Tony's Reflection 74 

My new chief smiled at me with genuine warmth and reassurance. “You’re going to make mistakes,” he said. “Tell me and I’ll help you put them right, no problem. Just make sure you don’t make the same mistake twice.”

That was the most liberating thing I could have heard, amidst all the tensions of being the new boy at work. I was free to make mistakes – so long as I learned from them.

There’s one thing better than learning from our mistakes, though – learning from someone else’s.

Peter made plenty of mistakes with Jesus. He often learned the hard way, through a stinging rebuke or the shame of letting Jesus down. Today, though, Peter would have the luxury of learning from someone else’s slipup, rather than one of his own. (
Mark 9:14-29.)

The stunning views, the fresh mountain air and even the excited babble of companions James and John were all wasted on Peter, as he slowly picked his way down the mountain path. His mind was a swirl… had he been dreaming? He pinched himself just to make sure. No, he was definitely awake, but what he’d just seen already felt like a dream. A dazzling pure light, shining from inside Jesus’ very being, a voice from heaven, two long dead Old Testament superheroes. Everything was now disconcertingly normal again.

Peter had felt so privileged when Jesus had invited him and the two brothers to take some time out with him up that mountain. He was bursting to tell the nine left behind all that he had seen and heard, but Jesus had sworn them to secrecy.

As Peter remembered the nine, their familiar, but now strangely raised, voices burst in upon his thoughts. They were angry. But why?

Peter could make out a crowd of maybe 50 people at the foot of the mountain. He was used to crowds jostling, to get the best position to see Jesus. He had seen many times the desperation as the sick struggled to get just the single touch of Jesus that would bring them healing. It was different this time… it wasn’t just the nine who had tempers and emotions hotly raised, it was the whole crowd. The religious leaders were there too. What did those snakes want this time? Egging the crowd on, condemning the beleaguered nine, they savoured the taste of the trouble they were stirring up.

Peter felt his heckles rise. How dare they talk to his friends like that. If they had come for a fight, he was ready to give them one.

Thankfully Jesus jumped in first … “What’s going on?” he asked, in a voice which commanded and instantly received silent respect.

The crowd slowly parted leaving Jesus faced with just one man. He was deeply distressed, tears in his eyes. He spoke not with sadness, but with a white hot mix of desperation and anger.

His precious boy had a demon. Every time it came upon him, the little lad would collapse in tormented convulsions, shrieking and foaming at the mouth. It would turn him into a self-destructive maniac.

The father went on … the boy would gaze quietly one moment at the cooking pots, boiling on the raging fire, then the next he would run screaming towards the heat, trying to hurl himself into the flames. It had been all anyone could do, to hold him back.

An innocent family trip to the seaside had turned into a nightmare. A cliffside picnic, tossing scraps to the gulls and the demon had struck again. An invisible force of rage and self-destruction suddenly invaded the boy out of nowhere. He ran, growling, hollering, grinding his teeth headlong towards the cliff edge and the suicidal drop into the waves beneath.

They were constantly on edge, never knowing when the demon would strike. He had been so cute as a toddler, too, full of babyish chatter and giggles. But since the demon had been visiting, there was nothing but morose silence, as if brooding on the next act of insanity.

The father had heard of Jesus and his disciples. Demons driven out with just a word. He had come many miles, utterly desperate, pushed his way through the crowds and finally made it to the nine. They had prayed fine sounding words, commanding the demon to depart, but what had happened? Nothing.

Peter swallowed hard, grateful he hadn’t been with the others and shared in their failure. Jesus gazed at the nine, his eyes full of utter disappointment and incredulity. “Where’s your faith? How long do I have to put up with you… Bring the boy here.”

The demon saw Jesus through the eyes of the boy. In a final act of defiance, it threw him in a split second from stony silence into tortured convulsions and ear-piercing screams.

Jesus commanded the demon gone.

The boy fell to the ground, lifeless. Quiet. Too quiet. “He’s dead…” someone murmured. Jesus knelt down beside the boy and tickled his cheek. A smile broke out on his now peaceful face. He looked over at his father. “Dad,” he whispered. A small word, but one which brought tears. His son had speech once more. The man knew the demon was gone.

The crowd dissolved. Jesus and the Twelve retreated silently to their home for the night.

Andrew was the first to speak what they were all thinking: “Why couldn’t we do that?”

“Demons like that only come out by prayer,” said Jesus with a smile.

Those words gently soaked into Peter’s spirit. He, too, had received the gift from Jesus of casting out spirits. And healing illnesses. A gift for telling people about Jesus, as well. In that moment he realised these powers weren’t his possessions, to use as he pleased. Like everything God gives, they only work as we depend humbly on him and walk closely with him. In a life marked by prayer.
signed Tony