Matthew 17 and 26: Jesus in Community
Jesus is the one man who changed the world forever and some might think that he did so alone, fighting evil and injustice on his own, like so many of our modern American heroes. If we aren’t careful, we can allow our beliefs about personal victory and the American dream to shape the way we read Jesus’story.
Here are some examples from Scripture of what I mean:
In Matthew 17:1-8, what’s known as the “Transfiguration”, Jesus went up a “high mountain to be alone.” While there, the veil between this life and the next became so thin that Jesus conversed with Elijah and Moses and God himself declared, “This is my dearly beloved son, who brings me great joy.” It was a remarkable high point in Jesus’life.
Contrast that passage with the Garden of Gethsemane in Matthew 26, a remarkably low point in Jesus’life. Just before his crucifixion, Jesus walked to the top of another hill to reach the Garden of Gethsemane. There he famously prayed “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”
Often, we let these familiar moments in Jesus’life foster our vision of Jesus as a solo climber, trekking to the highest of spiritual heights and fighting single-handed battles in the depths of spiritual darkness.
But if we look closer at both stories from Matthew we will see something crucial: Jesus was never alone.
The story of the Transfiguration begins like this: “Jesus took Peter and the two brothers, James and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone.” (Matthew 17:1 NLT)
Jesus and his three closest friends heard the voice of God together.
In the dark moments before his arrest, “Jesus went with them (his disciples) to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and… he took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed.” (Matthew 26:36-37)
Once again, he was accompanied by his dearest companions.
Even in the timeless void before the creation of the cosmos, Jesus was never alone. John 1:1-2 says “ In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” Jesus is “The Word” who “existed in the beginning with God.” As the second person of the Trinity, Jesus has always been, and always will be, in perfect community with God the Father and God the Spirit.
We like the image of Jesus standing alone atop the spiritual battlefield in part because he defeated sin and death forever, but also because we think it’s the way an American superhero would have done it.
Jesus’connection to relationship and community is a part of his life that we must never forget.
So the next time you are tempted to picture Jesus as a lone wolf who lived, loved, and leveled the enemy all on his own, read the Scriptures again. You will see a man who was unique, powerful and divine, but who never acted alone.
Share with us: how does this image of Jesus in relationship and community encourage or challenge you?
Read an earlier post by Chris here.