Summary: Transfiguration Sunday: Who is Jesus? Maybe better asked, "Who is Jesus to you?" We fail to truly recognize Jesus when we don’t understand his full divinity and his willingness to suffer and die on the cross for our sake.
Who is Jesus? - All-around great guy? Great teacher? Prophet? Savior? God? If you wanted to take the easy way out – your answer would simply be, “Yes.” But I’m not going to let you get away with that. Truly knowing Jesus touches more than understanding. It touches more than knowing intellectually. So today, we’ll talk about the Jesus that has been showing his identity to us throughout the season of Epiphany – manifesting Himself – from a baby born to a peasant family; to a carpenter’s son; to a teacher of disciples; to healer; to One who fills the empty places in our heart; and now to the Lord of All. But first, let us pray…
Maybe the real question today isn’t, “Who is Jesus?” Perhaps the better question is, “Who is Jesus to you?” Yes, yes – I know – most of us would be able to say some things about Jesus. Most of us have heard some things that He did and said. But truth be told – it really is tough to identify Jesus and not just Jesus on the mountaintop, but Jesus in our life.
The three that went up the mountain with Jesus: Peter, James and John, saw a truly remarkable sight: a transfiguration. Fact of the matter, the closest thing we have to an explanation for a transfiguration is what Mark describes in our Gospel reading: His clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. Oh – is that all there is – Jesus showing that He can do more than a mere man? Well no – not really. Because this isn’t the only time that Peter, James and John saw vestiges of Jesus’ full identity.
• They saw it when Jesus walked on the water and calmed the storm and they asked themselves, “What kind of man is?”
• They saw it when He commanded demons to come out of a man and when He healed the deaf and blind… “What kind of man is this?”
• They saw it when lonely lepers became clean - restored not only physically and spiritually, but also to their families and communities… “What kind of man is this?”
• They saw it when Jesus stood at Lazarus’ grave – who’d been dead for days – and called him out. Unbelieving eyes and hearts saw the incredible scene - a man wrapped in burial rags shuffle out of the grave – alive again… “Goodness gracious, what kind of man is this – that walks on water, calms the storm, heals the sick and demon possessed, restores broken families and raises the dead?
Sure – Peter, James and John had seen amazing things from Jesus before. But this transfiguration – this added a different twist. After all those amazing things – what had they missed about Jesus’ identity? Why is it that they needed to be here at the mountain? Maybe for the very same reason we need to be here to answer the question, “Who is Jesus to you?”
Where do we look for the answer… and better yet - where shouldn’t we look to find it! First - don’t look inside of yourself. Sadly, Jesus is often filed away roughly in the same place as the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus. You know – somewhere that Jesus won’t interfere too much; Somewhere that He won’t make many demands; Somewhere that He won’t bother us too much; Somewhere that we can drag Him out periodically – at just the right times and seasons. That is the Jesus that many know – the God in our pocket – a sort of lucky charm. Wish this wasn’t so but it is even true for us at times. So don’t look inside for Jesus.
To really know Jesus, let’s look beyond self. First – let’s look on the mountaintop. Yes the transfiguration tells us something. It gives us a peak at the divinity of Jesus. It tells us that He was more than a simple man. He lets his divinity peek through – not enough to hurt Peter, James and John – but sufficiently for them to have an ‘aha moment’.
And look to the cloud that overshadowed them on the mountaintop. Hey – if you think that the recent release of iCloud by Apple was a big deal – why Apple was at least 4000 years behind the times. The Cloud that came upon Jesus, Elijah, Moses, Peter, James and John had made its appearance before – in the desert, leading the people out of Egypt… at Sinai making the mountain shake and rumble… in the Tabernacle – signaling the incredible presence of God. And here it was again – on this mountaintop – scaring the wits out of Peter, James and John. But also telling us about Jesus – this is my beloved Son. But there’s more.