What do you say when you see the impossible? Peter saw the impossible. He saw it many times. He saw Jesus raise the dead, heal the blind and infirm, and calm the stormy seas. He stood witness as Jesus fed 5000 people with but a few loaves and fish. What do you say when you see the impossible?
After Jesus fed the 5000, he asked his disciples who the common crowd thought he was. Jesus knew people all over were talking about him. Some thought he was John the Baptist raised from the dead; others thought Elijah or some other prophet from long ago. Those were the rumors, at least and the disciples confirmed as much. Then Jesus asked his disciples who they thought he was. Peter, after witnessing the miraculous feeding of the 5000 answered, “[You are] the Christ of God.” It was Peter’s great confession and after seeing the impossible, it was all he could say.
I expect this was a high point for Peter. To finally confess that this man who he’s been following is the Christ, the anointed one from God… It’s hard to go back on something like that once it is said aloud. In many ways, it was like a marriage proposal. Once the “will you marry me,” or the “yes” is out there it is really hard to go back… and rarely does one want to. At that point, one’s heart sees only a blissful future.
Once Peter confessed Jesus to be God’s Christ, once it was out there, Peter must have felt like the wheels were in motion for something great. This is God’s Christ he is following. This man is going to change the world. He will be the example to follow. He will make us all better people. No longer are people going to be hungry, no longer will there be pain and disease or lousy rulers and regimes. This guy is going to set things right.
Peter was on top of the world when Jesus decided to take him, James and John to the top of the world to pray. They went up the mountain and during the course of his prayer and while the three disciples fought against sleep Jesus’ appearance changed. And like the vampires in that awful movie Twilight, he became all sparkly. Then the ancient Jewish heroes Moses and Elijah appeared out of nowhere and started talking to Jesus.
Again, what do you say when you witness the impossible? “Master, it is good for us to be here,” Peter blurted out, “let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah!” Peter didn’t want to leave. He liked what he saw. It was good. It was glorious. It matched his vision for what the Christ should look like and how life could be with Jesus ruling the world. “Let’s stay in this place. Here everything is good!”
Like Peter, we find a glorious Christ attractive. A miracle worker and a teacher like Jesus is just the sort of person we want to follow. He is the kind of person who can give a boost to good people like ourselves. He’s the kind of guy who can dig in the spurs and inspire us to live better and be better.
We aren’t addicted to sin; we just have a little problem and by the grace of God and a little hard work that can be taken care of. Positivity is our bread; an encouraging word is our wine; with them we can be all that God wants us to be. We can get better. If we just work hard enough we can take the bad and make it good.
One of my favorite movies is the Fellowship of the Ring, the first of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy. At the beginning of the movie is a pleasant scene in a beautiful rural village called Hobbiton. It is a happy scene. Everything is green, people are cheerful and happy. Gardens flourish, children play, food is plentiful, a party is in the works and people are happy. But it only lasts for about 10 minutes before war, hunger, pain, and suffering assault our senses for the rest of the 10 hour epic. While the trilogy is very enjoyable, I always find it hard to leave Hobbiton.
We have a natural aversion to evil, which is probably why so many of us prefer the Sioux over that other school. We don’t like to call something evil or corrupt or foul and if we do it is something that can be fixed with effort or better and more comprehensive policy. But the reality is that evil is the reality. What’s worse is that it isn’t just something out there, but that we are a part of it. We are not good people and if history tells us anything it is that we are not getting better. Romans chapter 3 helps us here. “There is no one who is righteous, not even one… there is no one who seeks God. All have turned aside… there is no one who shows kindness, there is not even one.”
The world is a place of evil. We are a part of that. Where there are people, there is sin. Where there is sin, there is suffering. Where there is suffering, there is death and none of it can be called good. The world needs more than either we or Peter want to believe or are able to give. The wickedness of the world itself testifies as much. Peter’s response was wrong, but fortunately his wasn’t the only response.
A cloud came and overshadowed the disciples. Understandably they became frightened and as they entered into it, the voice of God broke in, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”
If there was doubt about whom Jesus was, God’s voice settled it. He is God’s Son. As God’s Christ, he is God’s chosen one. While God’s words alone may not have shocked Peter and the disciples, but how Jesus defined them sure confused them.
After Peter identified Jesus as the Christ of God, Jesus told them that he must undergo great suffering, be rejected, and be killed, and on the third day be raised again. At the end of our text this morning, Jesus told the disciples the same thing; that he would be betrayed into human hands. And when Jesus was speaking with Moses and Elijah in the glory of their shimmering sparkly-ness, the topic of discussion concerned Jesus’ departure to Jerusalem – they were talking about the gruesome suffering he would soon endure and his impending death on a shameful piece of wood reserved for the worst criminals.
Jesus knows the state of the world. He was not disillusioned by anything the world presented. Looking at the whole of humanity, he could see that none were righteous, not in the least. Looking at you and I, he could see what we cannot; the chains of sin forged with links signifying our own stubborn desire to free ourselves with good works, good intentions and an inability to see ourselves as we truly are, sinful human beings.
We truly are in bondage to sin and unable to free ourselves. Any other confession is just a lie. Jesus knew this. He knew our true need and our need took him to the cross. On the cross, Jesus called our sin, sin; he called our corruption, corruption and he took it and bore it all in his flesh upon the cross. Jesus owned up to that which we could not and would not and he did it for you.
Christ went to the cross so that rather than us doing good works under the pressure of restoring the world or earning grace, we may do them to demonstrate the mercy and love of God. Christ went to the cross so that rather than us being nourished by positivity and encouraging words – food that will only leave us wanting – we may eat of his body and drink of his blood for the forgiveness of our sins.
“For the forgiveness of our sins.” Forgiveness isn’t an effort to hide or downplay our sins.. Forgiveness doesn’t look at a wrong and say, “that’s okay,” rather it looks at our sin, and names it for what it is – sin. Through the cross, God delivers to you in the waters of baptism, in the bread and the wine and in the preaching of the Word the declaration that you are free from the blame and guilt of your sin. You are free to see yourself as you truly are and know that God loves you and died for you.
This is Christ’s word to you today. Today God says to you, “I love you. I went to the cross for you knowing full well all that you are and all that you have done. For the sake of my Son, I forgive you and I name you my child. You are mine.” Amen.