In Matthew 17, the story is told of Jesus revealing His glory. Jesus brings three guys with him on a major hike, and at the top of a mountain, he is transformed before their eyes. His face shines like the sun. His clothes are glowing white. In this moment a few disciples see a glimpse behind the veil. They see that the Son of Man is also the Son of God. They see that he is both tired flesh and blinding glory.
And what is the response to this moment? These guys see Jesus’ glory. And Peter’s first response… to notice the other people. They see Jesus revealed in light, but they also see him in conversation with the great prophets Elijah and Moses. So Peter offers the suggestion to build three memorials, one for the three of them. Peter makes Jesus one among the prophets. Luke even gives Peter a pass by writing, “He knew not what he was saying.”
Peter sees Jesus in power, and then worships the guy standing next to him. And it has been happening ever since.
Often, when someone meets Jesus, and their life is changed by the power and peace that comes from Christ’s cross, they may give that glory to the messenger. They give their allegiance to the pastor who preached the word. They give their love to the person who held open the door instead of the one throwing the feast. It happens all the time. We hunt around for Christian celebrities to give our loyalty to. We buy their books and defend them against their opponents. We believe they have some special status in God’s kingdom, instead of looking to the king who empowered and employed them.
This worship of the wrong guy has a few dangers.
1) When our guy falls, so does our faith. If we put our faith in some preacher/teacher/celebrity, then our faith is on a dumb foundation. How many times have I heard someone blame their lack of faith on a pastor’s sinfulness? How many times have I seen a superfan defend their person’s obvious sinfulness?
2) We are a fan, not a disciple. If we follow some super-Christian, and hang on their every word and every story, then we trade in a relationship with God for someone else’s. Like the Israelites, we are asking the celebrity to go to God and tell us what they find there. We have put a mediator between ourselves and Christ. We follows some dude, instead of obeying Christ and finding strength in that friendship.
3) We break our worship and our evangelism. If you worship the wrong person, if you sing their praises and tell all your friends how cool your pastor is, you are pointing them all to the wrong thing. Your love of a small messenger has made you preach a small gospel. Instead of pointing people to the risen Jesus, you being pointing them to some heretic in California.
Now, I am not saying we don’t appreciate those God has used to help us on our journey. I am all about saying thank you, to encouraging the saints. I mean, on that mountain, there are some giants of the faith. Moses the lawgiver. Elijah the great prophet. But these men were waiting for God’s Christ to be revealed. Like John the Baptist, they know that it was never about them. “He must increase and I must decrease.”
So, be careful not to give God’s glory to God’s servants. They might water. They might harvest. But it is God who gives the increase. It is God who deserves all glory and honor and praise.