Search This Blog

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Being There

This is the message given in the United Methodist churches of the Wheatland Parish on Sunday, June 25, 2017.  The Bible verses used are Matthew 17:1-13.

            Through this sermon series, looking at the earthly life of Jesus, we’ve seen Jesus have a lot of ups and downs.  He’s had some very high highs and some very low lows.  He’s had times when everyone loved him and times when everyone was out to get him.  And, of course, he’s had everything in between.
            So now, Jesus is about two and a half years into his ministry.  He’s not at the end yet, but as the saying goes, he can see it from there.  I mean, he knew it from the beginning.  But it’s one thing to know something’s coming when it’s still a long way off, and it’s another thing to know that it’s coming up pretty soon, within a matter of months.  Jesus knows that betrayal and a very painful death are coming, and it’s not all that far away.
It must have been on his mind.  We know that because, right before this, Jesus told the disciples about it.  In the section of the Bible right before this, we read, “From that time on, Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests, and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”
            Jesus was trying to get the disciples ready for what was going to happen.  But I wonder if maybe he was trying to get himself ready, too.  After all, this was a really hard thing Jesus was going to do.  Can you imagine knowing something like this was going to happen to you, and not being able to tell anyone about it?  That would be a terrible burden to carry.  It would make a hard thing even harder.
            When we have something on our minds and in our hearts, when we’re facing a hard thing, we all need someone to talk to.  Even Jesus needed someone to talk to.  That’s why we emphasize the need for all of us to be there for people who feel alone.  Some things are just too heavy for us to carry by ourselves.  We need to have someone to help us carry the load.  And we need to help other people carry their loads.
            That’s true even if there’s nothing we can do about the situation.  There was nothing the disciples could do about Jesus’ situation.  Jesus did not expect them to do anything.  In fact, he did not want them to do anything.  Jesus knew it had to be this way.  You may remember, when Jesus says this, Peter responds, “Never, Lord!  This shall never happen to you!”  And Jesus turns on Peter and says, “Get behind me, Satan!  You are a stumbling block to me.”
            Jesus did not want the disciples to do anything.  He just wanted them to listen.  He just needed someone to talk to, someone to help him carry the load for a little while.  We all need someone to talk to, someone to help us carry the load for a little while.  We need to look around us, so we can see people who need our help, people who need help carrying the load, and we need to be there for them. 
And when we’re the ones who need help carrying our loads, we need to open up and let people know that, so they can help us.  Jesus opened up to the disciples.  We need to open up to each other.  Life is too hard for us to go through by ourselves.  Life was even too hard for Jesus to go through by himself.  If life was too hard for Jesus to go through by himself, you and I should not expect to be able to go through life by ourselves, either.
Jesus opened up to the disciples.  And I’m sure they did their best to be there for him.  They did their best to understand.  But of course they did not understand.  And probably, they could not understand.  No matter how hard they may have wanted to understand, they were limited by their perspective as first century human beings.  It’s like the other thing Jesus said to Peter:  “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
That sounds like a criticism, but at the same time, can you really blame Peter?  Sure he had human concerns in mind.  He was human.  Human concerns were going to be what he had in mind.
For that matter, what concerns do you and I have in mind?  Human concerns, right?  We wonder if we’ll get enough rain.  We wonder if we’ll have enough time to get done all the things we want to get done.  We wonder if our money will go far enough.  We wonder about our children, or our grandchildren.  We wonder what the world will be like when they grow up.  We wonder about the world now, for that matter.  These and a hundred other concerns go through our minds every day.
Human concerns.  No matter how hard we try to open ourselves up to God’s Holy Spirit, no matter how hard we try to let the Lord lead us and guide us, we always seem to get dragged back into these human concerns.  It was like that for Peter, and it’s like that for you and me.
So it’s six days later.  Jesus goes up on a high mountain.  He takes Peter, James, and John with him.  And suddenly, Jesus changes.  He is “transfigured”, as the Bible says.  “His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.  Just then, there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.”
At this point, the story shifts to tell us the disciples’ reaction.  They’re stunned, as you and I probably would be.  They’re shocked, they’re startled, they’re surprised.  They’re also terrified.  They fall face down to the ground until the whole thing is over.
In a way, though, it’s kind of disappointing that the story shifts to the disciples like that.  I mean, I’m not second-guessing the Bible.  It tells us everything we need to know.  It’s just that it does not always tell us everything we’d like to know.  I’d love to know what Moses and Elijah were talking to Jesus about.  Wouldn’t you?  We don’t know if the disciples could hear them or not.  They may have been too out of it to notice at this point.
But whatever it was, I would sure think it had to help Jesus.  Because Moses and Elijah would not have had their minds filled with human concerns.  Maybe they did while they were on earth, but not any more.  They came from heaven.  They’d have had in mind the concerns of God.  That means that Moses and Elijah could be there for Jesus in a way that the disciples could not, no matter how hard they tried.  Moses and Elijah could understand Jesus in a way that the disciples could not, no matter how hard they tried.  
Now, don’t misunderstand.  Moses and Elijah were still not like Jesus.  There’s only one divine Son of God.  Jesus is part of the trinity.  He’s God the Son.  Moses and Elijah, great as they were, are not part of the trinity.  They are not God.  But still, as great prophets who were now in heaven, they could see things from a perspective that Peter and the other disciples could not see.  They could understand things that Peter and the other disciples could not understand.  And that had to be a great help to Jesus, to be able to talk to people who could better understand what was happening and what he was going through.
And then, of course, we have the voice of God saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.  Listen to him!”  And again, the story shifts to the disciples’ reaction, but that had to be a pretty great thing for Jesus to hear, too.  Even if he believed it before, even if he was confident that he was doing what God the Father wanted him to do, it still had to make Jesus feel better to actually hear those words and know that Peter, James, and John had heard them, too.
When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, he said that it was to love God.  He could’ve just stopped there.  If he had, probably everyone would’ve agreed with him.  But Jesus did not stop there.  He went on to say that there’s another commandment that’s just as important.  Just as important as loving God is loving other people.
We all need someone.  We all need each other.  We know that, and yet--so often we don’t see the needs of others.  We don’t mean to not see them.  We just get focused on what we’re doing.  We get focused on our own stuff.  We get so focused that we can walk right past someone who’s hurting and needs us.  I know.  I’ve done it many times.
We all need someone.  We all need each other.  We know that, and yet--so often we’re afraid to reach out to someone when we need them.  We think we should be able to handle it ourselves.  We think it makes us look weak if we admit we cannot.  We think other people have their own problems.  We think no one probably cares anyway.  I know.  I’ve done that, too.
We all need someone.  We all need each other.  Even Jesus needed someone.  Jesus was there for lots of people, but there were times when Jesus needed people to be there for him, too.  That’s how it is for us.  We can be there for lots of people, but there are times we need people to be there for us, too.
It’s best if we can really see things from someone else’s perspective, and really understand.  But even if we cannot do that, we can still be there for someone.  We can listen.  We can try to understand.  And when we cannot understand, we can still be there and show love.  Jesus needed that.  So do you.  And so do I.

No comments:

Post a Comment