Sermon Jesus and a Gun
Good morning. In case any of you read the title of my sermon and got a little bit nervous, don’t worry. This sermon isn’t about partisan politics or gun control. It’s about a little girl in vacation Bible school.
Full confession: vacation Bible school is one of those places in ministry where I’m completely out of my comfort zone. I have trouble getting into crafty activities and camp songs. More than that, I don’t have kids, so I’m always worried that I won’t know what to say or how to meet them on their level.
You all know me by now. I’m pretty nerdy. I go off on tangents. I go down rabbit holes. And that’s when I’m dealing with adults. To say that I’m out of my element in VBS? That’s an understatement. I’m scared out of my wits. But sometimes we have to confront our fears and dive in.
So, there I was, teaching a Bible story to a group of kids, ages 7-9, I think. I believe the curriculum was called Cave Quest, and it explored the story of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. The lessons were designed to be age-appropriate; all I had to do was read the story and ask some questions from the book. It was a part of the story of the crucifixion, but I can’t remember exactly which part of the story.
As I was working through the questions with the kids, a little girl raised her hand and asked a question—the kind of question that makes me nervous. She asked: “Why didn’t Jesus get gun and shoot the bad guys?”
What do you say to that?
There’s an obvious answer: there were no guns back then. Some of the other kids told her that. But her question caught me completely off guard.
Where do I begin my answer?
The girl wasn’t from the congregation, so I had no idea what she knew about Jesus and the Gospel message—if she knew anything at all.
I tried to explain to her that Jesus had to die, and that he went willingly to the cross. The look on her face told me that the answer didn’t make much sense to her. Her look left me with a lot of questions and a sense of unease.
I wonder if Peter shared that same sense of unease when Jesus rebuked him, saying: “Get behind me, Satan!” Certainly, it’s amazing that Peter stays with Jesus after such a sharp criticism. If someone said that to me, I might sulk away and harbor fantasies of revenge—I’ll show him not to talk to me like that! Or more likely, I’d argue back. There might be some shouting. And then I’d reevaluate whether I wanted to keep following this Jesus guy.
Of course, the text doesn’t tell us what Peter was thinking. We don’t get to ask him why he kept following Jesus. And it’s really easy to come away thinking that Peter is an idiot, especially if we start the story with verse 31: “Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed.”
If we start the story there, then Jesus’ rebuke of Peter is right in the middle of the story. We scratch our heads and wonder how Peter could be so stupid. But if we begin this story just a little bit earlier—with