Matthew 17:1-27, Matthew 18:1-35, 1 Kings 8:10-13, Jeremiah 23:1-4
Have you ever been frustrated when a writer or film director does something that seems outside the expected or conventional lines of a story? Recent backlash over the film Star Wars: The Last Jedi is evidence of that very kind of frustration. Some faithful fans have expressed their disappointment and even disgust with the plot twists director Rian Johnson made. The Star Wars-obsessed had trouble allowing their predictable plot lines to be altered in a new creative direction. No longer could the audience say to themselves, I know where this is going…
The problem is we often think that way about Jesus too. Even Jesus’ closest disciples did. As our passage today points out, Peter thought he had it down when it came to the plot line of Jesus. As he stood with James and John on the mountain and Jesus revealed His full and radiant glory to them, it seemed this was the moment Peter had been expecting: Now the Kingdom has come! Now Rome will be overthrown!
Even the appearance of Moses and Elijah confirmed Peter’s perceived familiarity with the trajectory of Jesus’ story. As the glory mounted, he proposed the opportunity to harness the moment, saying, “Lord, it’s good for us to be here. I will set up three shelters here: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” (Matthew 17:4). Looking to establish a way to memorialize, and perhaps even monetize, God’s power and glory, Peter believed he had it all figured out about Jesus.
Is that the case with you too? Does Jesus fit into the nice and tidy box that you have built around your behaviors, politics, and religious expectations? It’s possible that when we really see who Jesus is, we will be frustrated that He doesn’t fit our perceived patterns of who He should be.
God’s interruption of Peter is the exact remedy we need in those moments. As the glory of Christ was placed on full display, the Father broke into the story, which forces us to evaluate what kind of relationship we possess with Him. Jesus isn’t one we can manipulate into bringing about our best life now. Instead, the Father declares Jesus to be His beloved Son to whom we are obligated to listen. The familiar line we expect is that Jesus is obligated to us; the plot twist is that we are commanded to listen to Him.
Maybe this is why Jesus is frustrating to many; He doesn’t fit the tropes we’ve constructed for Him. When we come face to face with who He really is, sometimes we’d rather listen to ourselves. Yet, for those who will abandon their own storylines and desires to manipulate Jesus, they will hear Jesus say, “Do not be afraid.” That’s the power and glory He came to show.
Written by Jeremy Writebol