Summary: This is a sermon that kicked of Lent on Transfiguration Sunday. It focuses on the awesomeness of the presence of God.
In the Presence of God
Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his countenance was altered, and his raiment became dazzling white. And behold, two men talked with him, Moses and Eli’jah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, and when they wakened they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is well that we are here; let us make three altars, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Eli’jah” - not knowing what he said. As he said this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my son, my Chosen; listen to him!” And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silence and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.
Today is a special day in the life of the church. To mark this day, as you can see, the liturgical color is white, marking purity and renewal. Today is a special Sunday because it marks Christ’s transfiguration… it is special because it marks the beginning of Lent… the 40 day walk towards Easter.
You perhaps noticed that there are several similarities between Christ’s transfiguration and Christ’s baptism with very good reason. Christ’s baptism marked the start of his ministry. It was a time where Christ was renewed in the Holy Spirit and validated by the Father through the blessing, “This is my son, with whom I am well pleased.”
Christ’s transfiguration is very similar in that it marks the start of his walk towards Jerusalem, the start of his journey to the cross, the beginning of his redemptive purpose. And we see similar markings, Jesus being renewed by the Holy Spirit and validated by the Father through another blessing, “This is my son, listen to him.” From this point onward, Christ was walking towards his death.
You know, as I sat down to write my sermon this week, this sermon presented me with some very big problems. I usually try to find a common point between the scripture text and something you and I can really get a hold of from our own lives, a life application touch point, a modern day parable, perhaps even a life experience, but this week I just really couldn’t find anything. What happens on top of that mountain is such a unique experience that I simply can’t find that a parallel.
Imagine what it would have been like, to be there on top of that mountain… Jesus glowing in a splendor, in the presence of Moses and Elijah, then a cloud… you feel an awesome presence, and then those words… “This is my son, listen to him.”
What an amazing moment. What an absolutely astonishing and shocking event. It is something that we are simply not prepared for as humans, something that even the disciples were not ready to deal with. I love Peter’s response… scripture says, “not knowing what to say… he asked Jesus if they should build three altars!” It is a very human response… something special happens, we know we should respond somehow, so Peter looks down at the ground and his brain eeks out the one simple idea it could muster, “Pile up some rocks!” I love the way “The Message” bible puts it… “He blurted it out without thinking. And while he as babbling on like this, a light-radiant cloud enveloped them.”
It was a truly holy and spiritual moment, and the best that Peter could do, was mumble incoherently and offer what can best be described as a “bad idea.”
It is not the first time where humans have failed to find words or actions in the face of the almighty. Even looking to our old testament scripture today we find people fearful of seeing the reflection of God’s radiance upon Moses’ face. They didn’t even come into direct contact with God, they simply came into contact with someone else who had come into contact with God. It is like that saying, I know a guy, who knows a guy, who knows a guy who came into contact with God. And even that is enough to strike awe and fear into the hearts of the Israelites.
And Moses’ reaction is strikingly odd as well… he starts to wear a veil whenever he isn’t speaking to God, hiding the radiance that shows upon his face.