Sunday, February 26, 2017
Matt. 17:1 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. 3 Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 5 While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” 8 And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.
This is the amazing scene of the transfiguration of Jesus Christ. Right before the eyes of Peter, James and John, Jesus’ full nature is revealed. Jesus is God, shining in white radiance, in the line of the great prophets who have come before. The reality is that he is even more than those who have gone before, for he is the incarnation of God which is affirmed by the voice of his Father. It is in this moment that Peter is completely overwhelmed, and not quite knowing what to say, says something inappropriate. Why not build three tents on the top of the mountain so that the presence of God, manifest in this experience be contained. It was an idea that popped into his mind and probably sounded pretty good to him. It would have been lovely to simply try and contain God and remain on the mountaintop. The problem was that it made no sense in light of who God is and what God intended to accomplish. God’s presence was not to be contained but to be revealed by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Instead of chiding Peter, Jesus and the others simply and quite tactfully ignored what he said. Actually, his words were interrupted by the presence of the bright cloud and the voice of the Father. This was not the time to sit in the glory of God, but it was a time to endure the days ahead. The transfiguration of Christ, while glorious, became a testimony to the long-suffering servanthood of the disciples. They had seen God’s glory on the mountain top but realized that they would have to endure the day-to-day difficult life of ministry as faithful servants of Jesus. Glory would come, but not until they had endured.
Peter, whose comment is tactfully ignored, continues on his spiritual journey, and empowered by the Holy Spirit leads a new movement and church. Eventually he dies a martyr’s death, but I imagine that he was eternally grateful for the lessons which he learned from Christ, including being tactfully ignored.
The call to discipleship doesn’t result in perfection of behavior. Peter is certainly a testimony to that truth. As he grows spiritually he stumbles, and often over himself. He does things that are embarrassing and there are times when Jesus does say something to him, but others, such as this incident, where nothing has to be said. Peter learns his lesson by being tactfully ignored.
Not everything in life is worth a lengthy discussion. Yes, sometimes people will say something stupid, but we don’t have to always point that out. From time to time the graceful response is simply to tactfully ignore. A lack of response may be used as a discipleship technique, just as it was by Jesus. I’m sure that Peter realized that what he had said probably wasn’t really appropriate after he had said it. He didn’t really need Jesus to point that out.
Not everyone needs us to point out what they may have done wrong. About the moment something is out of our mouths we know that it was something we should not have said. There is also the possibility that we hit “post” before we think about the consequences of that action. It’s far too easy to have a disagreement with someone when you don’t have to look them in the eye. The use of social media has turned criticism into an art-form. I think we need to ask ourselves whether it is always useful. If not, maybe it’s better to simply and tactfully ignore something that someone has written, said or done.
We are invited into a discipleship relationship with Christ, and with others. Jesus teaches us how to gently nudge people into Christlikeness as we continually learn and grow.We are to graciously allow others the space to grow, which may include tactfully ignoring somethings in life.
Lord, thank you for tactfully ignoring some of the dumb things I do. Amen.