We hear a lot about self-esteem in our modern age. Psychologists and Psychiatrists have probably made millions by advertising that they could build it up or rejuvenate it or even originate it. Self esteem is something we all know we all need in order to feel good about ourselves and function well in our society. There are a lot of ways to build it up. Some of them even work. But at the end of the day self esteem is never enough.
A man named Simon discovered that. From all accounts he was the kind of guy everyone would suspect of low self-esteem. He always tried too hard. Always was too quick to answer, too quick to act, too quick to declare his undying allegiance. And he could never follow through. He was a failure and everyone knew it. People probably smiled indulgently when he spoke, shook their heads when he made his outrageous claims, maybe even laughed out loud when he did things like jump out of boats in the middle of deep water.
Simon himself knew he was a failure. But his self-esteem got a boost, once. His teacher asked him a question and for once his quick answer was right on the money. He answered the most crucial question any of us has to deal with. Jesus asked, “But what about you? … Who do you say I am?” Simon answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:15-16).
That’s when Jesus told him who he really was. He called him Peter, the rock, and told him he had a great future building the kingdom of God on earth. Perhaps, just for a moment, Peter believed it. But it didn’t take long before he was acting like the same old Simon. And then came that day when he proved himself not only a failure, but a coward. Though he now bore the name Peter, his self esteem could never have been lower when he denied knowing the one he called The Christ. All the self-esteem he’d been building up as one of the leaders on Jesus’ team did him no good. The darkness that fell over the earth when Jesus died probably matched the darkness in Peter’s heart and soul at that point.
If Jesus had been any other man, any other God, Peter would probably have ended up on the skids after that. He knew he was the biggest fool in the bunch. But he also knew this Jesus. There was still a spark of hope inside Peter, so when the women came and told him Jesus was alive he ran to the tomb, ran for his life. And when Jesus walked with him and asked him another vital question, three times, Peter no doubt did not miss the significance. “Do you love me?” Jesus asked. And Peter’s answer was not so quick, not so self-assured, not so based on his built-up self-esteem. His answer, “Yes Lord, yes Lord,” and finally, “Lord you know all things; you know that I love you.” (John 21:15-17). His answer was based on the relationship he had with the one who asked the question. His answer was based on an understanding of who Jesus was and who he was in relationship to Him.
Peter had finally understood that he was not the one who could summon up great faith and courage. He was not the one who would have all the right answers and all the power to do miracles. He was not the one who would build God’s church. He finally understood. It was not about self-esteem or prestige or power. It was not about him at all. It was all about Jesus.