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Early in the morning, men and women get dressed in the darkness. Then they shuffled into the same meeting places as merchants set up their tents, brought out produce, unpacked their wares. Now they take the bus or catch a ride to the edge of a strip mall, the back of a parking lot. You see them there, early in the morning, as vans and trucks pull up, then a couple of guys hop in the back to go hang drywall or clear a field. Then, the landowners sent them into the vineyard.
Peter, uncharacteristically, had been holding his tongue.
Chapter 18 begins the fourth of five major teaching sections in Matthew's gospel. The Galilean ministry is finished; the story of the crucifixion is about to begin.1 The disciples - Matthew doesn't say who - begin this section with an awkward question: "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" They were being human, jockeying for position, yet Jesus raised the standard. Greatness is not measured by power or smarts Jesus said. Become humble, like a child. Then he told them not to put a stumbling block before anyone - they were to help each other. Be like the shepherd who went out after the one sheep. The sheep shouldn't have run off. But Jesus said we have to go after them. If one member of the church sins against you - as we talked about last week - sins against you - you have to do something about it. You have to reconcile.2
Our son Heath's middle name, Morrison, comes from my great-great grandfather. Romulus Morrison Tuttle was a captain in the 94th North Carolina regiment, we was wounded four times in the civil war, including at Gettysburg. In the course of the war he, ‘got religion,' enrolling at Davidson College, then Union Seminary. Upon his graduation in 1872 he was called to the Prospect Presbyterian Church down in Mooresville, where he served until October 1875. My dad was doing some family history research some years back and scrounged up some session minutes from his tenure at Prospect. Ole' Romulus was a product of his time, and sessions in those days didn't spend as much time hearing committee reports and looking over financial documents. They took their charge of church discipline quite seriously.
For a moment Peter was on top of the world. After all of the time the disciples had to watch Jesus, to wonder what was going on in this man filled with grace, with power, in a way none of them had ever seen, Peter got it. As they moved into Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asked his disciples, "Who do people say that I am?" He was getting the pulse of the crowd. "Hmmm...," they said, "John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, one of the prophets?" But Jesus was less concerned with everyone else. He leans in. But who do YOU say that I am? And he stood there for a moment, waiting....