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May 30 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

May 30, 2010

The Phraisees and Sadducees came up, and testing Jesus, they asked Him to show them a sign from heaven. But He replied to them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times? An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah.” And He left them and went away. Matthew 16:1-4

INTRO: I’m in the third round of paper work for setting up our non-profit corporation
Providing this information to the state and federal government has had me thinking about what we’re doing

  • What do we want to see God do in our lives?
  • What is my role in that?

I’ve gone back to the basic questions; for example, What does it mean to be a Christian?
But there’s a problem with that question – it begs a religious answer
 – then we merely describe incidentals–what a Christian does and what a Christian believes
 – and we won’t get to the fundamentals

There’s a way to get at a better answer, and that is to ask, What work does Jesus perform in the life of a person?

  • he restores them to wholeness (“salvation”)
  • he brings them to their true selves

So, the question now is, What does it mean to be you? The true you formed by the hands of Christ?

Verses 1-4

This chapter goes to the heart of Matthew – the main theme: Who is Jesus of Nazareth?
And the way Matthew goes at the theme in this chapter recalls the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and anticipates its goal

  • at his baptism, “This is My beloved Son”
  • immediately afterward, the temptation of Satan, “If You are the Son of God . . .”
  • calmed storm (8:27), “What kind of a man is this . . .?” – & 21:10, “Who is this?”
  • walked on water (14:33), “You are certainly God’s Son”

In verse 1, look at how his identity is being called in question again
“Testing” – same word “tempted” in 4:1
“Show a sign from heaven. Prove that you have a unique relationship with God”
 – they demand that he provide them with undeniable evidence of who he is
 – like jumping from the pinnacle of the temple

His answer: “You know to discern the face of the sky . . .”

  •  “sky” translates the same Greek word as “heaven”
    – you don’t need to see something supernatural
    – there’s enough in the natural world, if you would discern it
  • “sign of the times” – kairos
    – not merely what history (chronology) is building up to
    – discern what God is doing at this time
    – discern the possibilities of this present moment

Verses 5-12

Immediately afterward, he gives the disciples a warning about the “Pharisees and Sadducees”
Typically – the disciples took him literally
 – “bread” is another parallel to the temptation story

In explaining metaphor, Jesus reveals a crucial insight

  • the disciples need a new way of seeing & perceiving
     – not about being more observant! They had been observant enough, “how many baskets?”
     – they needed to be observant in a different way
  • and notice the root of the problem, “men of little faith”
     – their faith could not get beyond their sight & natural reason
     – their faith got stuck at the level of the literal, the tangible, and that’s why our faith fails when our tangible world is in chaos and we are overwhelmed–our faith is stuck in the literal, physical world

Peter walking on water and “seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out ‘Lord, save me!'” Jesus’ response, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Mt. 14:30-31)
 – faith doesn’t only look at things, but through and beyond things

Verses 13-20

Jesus gets the disciples thinking about who he is – his identity
His first question is non-threatening, distant, and in the third person:
 – “people” and “Son of Man”
The question is impersonal, non-threatening, and does not require any commitment
His second question, however, is personal, second and third person (“But who do you say that I am?”)

  • Peter got it
    – it came so naturally, he probably didn’t realize “revealed”
  • Now we need to read closely what happens next
    – with great skill, Jesus turns this revelation around back on Peter
    – “you are Peter”
  • “I also say” – “also” could mean, you’re blessed and also I also say you’re Peter
    – or, “God revealed one thing to you and also I am revealing another thing”
    – God revealed Jesus’ identity to Peter and then Jesus revealed Peter’s identity to Peter
  • “Simon BarJona” – Simon was his old name
    Barjona wasn’t his “last name,” but a transliteration of the Aramaic words Jesus used

Jesus was Messiah, but he was more–his true nature is revealed in his relationship to his Father
Simon’s nature was also revealed in his relationship his father
 – but now he has become something more and the challenge is to live according to the more rather exclusively according to his human nature
 – this opens up all kinds of possibilities for Peter – “the keys of the kingdom”

We began with the question, Who am I? (true self)
 – But what we’ve seen, is that the chapter is about, “Who is Jesus?”
 – That’s the whole point!
In Moses’ encounter with God at the burning bush, he had two questions: Who am I? and Who are You?
 – those two questions are always connected–the answer to the second results in the answer to the first
 – in learning Jesus’ identity, Peter learns his own identity–his true self

Last week, Dr. Charlesworth introduced us to Ode 13, “The Lord Is Our Mirror”

Behold, our mirror is the Lord;
Open (your) eyes and see them in Him.

Friday night, I told our group about my son, William, when he was two and three years old I would ask him to look into my eyes and tell me what he saw
– “I see Weelow” (that was how he pronounced his name)
 – he would see his own reflection in the pupils of my eyes

And learn the manner of your face [your true reflection or true self]
Then announce praises to His Spirit

Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end here (neither Peter’s story nor our own)

Verses 21-23

A few minutes ago he was Simon, a moment ago he was Peter, and now he is “Satan”

This is the temptation Jesus was faced with in the wilderness when offered the kingdoms of the world
– it was a path to a goal without suffering
– a way around the cross
Only this time it is coming from Peter and that is why he has become a “stumbling block” to Jesus

Peter had definitely heard Jesus predict his rejection, suffering, death and resurrection–and this time it was correct that Peter took Jesus’ words literally
 – but his response to Jesus does not come from his new identity, his true self
 – Jesus tells him, “you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s”
– Peter was not living out of that “more” he was capable of being, but our of his natural self

Barbara and I have two mirrors we can look at when grooming

  1. The bathroom mirror is big, brightly lit, and up close – it gives me an accurate and depressing view of myself
  2. The bedroom mirror is poorly lit and distant – it gives me an inaccurate and flattering view of myself

I often turn away from the reflection of true me – it is easier to live with the illusions
And this brings us to the final challenge of the chapter

Verses 24-28

Again, we return to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry when he called men into discipleship with the two words, “Follow Me”
Here we learn that there’s a condition to  fulfill if we are to follow Jesus – only, rather than a condition it is more like what happens to us, what he does in us
 – the “self” we deny is the old self – the mind set on man’s interests
 – the soul we “find” is true self, the new name (identity)

I cannot find who I am by looking within myself
 – I’m too small and short-sighted

A fear, even a passing one, always provokes either a weakening or a [constriction], depending on the degree of courage, and that is all that is required to damage the extremely delicate instrument of precision which constitutes our intelligence. Simone Weil

If the ruler I use to measure myself is within me, it is limited by my flaws and short-comings
 – like the bathroom scale that is notoriously unreliable
 – I end up looking for the mirror that shows me what I want to see
 – I need first to see the truth, to see Jesus, and then in the light and reflection of the truth, see myself

CONC: We’re standing in front of the map of mall – “You are here”

If we can begin to see in a different way, we can become different people
 – a psychotic’s actions may be totally logical given his perception
 – in exactly the same way, Peter’s “God forbid” was totally logical given his perception
One of Jesus’ goals is to teach us a new way to see
 – to discern the times, to see what everyone can see, but more
 – and to see the “more” in who we are as well

Like Peter, we catch a glimpse of it and then, like him, we immediately slip back into our old self
But that doesn’t mean that Jesus is finished with us or gives up on us – on the contrary
 – that’s the process of discipleship
 – what Jesus does, is to help us shed the old self and learn to live out of new

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