in front of their eyes as though a light deep within Him began emitting rays. Then, a cloud enveloped them all and the Lord was seen to have a conversation with two ghostly figures whom they either recognize or later learn to be Moses and Elijah. Of the first three gospels, only Luke tells what they were discussing: Jesus’ coming death in Jerusalem. How we wish we knew what they were saying about it!
Okay, we have here a tense, strange, wonderful, scary situation, one unlike anything that has gone before or would follow. Now, you’re one of the three disciples. What do you do? Not a thing. You take it all in and feel privileged to have been a spectator of this vision.
But, then, Simon Peter is not like you. Always looking for a way to improve on any situation, Peter felt he had to say something.
“Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here. Now, let us make three tabernacles — one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ Because he did not know what to say.” (Luke 9:33)
As one known to break a holy silence with the intrusion of fleshly speech, I know how it feels to be Simon Peter, I’m afraid. But that’s not good. This is a terrible affliction and handicap, one that must be tamed and brought under the control of the Holy Spirit if God is to use such a person.
What were you thinking, Peter?
The answer of course is, “Uh, nothing.”
And that’s the problem.
What is truly odd about this is that throughout the remainder of this chapter (Luke 9), the same thing occurs in one way or the other three more times. Think of that–three additional times, the disciples speak out of turn and get rebuked by the Lord.
First: verse 46. The disciples were arguing about who was the greatest.
That strikes us as funny, but the Lord took it dead seriously. He sat a child before them and said, “Whoever becomes like this little child — the least of all — shall be called great.”
Second: verse 49. The disciples had seen someone working for Jesus who was not part of their team and had warned him to stop.
Jesus was not happy about that. “Whoever is not against you,” He said, “is for you.”
Third: verse 51-56. When the citizens of the Samaritan village refused to give admittance to the Lord and His disciples, the thunderous James and John volunteered to command fire from Heaven to consume the village.
Jesus said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of.” I call that a genteel manner of telling them, “Stop that! You’re talking like the devil!” He added, “I did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”
How like us.
Like self-ruled Simon Peter, we often do not know what we are saying.
Like the self-seeking arguing disciples, we often do not know what we are doing.
Like the self-important condemning disciples, we frequently do not know whom we are rebuking.
Like the self-centered fire-calling brothers, we do not know whose spirit we are imitating.
The greatest among us is your servant.
The fellow working for Jesus but not part of our group is our brother.
Not calling down fire but reaching people for salvation, that’s our mission.
You have to wonder if at some point in the celestial future the Lord will sit us all down and let us (make us!) watch a rerun of our lives from start to finish. If that happens, I have no doubt that the overriding sentiment that will be continuously heard from the viewers will be, “What was I thinking?” “What could he have been thinking?” “Why did she do such a thing?”
A good prayer at the beginning of each day might well be something like: “Lord, help me to think through my words and my actions and not to speak and act impulsively or thoughtlessly. Help me to walk in wisdom and not in foolishness. Amen.”