July 13, 2011

Roller Coaster

Peter's confession of Jesus' true identity marks a turning point in Caesarea Philippi one of the northernmost stops in Jesus' ministry. Every thing after this would literally be a geophysical and spiritual decent until the Crucifixion in Jerusalem. In the meantime, there were still some narrative climbs, dips, twists and turns yet to come in the journey to the Cross.

What did Jesus do after Peter’s confession of faith at Caesarea Philippi? Jesus pronounced Peter blessed. Jesus then begins to explain more of what Him being Messiah meant

"Matthew 16:17a: “Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah….”

So how did Peter understand that Jesus was the Messiah? Because it had been revealed to him by God

Matthew 16:17b: “…for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.”

Peter understood who Jesus was but not why He was here or what He was doing here on Earth which would become evident in Peter's very next actions in Scripture. So what did Jesus truly try to teach the disciples about the Messiah? He tried to teach them the idea and concept Suffering Servant. Teach them what it meant, he said, not worldly honors, and not merely a continuation of the humble life in Galilee, but actual sufferings and death. Jesus was ready to walk the path of suffering as the man of sorrows. It is not long after this that he will do just that. So He called upon his true disciples to tread that path after him. They would need to "take up their cross and follow Me" as Jesus put it. Many including those today do not understand what this means. One does not simply take up their cross and enjoy life. One takes up their cross figuratively and literally to die. Die to self here and now so that one can actually live in Christ forever. To die to the world and self is to live. And to live for the world and self is to die. It is at this time we see Jesus prophesy His earth demise.

What was Peter’s response to this teaching and what can we learn from it? This teaching was too much for Peter as it is for most of us today. We live in our skin and we can't slip our skin until we are dead. Jesus tells Peter that He must die. The idea that, "unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." We then see Peter do what any sinful misguided disciple would do, he has the audacity to take Jesus aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

What do you suppose happen next...? How did Christ respond to impetuous Peter? Jesus recognizing that louse the Devil and seeing the temptation in “instant replay” rebukes Peter, “Jesus turned and said to Peter, Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

Jesus and the disciples are now on the roller coaster to Jerusalem. After the high of Peter's recognition of Jesus' true identity we then see the immediate low of Peter's blunder. We then literally climb back up on a mount to the Transfiguration.

At the Transfiguration Jesus’ true nature and brilliance is manifested in its glory. Even this was to point invariably to the Cross. Peter, James and John, his three most intimate disciples of His “inner circle” bear witness to the Transfiguration. The Scriptures tell us that, “His face did shine as the sun, and his garments became white as the light." What we saw was Jesus’ glory break through to this realm. The eternal shines through to the temporal at this moment. It shows Jesus’ true identity as both human and divine. The junction point between God and man…in Christ who is both fully God and fully man. Pretty profound stuff. On either side of Him stood Moses and Elijah who were the representations of the Old Testament Law and Prophets. The rolls that Jesus would fulfill along with that of King. They were talking. So what were they talking about? They were talking about the "departure" which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem (Luke 9:31). It was a "departure" that included not only the resurrection and the ascension, but also the crucifixion.

Back down the emotional and spiritual roller coaster .......zoooooooooooooom.....

Immediately after the Transfiguration where we see Jesus at a high point of glory  and his glorious experience on the mount we then see Jesus descend right back down into the bowels of the repulsiveness of human misery and the end-product of sin (Matt.17 :14-20) …and He does it in stride with the healing of the demoniac he found at the bottom a boy possessed of a demon, who "fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming." As if to drive a nail into an already bad descent He again gives the prophecy of his death and ends the prophecy on the bright note of being raised from the dead immediately afterward.

While we are down at the bottom of the decent we then have the Disciples bickering and squabbling like children. It is clear they totally miss the point of "taking up your cross", "falling to the ground as a kernel of wheat" and dying to self.

Jesus uses this opportunity and the disciples lack of decorum to teach them about humility. Even with Jesus’ day of crucifixion fast approaching His they (disciples) quarrel about the question as to which of them should be greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. They just didn’t “get it”. Thereby they had shown how far they were from understanding the true nature of the Kingdom and what Jesus was trying to teach them. I cringe about us also today. Strangely, I feel most of us would fair no better at understanding this had we not had 2000 years of hindsight and someone to explain this to us.

The truth was this: If the Kingdom was finally here and was to be advanced under the leadership of such people...these men, they would seriously need to change...as do we. They needed some serious help. They would get it too. It was promised by Jesus as an exact replacement to Himself. A Helper. A Paraklete. It is a change that would happen after the Spirit would indwell them.

Of course this episode is just another example of man’s truly sinful nature. Instead of learning the intent of what Jesus was trying to teach these boneheads (us), they just added to his consternation. The stark contrast between the righteousness and holiness of Jesus in comparison to the rest of mankind is put on full display here. If His own disciples who had spent so much time with Him couldn’t get it right who are we to think any different of ourselves in relation to the Apostles? We could only do much worse. For goodness sakes, they had the Son of God as their mentor and friend.

So...Jesus sets His face toward Jerusalem...towards Golgotha. He is effectively performing a long slow death march to the Cross and the "Place of Skulls", healing and teaching parables as He went. Jesus knew his “time” (kairos) had almost come...but this roller coaster ride was far from over.

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