As we continue to study The Best Life Ever Lived, we come across a radical experience. The disciples were forever changed by being there. Then Jesus gives perhaps the most counterintuitive instructions that humanity could ever receive. Both are very much applicable to us! In Matthew 27 & 28, we find that Jesus is transforming His disciples’ lives and challenging ours in the process.
Do you ever meet someone and try to get to know them through your conversation?
When people do that to me, I try to keep some of my identity on the DL because as soon as they ask me what I do for a job it’s going to change the atmosphere.
For example, I was meeting someone a couple of weeks ago. It was outside, on a sidewalk, and I was with a friend who does know me when a lady comes up to talk with my friend. This lady was talking, just like she always talks I imagine, and I’m listening and engaging her. Then it happens. My friend tells her “Oh, Bruce is a pastor.” Immediately you can see the gears grinding. “Oh no”, she said, “I said ‘crap’ in that story I was telling.” I’ve had it happen so many times. Once people know you’re a pastor they act differently, they cringe or tell you every religious thing they’ve ever done. I’m just Bruce. But when you find out who someone is, don’t you tend to react accordingly?
Matthew 17:1-8 “Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid. But Jesus came and touched them and said, “Arise, and do not be afraid.” When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.”
If you were Peter, James or John, would you have been thinking, “Did I say ‘crap’ when I saw this?” Think about what happened. First there was the hike up the mountain, just them and Jesus. They had to know that something was up because normally they would have all been together. Once they reached the top, the view was probably beautiful, as it had been the whole hike. That’s enough to make your heart swell.
But then, Jesus’ clothes and His face, become brighter and brighter. It was bright, like sunlight, except it was Him; His clothes, His skin, His entire Person. They forgot about the view.
Then two other men appeared. Somehow they knew that they were kind of important. Then it made sense; this was Moses and Elijah. They just knew it. There were no photographs back then, but if there were, these two would have been on the Jewish heroes baseball cards they had since they were little. They would have seen their pictures in their Sabbath school classes, from the time they were in SonBeams. These two were national heroes.
But they represented something. They were heroes not only for what they had done, by God’s direction and involvement, but they also stood for the most important things in Jewish worship and culture – the Law and the Prophets. As they stood there talking, who do you think Peter, James, and John thought was the most important?
We use to think there was no one like Moses and Elijah. But now, we see them consulting with Jesus who is glowing so brightly it causes squinting. There is no one more important and impressive than Jesus. The Law and the Prophets bear witness to Him personally. They had a view of that like no one else. Once you’ve been introduced to Jesus, as He is, everyone else pales in comparison. If you are taken with someone else, you haven’t met Him yet.
What do you do when you’re thrust in front of famous, impressive people? You probably would say something stupid. Peter, ever the leader, suggests that they make some shrines or little houses for the three of them. God just ignores them. Now, instead of crazy bright, a cloud envelops them. A bright, pea soup cloud, I imagine. Somewhere in the cloud they actually hear the Voice of God. “This is My Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him.”
Then everything goes back to normal, sort of. That Voice though, it still reverberated through their bodies. They were on their faces. It wasn’t spoken for Jesus, Moses or Elijah. It was spoken to them. This is who He really is, the Son of God. You need to hear him, meaning you need to listen to everything He says, take it seriously and act on it. Imagine the walk back down the mountain. It wasn’t like the hike up.
Have you come face to face with who He really is?
In Chapter 17, we see two more confirmations of who He is, as if the Mount weren’t enough. An epileptic boy, whose seizures were really demonic in their origins, was set free as Jesus commanded the supernatural evil to leave him. The boy was restored. Then there was the miraculous fishing trip, with Jesus sending Peter to catch a fish with a gold coin in it.
What does that tell you? The Mount wasn’t a dream, your imagination. He is the Son of God, the most important being in history and you need to hear Him.
That brings us to chapter 18 where Jesus is telling us things. What should we do with what He tells us? Hear Him.
Matthew 18:21-35 “Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. “But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.””
Jesus taught this parable to get across a series of radical points.
The Greek word for forgiveness here is “aphiemi” which means to cast away. My girls and I have a favorite tradition. We walk along the length of Hamlin Beach State Park and talk and appreciate the beauty. There’s one spot where we stop. Last Fall we stopped and skipped stones. Did you learn how to do that?
Find a nice flat one, large enough but not too large, hook it into your hand and with a throw and a spin at the same time you can get most any rock to skip a number of times across the water. Then at the end of the trail the rock sinks to the bottom, never to be skipped by you again.
Forgiveness is like that. First you have to pick up the rock/offense. Look at that offense and the person who offended you. Then make a choice. Load it up into your hand and cast it away, aphiemi. You’ll see it and then it’ll sink to the bottom, never to be seen again.
But what about that life altering offense? The one you’re still recovering from while the other person still has all their faculties? You keep picking up that rock and casting it away. You keep forgiving.
But what about the person who is still hurting me? You may need to get away, but the answer is still the same. Keep picking up the rock and casting it away.
Forgiveness is a lifestyle, a process you keep doing for the rest of your life. We never seem to run out of rocks at the beach. We just keep casting.
The alternative is a life of torment. When you’ve been on the rack, so to speak, for a long time you don’t even notice how out of it you really are.
Who has given or is giving you trouble in your life? Look straight at what they’ve done. Wind up and cast the offense away from you. Let them go, let the offense go, from the heart.
You’ll know when you’ve forgiven because you can speak well of them, bless them. You can picture them walking into the room and you aren’t cringing or attacking. You can pray good things for them and not fiery judgment.
He is the most important, most impressive being. You must listen to Him. One thing, one major thing He says is to forgive from the heart, everyone who has offended you. Cast the rock.
Close your eyes. Pick up an imaginary rock. Write someone’s name on it. Cast it away.