Jesus Only (Part 2 of 2)

Glimpses of Infinity.

….Six days later, three of them saw that glory. Jesus took Peter and the brothers, James and John, and led them up a high mountain. His appearance changed from the inside out, right before their eyes. Sunlight poured from his face. His clothes were filled with light. Then they realized that Moses and Elijah were also there in deep conversation with him.   Matthew 17:1-6 MSG

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Memorializing the Moment.

Peter broke in, “Master, this is a great moment! What would you think if I built three memorials here on the mountain—one for you, one for Moses, one for Elijah?”

In life there are great moments.  Turning points, moments of clarity that change the direction of our life forever.  Deciding to say NO against the flow or saying YES to a call.  Moments of revelation, inspiration and understanding.  In this moment Peter must have felt like he understood everything past, present and future.  He had just witnessed a glimpse of the Glory of God reinforcing his long held belief in a coming Messiah.

Inspired, Peter races to build.  Peter, the rock, the one who believed, who knew Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  Peter the activist, the man of action acts swiftly to solidify his belief through action.

The Voice of Truth.

While he was going on like this, babbling, a light-radiant cloud enveloped them, and sounding from deep in the cloud a voice: “This is my Son, marked by my love, focus of my delight. Listen to him.”  When the disciples heard it, they fell flat on their faces, scared to death. But Jesus came over and touched them. “Don’t be afraid.”  When they opened their eyes and looked around all they saw was Jesus, only Jesus.

Peter’s activity get’s interrupted.  There is no rebuke for his enthusiastic activity nor is there an answer to his request.  Three things speak to me from this passage.

  1.  I am invited to participate in the cosmic plan of God

In this scene the infinite Glory of God is glimpsed through Jesus’ face and clothing , long departed saints appear and converse with Jesus, a radiant cloud envelops them and the voice of God is heard.  A great moment indeed.  Possibly most amazing is who the voice spoke to.   Not to Jesus, nor to the departed saints but to Peter, to James and to John.  To the most normal, most fallible beings present.

The message?  This is my Son whom I love, my delight…… wait for it…… LISTEN TO HIM.

When my son Harrison was a toddler one of the best ways to get his attention was to say “Come here, I’ve got something to tell you”.  He would stop what he was doing and wait to hear what the news was.

We are invited to stop what we are doing to listen to Jesus.  Jesus said ‘follow me’, here in this great moment the voice of God confirms our calling , ‘listen to Him’.  I like this invitation very much.

  1. I need not be afraid

After the invitation to listen, Jesus’ first words are “Don’t be afraid”.  At this point they are afraid, terrified in fact.  These words of Jesus speak to their current predicament but also to their tomorrow.  Don’t be afraid.

Whatever my situation or predicament.  Whatever lies ahead or whatever has gone before when we listen to Jesus, when we respond to the invitation to participate, to follow, we need not fear.

  1. Only Jesus

As God reveals a measure of His Glory to Peter, James and John they are awestruck.  Peter wishing to memorialize or bring structure to the experience suggests building memorials to Jesus, Moses and Elijah.

I don’t know what Peter was thinking.  Was he imagining the beginning of a Messianic conquest, or did he believe Moses and Elijah had returned for good?  Maybe this was the restoration to the good old days of Israel, no more Roman/Babylonian/Persian rule.

Then God speaks and every word he speaks points to Jesus, the Beloved Son, the focus of Gods delight.  In this great moment forget the structures and plans, forget the past and future, forget who it is you are, forget your heroes of old, forget all that might distract from the focus of Gods delight.  Jesus. Listen to Him.

When they opened their eyes and looked all around all they saw was Jesus, only Jesus.

Image:  Some rights reserved by gr33n3gg

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A narrow path, just what we all need

A Narrow Path - Just what we all needIn September of ’92 I had the pleasure of spending two weeks in Israel on a tour of  Jerusalem and Galilee. The tour was led by a George Bates from Randalstown along with 2 guides, a Jew and an Arab.  George was an absolute joy to listen to as he shared from the Bible everywhere from Solomon’s Colonnade, to Megiddo with En Gedi in between.

A moment I remember clearly was getting out of our air-conditioned coach  on a desert road. The oppressive heat had us all reaching for head-wear in a vain attempt to find relief from the sun.

As we stood in the desert looking at the barren terrain George pointed across the other side of the valley at a green path which split the steep hillside in two.  There must have been a spring high on the mountainside and the resulting stream had cut a single fertile pathway down the slope.

But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.  Matt 7:14 NIV

George pointed out that a benefit of a narrow path is that it is easy to identify.  Standing in a wasteland where any direction was possible and roads seemed to dissolve into the terrain the one thing we could all easily identify was the ‘narrow path’

Speaking of the Bible, Soren Kierkegaard* wrote

“We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined.”

Often I think when we are not sure what to do or what path to take it is because we do not want to follow the narrow path ahead of us.  Instead we are looking for a path that suits our ambition, ego, abilities or desires better.  We know the truth of Kierkegaard’s words, ‘our whole life will be ruined’ if we follow that path.

The fact remains that when in difficultly (and when at ease) there are things we understand clearly to be the narrow path; to humbly pray, to worship, to give generously, to speak truthfully, to act with kindness etc.

Chilly Chilton posted the above Kierkegaard quote in its broader context in a blog post called  Scholarship really worth reading, as is the full text of ‘Kill the Commentators’ found in Provocations which is available in various formats free from Plough publishing here

Sorry if you've read this post before, Had to bring it over from old blog manually

Go Figure!

“Go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.”  Jesus words in Matthew 9:13

I love the fact that Jesus isn’t often prescriptive in His instruction, but draws us in to think and grapple with his teaching.  This is no mindless faith.  “Go figure, I desire mercy and not sacrifice”.  Ok, lets have a crack, lets figure this out.  Mercy, not sacrifice?

I really don’t have grand thoughts on this.  Here is what I do have…..

Mercy is about people, sacrifice is about stuff.  Mercy is choosing others before yourself, being willing to be wrong, preferring other peoples’ reputation above your own.  Sacrifice is what we do, it’s giving up stuff or time.  It is possible to sacrifice in isolation.  It is not possible to ‘LOVE MERCY’ (Micah 6:8) in isolation.  The nature of mercy is relational.  It is about how we treat others, it is about our attitude towards each other.

A while later (Matthew 12:7) Jesus again quotes this passage from Hosea “..if you had known what this means, “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,” you would not have condemned the guiltless.”

Confirmation that knowing (or not knowing) what it means that God desires mercy rather than sacrifice will directly affect our actions and attitudes towards those around us.

Admirer or Follower

“The difference between an admirer and a follower still remains, no matter where you are. The admirer never makes any true sacrifices. He always plays it safe. Though in words, phrases, songs, he is inexhaustible about how highly he prizes Christ, he renounces nothing, gives up nothing, will not reconstruct his life, will not be what he admires, and will not let his life express what it is he supposedly admires” Eugene Peterson

I copied these words from a book by Eugene Peterson recently.  I cannot remember which book, but will add it in here when I do stumble upon it again.

Challenging to realise that we can say, sing and believe great things about Christ but still not actually follow.

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Peter answered, “You are the Christ.”

Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.  He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.  But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”  Mark 8:29-31

Peter, having made his great statement that Jesus is the Christ, still had the things of men in mind not the things of God.  Receiving revelation of Jesus’ divinity and the fact he is saviour is not in itself evidence of following.  We follow when we leave behind and follow after.  Following Jesus involves a change of mind, a change of direction, Repentance is not merely a change of attitude but is worked out here and now, in work and at home, on-line and offline.  Self denial will be inevitable as our ways are not God’s ways.  Following will involve making choices against our own will.