Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is the iconic “People’s Champion” of sports entertainment fame. He was also a pretty darn good college football player and these days he’s a huge box office draw for Hollywood. But he’ll always be “The Rock”. Yep. I’m a fan.
There’s something about him that appeals to me. It’s that no matter the role he’s playing, he’s always Dwayne Johnson. He’s much like my childhood hero John Wayne in that. No matter the role, and whether he’s playing a good guy or a bad guy, you pretty much know what you’re going to get. I don’t think that’s a bad thing either. There’s definitely a place for method actors like Dustin Hoffman in the movies but there’s also a place for heroic icons like Dwayne Johnson the “People’s Actor.” He is doing what many people want to do after all. He’s just a guy doing his best and enjoying a great ride. He reminds me of another “Rock”. Simon Peter, I’ve often noticed represents us “the people” often when is the active character in Scripture. In literary terms, we would call him “everyman”. He’s the disciple who reacts how we think we would react to key circumstances. Peter steps out of the boat to walk on the water to our Lord. He takes a few steps and then sinks like….well…a rock. He lops off the closest man’s ear who tries to arrest Jesus and is subsequently chided by Jesus who heals His abductor. He proclaims that he will never deny Christ but does so three times that very night.
And yet we have this famous scene from the 16th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel:
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
(Matthew 16:13-18 ESV)
The name Peter is very close to the Greek word for rock. Peter is the Rock on which Jesus has built His Church. I don’t mean Peter himself. Peter represents all imperfect, faithful believers who tend to get more things wrong than right. Just when they think they know what to do and what to say, they come to the staggering realization that they were wrong. They step out in faith only to plunge into seas of self-doubt. They defend their Lord against naysayers only to witness that Jesus loves them too. They act exactly as they’ve been taught to act and refrain from all the things they’ve been told to refrain from and then, come to find out, Christ just wants their love: for Him and for those around them.
Peter’s success in the quoted passage came from listening to his Father in heaven. He didn’t figure it out. No one told him. His statement was an essential Truth the like of which can only proceed from God. Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” It’s on that knowledge, or rather on people who truly know this, that Christ’s Church is built. They are God’s people. They may not be the superstars that many people are looking at or even for. They make mistakes and embarrass themselves at times. But they know who their Lord is and they are imperfectly doing their best to follow Him and, at least sometimes, enjoying the ride.