When I started working on a boat, I was a beginner. I didn’t know much about boats, and I was learning as I go – you don’t come in understanding things. And one of the first things you learn, that is very important, is that you do whatever the captain says. If the captain says to take off the line from the dock, you do it because the captain says so. If the captain says to tie onto a different place on the dock, then you do it because the captain says so. Later on, you can ask why and get an explanation. But in the moment, you do it because the captain says so.
That’s very important because you are a beginner, and there are a lot of things you don’t know that the captain does know. If you start second-guessing, or taking it on yourself to make your own decisions, you can cause a lot of problems with the operation of the boat. You can even cause a serious accident. And the captain will certainly bark at you. But over time, with more experience on the boat, you get to understand why the captains makes the decisions they do. You even get to anticipate and get trusted to make your own decisions. But every time that the captain speaks, you listen and do it. Because the captain says so.
I say all that because in the Gospel, Jesus and Peter have a “because the captain says so” moment. After asking the disciples who they think he is, Jesus promotes Peter to First Mate on his boat when Peter confesses that he’s the Son of God. Jesus is the Captain. And then Jesus sets the course: to the cross, to die and then rise.
And what does Peter do? He has his own ideas. He’s still accustomed to being the captain on his fishing boat. He thinks he knows a better way, a better course. And Jesus says, You’re not the captain, I’m the captain. That means you do what the captain says, not the other way around. It’s because Peter is still just a beginner, and there are a lot of things that the captain knows that he doesn’t. Later on, after Jesus dies and rises, and after the Spirit comes, Peter will become a captain. He’ll get why Jesus is setting the course that way. But for now, to be on Jesus’ boat, Jesus is the captain, not him. And you do what Jesus says, because the Captain says so.
To be on Jesus’ boat, we have to recognize him as the Captain. We have to pay attention to his voice inside of us amid all the others, to have the desire to discern it and the courage follow it. There are different voices inside our hearts, that want their say. And the Captain’s voice may not make complete sense. But remember, you don’t have to understand everything. There’s a whole lot you don’t know that the Captain does know. But over time, you’ll get to understand why the Captain makes the decisions he does. Things will start to make more sense. You’ll even get to anticipate and get trusted to make your own decisions on the boat, and be a captain yourself. But for now, it’s the time to get behind him, and follow the course that he sets in your life.
Because the Captain says so.
“Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” (Mt 16:23)