“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter…” Matthew 16: 17-18a
I was on a long flight one time and the only in flight entertainment was the movie Talladega Nights. This is a exceedingly silly film, but there is one scene in the movie that does help me to set up the theme for this post.
Ricky Bobby, the NASCAR racing sensation played by Will Ferrill, sits down with his wife, Carly, and his family to say grace before enjoying a fine meal of Domino’s, KFC, and, in Ricky Bobby’s words, the always delicious Taco Bell. Ricky Bobby begins to pray…
“Dear Lord baby Jesus, I just want to say thank you for my family, my two beautiful handsome, striking sons, Walker and Texas Ranger, and of course my red hot smokin’ wife Carly. Dear Lord baby Jesus, we also thank you for my wife’s father, Chip. We hope that you can use your baby Jesus powers to heal him and his horrible leg. Dear tiny infant Jesus….
Carly interrupts… “Hey, um, Ricky, ya’ know—Jesus did grow up. You don’t always have to call him baby. It’s a bit odd and off-putting to pray to a baby.”
Ricky Bobby responds, “Well I like the Christmas Jesus best and I’m saying grace. When you say grace you can say it to grown up Jesus, or teenage Jesus, or bearded Jesus, or whoever you want.”
Carly sighs and Ricky Bobby begins again. “Dear 8 pound 6 ounce newborn infant Jesus, don’t even know a word yet, just a little infant and so cuddly…but still omnipotent. Dear tiny Jesus with your golden fleece diapers and tiny little fat balled up fists we just thank you for all the races I’ve won and the 21.2 million dollars that I have accrued (Whoot!) over this season. Thank you for all your power and your grace, dear baby God. Amen.”
Who is Jesus? I’ve heard from countless people down through the years, “My idea of Jesus is____________________.”
Is He an enlightened Guru, a wise philosopher, a social revolutionary, a master teacher, or a savvy leadership maven? Who is Jesus?
Folks dream up what they want Jesus to be and create a persona of their own personal Jesus. But what is fascinating is that this isn’t how we approach getting to know any other human being. Think about going down to the local coffee house to meet a new friend and they tell you that their name is Tom and they just opened up the new House Rock restaurant, they just moved here from Colorado Springs and they are 47 years old. And you say in response, “That is all well and good, but I like to think of you as a yoga instructor from Northern California, who’s been here for 3-4 months, loves sunrises and long walks by the Ocean.
You would never do that. Because you and I have to relate to other people as they are, not as we want them to be. It only makes sense that we take the world’s most important citizen on His own terms.
Jesus has gathered here some of his very closest friends and follower and he has taken them on a bit of a road trip to a city called Cesarea Phillipi where many of his followers are from and where he does much of his teaching. While there Jesus asked his famous question. Peter clears his throat, steps forward and says, “You are the King. We think you are the One.”
Peter is saying that they believe that Jesus is the long awaited One who will come to set the world right; that Jesus is the One that the ancient prophecies hinted at and whetted our appetites for. A human being was coming who would somehow share God’s authority and life and God would work through him to rescue and restore his world once and for all.
Peter says, “I think you are that guy.” Peter recognizes who He is and Jesus changes his name—and who he is.
In the ancient world, and in many traditional cultures today, names defined and described identity. Someone’s name said something about who they were. Jesus is saying to Peter, “Because you are my follower and you understand who I am, this is going to deeply transform who you are. You used to be called Simon, now you will be called Rocky.”
This teaches us that following Jesus will change you. Because Jesus will always be moving to the center of our lives and transforming us at our very depths—down deep, where the knobs are. Jesus refuses to be an accessory to our lives. He refuses to be window dressing to our careers, all the while we are still calling the shots in our lives.
Knowing and following the real Jesus will transform the very depths of who you are.
And by doing this deep transformation, he is not making you less of you—he is actually making you more of who you were intended to be all along before sin began to disfigure and devalue you. He will strip away all the dark, twisted and gnarled parts of you and restore you to what you might have been had you stayed in Eden.
The question I ask myself this morning is this: If my character is not being transformed, why not? Maybe I have a relationship with an imaginary Jesus.
After all, Jesus did grow up. Perhaps it is time I did too.