Summary: A sermon about listening to and following Jesus.
"On the Mountain and in the Valley"
Have you ever been in a group of people where someone told a joke and everyone else laughed except you?
You're thinking: "I don't get it. I missed the point."
Or perhaps you are in a group of people where someone makes a point and everyone else nods their head in agreement--except you?
"I don't get it. I missed the point."
Today's Gospel lesson can be kind of like that.
It was like that for Peter, James and John...
...and, perhaps, it's like that for us.
There can be no doubt that it is a mysterious story.
And just to prove the point, scholars and theologians have many, many different guesses or interpretations as to why this situation occurred in the first place.
Why did Jesus take Peter, James, and John up to the top of this mountain where Jesus was somehow "transformed" in front of them?
Why did Elijah and Moses appear and start talking with Jesus?
What is it all about?
"I don't get it. I missed the point."
If you feel this way, you are not alone.
No one really knows the answers to these questions.
We can definitely speculate.
Perhaps Jesus, preparing for His crucifixion, was getting a "pep-talk" from these two giants of the faith.
Maybe it happened in order for Peter, James and John to see that Jesus is indeed both human and divine...
...and to hear God Himself proclaim to them: "This is my Son, whom I dearly love. Listen to him!"
I think that this is definitely a key to the whole thing.
Because following Jesus is not easy.
There are gonna be some really tough times ahead for these guys.
They are going to watch Jesus die.
Their faith is going to be tested in ways they never imagined possible.
They are going to see evil, humanity and the devil at its worst.
They are going to be scared to death.
They are going to scatter.
They are going to hide.
They are going to deny ever knowing this Jesus they have come to love, and devote their lives to.
Things aren't going to be all rosy.
There is a real world out there.
They are called to follow Jesus, and they will follow.
But following Jesus has been a walk in the park so far--compared to what lies ahead.
Times are about to get horribly rough.
But through following Christ, even though it will eventually cost--even them their lives--they will change the course of history.
They have been called to play a huge role in laying the foundation for what God is doing in order to reconcile humankind to Himself.
This is dangerous stuff.
They are gonna have to be tough.
Even when the Holy Spirit comes upon them at Pentecost, they are gonna have to be tough.
"So come to the mountaintop," says God.
"I'm gonna show you something that is going to take your breath away."
"I am going to give you a glimpse of the divine."
"I am going to show you--first hand--Who this Jesus is you are called to follow."
"This is my Son, whom I dearly love. Listen to him!"
Now in order to get just a small taste of what a big deal this transfiguration event was we have to try and put ourselves in Peter, James and John's shoes.
Moses and Elijah were two of the greatest "heroes" of the Jewish faith.
They had grown up hearing all about them all the time.
When they were on the Mountain with Jesus, Moses and Elijah--it was like having a ring-side seat to heaven.
Think of it this way.
How would you react, or what would go through your mind if your third grade elementary school teacher took you to the top of a mountain where he or she was then joined by George Washington and Abraham Lincoln?
Or what if we all took a hike up to the top of Lookout Mountain.
And all of a sudden, John the Baptist, Peter, Paul and Jesus started having a chat with your pastor?
What would that do to your faith?
Would you be transfixed?
Would you be scared to death?
Would it be such an amazing spiritual experience that you would want to set-up tents and never leave?
Would you really feel like coming back down the mountain to East Ridge, downtown Chattanooga or North Georgia after something like that?
Would you want to go back the heartache, brokenness, misery, violence laden, poverty stricken, drug infested, ugly reality of our world after something like that?
The disciples were on the mountaintop with Jesus.
Nothing could hurt them up there.
The pain of this world was suddenly far in the distance.
All worries were forgotten for a moment.