Speaking in Tongues

Heritage Presbyterian Church https://heritagepresbyterian.org

September 19, 2021
17th Sunday after Pentecost
Scripture readings – James 3: 1-12 and Mark 9: 30-37

My name is Simon, and I am one of the followers of the great teacher known as Jesus of Nazareth.  I am not the Simon who is the brother of Andrew and who is now called Peter, the Rock.  I am the Simon who is also called the Zealot.  There are twelve of us who follow the Teacher and who have done so for three years.  We have all left everything – our work, our families, our homes, everything – to follow this man and to learn from him.

He is an amazing man, one who not only teaches with his words and stories and parables, but one who also teaches with his healings and his acts.  In doing so, he has also somehow enabled all of us to become a cohesive group, even though many of us could not be more different from one another.

As I said, I am also known as “the Zealot.”  This name has two meanings, and at one time – I embraced them both.  First of all, a Zealot is one who knows and believes the Torah, the Law of Moses.  I love the Law and I have followed it for my entire life, as did my father and all my family.  The other meaning refers to a group of Jewish patriots who are determined – with Yahweh’s help – to rid our land of these pagan Romans.  We know we cannot fight them in a conventional war, but we can attack and melt back into the crowds or the shadows.  By this method, the Romans will eventually tire of occupying our land and will leave.  When they do, we will deal with their collaborators: the rotten and repulsive Herod and his stooges, and the corrupt elders of our faith who work daily with Herod and with the Romans.  

It is a forgettable life and one filled with despair and helplessness. 

Or at least, that is what I believed before I met the Teacher…

Through his words and his obvious love for everyone, my heart has changed.  I still believe that the Romans, the Herodians, and especially the Sanhedrin of elders are all crushing the life out of the people.  But now I have hope that the Teacher will somehow show us a better way than violence.

Yet, almost every day, I am puzzled into silence by his words.  It seems that he almost speaks in another language at times.  I understand the words that he says, but I do not understand what they mean; my fellow travelers do not either.

Just the other day, a scene occurred in which the Teacher put one of his troubling questions to all of us.  He asked his directly who the people said he was.  That part was simple…we all told him the various names we had heard such as Elijah, John the Baptist, or another of Yahweh’s prophets.  I thought that would answer his question, but then he took it a step further…he asked, “But who do you say that I am?”

I was frozen with doubt and a little fear.  I had witnessed him performing healings I could scarcely believe.  I saw lepers healed, the blind given their full sight back, the lame could walk, the deaf could hear.  I saw him cast out demons that had plagued the poor victim for years with just his words.  I saw him walk on the water in the Sea of Galilee, and I even saw him calm a storm on the same sea with his command.

To be truthful, I was not certain who the Teacher truly was, but I didn’t think he was a mere prophet or teacher.

Then the other Simon – Simon Peter – spoke up and said, “You are the Anointed One, the Christ.”  When Peter said this, the Teacher praised him and that was when he was given the new name of Peter – the Rock.  From that time forward, I began to think of the Teacher in much more different ways.  Perhaps my former Zealot dreams of getting rid of the corrupt occupiers of our nation could come true through this Holy One of Israel.  

Perhaps he would lead the next revolt – the final one.  

Perhaps our people would be free again.  It caused much joyful talking and whispering among us.

And then he began speaking in tongues once again!  Why did he do this?  He said three things that none of us can decipher.

First of all, he predicted his own death at the hands of the Elders and the Romans!  How could this possibly happen?  If it did, then all those dreams of the return of Israel were dashed once again.  No!  That could not be.  

Then my heart sank as the love that I felt for this wonderful man took over.  I truly loved him and could not imagine life without him again.  Like I said, we had left everything to be with him…he couldn’t die!  No!

But when he predicted his own death, he also said the most extraordinary thing: he said he would rise from the dead after three days in the tomb!  I have never heard anything so astonishing, so amazing, and so utterly troubling.  How could the Teacher die – and then be raised in three days?  And why did this have to happen?!?!?

Simon Peter took over at that point; he took the Teacher aside and began to rebuke him over these troubling words.  Part of me was embarrassed that Peter would talk to the Teacher like that, but part of me was relieved because that was not the kind of talk any of us wanted to hear – and none of us understood!

The Teacher rebuked Peter harshly and called him “Satan.”  That quieted all of us.  Then he said the second thing that confused all our minds.

The teacher sat all of us down and called a nearby child to come and sit with him in the midst of our group.  The Teacher knew we had been previously arguing over which among us was the greatest – a foolish and selfish discussion that shames us all now to even think about. 

Then He said that if we wished to be first, we must be the very last and the servant of all.  I truly did not understand this either.  What did the Teacher mean?  Why didn’t he tell one of his parables to help us understand?  All of us were too embarrassed and too confused to ask any questions; we were just like the chief priests and Teachers of the Law whenever they tried to challenge or trip the Teacher into saying something foolish.  They all became very quiet after every encounter with the Teacher – and it seemed that we did too.

Finally, he said the most confusing thing of all: he reached for that child and put him on the Teacher’s lap; then he told us “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the One who sent me.”

Do you see what I mean?  Do you see it?  

Sometimes he speaks in riddles; 

Sometimes he speaks plainly but with no understanding by us; Sometimes he speaks in parables that are simple at times – and virtually hidden at other times; 

Then he also speaks in tongues when he says we welcome him when we welcome a child.  And we welcome the One who sent him when we do this too.

It is MADDENING!  I am not a stupid man.  I have been trained in the Law.  I know it by heart.  I have more training that most of the Teacher’s followers, but none of us – NONE of us can understand his words at times.  It is MADDENING!

Yet…I also know what my heart tells me is the absolute truth:

  • This man, our beloved Teacher, inspires ordinary people to become extraordinary followers of the Lord God;
  • This man, Jesus of Nazareth, heals with his touch, with his words, and even with his shadow passing over afflicted;
  • This prophet understands more about the Kingdom of God than any other teacher I have ever heard; I am not the only one to say this either.
  • This Anointed One, which Peter called him, is the best hope of Israel being restored to her former glory.
  • This Jesus, the son of a carpenter from Galilee, has changed my heart from one filled with rage and murder against those who control my beloved country into one that has begun to look at others with softer eyes and an open heart.  I am often startled by this – and even a little afraid of it.   But I know it is true.
  • Finally, I love this man, and I will follow him anywhere.  I often don’t understand him when he speaks in tongues that make no sense to me.  But I will spend the rest of my life trying to live as he has taught me to do – and trying to live up to the love he gives me every day.

I love this man, Jesus.  

I would do anything for him.  

And I am not the only one who feels this way.