(…continued) But once again, Jesus was not on the same page. Only Peter, James, and John would see the Transfiguration, and they, only briefly. There would be no shelters built and no chance for anyone else to see it. What’s more, Jesus told them not even to tell anyone about it until after he had risen from the dead. “What?” they must have wondered. Jesus dead? What was that all about? This could have been a clarifying moment, but Jesus only added to the confusion. This was just one more thing they did not understand. It was mystery after mystery. How could anyone get a movement going in this fog of confusion? If things did not even add up for Peter, what chance would there be of anyone else catching on to any of this?
Think about it. Peter was in the fishing business. Therefore, he probably knew something about marketing, advertising, getting the word out, and selling your product. And if Jesus had a kingdom to promote, people had to know who he was and what his credentials were. For Jesus to just let a few people here and there in on the secret would not work if they really wanted to get something going. For Peter, that would be like having a big catch of fish to sell, and then not even opening the store. But every time Peter had a good idea, Jesus would just ignore him or shut him down. One time, Jesus even called Peter a devil, saying “Get behind me, Satan.” That hurt, but Peter had seen too much to desert Jesus now. He even said so one time when everyone was abandoning Jesus, and Jesus gave disciples the opportunity to leave also. But Peter said, “Where else would we go, Jesus? Only you have the words of eternal life.” Peter could not and would not ever leave. But he and Jesus were hardly ever on the same page.
We know the rest of the story, and so we know that Peter had not seen anything yet. But no one then could have guessed how the story would unfold. No one was expecting to see Jesus dead on a cross, and then, after that, no one was expecting a resurrection. And then, no one would have expected that the followers of Jesus would challenge and change the entire Roman empire, and from there, the whole world. God would see to it that the word would get out, and it would get into all the world; even with what looked like to Peter as a hopelessly inadequate business plan and marketing strategy.
In Matthew 27:22 Pontius Pilate asked an angry crowd, “What shall I do with Jesus?” The crowd yelled “Crucify him,” and after some hand wringing and then some hand washing, Pilate gave in and sent Jesus to the cross. But even though Jesus died that day, he did not stay dead, but rose from the tomb victorious over death– just like he said he would.
Jesus still lives, and Pilate’s question remains the biggest question in all of life for everyone: “What will you do with Jesus?”
The Bible gives a variety of answers, including that we should believe in Jesus, follow Jesus, obey Jesus, imitate Jesus, serve Jesus, have the same mind as Jesus, forgive as Jesus forgives, pray to Jesus, and on and on. Other responses, then and now, have included rejecting Jesus, ignoring Jesus, paying Jesus as little attention as one deems safe, forgetting Jesus, disobeying Jesus, and so on. In response to Pilate’s question, there is much one can do, or not do, with Jesus.
We all bring our own agenda to Jesus, but it is Jesus who must set the agenda. The sooner we realize that, the better off we will be. And if you are not on the same page as Jesus, you are the one who needs to get on a different page. As we hear about Jesus week after week, the goal should be to grow closer to Jesus, bringing our lives more in line with his agenda. He has invited each of us to follow him. But all too often what happens is that as we learn about Jesus, we do what we can to make him fit into our plans and our values and our agendas.
During the Civil War Abraham Lincoln was asked if he believed God was on his side. President Lincoln replied, “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side. My greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right. Therefore, it is my constant anxiety and prayer that I and this nation should be on the Lord‘s side.” (We could use a little more of that kind of humility today, not only in the White House and Congress, but also on social media and in cafe conversations.)
In the Gospels, Jesus is never on the same page with anyone, but is always challenging and always surprising everyone. When we start thinking we’ve got everything in our life right in line with Jesus, it is probably time to take another look. Maybe we are no longer following Jesus at all, but have simply cut and trimmed and pasted what we want to hear from Jesus into our agenda; into what we are and want to be and want to do. If even Peter, who spent three years with Jesus could get it wrong, we need to be willing to keep asking what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
Ezekiel 11:12 — You will know that I am the Lord, for you have not followed my decrees or kept my laws but have conformed to the standards of the nations around you.
Romans 12:2 — Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Philippians 2:1-2 — Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.
Day by day,
Dear Lord, of thee three things I pray:
To see thee more clearly,
Love thee more dearly,
Follow thee more nearly,
Day by Day.
–From the 1971 musical Godspell; by Stephen Schwartz, based on a prayer by St. Richard of Chichester (1197-1253)