Summary: Seeing the Unseen Christ means we worship Him with genuine enthusiasm
It was a state campground near Old Walker Mine in late September. My father and I pulled in about 11:30 at night and setting up camp what I remember most was the night sky. It was black, not dark but black. The stars were clearer, huge, close and more brilliant than I’d ever seen them or could have imagined them. Now I had seen stars before but somehow something was different about this night. I wasn’t spiritually awake enough to thank God for the beauty that night. But maybe you can recall having seen something so magnificent that it demanded a response of praise? Maybe you marveled at the look on the face of a newborn baby and its tiny features so exquisitely shaped. Perhaps it’s a sunset so spectacular it takes your breath away to recall it. Or you look into the eyes of a loved one and you are awed that you two could be so much in love. Perhaps words are unnecessary, maybe impossible but such wonders demand a response from us nonetheless.
That’s what worship is—a heartfelt response to the beauty, majesty, and love of God, shown to us in Jesus Christ. Worship is not just wishful thinking on our part but a response to beholding the majesty of Christ and a response to hearing the voice of God. Worship takes place when we step away from the same old expectations and discover the unexpected, when what we’ve taken for granted becomes precious.
By chapter 17 Matthew, the disciples had become a bit accustomed to Christ. True, he did miracles, and that set him apart. But in many ways, he probably started to seem very human. Chapter 17 begins with Christ leading Peter, James, and John to a high mountain. “There he was transfigured before them,” What does this mean? It means he was changed. Moses had seen God’s glory and his face showed it. But he was merely reflecting what he’d seen. Jesus, himself, was transformed. “His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.”
Along with this transformation Moses and Elijah appeared too and was, talking with Jesus.” Can you imagine the thoughts going through those three’s brains? Whatever they had begun thinking about Jesus was stripped away in that moment. And then as the cloud covers the Jesus, Moses and Elijah they hear THE VOICE. ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!’”
Facedown and terrified. That’s where the disciples ended up when the voice was done and the cloud lifted. They probably recalled Isaiah’s situation and felt unworthy and doomed being in the presence of the Lord. I know I’ve been like those disciples in the past. I’ve grown accustomed to Jesus so much that he became invisible at times. What does it take so that we can see Christ in a new way? What will it take so that we are constantly aware of Jesus’ presence in our life, in our worship and among us as the Church?
Worship seems to be pendulum swing between the “same old; same old” to an “exciting experience”. Rev. Bill Richardson, an Episcopal Priest, makes this comment about a worship experience he had. “Have you ever been in a worship service where you thought or said, ‘I wish that could have gone on forever’? Awhile back I was in a church setting where I cried through a portion of worship every Sunday morning. There was a strong sense of God’s presence, and none of us there wanted to leave.” I know how he felt. Peter’s felt that way too. His suggestion to build three tents is an act of worship. The mistake is that he makes Jesus equal with Moses and Elijah and fails to see the uniqueness of Jesus. Later in the letter he writes Peter says, “We were eye-witnesses of his majesty.”
When we see the unseen guest, when we perceive Jesus as the only Son of God it moves us to humility and lets us realize how unworthy we are to be in his presence. I would not be surprised to find us face down on the floor, kneeling or cowering near our pews should we see Jesus. Jesus’ presence let us see ourselves for who we are. That is why Isaiah finds himself doomed as he comes before God’s throne.
Worship doesn’t leave us lying liked whipped cur dogs. Worship also invites God to touch us. God’s touch cleanses Isaiah and Jesus touch restores his disciples. There is something about the “touch of God” that has healing, restorative, and cleansing power. Richard Foster says in true wholehearted worship “Spirit touches spirit,” and we are not the same. Our worship is not the same.
God’s voice calls and we are overcome. His touch restores us. And lastly our worship becomes an expression of thankfulness, obedience, and reliance on the goodness, mercy, grace and forgiveness of Christ.