“Jesus Began to Show His Disciples” Matthew 16:21-28

From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.

          I’ve been pondering lately the difference between being told something and being shown something.

          We’ve been told that these masks are an important aspect of stopping the spread of the virus.  

          We’ve been told about study after study that shows how that works, how aerosols are cut down, how they are caught and contained, and how the viral load is diminished when there are fewer droplets floating.  

          We’ve been told the sooner we all comply with mask wearing, the sooner the infection rates will go down and the more life can resume in something close to normal interactions.

          And yet, all the encouraging and the telling and the talking has not resulted in near the compliance required.

          Why is that?

          If you watched the President’s nomination acceptance speech at the end of the Republican National Convention you will have your answer

There were over a 1000 of our leaders assembled, not socially distanced, few wearing masks, and all behaving as if the virus could not find or impact them.

          It was a classic case of “Do as we tell you, not what you see us doing.”

          Actions will always speak louder than words.  There are some things that you simply have to be shown, modeled, and most often it is the really important things.

          So, I think it is a big deal in Matthew’s Gospel that this particular language is chosen.  “Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering…”

          Matthew’s gospel portrays Jesus as quite a talker, you know.  

In Mark’s gospel all we have are those sparse and compact parables as the words of Jesus.  

Matthew, however, portrays Jesus as engaging in longer speeches and greater in-depth teaching.   He doesn’t just tell the parables, he explains them!   He expands upon them.

          Jesus is not averse to talking and telling.

          But talking and telling have their limits, and especially when it comes to making something clear.

          I can still remember being taught how to tie my shoes.  Do you remember the little memory device story.   “You make two bunny’s ears, and then the bunny goes around this one and through the hole and comes back out.”

          But, as helpful as that little story of how to tie your shoelace might have been as a memory tool, it is really worthless without being shown how to do it.

          The words and story will only make sense with the visual of the lace movement in your mind.

          So, while Jesus has told his disciples many things, when it comes to the really important thing, the “Divine” thing,–  that is the kind of thing that can only be shown.

          Words get in the way here and become stumbling blocks.

          Peter’s saying “God forbid!” is a stumbling block to what Jesus has to show them, and show the world. 

Jesus has to show them (and the world) that self-preservation is not what brings in the Kingdom of God.   Trying to save your life will only end up with you ultimately losing your life, losing everything.

          What does it profit a person to gain the whole world but lose their life?

          That is the question that has been hanging over the events of Jesus ever since the temptation stories in the wilderness at the beginning.  Jesus is offered the whole world if he will just bow down and give homage to Satan.

          It is little wonder then, that when Peter starts talking about Jesus not going to Jerusalem he gets called “Satan” and a stumbling block!

          We stumble all over this whenever we think of it simply as a teaching, or as just words. 

We puzzle over the meaning of “divine things” as opposed to “human things.”  If we picture this as just teachings and words.

 We quiz ourselves as to whether we are following what God would have us do, or whether are we just pursuing our own self-interest so long as this becomes a matter of teachings or words?

 As long we remain in on the level of this being just words or teachings, abstract conjectures, we can debate things all day long.

          Jesus knows that once he has been identified as the Messiah by Peter, seen in that kind of light, then nothing short of a full confrontation with the powers of this world will do.   

A Messiah that does not challenge and engage the rulers of this world is no messiah, no savior at all. 

And if you choose to do that, go up against those in power, then there was a visible reminder of what awaits, for the punishment for speaking out against the Roman Empire and the powers of this word was the Cross.  

Roman execution for those who spoke out or rebelled against the workings of the Empire was that most cruel and public execution.

          When Peter confesses that Jesus is the Messiah, Jesus’ fate is sealed.  

Jesus has to go to Jerusalem and he has to follow through with a confrontation with the Elders, chief priests, and scribes.   To do that is to come up against those who stand behind all of them and who keep them in power.   He has show his followers that “divine things” are not the same thing as human things. 

          Divine action is not about saving your own skin.

          Divine action is not about having the power or pulling the levers of this world on this world’s terms.

          Divine things are not interested in getting back what people once had, or longing for a bygone era.

          Divine things are about revealing a new Kingdom, a Kingdom that is not of this world or patterned after the way this world works, but rather is about God’s intention for this world, God’s intention for how things ought to be.

          It is a world where the beatitudes are not just pronounced but carried out. 

          A world where the poor in spirit are finally blessed and where those who mourn are finally comforted.

          A world where the meek get their portion, and where the merciful receive mercy,

It is a Kingdom where the pure in heart are blessed and the peacemakers finally receive a blessing.

          None of that comes with just words or teachings, and none of it comes so long as the machinery of this world is allowed to grind on as usual.

          Someone finally has to show people how to throw a wrench into the workings of this world.

          And so, from this time onward Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer….

          He does not suffer just for the sake of suffering.

          No, Jesus suffers because he acts in a way that threatens the very way in which this world works.

          You cannot go to Jerusalem without confronting those who hold the power there, and if you do, then you must take hold of what awaits, and what awaits you is a cross.

          This will cost Jesus everything… but in three day’s time God will raise him up, and that becomes the source of hope.

          The world wants you to believe that if you are trying change how things are, you are just throwing your life away.

          The Empire wants you to look at the cross, the penalty for insurrection, and think about how painful and how futile your rebellion would end up being.

          Jesus took that symbol of futility and made of it a symbol of hope!   Do your worst world, think you have won Satan, but God will raise up!

          And this is where the connection is to us.

          Some things you just have to be shown. 

          In Christ we are shown that the difficult path can be taken, and the machinery of this world can be confronted and brought to a grinding halt.

          In Christ we are shown that the hoped for longings of generations are possible, and glimpses of God’s Kingdom can be found in the choices we make and the paths we take.

          In Christ we are shown that what looks like utter failure and defeat at first, can in the end be transformed into victory.

          You can take up your Cross, whatever that may be, and not fear it because it does not have the final say in things.

          God does, and God raises up!

          What God has to say is that those who lay down their lives for the sake of their neighbor, and for the sake of the faith, and for the sake of the kingdom, is that they will find life everlasting. Some things you just have to be shown, and so Jesus goes to Jerusalem to show us that we can follow.

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