Have you ever had a day that was so wonderful that you wanted it to last forever? I am sure you probably have. Did you know that Jesus’ disciples had days like that too? The reading from Luke 9:28-36 is about one of those days.
One day, Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him up onto a mountain to pray. As Jesus was praying, something very strange happened. The Bible says that the appearance of his face began to change and that his clothing became as bright as a flash of lightning. Then, Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus. When Peter saw this, he was so excited that he told Jesus that he thought that they should just stay up there on the mountain and build three tabernacles — one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.
God sends a lot of happy days into our life. The day that we meet Jesus is, without a doubt, the happiest day of our life, but it isn’t a stopping place — it is a starting point for a journey that leads to eternal life in heaven with Him.
Peter didn’t understand that this wonderful experience on the mountain was not a stopping place — it was a starting place. It was a starting place for God’s greatest gift — the gift of salvation. Following this moment on the mountain, Jesus died on the cross, was buried, and rose from the grave so that you and I could have eternal life in heaven.
How many of you have even tried to do a do-it-yourself project by yourself? That attitude comes naturally to us. It starts when we are toddlers, when we insist on walking ourselves, feeding ourselves or dressing ourselves. God never designed our lives to be lives of do-it-yourself projects. He created us to be in relationship with Him.
There is one do-it-yourself project that Jesus had to complete. He paid the price for our sins when He took our place on the cross. His suffering satisfied God’s wrath at our sins. He set us free to help those who are suffering. He set us free to share each other’s struggles and bring others’ need in prayer to God.
On this, the Transfiguration Sunday, we see another side of Jesus’ revelation. We have moved from stable and river, weddings and fishing boats to the mountain. The mountain reveals that Jesus’ mission will move Him to the valley of the shadow of death.
Jesus was a man of prayer, and we are to be people of prayer also. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus was often found praying alone, and we also know that there is a blessing to be gained by being in prayer alone in God’s presence.
Prayer does change everything. When He was transfigured, Jesus’ glory and heaven’s pure light shone on His garments. When we pray, our thinking and our conduct will be altered. They will be in close proximity with the holy Spirit. We will be changed and others will see it too. It will be because Jesus’ light will shine through us.
Have you ever looked at someone you love and seen them in a new light? Did you understand for the first time the wonder of that person? Peter, James and John did. On the mountaintop, they saw Jesus in a new light.
The cloud represents God’s power and presence. God came to be with Jesus, Moses, Elijah, Peter, James and John in a special way. God tells us to listen to Jesus. In John 6:68, Jesus mentions that He “has the words of eternal life.” We are to listen to them, hear them, eat them as if they are the bread of life and drink them as if they are the water of life. He calls us to a deeper understanding of who He is as the Son of God and the implications of following Him.
When God spoke from the cloud, He told the disciples the same thing He tells us today. He said that Jesus is greater than all the ways of the Old Testament. Don’t centre your attention on the prophecies of the Old Testament. Jesus is more important than the Old Testament laws and prophets.
God’s glory is only possible if lived together in community. No one can shine alone-not even Jesus. Only when we are together can God’s radiant light up our lives. We can only make sense of ourselves if people who came before us are present in our struggles.
Jesus separated Himself from the crowds to pray, taking Peter, James and John with Him. The time of prayer quickly turned into an event itself; God parted the curtain between earth and heaven and allowed Jesus’ three closest friends to get a glimpse of His future glory.
Why did Jesus talk to Moses and Elijah? Perhaps He needed comfort. He knew that His road home to heaven would pass through Calvary, so perhaps He put in a call to heaven. God was quick to answer His call. Moses and Elijah were perfect comfort givers. Moses understood tough journeys and Elijah could relate to an unusual exit. The three of them talked about Jesus’ upcoming death. Moses led the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. On the cross, Jesus would lead those who believe in Him out of slavery to sin and into the fullness of life with Him.
None of the Gospel writers explained how the three disciples recognized Moses and Elijah. Perhaps they identified them from comments the two men made; possibly Jesus called them by name. Or maybe the disciples just knew the two men were Moses and Elijah without an introduction. If so, this could be a clue to the age-old question of how Christians will know their loved ones in heaven.
Peter was so overcome by the event that once again he put his foot in his mouth. He spoke heresy. Three monuments would equate Moses and Elijah with Jesus. God reminded Peter that no one else shares the platform with Christ.
Similar experiences happen to us. Who hasn’t seen a glimpse of opening gates during moments of meditation and prayer? Who hasn’t in the secret place of Holy Communion felt the rush of emotion-a foretaste of the blessed? Once we encounter God, all we have left is silence in response, just like the disciples were silent after they heard from God. What dazzling signs will it take for us to see God in our world? What signs do we often overlook in our busy world? Why do we misunderstand the meaning of these signs when we do see them?
In our world we want to know things. We want to have Google at our fingertips. We’re always hungry and thirsty for knowledge. As technology has advanced throughout history, we want more and more knowledge all of the time. Our relationship with God is the same. We want to know about God. We want to know how to relate to God. We want to know how to apply His teachings to our life. God is a mystery, and the best way to learn about God is to pray.
Jesus’ mission isn’t about worshipping at shrines. It’s about death and resurrection. He was chosen for that mission, and through that mission we are delivered from sin if we accept Him as our Saviour by faith. A Scottish theologian named Henry Drummond once said, “God does not make the mountains in order to be inhabited. God does not make the mountaintops for us to live on the mountaintops. It is not God’s desire that we live on the mountaintops. We only ascend to the heights to catch a broader vision of the earthly surroundings below. But we don’t live there. We don’t tarry there. The streams begin in the uplands, but these streams descend quickly to gladden the valleys below.”
There are people all around us who are living lives that are worse than a disaster movie. They are slaves to sin, but they can’t see it. There are people all around us who are drowning in hopelessness and despair. They are dying for lack of love. Jesus calls us to shine His light into their darkness. He wants them to hear His voice speaking through us.
How do we handle coming down off the mountains? There are moments in our lives when we feel especially close to God. How do we hold onto those and carry them into the other, less spiritually aware moments of our lives? God is present in the mountaintop experiences of life. He’s present in life’s special moments. He’s present in life’s trials. He’s present 24/7. He is Emmanuel-God with us.
The Transfiguration was all about making a transition. It was a time for Jesus to show the disciples and us that He meant business and what His business was all about. He also had to show them and us who had authority. God is in control. The Transfiguration includes those who are drawn into the Kingdom of God and participate in its destiny. That’s the new creation that Jesus promises. It’s the destiny to which we are drawn.
Luke reminds us that we need to be awake to discern God’s presence and purpose in our lives. We can understand who God is and trust what God is doing when we meet God in prayer. God calls all of us to climb the mountain with Jesus. God is found on the mountaintop, where our vision is clear and the noise of everyday life subsides. God in Christ is always with us. Whether we go up the mountain for answers or we go up the mountain for a good question or we go up the mountain simply to recognize that it is good to be there, the point of it all is that God is always with us. Because soon we will need reminding that God is always with us. Soon Jesus will be placed on the cross, and it will appear that all is lost.
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