Luke 9:28-36 “Seeing God in All God’s Glory”
Mountain tops have always fascinated us. We love their beauty and the panorama we have from these lofty sites. Not only do we marvel at their beauty, but we have always had a sense that they allow us to come closer to God. Because of this belief, humankind has placed temples, chapels and other sacred buildings on mountain tops throughout our existence. So pervasive is this thought of encountering God on mountain tops, that we often speak of these events as mountain top experiences whether or not the occurred on a peak.
In one of the congregations that I served, confirmands were required to go on a mountain climbing adventure the summer before their final year of confirmation. One year the entire class of sixteen was changed on the mountain. When they arrived back a base camp after a three day climb, they were different people. They had seen Jesus. Perhaps you have had a similar experience.
None of mountaintop experiences, however, quite equal the events that occurred with Jesus and three of his disciples, when Jesus was transfigured before them.
Jesus had been with his disciples and involved in his ministry for almost three years. The disciples had heard the teachings of Jesus. They had seen miraculous healings and people freed form their bondage to demons. The disciples had talked among themselves about Jesus, speculating that he might be the messiah.
Just a few days before the events of this text, Jesus had asked the disciples the question, “Who do people think that I am?” They had responded by the various names and titles that they had heard. Jesus then asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter had summed up their thoughts when he had replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of God.
One of the common acts of Jesus was to remove himself from people and spend some time in prayer. This time Jesus invited three of his disciples—the inner core—to come with him. While the disciples struggled to fight off sleep, Jesus was overwhelmed by the glory of God. The appearance of Jesus was changed. His clothes became dazzling white. Two men, who are identified as Moses and Elijah—the great law giver and the great prophet—spoke with him. The voice of God boomed out God’s acknowledgement of Jesus as the Son of God and a person to whom the disciples should listen.
As we read this story, we are astounded at its glory and magnificence. What an experience it would have been to have been there on the mountain with Jesus and the disciples. At the same time, we find ourselves asking the question, “Why?” Did all of this happen for the disciples? Was this something that Jesus needed? Was this an event that God simply wanted recorded in the gospels for our benefit?
EMPOWERED FOR MISSION
This was a critical time in Jesus’ life. Opposition to his ministry from the political and religious authorities was building. At the same time, the people who had experienced Jesus’ miracles wanted him to be king. These two opposing movements would soon collide.