Feb. 27, 2022 Transfiguration of Our Lord The text is Luke 9:28-36.
28 Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30 Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. 31 They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33 Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” —not knowing what he said. 34 While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. 35 Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” 36 When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.
Grace, mercy, and peace are yours from God the Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen
Luke tells us that this morning’s event on the mountain took place about eight days “after these sayings”; well, this isn’t very helpful, because the lectionary skipped over them, and we’re not able to determine if they had anything to do with Jesus’ trek up the mountain to pray with these three specific disciples. The last we heard Jesus was on the plain, preaching the beatitudes and that we should love our enemies. It turns out that quite a bit has transpired since then; parables have been told, a storm was calmed, a demon cast out, and 5,000 were fed.
But what happened just eight days before this morning, when we catch up with Jesus and the three disciples on the mountain, and why did Luke feel compelled to remind us of it? Well, Jesus had asked the twelve who people were saying Jesus was, and he also asked who the disciples thought he was. You remember that after a few incorrect guesses that Peter proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah of God. Right after that revelation Jesus told the disciples that he must travel to Jerusalem, where he was to be rejected, suffer, and be put to death; and that those who would choose to follow Jesus would need to pick up their cross. So, this provides a little more background for the mountaintop prayer session eight days later that we read about this morning. And “these sayings” that Luke reminds us of, well they apparently refer to Jesus’ announcement of his journey to Jerusalem and his death at the hands of Pilate and the temple authorities. And this gives us a bit of insight as to what Moses and Elijah might have had to say to Jesus as they stood there in their glory, engaged with a transfigured Jesus, with a changed face and glowing a dazzling white.
It’s likely they were reassuring Jesus regarding his destiny and perhaps their presence was intended as the final epiphany for the disciples, especially Peter. This was followed by the voice of God proclaiming in no uncertain terms that Jesus is God’s Son and that the three are commanded to heed his words. This too, was probably meant to ensure that the disciples were fully aware of the next phase of Jesus’ journey and that they were to be supportive; just as Moses and Elijah were.
But, as seems to happen way too frequently in scripture, we find that Peter yet again just doesn’t get it. Just before the voice from heaven announces Jesus is God’s Son, Peter thinks it would be just great to remain on this mountain with Jesus and two of the greatest figures in the history of the Jewish people. So much so that he offers to build a hut for each of them to live in, right there on the hillside; and they can all live happily ever after. So much for Christ’s mission and ministry, even though this is a mere eight days after Jesus proclaimed that he was headed to Jerusalem and the cross. So, remaining isolated on the mountain wouldn’t be very practical, but you really can’t blame Peter for wanting to remain there with the one who led the Israelites to the Promised Land, Israel’s greatest prophet, and the now transfigured Son of God.
Wouldn’t we all love to live in the presence of the divine, secure and apart from the world? Especially if this meant we could avoid the unpleasantness we knew lay before us?
But this can’t happen; Jesus has been transfigured, transformed, changed so that his glory as God incarnate has now been fully revealed. And with this transformation everything has changed. The world will never be the same as it was. God has come among the people and the change in Jesus’ appearance and the voce from heaven leave no doubt that the preaching, healing, and miracles that came before, prove Christ’s divinity. This transfiguration, this transformation of Jesus is confirmed on Easter, when Jesus rises to bring new life to all who believe. And this Good News is what brings about the transfiguration that all of Christ’s followers must undergo; the transformation from people into disciples. And by this, the world is transfigured to become the Kingdom of God.
And, just as Peter, John, and James heard the voice of God telling them to listen to Jesus and to follow him down from the mountain and back into the world, we are called to do the same in our time and place. In the same way these disciples were commanded to leave the security and familiarity they found themselves in, as transfigured children of God it is also our mission to step beyond our comfort zone. And, while the three kept silent and didn’t tell others what they had witnessed “at that time”, their actions after observing Jesus in his transfigured glory showed that they too we transformed. Their continued ministry is documented by Luke in the follow-up to his gospel, “The Acts of the Apostles”.
All this begs the question; where do we find ourselves? Have we chosen to remain on the mountain, secure in our own comfortable place? Are we hesitant to tell others of the things we have come to know, about the glory of Jesus? By our words and deeds would others know that we have been transformed? What might be written of us if there were a book titled, “Acts of the people of Emanuel”? Often, people find themselves unsure of what it is they are called to do or say as followers of the Way of Christ. Well, like the three disciples on the mountain, it’s been laid out quite clearly for us, in God’s own voice; “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”.
We who have been transfigured by the knowledge of the nature and identity of Jesus Christ have been commanded to descend from the comfort of the mountain to transform the world and make it the Kingdom of God. And, we begin by changing the way we view ourselves, our church, and our community. “Listen to Jesus”, the voice of God tells us. What is it that we hear when we listen? What does Jesus tell us about ourselves, our church, and our community? And, do his words transfigure us all over again? Are we content or challenged? What will we write in the book, The Acts of Emanuel”?
Will you pray with me? Good, and gracious, and Holy God, we have witnessed the radiant glory of your Son, and we confess that we too are tempted to remain on the mountain in comfort and security. We ask that you open our hearing to the words Jesus speaks to us, challenging us to begin to transform ourselves from people into disciples; and to participate in the transformation of our world into your kingdom. And we pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ, the One to whom you command us to listen. Amen.
God is Good, all the time. All the time, God is Good. Amen.