Have you ever heard news that caused you to stop dead in your tracks? News that somehow changed everything. Some will remember a presidential speech from December 7, 1941 declaring the USA was joining the war in Europe, the war known as WWII. Some of us had fathers or grandfathers who served. That war changed everything. Others of us know exactly where we were when President John F Kennedy was shot. We can share details that are somehow burned into our minds. That was November 22, 1963. I was in first grade. That event changed everything. Many more will remember where they were and what they were doing on September 11, 2001. That news changed everything again. August 18, 1983 was another of those dates that changed everything. That was the day my favorite grandmother died.
Sometimes the news that changes everything is as death. Someone in the family, a friend, someone famous. It is a big deal when someone like Hitler, Stalin, Mao or Castro dies. The world watched as Princess Diana’s sons walked solemnly behind her casket. When the queen passes it will be another one of those time stopping, life changing events.
Other times it is a birth that causes us to stop dead in our tracks. Shepherds out in the fields were minding their own business when an angel of the Lord appeared with good tidings of great joy. “For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And you will find Him wrapped in swaddling clothes, laying in a manger.” Luke tells us the shepherds were sore afraid...terrified...and intrigued. And they ran to Bethlehem to see this thing which had come to pass. What they witnessed that night changed everything.
What did you do? Where were you when everything changed? In Matthew's gospel, 16:13-20 we see Jesus and the disciples in Caesarea Philippi. Jesus has questions for the disciples. He wants to know what people are saying about Him...who do people say I AM? They answered John the Baptist, others say Elijah and still others think you might be Jeremiah. Finally, an easy question...one they could answer! But then Jesus asked...who do you say I AM? And God bless Peter. He got this one right. It appears he did not hesitate before he answered. He did not have to think about this answer. He just knew. “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” You are the one we have been waiting for. And Jesus said yes, I AM.
Can you feel the chills that must have run down their spines? Can you sense the awe, the wonder here? This is a pinch me, eyes as big as saucers, mouth gaping open sort of a moment. They knew Jesus was different than any other rabbi. They had heard Him teach. They had seen Him heal. They had even witnessed miracles...many of them. Perhaps they had wondered, speculated, even talked among themselves. But now they knew for certain. These twelve would always know where they were when Jesus said I AM the one you have been waiting for. He didn't speak this in parables they needed to figure out. He just said yes, I AM. WOW!!! This changed everything. EVERYTHING... for everybody.
The Old Testament prophets had spoken of the Messiah. John the Baptist had been preparing the way for Jesus. But the Israelites had waited so long that this hardly seemed possible. He wasn't exactly what they had expected. They thought their salvation would come in the form of military might...might that would remove them from Roman rule and restore their former glory among the nations. Jesus didn't look strong or mighty. He didn't have a white war horse. He walked everywhere He went. He didn't have an army. He just had huge crowds of poor, rag tag people and twelve disciples that He constantly had to explain things to.
When He came riding into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, He didn't have to say a word. Kings rode on the backs of donkeys. The religious leaders watched in horror and fear. And they refused to believe this man could possibly save them from anything. Worse yet they were afraid of the following He had. But we see His strength. He continued to act in the will of His Father. He kept teaching, giving people another chance to believe. He celebrated the Passover with His disciples, knowing what was coming next. We look on as He spends agonizing time in the garden of Gethsemane. This is where we see His strength. This is where a war is fought. Jesus could have said nope, the cost is too high. He could have walked away, leaving us wallowing in our sins. Instead, in strength we cannot even begin to imagine He said” Not my will but yours be done.” In strength He bore the weight of the sins of the whole world upon Himself as He hung on the cross and died. Three days later He rose from the grave victorious. When we cry out, He is risen! on Easter Sunday morning we are telling the world that everything has changed. When you read the resurrection accounts in scripture, they are vivid. Because those telling them have had that stop you in your tracks kind of experience, that life changing experience.
We often say Jesus changes everything. Where were you the first time you REALLY heard Jesus was the One. Yes, some of us have grown up in the church and we knew the stories from early on. But when did you REALLY know, deep in your heart of hearts? When did it hit you like a ton of bricks that Jesus is the One? What happened in your life that made you stop dead in your tracks with the realization that in Jesus, everything changes?
In His grip
Pastor Matt W