Shalom people of God at St. Michael
I want to thank you for allowing me to speak to you this morning.
The writers of your Scriptures about the life of Jesus mention me often. They have me come across as either a brilliant leader or a clueless idiot. It depends on which writer you read and who his audience was.
So let me tell you a little bit about myself and some of the places I make an appearance in the Life of Jesus.
My Hebrew and Aramaic name is Simeon. Greek-speaking people call me Simon. To jump just a little bit ahead, Jesus decided to call me Cephas. Greek-speakers called me Petros / Peter. That is why you call me Simon Peter.
Both Cephas and Peter can be roughly translated as “rock.” Me and 1 or 2 of the Apostles said it was because I was the solid, steady rock on which Jesus would found his church. Everyone else said it was because I was dense and hard-headed. It doesn’t matter.
I was in a fishing partnership with my brother, Andrew, outside our hometown of Bethsaida. We had a couple of boats and a small crew. Andrew was a follower of John the Baptizer. Our cousins, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, fished there also. We moved from Bethsaida, to Capernaum on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee for a less-crowded fishing location. Our cousins moved to Capernaum also.
Early one morning, me, Andrew and our crew were coming in from a successful three hours dragging our nets. We were bringing our haul to shore. Then we heard the voice. Soft and clear: Come with me. We heard it over the noise in our boat and all the other boats coming in. We heard it over all the people on the shore. It was so clear Andrew and I were sure it was meant for only us to hear. To be honest, it was a little scary. The voice belonged to a man of about 30 years. We looked at the young man and our eyes locked. Then he spoke again: Come with me. Fish for men. Then he turned and walked on.
His soft voice went straight to our hearts and then to our minds. We reacted before we thought. When the boat got into shallow water, Andrew and I jumped out, grabbed our clothes and followed him as he walked along the shore. We left our livelihoods. We left our families. Our wives were not happy nor were our family members.
Soon, he called our cousins, James and John. They, too, left their fishing work. In fact, they left their father standing in the boat. It was a strange morning; but just the first of many.
Jesus did almost all his preaching in the area around the Sea of Galilee and in Judea north of Jerusalem. Jesus was in a laid-back mood. We walked from village to village, not in a hurry to leave nor in a rush to get to move on. We travelled leisurely. Jesus preached and healed and taught wherever we went. We stayed in nice homes and always had enough to eat and to drink. It was easy to be his follower.
And then the bubble burst: one morning as were leaving the synagogue word reached us that John the Baptizer had been killed by King Herod. The emotional and physical pain that struck Jesus was obvious. Remember: Jesus and John were cousins – close cousins.
After John’s death, Jesus was a changed man. His ministry changed, too. He focused on teaching, especially his attempts to make us understand about him and his having to die and his coming kingdom. I was not the only “rock” in the group of Apostles. There was also a new urgency in his teachings and in his actions. It was as if he knew he only had a short time left to make us smarter. And our wandering turned into a focused journey: Jerusalem for Passover.
We arrived at Jerusalem about five days before Passover. Our entrance was amazing! Hundreds, thousands of people were everywhere calling his name, calling him Messiah and waving everything they could wave at him. Our fear was we would not have any time alone. We needn’t have worried.
Jesus stayed with Mary, Martha and Lazarus in Bethany, outside Jerusalem. Me, Barnabas, Mary of Magdala and John Mark stayed in the Lower City. I don’t know where the others stayed, only that we were all able to meet quickly.
On the eve of Passover, what you call Holy Thursday, we met in the upper room of a devout Jew who was also intrigued with Jesus and his coming kingdom. The cushions were for us to recline on and share our meal were on a small ledge along two adjoining walls. We did not all sit on the same side of a long table with Jesus in the center!
The scene of Jesus identifying Judas as his betrayer is basically true. But Judas had a deeper, more personal relationship with Jesus than any of the other apostles. Personally, I think Judas truly believed he was doing the right thing for Jesus. He honestly believed he was not sending him to his death, he was saving him from death.
After Judas left, Jesus did two strange things: First, he washed our feet, even though we protested. After washing our feet, Jesus did something else strange: What you call the Words of Institution, we “rocks” took as a strange analogy by a man, our friend, under a lot of stress: This Bread – my body This Wine – my blood
Garden of Gethsemane
Praying in the Garden of Gethsemane was hard for most of us Apostles to do. Remember: Six of us were fisherman. We were used to very early mornings dragging our fishing nets followed by long days processing and selling our fish, fixing our nets and maintaining our boats.
We worked hard. We ate. We slept.
Personally, I don’t understand why Jesus had to be betrayed. Pilate, his soldiers, Caiaphas, the Jewish leaders – all knew where to find Jesus whenever they wanted.
I can’t say very much about the meeting between Jesus and Pilate. They were inside and I was outside, trying to stay close, but not too close. To be honest, I was too busy trying to not being identified as a follower of Jesus than with what was going on inside.
Was I at the Crucifixion? Define “At.” I was close enough to know what was happening – I had seen many Roman crucifixions. But I was far enough away to be seen as just another curious on-looker.
After his death
With Jesus dead and buried, we, his Apostles, hid in the same room where we shared his last meal. And hid is the right word. We weren’t fearful – we were very, very afraid. We waited for the Romans to come in to arrest us or for the crowd to break in, take us outside and kill us themselves.
On the day after the Sabbath, the women who travelled with us burst into our hiding place – the grave was empty, they yelled to us. Jesus has risen like he said he would!. Our spirits lifted immensely. We embraced their excitement and joy. We ran to the tomb.
Seeing the empty tomb and the folded shroud and burial garments filled us with renewed joy. We now only had one fear: The Jewish leadership would accuse us of removing the body and proclaiming Jesus rose as he said he would. We were still fearful, just much less so.
We went back to our hideaway and … we waited. Not sure what we were waiting for, but we waited.
Over the next couple of weeks, Jesus visited us several times. He physically just appeared in our hiding place. We talked and he ate with us, too. And then he would leave just as mysteriously as he came in. On his last visit with us, he promised us a special visitor.
About 50 days after his resurrection, his promised visitor appeared in our hideaway just as mysteriously as Jesus had. The visitor – a spirit – a presence – touched all of us at once. That touch removed the scales of ignorance from our eyes, from our minds and from our lips.
We now understood who Jesus was. We understood why he died. We understood his coming Kingdom.
With a new, bold confidence, we walked onto the Portico to address the hundreds of Jews working and shopping outside our hiding place.
And the rest, as they say, Is History.
Peace be to you, Children of God at St. Michael’s.
Sermon Given at SMLC on March 13, 2022, by Lay Preacher Len Docimo.