March 3, 2008

"The Thing With Two Heads"

(Matthew 16:13-24)

Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn


INTRODUCTION:

Somebody said there are really only two kinds of people in the world. There are those who wake up in the morning and say, "Good morning, Lord," And then there are those who wake up in the morning and say, "Good Lord, it's morning." (1)

Somebody else said: "There are two types of people in the world. Those who come into a room and say, "Here I am!" And then there are those who say, "Ah, there you are!" (2)

Everything has two sides doesn't it? A coin has heads or tails. An old 45 record has a Hit side and the flip side. A piece of bread has two sides, the side that's buttered that always hits the floor when you drop it and the other side. A river, a fence and a tennis court all have two sides. We each have a left side and a right side and most people have a good side and a bad side. A house has an inside and an outside. Beds and railroad tracks both have right sides and a wrong sides. You don't want to get up on the wrong side of the bed or have anything to do with people from the wrong side of the tracks. An argument always has two sides your side and the right side, my side.

Almost everything and everyone has two sides. Even the Apostle Peter, or it probably would be better to say, Especially the Apostle Peter.

Let's look at the passage from Matthew.

Matthew 16:13-24 (NRSV)

[13] Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?"

[14] And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."

[15] He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"

[16] Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."

[17] And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.

[18] And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.

[19] I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."

[20] Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

[21] From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.

[22] And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, "God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you."

[23] But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things."

[24] Then Jesus told his disciples, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

Peter was a walking contradiction. He was the disciple who had a bold heart of gold but feet of clay. And it seemed that the only time he took his foot out of his mouth was to change feet. Peter kind of reminds me of a really bizarre and really bad 1970's film titled "The Thing With Two Heads."

It was a Sci-Fi, Comedy, Horror, Blaxploitation flick about a rich racist who is dying and hatches an elaborate scheme for transplanting his head onto another man's body. Because his health deteriorates so rapidly, the doctors are forced to transplant his head onto the only available candidate: a black man from death row. It starred Ray Miland and Rosie Greer.

I remember watching it on TV. It was so bizarre that I couldn't stop watching. It was like a cheesy sci-fi version of the 1958 classic film by Stanley Kramer starring Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis, "The Defiant Ones" about two escaped convicts chained together who hate each other but have to depend on each other.

The reason I chose the title is because it made me think of Peter. He was a man of two heads, two hearts. I was a walking flip side. One moment he is bold and confident, the next moment he falls flat on his face. One minute he takes up a sword to defend Jesus and minutes later denies even knowing him.

I think Peter was two people. Now I don't mean that the Bible got it wrong and there were actually thirteen disciple. Simon and Peter were the same person. But in actuality, he was two people. Simon Peter was a man with two hearts and one soul. Two minds, two hearts, one soul with a split personality. He was bold and timid, strong and weak. What made him that way? And why in the world would Jesus choose someone who couldn't make up his mind?


I. BECOMING A DISCIPLE:

A. Peter was the Apostle formerly known as Simon. Simon means one who hears, one who obeys. It means that Peter was compliant and pliable. He was a diamond in the rough. Simon Peter was BECOMING A DISCIPLE. He was still in training, still being formed and molded and shaped into the Disciple who Jesus could and would leave in charge of the message and the fledgling church that would arise because of that message.

As a Disciple Becoming or a Disciple in Training, Simon had moments and flashes of insight about who Jesus was and what it was He was teaching. He had flashes of deep faith and conviction, too, which allowed him to step out of the boat and walk on the water with Jesus, even if it was only for a few moments. Unfortunately, they were only flashes because most of the time Simon Peter didn't really understand and he had a terrible tendency to lose faith.

But again, that's all because he was a Disciple in Training. He was Becoming A Disciple.

B. I think that's where a lot of us in church fall. We're still in the Simon stage of our faith. We are still becoming Disciples. And that's a good thing. It was a good thing for Simon. And Simon Peter would probably tell you that it is an ongoing thing, too. You don't just become a Disciple and that's it. No, being and becoming a Disciple is an ongoing process.

One of the biggest lesson we have to learn while we're becoming Disciples is humility. Pride sure can get in the way. It did for Simon Peter. But Jesus was always able to use the situation, not to embarrass Simon but to teach him.

I recently read about a man who took great pride in being a former Navy Seal. And why not? That's a very elite group of people. It takes a special sailor to qualify as a Navy Seal. This man told about sharing his military exploits with his grandson's kindergarten class.

This former Seal regaled the children with his war stories. After he finished, hands shot up all over the classroom. The kids were eager to ask questions. He called on one little girl who asked, "So, can you balance a ball on the end of your nose?"

Sometimes learning humility can be painful. Look at Simon Peter. One minute Jesus is praising his insight and even tells Simon Peter that he's going to be in charge of the new church. I can't imagine how pumped up and jazzed Simon must have felt at that moment.

But then, a couple of minutes later, Jesus started talking about taking up the cross. Simon jumped in with his foot in his mouth once again. And when he does, Jesus calls him 'Satan.' Ooh! That must have stung. That must have stung, deeply. The fall from the height of the pride of being called the head of the church with the keys to the kingdom, to being called 'Satan' must have nearly killed him. Simon was a Man with Two Heads and Two Hearts.


II. MAKING DISCIPLES:

A. But Simon didn't stay that way. Jesus couldn't have used him in such a powerful way if Simon hadn't become Peter. Remember what Jesus said, "you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church." Jesus gave Simon a new name and a new personality to shoot for. Peter means "the rock." So, Simon went from being one who obeys to the steady rock and foundation upon which the church would be built.

There was man who was given the nickname, "Honest John." It embarrassed him and he protested that he didn't deserve it. "Couldn't you call me, `Fairly Honest John?'" he asked. (3)

That sounds like a lot of us, doesn't it? A lot of us just want to be `fairly committed' in our service to Christ, `fairly committed' to Sunday School and worship, `fairly committed' to making our church what God has called it to be, `fairly committed' to evangelism and making disciples. Many of us are even only `fairly committed' to becoming disciples, ourselves

But we saw what happens when someone is `fairly committed'. You get Simon, "The Thing With Two Heads." What Jesus did was to mold Simon into the Disicple Peter, so Peter could then "Go" as Matthew 28 says "and make disciples of all nations."

It didn't happen overnight. It didn't happen without some growing pains and remorse. But it happened. Simon became Peter, the rock. Peter never quit Becoming A Disciple but after Pentecost, with the help of the Holy Spirit, Peter took up the true mantle of his Discipleship and began MAKING DISCIPLES.

Jesus didn't just tell us to "Go." He told us to "Go and make disciples." That's what he did. And that's what we're called to do, too.

B. And it's not that hard. It's something even a 9 year old can do.

Tina Blessitt, a freelance writer in Kentucky tell about her 9-year-old son. Austin, had his tonsils removed. Before the surgery, Austin's anesthesiologist came to start an IV. He was wearing a cool surgical cap covered in colorful frogs. Austin loved that "frog hat."

The doctor explained that he had two choices. He could either try to start the IV, or he could wait until Austin was up in the operating room. In the OR the doctor would give Austin some "goofy" gas, and start the IV when he was more relaxed.

Austin said, "I'll take the gas." But when the doctor started to leave, Austin called, "Hey, wait."

The doctor turned around. "Yeah, buddy, what do you need?"

Austin asked, "Do you go to church?"

"No," the doctor admitted. "I know I probably should, but I don't."

Then Austin asked, "Well, are you saved?"

The doctor chuckled nervously and said, "Nope. But after talking to you, maybe it's something I should consider."

Excited by the answer Austin said, "Well, you should, 'cause Jesus is great!"

The doctor replied, "I'm sure He is, little guy," and quickly made his exit.

The surgery went well and after about 45 minutes, the anesthesiologist came into the waiting room where Austin's mom, Tina Blessit was waiting and told her the surgery went well and then said, "Mrs. Blessitt, I don't usually come down and talk to the parents after a surgery, but I just had to tell you what your son did." Mom kind of gulped. And then the doctor explained that he'd just put the mask on Austin when he signaled that he needed to say something.

When the doctor removed the mask, Austin blurted, "Wait a minute, we have to pray!"

The doctor told him to go ahead, and Austin prayed, "Dear Lord, please let all the doctors and nurses have a good day. And Jesus, please let the doctor with the frog hat get saved and start going to church. Amen."

The doctor admitted it touched him very much and said. "I was so sure he would pray that his surgery went well, but he didn't even mention his surgery. He prayed for me! Mrs. Blessitt, I had to come down and let you know what a great little guy you have."

A few minutes later a nurse came to take Mom to post-op. She had a big smile on her face as they walked to the elevator. "Mrs. Blessitt, I couldn't wait to tell you something exciting that your son did."

Mom said she already knew.

The nurse said, "But there's something you don't know. Some of the other nurses and I have been witnessing to and praying for that doctor for a long time. After your son's surgery, he tracked a few of us down to tell us about Austin 's prayer. He said, 'Well girls, you got me. If that little boy could pray for me when he was about to have surgery, then I think maybe I need his Jesus too."

Then she told how they joined the doctor as he prayed to receive Christ right there in the hospital. (4)

You see, even a 9 year old boy can be a Disciple who makes Disciples. Austin played a small part in something big and wonderful. But then, so did the nurses who prayed and witnessed.

Austin fulfilled the same calling as Simon Peter. He was Becoming A Disciple but he was also Making Disciples.


CONCLUSION:

And that's what we're called to do. It's two sides of the same thing. Just like there's two sides of everything else, there are two sides of being a Christian. Becoming a Disciple and Making Disciples. Even Communion has two sides. It is bread and grape juice but it is also so much more. It is both mundane and sacred. It is the mundane ingredients necessary for daily life. But lifted and consecrated it becomes the sacred ingredients of the abundant life, life in Christ. These elements help us move from having two minds and two hearts. These elements help us move from being Simon, to being Peter, the Rock. We move from simply Becoming Disciples, to the fullness of both Becoming and Making Disciples.

So, this morning come to the feast. Come and say, "Good morning, Lord," so God can say, "Ahh, there you are." And then feast upon the Sacrament of Bread and Wine at this Buffet of Grace. Let it so fill you and feed you, that you can become the Disciple God wants you to be, one who is both Becoming and Making Disciples.

This is the Word of the Lord for this day.

______________________________

Bibliography

1. The Autoillustrator, P.O. Box 336517, Greeley, CO 80633 1-877-970-AUTO (2886)

2. The Autoillustrator, P.O. Box 336517, Greeley, CO 80633 1-877-970-AUTO (2886)

3. www.sermons.com

4. Adapted from a story sent to me by a friend.

Other References Consulted

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