Conversations with Peter: Listening when the BIG Voice speaks

Today we’re going to start off with a conversation with Peter, but the focus will change a little bit.   There’s an exchange between Jesus and man seeking relief for his son further on in the chapter that really caught my attention.  Peter was probably a part of the conversation or at least present with the rest of the disciples, so it counts as a conversation with Peter.  Both events I’m going to focus on have caused me to really look at how I interact with Christ, especially in the events of the past 3 or four months. Reading about these two exchanges that I’ve been digging into has shown me two things that I’ve really learned during this time: 1.  Listen 2.  A desperate and honest cry is answered.

Mark 9, Matthew 17, Luke 9:28-45

2 After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.

Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)

Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud:“This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”

Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.10 They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.

11 And they asked him, “Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?”

12 Jesus replied, To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected?1But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him.”

I’ve heard this portion preached many different ways; most speakers key on the transfiguration of Jesus and the interaction between Jesus, Elijah, and Moses, and then others key on the big voice of GOD from the cloud.   Personally, I think Peter and the other disciples reactions are fascinating.   If you read Luke’s version, It adds in that while Jesus was praying the disciples had pretty much fallen asleep, and when they woke up they saw Jesus talking to two other men.  Now, Peter, James, and John had been the only ones to come up with Jesus, so who were these other two guys, and now, wait a minute, his clothes have been turned a pure white color, and…..can you imagine the disciples reactions to this event.   Of course it’s Peter that’s the first to speak, and once again “Captain Obvious” opens his mouth before engaging brain.  His suggestion is to set up two booths or tents to commemorate the fact that Jesus was meeting with two Legends from Israel’s history.   Now, let’s understand the context here, the notes in my study Bible state that Peter wanting to set up booths or tents of meeting at this point meant he wanted to set up a place of worship, that this, (in Peter’s mind), was the high point of Jesus’s time on earth should be memorialized.   Hindsight being twenty- twenty and all (especially since we know the how it all works out), Peter is being a bit hasty.   What I find fascinating is that neither Jesus or the other two say a thing to Peter in this exchange, and, (at least in my mind), I think they all three just look at him in a combination of amazement and parental humor (you know when a child says something that makes you just look at them and say “well, bless your heart, you’re so special”), but it’s GOD that steps in this time.   It says a cloud enveloped them and a voice spoke and said “LISTEN!!”    Matthew 17 states that all three disciples fell on their faces in fear at this point, which, let’s be honest, I would be digging a hole if that were to happen. It goes further in Matthew 17 to say that Jesus touched them and said, “get up, don’t be afraid”.   It’s common for us when we hear God speak in the multitude of ways HE speaks to us or when those moments we start to speak or act before our brain engages and GOD has to intervene, that we just stop what we’re doing and quake in fear.  It’s Jesus that comes in the aftermath and touches us and says “GET UP, Don’t be afraid”.   Again, let;s play the “What IF” game.  What if Peter had never said anything and just watched in awe of what was going on?   Well, it would have been a great moment anyway, but Peter gives us a chance to realize that Jesus wants to use us and can use the moments that we trip over our words after falling asleep when we should have been paying attention.   There are times when GOD has to stop us from talking and say “LISTEN”, because that big iron skillet of GOD intervening on our brain pan is sometimes the only way to get our attention.     As we finish up this first interaction, we see that Christ tells them to tell no one what had happened until after HIS death and resurrection.  Now we come to part two of this blog, the part I get really excited about because it’s JESUS and his three disciples coming down from the mountain into a mess.

14 When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. 15 As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.

16 “What are you arguing with them about? he asked.

17 A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. 18 Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”

19 “You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”

20 So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.

21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”

“From childhood,” he answered. 22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.

23 “‘If you can’? said Jesus. Everything is possible for one who believes.”

24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.

26 The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.

28 After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

29 He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.[a]

I think it’s very ironic, that Jesus and the three come down from a mountain where they just literally heard from GOD and experience a mess.   In this instance a man brings his son to the disciples for healing and they fail, and so an argument ensues, and even the pharisees get involved, so when Jesus comes upon the scene, there’s all kinds of drama.   An emotional parent, frustrated disciples that look like they’ve failed, religious teachers pointing fingers and casting accusations, and the crowd just watching and eating it all up and even taking sides.  Jesus shows up and calms everyone down and simply asks, “what’s going on?”   The explanation he gets is tragic.   Sick or demon possessed child, father at the end of his rope, and the disciples ineffective and in the fathers eyes useless and maybe even charlatans….liars, fakes, dupes, whatever term you want to use, they failed him.  (I can to relate to the disciples at this point, LOL).   Jesus’s statement in verse 19, in my opinion, is one of a bit of frustration maybe even irritation.   I can almost see him pinching the bridge of his nose and shaking his head as he’s saying this.  It’s not disrespectful or denying Christ’s divinity at all to say HE was frustrated, because while he was wholly divine, HE was also human, HE experienced the same emotions we do.

The exchange between the dad and Christ is the most fascinating point of this whole event, at least for me it is.   Jesus is getting the background on the child, like any physician/nurse/EMT he needs to know the background, and like any exasperated and desperate parent, the father makes a statement that many of us make when we hit rock bottom: “If you can help us, please do something”.    Christ reply in verse 23 is fascinating, I kind of believe when he said it, it was with a lift of the eyebrow, a little smile and maybe a bit of ironic sarcasm: ” 23 “‘If you can’? said Jesus. Everything is possible for one who believes.”  What’s the dad’s response?  It’s one we all make in desperation, i know I’ve made this statement quite a few times in my life, and quite often recently: “24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!  Help me overcome my unbelief, said in desperation.   I believe, but yet I’m afraid to believe because I’ve been disappointed or hurt or something from my past or even present is blocking my view of the ONE who heals and restores, HELP me overcome it.   It’s this desperate admission that Christ responds to.  And HIS response:  Healing.   Was it instant and painless?  NO, in fact it says the demon in the child shrieked and convulsed him violently and when it came out the child looked dead.   But he wasn’t.   I think that’s another important point to make, healing often is painful, violent maybe, and sometimes it will look like something is dead, but it says when Jesus extended HIS hand to lift up the child, the child was alive, renewed, and better than before.   That gives me hope personally, what looks to me like a painful and violent end to something may be just part of the healing process.   In Mark 9, when the disciples ask why they couldn’t do what Jesus did, he simply says that it takes prayer.  In Matthew 17, it expounds a bit more on that statement when HE Says: 2He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”   In Mark 9, the implication is that it takes prayer and fasting.  The disciples couldn’t do anything because of a simple disconnect from their power source.   They were trying to do it on their own power and strength based on what they’d seen Jesus do, not based on their belief that Jesus was their source.  There’s a couple of lessons that I see in both of these exchanges:

1.  Think before you open your mouth, especially when GOD is moving.

2.  When it’s time to listen and observe, shut up

3.  When GOD applies the skillet,and says listen, Jesus is there to lift you up

4.   Crap happens when you come down from the mountain:  No matter how big the spiritual event you experience, life is waiting for you when you come down from your mountain top

5.  Jesus doesn’t freak out over the drama, HE wants to know the background and HE’s the calm in the drama

6..  He doesn’t force us to come to HIM, we have to ask

7.  Healing isn’t always gentle and soothing.

8.  Faith is the key.  Great faith is gained by connecting to the source daily through prayer.

Read all three gospel versions of this moment, I focused on Mark 9 because of the interaction between the dad and Jesus in the second half, but all three versions focus a little differently on the event and it’s fascinating.   John doesn’t even talk about it, I’m not sure why, but maybe it was too personal an experience for him, after all, he was one of the participants and it may have been overwhelming for him, who knows.    You may read the chapters and come away with something completely different, and that’s ok, at least you read it.   The point is to read it, connect with our source of faith and grow.

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