the one about not telling...
August 28, 2017, 9:08 AM

Sermon from Sunday August 27, 2017

Text: Matthew 16: 13-20

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

So, whenever I read that verse (or the variations of it throughout Matthew and Mark’s gospels) I’m always taken aback a little. Why in the world would you want to hide that message? That’s good news, right? People are clamoring for the messiah – why wouldn’t they want to hear about it!

I usually joke that Jesus was just ahead of his time in modern psychology. The Messiah understands that the quickest way to get someone to do what you want is to tell them they can’t do it. And to be really stern in it.

But, after this week I began to think of it in another way.

This might prove difficult for us because of all the ways in which we do and can know things, but imagine 100 – 200 years ago. Or even further back, the same scenario will still hold true. Imagine living back then and telling people – listen to me. At the beginning of the week, in the middle of the afternoon, the moon is going to block the sun. It’s going to remain hidden for a few minutes. It’ll be wonderful.

Now, what do you think people are going to tell you?

Whatever. You’re full of it. Get behind me Satan! Call the doctor, Matt’s lost his marbles – again!

Even with the wonder of science, where we knew the eclipse would happen this past Monday, there were still those who doubted the significance and wonder of it. Would it really be worth all the fuss and hype?

I don’t know about y’all – I thought it was more than worth it. But, even I started to be skeptical about what 2 minutes and 34 seconds could really mean the closer the day of the eclipse approached. Even when I had a friend decide at almost the last minute to fly down from Boston to witness this even, I remember asking – you’re really going to spend that money to watch just under 3 minutes of darkness?

All those worries and doubts and skepticisms vanished the moment the sun was eclipsed by the moon in totality. Words cannot describe what I and what many of us saw. I was overcome with emotion – that I did not expect – when I removed my eclipse glasses and saw what looked like a portal into another dimension opened up where the sun should be.

It was mesmerizing, beautiful, and even a little scary. I even prayed in that moment – not for safety, but in thanks to God for what I was seeing. That the same one who fashioned me, who dug us from the quarry as Isaiah writes is the same one who put the celestial bodies of our universe in motion from the beginning of time millions of years ago in creation. The same one who does these beautifully amazing things is the same one who became flesh and blood on the earth out of deep and abiding love for the world and all of creation.

Throughout scripture we read the sentence to ‘fear and love’ the Lord. I think we always have a little trouble understanding that. It’s hard to wrap our minds around it. Yet, after the eclipse and viewing that amazing sight for just over two and half minutes, I think I have a better understanding (though not a complete one) of what fear and loving the Lord actually means.

So, I’m thinking about all this while reading that Jesus tells his disciples to not mention a word about who he is. And I got to thinking.

Until the eclipse happens – no one really knows exactly what it means to witness it. It’s hard to describe. Sure, we can detail and highlight what happens, the darkness creeping in, the 360-degree sunset, the corona being visible. But, no one can really describe how it feels to witness that. You’ve just got to experience it. To know it. To see it. Especially surrounded by loved ones and even friends who travel just over 900 miles to view 2 and a half minutes.

Jesus orders his disciples not to tell anyone that he is the Messiah. Why? Well, because Jesus’ life doesn’t make a whole lot of sense until after the resurrection.

Think about it. Until the resurrection – Jesus is very similar to many other holy people. Be good. Love one another. Serve God.

Sure, he threw in some distinct uniqueness – love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you. Eating, drinking, socializing, and showing love to the lowest in society. Elevating the least into equality with the ‘best.’ Enough ‘out there’ thoughts that pushed him and his friends to the fringes of traditional society and put them in the harsh glare of the religious authorities of his day.

In many ways, it is no wonder Jesus orders the disciples not to tell others about who he really is. They won’t understand – you won’t really understand – until after the victory over sin and death. We see that failed understanding play out in the gospels. Even bold Peter – the one who speaks on behalf of the disciples, “You are the Messiah, the son of the Living God!” is going to be the one who will deny him three times.

Yet, the church is built on those words – that confession. It is in that proclamation – You are the Messiah, the son of the Living God – where the church stands on solid rock. It is in those words that the keys to the kingdom of heaven are given.

But, until the resurrection, no one is going to be able to even comprehend those words. They don’t make sense. They won’t fully understand. But, but… they’ll experience it. They’ll see it. They’ll know.

You’ll know. Even people you wouldn’t expect – they’ll know. The Canaanite woman, the Centurion at the cross, and more.

I didn’t quite know what to expect before the sun was blocked out by the moon. Yet, in that moment – I knew God’s wonderful and beautiful handiwork was there. I knew that even Ieven each of us – am a part of that great creation that God set forth in motion.

We proclaim the resurrection of our Lord. Now seems like as good a time as any to tell. Now seems like a good a time as any to live into that faith and live out that love. Amen.

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