Read first: Luke 9:28-36
Simon Sez – Lessons from the life of Peter
#3 “Master, it is good that we are here.”
We continue once again with this series of messages called: Simon Sez, Lessons from the Life of Simon Peter. Thus far we have heard from Simon – “because you say so I will” and “Lord, to whom shall we go?”
Before we look at Simon’s words as we find them in Luke’s Gospel, the ninth chapter, we probably ought to take a little background look at our passage first. In this passage we find Jesus taking Simon Peter, James and John up onto the mountain with him. There are several traditions that list a variety of peaks as the site of this account – but most likely it was Mount Hermon. Mount Hermon is a tall and lonely mountain climbing some 11,000 feet above the Jordan River valley. It is one of the highest peaks in that part of the world. It can be seen from the Dead Sea, more than 100 miles away.
To reach high up onto the mountain they must have climbed most of the day – arriving probably late in the evening. Luke tells us that the disciples were very sleepy. In fact once they got there they probably kept dozing off – as they were want to do on occasion. You can imagine that as they climbed they wondered where they were headed, where they were going to end up. And why in the world did Jesus go there at all?
Luke gives us the answer in the 29th verse of the passage. It says that: Jesus “…went up on the mountain to pray.” Shortly before they had gone up Jesus had asked a series of important great question of the disciples. He asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” The disciples responded with several different answers. And then finally Jesus looked at the disciples, and asked: “But who do you say that I am?”
His question was: Does anybody here recognize me for who and what I am? And Peter answers with that great affirmation – that great confession of faith – Peter said, “You are the Christ, the son of the Living God.”
There is now another important question that must be answered before Jesus can continue on his way, for his face is now set to Jerusalem – and to the cross. For Jesus the question must be answered – he must make sure that it was indeed God’s will that he should go now to Jerusalem. And so he went up onto the mountain to pray and to ask the real and deep question: Am I truly doing your will, Father? What is your will for me?
It is kind of fascinating – this is when I think of the great difference between Jesus and us and how we commonly approach life. The big difference between how he approached life and how we typically do – when we are faced with something we are wondering about – and not sure about – we ask questions like –“Well, what do I want to do?” – or – “How will this benefit me if I make decision A instead of decision B?” We try to think it through logically – we struggle with it emotionally – we seek the counsel of family and friends. What did Jesus do in contrast? He asked the question: What does God, the Father, want me to do?
It has been said that Jesus had no will but the will of God. That doesn’t mean that he had no personal desire about how things ought to be – remember in the garden of Gesemene, he didn’t want to go to the cross, he prayed so hard that it was as if he was sweating blood – it was such a difficult time of decision. But what it means is that he sought always to do and to be what God would have him do and to be whom God would have him be. He took his problems, his questions – to a solitary place and to God.
Then he gets his answer. The answer comes in a fascinating way – instead of just a booming voice out of the heavens – God sends Moses and Elijah – to speak with Him. Interesting isn’t it? God had given both of them direction as well – on top of the mountain – on Mount Sinai for Moses and Mount Horeb for Elijah. And it says that they spoke with him about his departure to Jerusalem – and what it was that he would accomplish there.
It is interesting because the word that is translated “departure” here in the English – is actually in the Greek the word “exodus.” They spoke with him about his exodus to Jerusalem. Now – if there is anybody in the world that could talk to someone about “exodus” I guess Moses would a good choice to talk about – the journey – the exodus – into the unknown – a journey in which utter trust in God is absolutely necessary – this is really and truly the journey of faith.
That’s what Moses and Elijah spoke with Jesus about – about where he was headed and what he would accomplish there. The disciples wake up in the midst in of this – they are rather amazed by it all – who wouldn’t be?? Suddenly a cloud comes over them – I don’t think it is by accident – remember the exodus – what was it that lead the people in the midst of their journey? It was a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of cloud by day. In the midst of the cloud we hear the very voice of God – Jesus is indeed on the right way – it is the voice of approval by God – they are told to listen to the Son, my Chosen One.
Now is when Simon Peter really enters the picture – He just can’t sit still any longer. I remember a conversation I had with a group of men I used to meet with for Bible Study some years ago. I asked them to pretend that we were casting a movie about the Gospels – and to think about who we could come up with to play certain parts. We began to pretend that we were the casting director and we came up with all sorts of names for some of the parts. For example we decided that Danny DeVito would be the perfect Zaccheus – the short tax collector who climbed up in the sycamore tree. But we never did come up with an answer as to who should play the part of Peter.
Sometime later I came up with the perfect idea for Peter – let’s see if you agree with my idea about who to cast to play Peter. I decided to use Sinbad – you know Sinbad – the great, big, tall – rather huge actor and stand up comic. He’d be perfect – he’s big – he’s strong – he’s quite verbal – just like Peter was – and I think he would handle it very well. The first thing – now you have to picture Sinbad in your mind as we go through this – the first thing Peter did when he woke up and saw what was going on – was to talk – though perhaps it was more like a babble. Like a little child in front of the tree on Christmas morning – you’ve seen the little ones come into the room with the tree – they stand there – they are trying to wipe the sleep from their eyes – and they are just overwhelmed with everything around them – the lights and the tree and the gifts – and it’s almost like they cannot believe what their eyes are showing them – it’s almost too much for them – and they just stand there and clap and start to talk – and to babble. That is almost exactly what it must have been like – I think – for Peter.
The scripture tells us that it was then that Peter sez: “Master, it is good that we are here.” That sounds so – rational – so controlled. You see this is where I can really envision Sinbad prancing around and saying “this is good – this is good – this is good.” I can’t do it like he can – but can’t you just see him turning to the other disciples there on the mountain – “this is good – this is wonderful – we ought to stay a while – no need to climb any further – we can just pitch our tents right here and this is good – this is good.” However, this wasn’t a time for babbling and yacking – it was a time for stillness and wonder and awe and praise.
Psalm 46:10 says: “Be still and know that I am God.” Simon Peter was a man of action – and like him there are times when we are just too busy trying to do something – when it would be better for us to just sit still – and to listen – and to be silent. Before we can go off and fight the battles of life – before we can take on the adventures of life on our feet – it has been said that we should first stop – and be silent – and wonder and pray about it. There is in our lives a time to be silent – and to back away – and to listen.
The second thing that Simon Peter wanted to do was to build some shelters – I love it – yep – this is good – let’s just stay here – this is great! – in fact let’s not just put up tents let’s build some shelters – let’s make this kind of a permanent arrangement – this is a good place to be – I can handle this!! He wanted the moment prolonged – for as long as he could get it.
There are those kinds of special moments in our lives – that are just so wonderful that we want to live in the midst of them forever. But we can’t – we simply can’t live in those moments. We can enjoy them – we can remember them – we can learn from them – but we can’t live in them – no matter how hard we try. They can give us hope and confidence – they can give us direction – but we can’t stay there – there is always more of life to be lived. The truth is that we can’t live in those moments of glory – they are short – they are wonderful – but we have to move on and continue what we are doing. We can’t live in the moments past – we’ve got to be heading forward.
For Simon Peter – it was fun there – on the Mountain – he didn’t want to leave – to go back to the daily grind – to the everyday – to the common things – but that is exactly what happened – for as soon as you flip the page – you find Jesus leading them back down the mountain the next day – and in fact as soon as they got to the bottom – there was a problem to be taken care of – a struggle that the rest of the disciples were caught up in, not knowing how to deal with it. The greatest things we do in life – we need to understand – are most often done not in those moments of glory – but rather – in the midst of the every day.
Remember that it is not the size of the Christmas present – or the size of the Birthday party that you throw – that really matters – it is the daily things that are done with consistency – that ultimately build character and faith. We Christians are people who live in the light of Christmas – and Easter – and Pentecost – our lives are different because of what God did there – but today is not Christmas – or Easter – or Pentecost. Those events only came once – even today we can only celebrate the anniversary of them once a year – the rest is the everyday – which those events give light to and direction to.
Susanna Wesley said, “Help me Lord to remember, that religion is not to be confined to church, nor exercised only in prayer and meditation, but that everywhere I am in your presence.”
Simon sez this morning: “Master, it is good that we are here,” – and Jesus answers him: Yes it sure is, Peter, but we can’t stay – there is work to be done – take this moment with you — learn from it – but let’s get back at it now – there are important things for me to do – and for you to do as well.