8 March 2020 Shock and Awe Martin Baker
27 Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that I am?’ 28 And they answered him, ‘John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.’ 29 He asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered him, ‘You are the Messiah.’ 30 And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.
31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’
34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’ 9 1 And he said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.’
2 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. 4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5 Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ 6 He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!’ 8 Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them anymore, but only Jesus.
One of the hardest things for us to do when we hear the Gospel read is to imagine ourselves hearing this word for the first time.
Those first Christians they heard about Jesus first through word of mouth. People were drawn into this community who simply described themselves as the way.
And these scriptures came to them as copies of texts about Jesus and what he said and did.
And those listeners, some of whom had only heard people talk about Jesus, would have been so attentive. And they would have listened and been excited and surprised and maybe shocked at what they were hearing.
I wonder now what news surprises or excite or even shocks?
I’ll give you a small example of how things have changed. And how use to change we have become.
When I was young we had at home, a slide projector.
A slide projector involved putting in a transparency of a photo that would slide between a bright light and a lens and project the photo onto a screen. The screen was usually a bed sheet pinned to the wall. And I remember you needed to put the slide into the machine upside down and the opposite way around in order to get the correct picture projected on the screen.
And people would come to you for a slide evening. Men would be smoking so you would have these blue clouds of smoke circulated in the room, and some men might even be drinking beer poured from brown beer bottles and women would be drinking a drink called pimms or shandies. And a drink called Cold Duck.
And the really interesting thing was what we would be watching in the slide evenings. And the slides would be showing most of the time, pictures of people’s holidays.
We had a slide evening featuring a holiday to Waiheke Island.
And then a bit later one the real show offs in the neighbourhood would have slide evenings when they went to Sydney or Fiji.
If I came home and announced evenings where people could view my PowerPoint images of my holiday I suspect no one would be interested.
Just think about how our awareness has changed over those years since the slide evenings or since you were young. What could I say that sounds exceptional or evoke curiosity?
If fewer and fewer things surprise or amaze or excite us.
I know that sounds like a long lead in to our Gospel reading today. But today we hear four exceptional things. And the real danger, the real concern is that they don’t surprise us. And maybe it is something we have to look within ourselves or to try to understand, that we live in a culture where everything is constantly new, we just change the channel or flick to the next story . But this morning to stand with those early Christians and feel their amazement that is at the core of our Gospel message about Jesus.
So 4 amazing things in our reading.
First there is Peter’s statement – here it comes – Jesus asks his disciples who do people say that I am – and this is this list: John the Baptist, Elijah one of the prophets – and then he turns and says but who do you say that I am? And Peter answered him, you are the Messiah. Messiah means saviour. It means the same as the word Christ.
So this is the first exceptional event in our reading this morning. It is the first shock.
Saying Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus is the one who brings salvation. And remember this word of salvation. And it’s really important to say this understanding of salvation, the word in Greek sozo it means healing, it means freedom it means release from things that have bound us to the past, it means forgiveness.
Remember Jesus didn’t look like a Messiah to us and most likely he didn’t look like a Messiah back then. Despite the cinema and tv he wasn’t tall blond blue eyed, long haired saint. This swathing darker skinned man in his 30’s who grew up in a totally non-descript little town. And he asks us who you say I am and Peter says you are the Messiah. You are the one who brings us salvation.
So that’s number one remarkable thing.
Number two shocking remarkable thing.
Jesus after being recognised as the Messiah says the next shocking thing. He says something which completely contradicts everyone understands for the job of messiah. He must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again
And it’s too much to take in. that is not the story of what a messiah does. A messiah rallies people, calls forth a revolution defeats enemies with their armies. Casts out the romans. That’s the kind of thing messiahs do. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’
Everyone with Peter is going I can’t believe that my understanding of how things work with God could be so completely wrong.
And then we go the third remarkable shocking surprising thing.
JesuS says, If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?
So number one. Jesus is the messiah the one who is going to save people.
Number two. Unlike anyone else he is going to suffer and die and then be raised on the third day.
And now number three. If you want to follow me deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me. In losing your life for the sake of me and the gospel will save it.
We might look around and see the people in the church do things differently or hear of that person who has different views than us. But the startling thing we are hearing from Jesus today is that our concern is not first and foremost the purity of the church or the rightness of our doctrine, but our willingness to follow Jesus into the world and onto the cross...
What a shocking bewildering thing to say.
And now the fourth shock.
Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. 4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5 Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ 6 He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!’ 8 Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them anymore, but only Jesus.
So this fourth thing. In the midst of this declaration of Jesus as Messiah. In the midst of Jesus’ words about his suffering and death. In the midst of the denial by Peter . In the midst of Jesus words’ to take up your cross and follow me.
We come to these points of dazzling light. There are no shadows. The darkness is finally overcome. So much up to this point neither Petre nor we can take in and comprehend. But then this moment of total revelation. And like Peter we don’t know what to say.
But, Jesus, son of God. Just after we’ve been told about the cross and following him. We are being called into a transfigured understanding of power and success and glory. They are such startling, such controversial claims to make.
As those first Christians hearing this story, this encounter, this teaching and they knew things would never be the same again.
75 years ago this month Sophie Scholl a 21 year old passionate Christian woman was executed by the Nazis. She took up her cross and followed Jesus . She said there was only one Lord one father and that is Jesus.
We are so conscious, we hear so much news that can lead us to fear, news of violence and epidemics.
And I want to read a couple of quotes from her.
She said , and remember she is speaking in the midst of the biggest upheaval in the last century, she says it’s high time that Christians made up their minds to do something. . . . What are we going to show in the way of resistance . . . when all this terror is over? We will be standing empty-handed. We will have no answer when we are asked: What did you do about it?”
And some of her last words before her execution
“How can we expect righteousness to prevail when there is hardly anyone willing to give himself up individually to a righteous cause. Such a fine, sunny day, and I have to go, but what does my death matter, if through us, thousands of people are awakened and stirred to action?”
Her favourite Bible verse was from James chapter 1 we have to be doers of the word and not hearers only.
So the forces at work. The evil at work.
We are so bombarded with news and stories and false truths. So today the evil we face is not the things that we can easily name or point to, but the things that confuse us, that make us feel passive, that mean we seldom feel shock or even wonder or make us feel that there is nothing we can do. Even this morning the fact that these texts do not hold the shock and awe they would have held for those first followers of Jesus.
And with Peter let’s be shocked. To discover that our very identity, our sense of meaning, our purpose, is found in following this Jesus. In taking up our cross. Sacrifice in suffering, in service.
These people in our lives and people we hear about who go to the hardest places and do the most difficult things. And at the end the dazzling light. The transforming resurrection power at the heart of Gospel. And this voice that speaks to us: This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!’
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