Well, this past weekend saw the climax of the professional football season. The Super Bowl was played and, in the humble opinion of this writer, it was a good one. The two best teams in professional football battled it out in a closely played contest that cost a small fortune to see in person. I must admit that this Super Bowl is the first professional football game I have watched since the whole kneeling-during-the-national-anthem thing started a few years ago.
I was excited to see a former Ohio State Buckeye lead the local team to the final game of the season. And I was rooting hard for them to win. But, don’t you know, for the teams involved the bottom line is not whether I was watching. No, for the individual players involved the only thing that mattered was one set of numbers, and that was the final score. And every player in that stadium wanted only one thing — to be on the team that has posted the highest number in the score column by the time the final buzzer sounded.
But that is the dream not only of every player on the two teams playing for that coveted prize. It has been and still will be the dream of every sandlot football player across the country. Kids all over America will be lining up in their backyards and pretending to be Joe Burrow or Joe Mixon or Matt Stafford or Cooper Kupp or any one of the other players on these teams. They will be wearing their jerseys, imitating their swaggers and hoping that one day they can grow up to be just like them.
Who do you want to be like when you grow up? Yes, I’m talking about you, that grown man who struggles with work every day of your life. I mean you, that housewife who is struggling with kids, diapers, groceries, dirty dishes and the like. I’m talking about you, the kid who is trying to figure out why the girl he asked out to the prom won’t give him a definite answer. Or you, the girl who cannot figure out what it takes to get some fellow to take an interest in you. Who do you want to be like when you grow up?
May I tell you who I have come to admire more than almost any other individual who ever has walked the face of the earth? Short of Jesus Christ Himself, I am talking about Peter, the one they called Simon Peter. You know, old foot-in-mouth Peter, the disciple who always engaged his tongue before he put his brain in gear. Impulsive and impetuous Peter, the one who regularly would leap off the cliff before looking to see how far down he was going to fall.
The one reason I have found Peter so compelling is that out of all the disciples who followed Jesus, Peter is the only one of them who walked on water. He is the only one who could say, long after Jesus departed this earth, that he put his sandals into deep and stormy waters and walked on solid water — and it was not ice.
Peter’s brashness and his rash behavior that night in the boat were right in character with the Peter we always have known. He was always doing something unusual and strange. But that night, I believe he came very close to putting his foot in his mouth for good, for I am convinced that Peter did not really think at first that the “ghost” out on the water was Jesus walking toward them. But when Jesus told him to come to him, Peter had no choice but to step out over the side of the boat and walk. I suspect he tried to look down at the water, but he soon found that looking at gallons of H2O would not make it any more solid than it had been in those parts for years. He then looked directly into the eyes of Jesus and discovered that that water, as fluid as it was, became a solid foundation for Peter that night. And he walked on water. He did the impossible.
I am also convinced that he wondered how long this would last and began to look at what his feet were stepping on, to see if there was any more solid footing in front of him. And when that happened, he began to sink. And he kept sinking until he looked back into the eyes of Jesus and called out to Him for help. Then, and only then, did Jesus help him. He pulled that brash and bold and now humbled man up out of the stormy sea, and together they walked on solid footing back to the boat.
Ask any of the players on either team that played in Sunday’s Super Bowl and they will tell you that while the ultimate prize of victory is something they have all desired and worked hard for, having achieved it, having arrived at the “big show,” and yes, having even won the ultimate prize, the ring, is not enough. If they could talk to Peter, Peter would tell each of them that no matter how successful you are, no matter how many Super Bowl rings you wear, no matter what you have accomplished in your life, it is all for naught if you take your eyes off Jesus.
And what is true for Peter, and for any of those players, is also true for you and for me. We must not get so caught up in climbing the ladder of success that we take our eyes off the Savior. God promises to walk with us through the rough spots of life. All he asks is that we keep our eyes on Him. That’s why He is called the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Chuck Tabor is a religion columnist for The Times-Gazette and former Hillsboro area pastor who now resides in Florida. He can be reached at [email protected]