Well, we have balanced, and now we have looked at the manifestations of Jesus and today we come to the final and probably most significant “manifestation” of Jesus that we know about, the “Transfiguration”. The event that brings the most attention to the divinity of Jesus than any other theophany or “God Present” event we have recorded. Unfortunately, this text doesn’t get a lot of press outside of the lectionary reading, the Sunday before Lent starts on Ash Wednesday. But the importance of this event cannot be overlooked.
We have this wonderful event, six days after Jesus tells his disciples and the crowd about his impending death, Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up on a high mountain “just by themselves”!! Now that is important because they will not remain by themselves once they arrive at the top of the mountain. Once upon the top of the mountain, Jesus is transfigured, literally changed into something or an appearance that was not of this world. He became as white as white can be, like nothing on earth could ever produce. Now, not that this was not enough for those gathered, now we have the “old timers club” appear on the scene, Elijah and Moses!! Why Elijah and Moses? Because they too had been “changed and transported” like no other person to God.
Now comes the interesting part. James, a tad bit freaked out by this whole thing, resorts back to his Jewish roots and the festival of booths and suggests that they build three (3) dwelling places for the three honored guests to reside in while present on the mountain. The Greek says it best, literally translated, “they were scared out of their beliefs!!” Now I said beliefs, not briefs!!! Oh well, you get the point. James, Peter, and John had never seen anything like this and did not know what to make of it, they were petrified about what was going to happen not only to Jesus, but to themselves as well.
How we see things and how we see Jesus in all of these manifestations we have viewed is what is of utmost importance. It reminds me of the man who went to the wise old doctor in town and he said to the doctor, “it hurts my eye so bad when I drink a cup of coffee. To what the doctor replied, then you should take the spoon out of the cup before you drink”. James, Peter, and John had great difficulty understanding what was happening on top of this mountain. They were perplexed with the thought of losing their best friend and what might likely be the Messiah!! Go figure!!! They didn’t quite understand why the “old gang” was called back to illustrate this purpose, and they certainly weren’t happy about the possibility of being left up on that mountain by themselves. Peter, James, and John wanted answers to a question that they couldn’t really formulate at the time. Quite honestly, it wouldn’t be formulated until several years later, when people began to grasp this whole concept of resurrection, and resurrection appearances.
As we approach the season of Lent, it becomes increasingly more important for us to focus on the concept of what God through Jesus Christ brings us in terms of salvation, grace, and compassion.
One of the incredible things about this text is that when the cloud appears over them on the mountain top, there comes a voice instructing them, “This is my Son, the Beloved, listen to him”!! Then “poof” only Jesus was left with them. This had to have had a major impact on the three.
This was truly a “mountain top” experience for Peter, James, and John and like so many other theophany’s (God appearances) they appeared on a mountain top! So maybe there is something to the old saying, “it was a mountain top experience”, this is where it truly comes from. Thus we need to foster these mountain top experiences we have with God and savor them for what they are meant to be.
I’m sure most of us have had a “mountain top experience” at least metaphorically. A time when God has appeared to us in some way, shape, or form and transformed us to be a new and different person.
It was June 12, 1978, on a Thursday evening, at Epworth Forest United Methodist Assembly Grounds on the shores of Lake Wawasee in Northern Indiana. I had been to Sr. High Week several times before, but this one was to be different. On Thursday evenings we always had the camp wide communion service, a highly emotional time for many as the week ran to a close and the goodbyes were soon to be shared under the maple trees, but this one was different. My long time neighbor and friend, Lisa McCuan was sitting next to me. As the band began to play, I could sense something was different. The air, the presence of the Holy was real!!! I looked at Lisa and she knew exactly what was happening, God was being made real to me in the breaking of that bread and the drinking of that cup. It was a high emotional time, but it was the first time in 16 years of attending church, that I realized God had come for me in the presence of Jesus Christ!!
Peter, James, and John realized that on the mountain when Christ was transfigured. They realized something was different and they wanted to preserve it, but they couldn’t. They resorted back to their Jewish tradition of building “tents” or “booths” to allow the three to reside, but they weren’t to stay, they were to move on. Elijah and Moses that day, and Jesus at a later time. It was a realization that Christ had come for them, and would die for them, and be resurrected for them. That was hard for them to visualize!! It was almost like a magic trick!! We as Christians often get caught in the “magic” of the moment and cannot figure out why God in Jesus comes and goes in our life. When in fact God in Jesus comes in our life, but does not leave.
We as Christians are often mesmerized by the sheerpresence of the Holy. It reminds me of the conflicted story of the parrot and the magician. The parrot and the magician were working together on a cruise liner. Every night during the magician’s show, the parrot would sit on his perch and say “He’s a phony, he’s a phony”, one night the ship encountered foul weather and the ship sank! The parrot and the magician just happened to end up in the same life boat. For days, the parrot just starred at the magician, looking deep into his eyes, and on the fourth day, the parrot said, “I give up, what did you do with the ship?” Often times, when things are so obvious in our lives, when God is ever present in the midst of our running here and there, we lose sight of the wonderful power that God has to transform us into wonderful creatures of being that God loves.
As we ponder this wonderful story, let us keep in mind the fact that we ALL NEED the mountain top experiences, those transfiguring experiences that move us beyond the regular and the mundane and into the extraordinary times of our lives!!
The painters Renoir and Matisse were contemporaries and both were extremely talented. Renoir became very ill early in his life, suffering from fatal arthritis. Yet he continued to paint every day. His friend, Matisse visited him on a regular basis, most days he was in awe that he was able to continue painting. One day when he entered the studio, he asked his friend, “Why do you continue to paint?” Renoir never looked up or away from his canvas and said, “The beauty remains. The Pain passes”. Profound statements like that remind us that there is so very much beyond us, so very much beyond what we can see and so very much that can and will engage us and be realized by us in and through our relationship with God in Jesus Christ.
Come my friends, to the table of “profound greatness and taste the goodness of the Lord!”
AMEN AND AMEN.