10 February 2013
2 Corinthians 3:12—4:2
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
“Well, glory, glory hallelujah,” thinks Peter. “This is more like it! Mine eyes have seen the coming of the glory of the Lord! Praise Jesus!”
Poor Peter. He had been in such a total funk for the last week. You see, eight days prior to Jesus taking Peter, James, and John up to the top of this beautiful mountain, Jesus had pulled the ultimate Debbie Downer routine. “The Son of Humanity,” Jesus had said, “must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.” And while Peter didn’t know exactly what all that third day stuff was supposed to mean, he did get the whole great suffering . . . and be killed part of it. And that was definitely not, to Peter’s mind, why Peter and the others had signed on to follow Jesus. If Jesus was going to be Messiah – well, this whole mountain top show with all its special lighting effects – complete with guest appearances by Moses and Elijah – this was obviously the real deal. The only drawback, however, was that Peter and his two buddies – well, actually his frenemies – but that’s another story for another time – Peter, James, and John all of a sudden felt . . . sleepy. So when Moses and Elijah started praising Jesus (as well they should, if Jesus were indeed the Messiah) – when they started praising Jesus, all that Peter and the Boyz could really catch of the conversation was something about Jesus’ departure that he was about to accomplish in Jerusalem. Must be some coded language about how Moses and Elijah would join Jesus when Jesus finally assembled his army in Jerusalem to free the people from the Roman yoke of tyranny and injustice.
At this, in spite of his sleepiness, Peter couldn’t help himself. “Wow Lord! How cool that we’re the ones you picked to be here. And you know, Lord, you can count on us. Brave, loyal, true disciples – not like some of those others – bless their hearts – who really don’t get what this is really all about. Hey, I’ve got an idea, Jesus!! Let’s make a project out of this! Yeah, we jus’ wanna do something for you and Moses and Elijah – you know, like, show you jus’ how thankful we are that you rewarded us with this peek at how its all going to turn out when you stand on top of Temple Mount and show the world who’s boss. Come on, boyz! Let’s get to it. There’s work to be done.”
But before Peter could finish all his speechifying – there was a whole lot more jus’ wanna that he felt he needed to get out – before Peter got a chance to finish his glory and praise routine, a dark cloud covered the mountain – not dark like fog – but dark like . . . something they’d never seen or experienced . . . yet. And then a voice, the voice, speaking in the darkness, “Shut up and listen to Jesus, my Messiah.” And then – it was over . . . like nothing much had happened – Jesus, no longer looking glorious – just . . . distracted, maybe even worried . . . and no Moses, no Elijah . . . only three confused disciples. Too, Peter’s feelings had been hurt by that “shut up and listen” thing. He had been listening to Jesus . . . it was just that . . . he wasn’t liking what he was hearing from Jesus. It didn’t fit the vision and expectations that Peter and the rest had for Jesus.
And then to fully confuse things, the next day, once Jesus and the three stooges came down from the mountain, a little play, a bit of street theater, an enacted parable if you will. First, a man comes out of the crowd, “Rabbi, behold only child.” (His delivery was a little wooden, but he had clearly memorized his lines.) The man presumably is supposed to symbolize God – and the child – the good world God created, now gone bad. “Hark! My child is possessed by a spirit – it convulses him. He foams at the mouth. The spirit keeps mauling him and won’t leave him alone. I’ve begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” True, that. Moses and Elijah, the Law and the Prophets – they had all tried to rid the world of what had seemingly forever convulsed and mauled this poor planet – but things hadn’t much changed. But now, at seeing Jesus, the demon that possessed the child, that is to say, the world – well that demon really got upset and violent – throwing the whole world into convulsions. And then Jesus rebuked the unclean Spirit, healed the boy, the world – and gave the healed world back to the father. And everybody applauded; it had been a nicely done piece of street theater. And in admiration they all started singing glory and praise songs! Jesus was indeed the mighty messiah who would vanquish those Roman tyrants along with the rest of world’s rotten apples – and casting out the demons of this world – Jesus would give the world back to God and all Jesus’ friends would get rewarded.
But ignoring the hooting and howling of the audience, Jesus took the disciples aside – and neither looking nor sounding one bit like the a triumphant messiah was supposed to look and sound, Jesus said to them, “You really don’t get how this is going to happen do you? Listen to me! Let these words sink into your thick skulls: The Son of Humanity is going to be betrayed into human hands.” And Peter was trying to follow the directions he’d heard on the mountaintop, but it was all too . . . too . . . depressing.
But know, my gathered friends, there will come a day in the not too distant future of this story when Peter – with all the rest of us – will really need to listen to what Jesus has to say – has to say to Peter, whose true stripes will be revealed in the early-morning darkness of an all-too-soon-to-come Friday when he denies having had anything to do with this Jesus, with this Jesus who will become suddenly passive, not fighting back, not zapping evil spirits and bad people, but who will turn the other cheek – like some subservient slave girl – and let himself be crucified. Is this going to be the departure of which Moses and Elijah and Jesus had spoken on the mountain of glory, glory, hallelujah? But where will be the glory in all this blood and gore and in Jesus’ refusal to show his almighty Messianic power? “OK,” God, Peter will think and from the depths of his despair, “you said to listen.” And so Peter will – and listening, he with us will hear the Word, spoken for Peter and the whole mauled and convulsed world, “Father, forgive them.” And too there will be more to hear. Jesus, rising from death, somehow (who knows how?), rising from death Jesus will have something more to say to the mauled and convulsed world that will have rejected and murdered him most hideously and cruelly. Listen. Listen on that day and this day as well. Listen to God’s Messiah, God’s own voice, crucified and risen: “Peace. Peace be with you with all of you. My peace for those who denied and abandoned me. My peace for those who mocked me and murdered me. My peace for the whole convulsed world. And now,” he will say, “has anybody here got anything to eat and drink?”
And then on that day our faces will shine and we will once more sing a true, “Alleluia” to the crucified God who dying and rising forgives the sin of the whole world.