Shine On Me
Four people went up, X, Peter, James and John. Only a few were to see what was to happen, and know the truth. They Climbed a high mountain. This is hard. When I was a boy scout we took a high adventure trip to Yosemite and while we were there we climbed El Captain. This is a huge granite mountain that is over 3000 feet high. It took us almost six hours to hike up to the peak. I can still remember being on the top of that mountain. It was worth the hard work to get there, the view, the awesome sights of God’s creation, you feel on top of the world but also very small. These four hiked a while but was it worth the trip for them?
It doesn’t say if they reached the top or not but when they reached a certain point something happened. Jesus was transfigured. What does that mean? It means to be changed or transformed from an earthly state to a supernatural figure. Light poured out of him, his clothes turned a brilliant white. Can you imagine yourself being Peter, James or John. There’s Jesus literally glowing right in front of them, and then to make matters worse, Moses and Elijah show up. They just appear out of no where and start talking with Jesus. So there is Jesus (lit up like a luminary) chatting it up with Moses and Elijah, the founders of the Jewish faith. Moses who is the giver of the law and Elijah who is the voice of God as a prophet to the nation of Israel talk with the Son of God. And in the middle of all this stands Peter, James and John who at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry were merely fishermen, who dropped everything and went with Jesus, wondering if they knew what they were getting themselves into,
Peter has to be one of my favorite people in the Bible, because he is so human. If you think you are not worthy to follow Christ, because you do the wrong thing or say the wrong thing, don’t worry because Jesus himself called Peter and he is the poster child for sticking his foot in his mouth. To me Peter is so approachable and so real that it makes me feel better about my actions in my ministry. Here is a great example of how he places his foot in his mouth once again. There he is in the middle of Jesus’ transfiguration, Christ divine light coming out to him and the other disciples and what does he do. He fumbles and comes up with a completely silly idea. I am guessing that Peter was in such awe, on such a spiritual high that he did not understand what was happening. He did not grasp the whole point. He did not see what taking place in front of him. He is like us, he fumbles, gets confused, gets overjoyed and over anxious when he is in the presence of God. He feels he is suppose to do something but he doesn’t understand what.
Maybe you have had an experience like this. You have an ah ha moment, you feel the presence of God in your life and you are on a spiritual high. You want to stay like this forever. So you do absurd things. It is kind of like people in love. They are so wrapped up in each other, so engulfed in the other person that they do not realize what they look like to others. For example, one of my roommates would do a really annoying thing on the phone with his girlfriend. He would do that old, “No you hang up, No You hang up.” It is great, they were in love and they where enjoying those feelings and they liked doing that because they were wrapped up in the moment. But to the rest of us it was annoying and sickening. This is kind of what Peter does here, he makes an absurd statement that he would build three dwelling for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. He says, Lord it is good for us to be here, if you wish, I will make three dwelling places here.” Peter wanted to stay in this moment. He got wrapped up in the emotions of it and wanted it to last forever.
It does not state what Jesus, Moses and Elijah nor James or John looked like when they heard this. I wish it did because then I think it would give us a great idea of how dumb this idea would be. Who would want to live on a mountain top all their lives. I am sure Moses and Elijah had other things to do. Jesus had some plans that were not finished yet and James and John did not chime in on this idea. The only one that does give an opinion is God. What happens is right in the middle of Peter’s little Architectural plans, a bright cloud overshadows them, it engulfs or surrounds them. In the Old Testament, this same type of cloud was the presence of God. This cloud though speaks.
So Peter is now in the middle of some talking cloud, gets really scared and he and the other two hit the deck out of fear. I do not blame them, they have seen some strange things but it is clear that this voice had some type of force, some authority that they were not use to because they react very fast. This voice says something similar that we have heard before. God from the cloud once again says, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with him I am well pleased; listen to him.”
This is just another way that these three disciples, Peter, James and John find out for certain that Jesus is God, the Son of God, the Messiah or the beloved.
After this point, the story takes a great turn. Jesus touches them and says, “Get up and do not be afraid.” When Peter, James and John do look up they notice that they are once again alone with Jesus and everything is back to normal. Here we see the compassion, the love and the grace that comes from Jesus. Instead of slapping Peter on the back of the head for saying such a crazy thing, he makes sure they know everything is all right and that they are fine. He has compassion on them. These three disciples experienced something unique and special. They were one of the few who have been in the real presence of God and saw Jesus for his true self. They receive a sneak peak at what was to come, the resurrection. They saw the power and the glory that comes in Easter. They saw the love and the grace that comes in this type of action.
Although Peter might have wanted to stay up there, they had to come down and coming down always seems to be faster and less exciting as going up. When I hiked up El Captain, it only took us a couple of hours to get back down. We took a trail that switched backed right next to the Yosemite Falls, so it was almost strait down. Some of us ran down and got down in about an hour, others took their time and got down in two. Either way it took about a quarter of the time to get down as it did getting up. But what is cool is to see pictures of the mountain and remember what it was like to be up there. It is not as spectacular as being up there but I can still tap into some of that enjoyment of looking over the snowcapped mountains and feeling like I was on top of the world.
We can do that with our spiritual highs too. Those mountain top experiences we go through with God. We can share those experiences with others and fill them in joy, nervousness and peace that we felt at that time. Jesus tells Peter, James and John that they had to wait to share their experience, once the Son of Man rose from the dead then they could but not until then.
But the good news is that Jesus has risen from the dead. So we are freed to tell everyone our experiences and our joy that we have found in God. We can come off the mountain top experiences and express what has happened to the world.
This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday and it starts the season of Lent. During this time, we are preparing to face the suffering and death of Jesus. It is suppose to be a solemn time, a time of reflection on our own mortality and sin. This is a time of preparation for Easter, where we witness again what Christ did for us on the cross. It can be a hard time for we see Christ life at this point filled with tragedy and loneliness. Today though we remind ourselves of the mountain top experience of the transfiguration. Mark places it in the middle of his gospel, it is the center of his story. The transfiguration is the mid way point from the birth of Christ to the resurrection. We can go into the season of Lent remembering who Christ really is and have confidence that although we concentrate on the death of Christ, there is a resurrection. Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, the Beloved.
Possibly you have seen his light in your life, well we have permission to tell the world about it. Do not keep it to yourself. Know that what you experienced is true and real. Although it is scary to think that God has entered your life and is affecting you, we can have confidence that God is with us still. Just like this story, we have comfort and support, Peter, James and John’s was in the real person of Jesus. Ours is in the real presence of the Holy Spirit. The Transfiguration gives us a peak at the resurrection, it shows us the true nature of Jesus Christ, and we can remember our own mountain top experiences with God from it. It is from this mountain that Christ goes down and then walks up another in six weeks, the mountain of Golgotha. As the season of light, Epiphany ends, and the season of what seems like darkness, the season of Lent begins, know this, God is with you and always will. Jesus does rise from the dead because Jesus is God and because of that we are saved.
And all God’s people said…AMEN