“Imagine all those kids who wrote their mock exams this year and didn’t fully prepare,” my husband said as we were chatting about the current events and the impact that the corona virus potentially could have on life as we know it. He felt a deep empathy for those kids who thought they still had an opportunity to write the actual exam, only for their school year to be dramatically cut short.
God has been speaking to me a lot about being prepared. My biggest takeaway from this pandemic is that we really can’t expect a life without any curve balls. I’m not advocating walking around expecting disaster either, but for me this season has felt a little bit like a mock exam. At the very least it has made me consider the unpredictable nature of the world we live in.
I am finding that the only thing that has kept me steady in this weird situation we all find ourselves in, it that my God is not unpredictable. He is about the only constant assurance that I can anchor my soul to. I am grateful for the little exams I have had to write along the way, even though I failed many of them. Spectacularly. Ha!
As I sought the Lord this afternoon (in my new isolation pod – my car), He took me to the passage in Matthew 16:13-20. Jesus is walking with his disciples and he gives them a little mock exam. You see, things were about to get unpredictable and Jesus had to prepare his friends for what was about to come. He asked them some questions. Was this perhaps a way to see if they had been paying attention in class? Would they be able to pass the exam that was to come?
“Who do people say I am?”
The disciples offered some suggestions. Some people thought that Jesus was John the Baptist, some thought he might be a re-incarnated Elijah or one of the other prophets of old.
As I looked at this passage, I imagined Jesus asking me this question. Growing up in church, I could tell you a lot about Jesus. I could tell you who the pastor said He was. I could tell you who my mother said He was. I could even tell you what my Philosophy lecturer said He was. I had a lot of knowledge about Him, but I didn’t really know Him.
“Who do you say I am?”
Simon passed the exam! He knew that Jesus was the Messiah, because in that moment, the Father revealed it to Him. He answered: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.”
What was that moment like for you, when you realised who Jesus was for the very first time? I remember driving home from a night shift, when I worked as a care giver in London many years ago. I had a flat tire and had to wait for the road recovery assistance team to come and help me change a tire. Embarrassing, but true.
As I waited for them, I had a magazine from Creflo Dollar ministries in the car. I managed to pull into a service station and sat in a nearby cafe, drinking a coffee and reading this article that explained the gift of God’s grace to me in a way that lifted the veil from eyes. I realised in that moment that I did not have to pay for my mistakes, because Jesus already did.
This information wasn’t new to me. I had known this from the age of six, but in that moment it became alive in my heart. That flat tire was one of the greatest gifts of my life. But it was only a glimpse of what was to come.
An intimate knowledge of God.
Jesus said: “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being.” (Verse 17).
There is something spectacular that happens when we move from head knowledge to intimate knowledge. When we develop an ear to hear the voice of the Father for ourselves; not having to rely on the second hand revelation of others. The Father wants to reveal himself to us. He wants to show us His nature; that His heart towards us is good.
I spent many years believing that grace came from Jesus in order to shelter me from an angry God. But Isaiah 53:10 says that it pleased the Father to send His only Son to die for me, so I can become part of His family. Understanding the heart of the Father towards me, has made all the difference. It has set me free. Free to love and be loved by my Creator and to discover His heart towards me.
Discovering our destiny and calling.
What I love most about this passage is how Jesus calls out Simon’s destiny and assignment, moments before he would write the biggest exam of his life. Simon gets an identity overhaul. He even gets a new name, Peter!
“Now I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the power of hell will not conquer it. And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you lock on earth will be locked in heaven, and whatever you open on earth will be opened in heaven.”
Matthew 16:18-19 NLT
Wow! What a calling. What authority that was given to Peter in that moment.
Do you know that the name Simon means? It means “listen.”
Do you know what the name Peter means? It means “rock.”
Do you know what happens when we walk close enough to our Saviour; when we hear His voice and listen to His teaching? We become rocks. Rocks that are solid, when all the world is shaking. We become firm, immovable, unshakable when everything around us is falling apart.
Everything these disciples were expecting were about to take a one hundred and eighty degree turn. They were preparing for an empire to be overturned, but saw their Messiah executed. They didn’t have the ability to see what was about to happen in the future. They didn’t know that their disappointment would be temporary and that their friend, and Saviour, would rise from the grave.
There will be times when life takes us on a journey we did not intent to go. Knowing about God is not enough to prepare us for the exams of life, we need to have an experiential, intimate knowledge of Him if we want to stay rooted and grounded when the storm comes. We need to be intentional listeners who pay attention to what our Teacher is showing us in the daily circumstances we face.
Who is Jesus to you? He is asking you today: “Who do you say I am?” I believe that He wants to reveal something about His nature and His heart towards you in this uncertain season. He wants to be your Rock when the world is shaking all around you. He wants to be the arms that hold you when you’re feeling lost. He wants to be the answer to your mock exam.
Take a minute to ask Him to show you who He is. He wants you to be prepared. Not just for this moment in time, but for all time. For anything that comes your way. Because He loves you and He doesn’t want you to be shaken when things get unpredictable. He wants you to be able to stand strong in your faith and trust that His plans for you are still in motion.
It is time to step into the calling that He has prepared for you. You have the keys of the Kingdom; the power to bind or release the power of Heaven upon the earth. Now is the time to rise.
Today, I hear the Father saying: “Glorious Child. Created to stand, when all the world is shaking around you. Do not fear. I am with you always. My plans for you are still good. I do not change my mind. I am the same yesterday, today and forever. I am constant. In me there is no darkness at all. As you remain in me, and my Words remain in you, you will stand firm. In my Light. In my Glory. Forever.” ❤