Summary: In order to fully understand Jesus' identity, we need to witness more than just his divinity; we need to encounter Jesus our savior, who died on the cross and rose from the dead.
February 14, 2021
Hope Lutheran Church
Rev. Mary Erickson
Friends, may grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and Christ Jesus our Lord.
Outdoor activities have grown in popularity with the onslaught of COVID-19. One of those nature activities is geocaching. Geocaching is a game where someone has hidden a small treasure outside. Participants are given global coordinates that mark the spot. The coordinates will lead them to a public access spot, like a park or a trail. We’ve got several geocache spots here in Eau Claire.
Once the players arrive at the spot, they have to search for this hidden object. It’s typically small, like a jar or a small Rubbermaid container.
The cache contains small “treasures,” pencils or balls or small gizmos. The value of the treasure isn’t the point. The fun part is the search itself. The whole point is to enjoy the outdoors while searching for this hidden thing.
Searching is part of the human character. We search for opportunity. We search for deals. We do a lot of research before we buy a house: what school district is it in? What are the property taxes?
Searching can take on greater magnitude, too. We look for higher things. We search for truth. We seek meaning and purpose in our lives. And our greatest search, we search for a higher power. We scan our environs for the pathway that will lead to spiritual meaning and significance.
Today is Transfiguration Sunday. It’s the final Sunday in the season of Epiphany. The Epiphany season looks to shed light on the character and essence of Jesus. We see his miracles over nature, we hear of his power to heal. And the season ends with this most spectacular unveiling of Jesus’ essence.
Jesus climbs up a mountain along with the big three disciples: Peter, James and John. When they reach the peak, Jesus’ outward appearance dramatically changes. He becomes radiant and his clothes take on a dazzling appearance.
And then two visitors join him. They’re on the VIP list from scriptures: Moses and Elijah. They begin to converse with Jesus.
Moses and Elijah: two very significant figures. Together, they represent the Law and the Prophets, the Hebrew scriptures. Both men had close encounters with the divine presence of God on a mountaintop.
• Moses encountered God on the top of Mt. Sinai. There, God gave Moses the 10 commandments.
• Elijah also climbed Mt. Sinai. There he experienced the true presence of God in the still silence.
Both men also experienced unusual and divine deaths.
• After leading Israel through the wilderness, Moses had climbed the top of Mt. Nebo. From there, he could view across the Jordan River and into the Promised Land. He died there on the top of Mount Nebo and God buried his remains.
• Elijah was accompanied by a chariot of fire and ascended a whirlwind into heaven.
Jesus on a mountaintop with these two men. This experience shed a completely new light on Jesus! Peter and James and John had witnessed Jesus’ astonishing miracles. They’d seen his marvelous healings, even to the extent of raising the dead. They’d listened to his stirring proclamation. They had a growing sense of his magnitude. Peter had even gone so far as to state that Jesus was the longed-for Messiah of Israel.
This man, their friend and rabbi Jesus, was truly touched by the hand of God! But now, on this mountain top, they see something even greater. They witness the fullness of Jesus’ divine nature.
The three men are simply gob smacked. Peter dribbles on about constructing some shelters for Jesus and the two men of old. And then God moves in. A cloud descends over the mountaintop. A voice speaks to the three quaking men, “This is my son! Listen to him!” Suddenly, the cloud is gone. When it’s gone, so are Moses and Elijah, and Jesus is back to his normal appearance.
If someone had been on a spiritual quest, if someone had been searching for a divine encounter, this mountaintop vision would have hit the jackpot. That’s why it’s so bewildering when Jesus told the three friends to keep their mouths shut about it! “Don’t tell anyone,” he said, “Don’t say anything until after the Son of Man has risen from the dead.”
How puzzling that must have been. First of all, Jesus didn’t want his divine essence known. And secondly, there was that nagging comment again about his destiny to die! How did all of this add up? How could this one who was more than just human – someone who was divine – how is that he should have to die?
Peter, James and John must have thought they’d come to the end of their spiritual quest on that mountaintop. But Jesus says no. Encountering the divine Jesus was not enough. No, this elevated coordinate by itself is not enough! Another coordinate is necessary, too. We can’t find the destination of our spiritual quest with only this one coordinate from the holy mountaintop.