Summary: Wake Up to Jesus’ Glory 1) In his light on top of the Mt. of Transfiguration 2) In his flight down from the Mt. of Transfiguration
Have you ever had someone wake you to catch a particularly beautiful sunrise? That happened to me while I was camping on Padre Island in Texas. I woke with a start when someone threw sand at the side of my tent, just about where my ear was pressed up against the canvass. When I stumbled out of my tent to see what the deal was I was greeted with a wonderful panorama. The eastern sky looked like a layered cake with orange, red, and pink frosting. These colors were also reflected in the water and on the wet sand so that it seemed as if I was standing in the middle of a frosting dish. I was still tired and sleepy, but I was glad to have been awakened to catch such a glorious sight.
This morning the Holy Spirit invites you to wake up to Jesus’ glory. You’ll do that as you take in his light on top of the Mt. of Transfiguration, and as you take in his flight down from the Mt. of Transfiguration. So rub all sleep from your eyes now and give the Holy Spirit your full attention, for he will help make sense of what Jesus’ transfiguration means for you.
Six months before his crucifixion Jesus took three of his disciples, Peter, James, and John on a hike up a tall mountain. At first the disciples may have thought this was just another one of Jesus’ prayer retreats. It was not unusual for Jesus to withdraw from the crowds and to climb a mountain to be alone to pray. And sure enough, that’s what Jesus did when he reached the top of this mountain; he prayed. He must have prayed for some time because the disciples fell asleep. But then something spectacular happened. Jesus’ clothes started to shine with a white as brilliant as a flash of lightning. As the disciples stirred awake and rubbed their eyes, they also saw that Jesus’ face was shining with a sunlight intensity! The cause of this brilliance was not a spotlight beaming on Jesus as if he was some rock star on a concert stage about to rip off a guitar solo. This dazzling light was coming from within Jesus!
The disciples had never seen Jesus like this before, but it should not have surprised them. After all, just six days earlier Peter had said to Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Here now was that truth revealed in all of its glory – Jesus radiating with a divine brightness. It’s good for us to see Jesus like this too, for like Peter we also have confessed of Jesus: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And yet we sometimes wonder don’t we? Is Jesus really God? Is my faith in him well founded? The Christian author Donald Miller once mused with an unguarded honesty: “The goofy thing about Christian faith is that I believe it and don’t believe it at the same time. I believe in Jesus; I believe he is the Son of God, but every time I sit down to explain this to somebody I feel like a palm reader, like somebody who works at a circus or somebody at a Star Trek convention who hasn’t figured out the show isn’t real.”
If you can relate to Miller’s words, you’re not alone. Even the disciples who saw Jesus with their own eyes struggled between belief and unbelief. That’s why the Holy Spirit gives us this vision of Jesus this morning. He wants us to wake up to Jesus’ glory, to see and fully believe that he is the Son of God because that’s who he revealed himself to be in that glorious light on top of the Mount of Transfiguration.
But it wasn’t just the glorious light of Jesus that impressed the disciples. Standing alongside of him were two men: Moses and Elijah. What were these stalwart believers from the Old Testament doing on the Mount of Transfiguration? They had come to speak with Jesus. The Gospel of Luke tells us that they spoke to Jesus about his upcoming departure, or “exodus” as Luke literally put it (Luke 9:31). These two Old Testament prophets were helping the disciples understand what it meant that Jesus was the “Christ” or “appointed one.” Jesus had been appointed to win our salvation and he would do that by suffering and dying on the cross.
Oh how I wish we knew more about that conversation between Jesus and the prophets. But it was just then that Peter interrupted. He blurted: “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah” (Luke 9:5). Had the talk of Jesus’ death scared Peter? Had he thought to himself, “Jesus die? No! He can’t die. I have a better idea. We just need to prolong this glorious event. If we can get Jesus to stay shining like that and keep Moses and Elijah around, then all of Israel could come here and be convinced that Jesus is the Son of God.”