As we listen to the political candidates, we have to wonder if they really know what they are talking about. We may even wonder about statements Jesus makes, such as:
¥ “. . . forgive one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).
¥ “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).
¥ “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:25).
Forgive my enemies, love them? Really Jesus? Do you know how much they have hurt me? The world doesn’t work that way? Who is going to take care of me? We ask sometimes if Jesus really knows what he is talking about.
In today’s text, Peter is having those same kinds of questions. As Jesus stated that he must die, it was too much for Peter, so he took Jesus aside and tried to correct him. But then Jesus reprimanded Peter. What a scene it must have been! Harsh words were chosen. “Get behind me, Satan!” The disciples had shocked looks on their faces. They had never heard such talk from the lips of their master except to demons, and now he was using it on a disciple.
Why did Jesus use such devastating language? Because he knew something they had not realized: He was under attack by Satan who was trying to thwart God’s purposes. God sent him into the world so that he would intentionally die on a cross as a sacrifice for the sins of all. The voice of the tempter was behind Peter’s words trying to derail God’s cosmic plan of salvation for sinners.
Jesus then went on to outline what life in his kingdom was about. Following him meant sacrifice, possible suffering, and hardship for the kingdom of God. This did not fit into Peter’s picture of what the world was about, and so he was confused and rejected the notion.
We can well imagine the questions rolling in Peter’s head: Who is this person called the Christ? He said some outrageous things. Can I really trust him? Does Jesus really know what he is talking about?
During the next six days, Jesus probably gave Peter a little space and was sensitive to him, as only Jesus could be. But on the seventh day, Jesus said to Peter, “Go get James, and John. I want to show you something.” The next thing Peter know, Jesus was leading the group up the side of the mountain.
On this day, something big happened for Peter, James, and John. They had a visual lesson about Jesus from God himself as Jesus was transfigured. Jesus shone in a dazzling way that they had never seen before. He deity burst through the confines of his humanity and they had a glimpse of his glory and his majesty. Then they saw two figures Ð Moses and Elijah Ð talking with Jesus. This was a sign that the fulfillment of the Jews’ expectations would be right around the corner. And then, they received an auditory lesson about Jesus as well. It was an affirmation: This is MY SON, THE BELOVED. They heard God himself say, “This is my Son.” Jesus is the Son of God. He knows what he is talking about.
God conferred authority upon Jesus before the disciples, when he then said, “Listen to him!” Trust him, obey him, take him serious. Jesus knows exactly what he is talking about.
When our children were little, and my wife and I would go out for the evening, we left them in the care of a babysitter. As we left, we’d often say, “She’s in charge. You listen to her.” She was the one we’d authorized to take care of our children. Likewise, God is doing that with those disciples that day. “This is my Son; listen to him.”
Then as quickly as the scene began, it ended. The disciples looked around and saw only Jesus, looking as normal as can be. Many years later, Peter reflected on this experience in his letter to some Christians; he was trying to get them to listen to what Jesus had passed on. Listen to what he wrote to them:
“For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, ÔThis is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain” (2 Peter 1:16-18).
As we read on in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus continued to challenge and at times even upset the disciples, but they listened and learned. As they stood before Jesus on that resurrection day Ð having watched him die on the cross, and now standing before them alive with his nail-pierced feet and hands and side Ð they knew again that Jesus knows what he’s talking about.
That is God’s message to us this day. We also struggle with some of his teachings. This story was saved for us, so that we also can hear God’s message: Jesus was my Son. He’s the real thing. He died on the cross to save you from your sins. I raised him on the third day and have exalted him. He is the Lord. Listen to him and learn.
If you are listening today and are not a follower of Jesus Christ, listen to him. God is speaking to you. Listen to the words of his Son, who promises, “Truly I tell you, whoever believes in me has eternal life.” Jesus promises, if you would believe in him, trust in him, you will have eternal life.
Listen to him. Jesus knows what he is talking about.
And if you’ve experienced the power of his promises in your life and been a follower of his for some time, the message is the same. Listen to him and learn. Jesus really does know what he is talking about when it comes to living out the days of your life. Trust him with your life. Instead of trying to correct him, let him correct you. Instead of trying to direct him with your steps, let him direct your steps. Keep listening and keep learning. That is the encouragement of God today.
When God says, “Love your enemy” (Pray for him or her who is making your life miserable), Jesus really does know what he is talking about. I’ve listened to that myself, and I’ve tried it.
Forgive that person who has deeply wounded me? I’ve tried that one too. I’ve experienced it, and it is a freeing experience. It frees us from bitterness and allows us to love again more fully.
If you are a follower of Jesus, remember that you are on a journey with him toward heaven. And along the way he has some things to share with you and so much more to teach you.
Listen and learn, because Jesus knows what he’s talking about.