February 15, 2015
On the Mount of Transfiguration
How do you know a person went to a packer game? Well, they’ll probably tell you. Even if they played terribly, that person will still tell of their experience or how the game was a series of bad calls on the refs’ part. Or if you go on vacation, you’re natural inclination is to tell everyone how great or terrible it was. Not like a big deal, but my vacation to Montana was awesome. Even if I kept my mouth shut, somebody would probably ask me, “Oh how was your vacation? What did you do?”
Especially in today’s society, how do we know someone took a trip or did something cool or saw something amazing. They usually post pictures or videos to Facebook or Instagram or Vine. We are constantly connected. People always have their phones and it seems like the metaphorical film is always rolling. I just recently saw a guy throw a basketball from practically the top row of a sports arena into the basketball hoop. Who knows how long it took to actually get it. But still, I was able to witness it! So can you imagine the disciples in this moment, “Wait, I’m not supposed to tell anyone about the craziness that just happened? I’m not supposed to tell people about what I saw, or who I saw? You mean I can’t post this to Instagram? Yes, Peter, James, and John had phones… What does any of this mean? What just happened? Who is this guy?
Doubt and confusion were swirling around in the minds of the disciples. Knowing that, we see a big shift in the ministry of Jesus. Instead of teaching so much to the great crowds, who only saw Jesus as a healer and a miracle worker and failed to acknowledge Jesus for who he really was, Jesus directs his attention and his instruction more to the twelve apostles. They maybe didn’t fully understand their confession, but they declared Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of God. And so, Jesus informed his disciples that he would eventually suffer and that they too would suffer because they were his disciples. These were hard concepts to understand for the disciples. They were confused and worried about what possibly could happen to them and to their dear friend.
And after about a week, Jesus takes them up the side of a mountain. The gospel of Luke gives us the reason for going up the mountain. Jesus wanted to pray. Such great moments in Jesus’ life were marked by prayer. You can’t help but have your mind teleport you to the Garden of Gethsemane when he went there with this disciples to pray. And remember the drops of sweat which were like drops of blood. The agony Jesus was suffering as with each passing hour, with each step he took, he approached his death. To put it lightly, there was a lot on Jesus’ mind. He was tired and burdened with all of our sins and all of our troubles. And today, we hear of Jesus, who laid it all before his heavenly father, who heard his prayers.
In an instant, Jesus was transfigured. The word here is pretty much the same word as a metamorphosis. The actual form of Jesus changed. It wasn’t that the sun was just hitting him right, because it was probably night time. It wasn’t something that the disciples conjured up as if they were smoking something funny. But no, his entire form, even his clothes became like a white light. In his state of humiliation, Jesus did not make full use of his divine power. But here the disciples were able to catch a glimpse of that glory.
Here Peter, James, and John could see that Jesus wasn’t an ordinary person. They already knew that he could do great things. But now they could see a glimpse of who Jesus really was. He was the Son of God, the Savior, the messiah, the Christ, there to save them. Sadly in a lot of their minds, He would hopefully save them from the tyranny of the Roman empire over the Israel nation. Although they didn’t fully understand what was all happening, or who Jesus was, it really was a good thing that they were there. But the disciples were afraid. They were in shock. But they knew it was something good. They wanted to keep the feeling going. You can see that in the ridiculous request of Peter. Maybe that’s why we don’t hear Jesus answer. Perhaps Jesus never even looked at Peter because there were much more important matters happening.
I don’t think any of the questions that the disciples had swirling around in their heads are any different from the ones we have today. We misunderstand who our savior is. He wasn’t just an example. He isn’t our ticket to live a “fun” life because we are always forgiven. He isn’t somebody who is going to make our life easier with no health problems, no financial problems, or even no struggles with the government placed over us. Do you see how we find ourselves in the same camp as the disciples? We want an earthly savior who can get us out of any jam that we are having. We have the same selfish thoughts that these disciples often had.
We see this transfiguration account brings us to the reality that Jesus was more than a bread king. He was the one to bring us peace with God. And then we hear God the Father, giving his approval of what was happening and saying, “This is the guy you should be listening to. He is true God and true man.” Sure, the disciples had caught glimpses of the power that Jesus had. But nothing like this.
And to be able to see Moses and Elijah: How crazy is that? Moses and Elijah were both important figures in the Old Testament. They represented the law and prophecy. They were leaders who pointed to a Messiah who would save them from their spiritual struggles. Luke again lets us into the conversation as Jesus speaks with Moses and Elijah about the final outcome, that everything would end in Jerusalem and a new period in history would begin.
I can’t help but imagine the conversation Jesus had with Moses and Elijah. Here Jesus was: tired, worn, and knowing that He would have to suffer and die. But Elijah and Moses, and even God the Father saying, “Remember who you are doing this for. You are doing this for Mark, for Stephanie, for John, for Sarah. And here is a taste of this heavenly glory you and all of those people will get to experience when all is said and done!” Isn’t it amazing that as Jesus climbed that mountain, as he prayed to his heavenly father for strength, as he spoke with Elijah and Moses, and as he stepped ever closer to Calvary, Jesus had us in mind, even before we even existed? Christ knew you and loved you.
And so, as our Savior, and as a true human in every respect, Jesus needed this. He needed to be there with Elijah and with Moses. He needed to hear from God the Father that what he was doing was important for the souls of all people. He needed the strength to carry on. This transfiguration encouraged and strengthened Christ in his journey towards Jerusalem.
And he needed his disciples there too. Not only for the strength that friends can give, but also because they needed to be witnesses of that great event. Because of their witness, we have such a wonderful comfort just to be able to see Elijah and Moses still alive and the fact that we recognize them. There really is life after death. We don’t just die and become worm food and push daisies, but by faith in Christ, we get heaven. Those who have gone before us and have died in Christ are there with Elijah and Moses, and most importantly with Jesus Christ.
So if this is such a big deal, such an awesome thing, such a comforting fact, why did Jesus then tell them not to tell anyone until after Jesus rose from the dead? Just imagine how Peter, James, and John wanted to share with the other disciples everything that had happened. They practically had their thumb ready to press the share button on Instagram. We think of Philip the disciple who wanted a firm foundation for his faith, or even doubting Thomas who wanted evidence just like this for believing. But it wasn’t meant to be. The disciples still didn’t quite fully understand all of this yet and if anything, the rest of the disciples could have misunderstood this concept or may have even over embellished their wrong expectations on what the messiah was to be. It could have done more harm than good. But all would be made clear when Jesus rose from the dead and Jesus would sit on the throne victorious and making us a part of that heavenly kingdom.
This account in the bible is better than our Instagram. It’s better than our Facebook. We see a clear picture with the words that God used to convey this awesome account. Can you imagine Peter, James, and John trying to take video when Jesus’ clothes became radiant white? Wait hold on Jesus! My aperture isn’t quite right. It’s too bright. The screen is just white! But God used words that can never fade. The perfect witness. A hard copy right here that reminds us who Jesus is. Not a criminal. Not a man groomed for the Israel throne. Not some random guy we idealize because he was an upstanding man with good thoughts on life. He was our Savior from sin, death, and Satan! A savior who always had you and me in mind, even before we existed. A savior who knew that I would struggle with my doubts about who he is. This account reminds me of who my true savior is. One who took away all my sins of doubt and selfishness, as I look for a savior that I want, not that I need. At his transfiguration, Christ gave me the thing I needed most, the forgiveness of sins, for sins great and small, and the comfort knowing that Jesus really was the Son of God.