Summary: We’ve all experienced potholes in the road of life that either slow us down, delay our journey or sometimes totally disrupt it. Potholes are anything in life that keep us from moving forward.
Bumpy streets are so commonplace in New Orleans that residents have taken some extreme measures to draw attention to particularly bothersome potholes. There was the birthday party in New Orleans East for a 5-foot-wide pothole on Cannes Street. They had cake, balloons and a "Happy Birthday, Pothole" sign. Then there was the Broadmoor couple who turned a 2-foot-deep, 8-foot-wide pothole into the “Broadmoor Green Space Migratory Bird Refuge and Wetlands Reclamation Project” Decorated with plastic flamingos and toy boats. Potholes are a fact of life in New Orleans. But when you think about it, they’re just a fact of life. We’ve all experienced potholes in the road of life that either slow us down, delay our journey or sometimes totally disrupt it. Potholes are anything in life that keep us from moving forward.
The thing about potholes is that for the sake of your car, you always try to avoid them. And we try to do the same thing in life as well, don’t we? Our hope is that the journey of faith will be devoid of potholes. Isn’t there an expectation that when you draw closer to God, that life will get easier? And yet the Biblical record shows just the opposite. Abraham received God’s call to be a father of a great nation and then was asked to sacrifice his own son as a test of his faith. Joseph was blessed by God to play a pivotal role in God’s plan but his brothers got jealous and sold him into slavery. Elijah the prophet was to challenge the pagan ways of King Ahab and princess Jezebel, who got so angry that she put a contract out on Elijah’s head. Each of the Apostles sustained imprisonment, beatings and eventually died a martyr’s death. And Jesus? After he was baptized, he was sent into the wilderness and tempted. And the challenges and potholes kept coming all the way to the cross. When you follow Jesus and do the God’s will, the question isn’t if potholes are going to come but “When?”
And when they do, there is often a crisis of faith. When the potholes of life hit, we cry out, “Why, God?” And it’s precisely in those moments that we have a decision to make. Our Scripture today teaches us that potholes and questions of faith can come unexpectedly. Jesus was traveling with the disciples and out of the blue, he posed a question: “Who do people say I am?” After they answer, Jesus then asks: “who do you say I am?” This is a question that every single person must deal with in his or her life, most often when our life has hit a pothole. You can answer that question rationally, historically and even Scripturally, but when you’ve hit a pothole, the question becomes personal, “Who do you say who Jesus is?” All of us have to come to a point where you have to make a personal decision of who Jesus is in your life, right there in the midst of your pothole, crisis or tragedy.
Peter’s pothole revolved around two things. First is Jesus’ mission. When Peter confessed Jesus as the Messiah, “Jesus began to teach them the Son of Man must suffer many things, be rejected by the elders, the chief priest and the teachers of the law and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.” And you can almost hear Peter quote Arnold from “Different Strokes”, “Whacha you talkin’ about Jesus?” What is this about suffering, rejection, and death? I didn’t know any of this when I signed up to follow you. This is not the expectation I had of who you were, Jesus, or what you were going to bring into my life.” This wasn’t the Messiah that Peter looked for. He was expecting a King, a conquering Messiah that would make all wrongs right and overthrow the Roman oppressors. How could the Messiah, the all-powerful Son of God, be subject to the same humiliation of a common criminal? And how could He be defeated in death? Suddenly, Peter’s expectation was not aligning with Jesus’ mission.
Peter’s second struggle revolved around Jesus’ call on our lives. And this is where we usually struggle as well. For Jesus said “If anyone wants to come after me you must deny yourself, take up your cross daily and follow me.” What were Peter and the disciples expecting? In Mark 10, we have the story of James and John asking Jesus, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” In other words, place us in the seat of honor, power and authority. This is what they were hoping to get from following Jesus. And isn’t that the way it often is with us. We make Jesus and our faith journey about us, about Jesus meeting our needs, answering our prayers and giving us the guidance to make life go smoother. And when we do, we begin to make Jesus into a personal Savior, not the Savior of the world. Jesus becomes a Jesus of our imagination. But we’re called to follow the real Jesus.