February 14, 2021

Mountaintop Experience

Passage: Matthew 17:1-9

Transfiguration Sunday

Do you know the expression “thin places”?  It stems from the Celtic tradition, but is often used by many Christians to describe those monumental experiences in their life of faith, the ones that are instrumental in shaping who we are or pivotal in our understanding of God.  The phrase references the literal thinner air that we experience on the mountain tops, or simply the metaphorical thinness that is our distance from the divine. Generations have celebrated those moments, cherishing them and longing for more.  There arfe many volumes of books written of how that divine revelations moved the hearts of people to become missionaries, to enter pastoral memories or to rededicate lives to God.  In our Gospel reading this morning, we read of a Mountaintop Experience Peter, James, and John had with Jesus.  As we look at the Transfiguration of Jesus, we learn that the focus wasn’t so much about the moment, but about what was spoken to them.  Jesus took Peter, James, and John up a mountain.  To them it might have been something like going up Mount Cheam or Grouse mountain - just a time to get away from the everyday routine.  But then something happened they never could have dreamt of in their wildest imagination.  Jesus’ appearance changed – His face became like the sun and His clothes became as white as the light.  And then Moses and Elijah appeared out of nowhere, and they were talking with Jesus!  That was the essence of a story to tell of the out of the ordinary.  Moses had died approximately 1400 years before this event took place, and Elijah had been taken up to heaven in a chariot about 850 years before. Yet there they were.  I think you will agree with me – for Peter, James and John, that must have been their moment; their Mountaintop Experience!  That’s why John wrote in his Gospel in chapter 1: 14, “We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, Who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

From Matthew 17 we see 1 The Great Significance Of The Transfiguration in Jesus' mission.  Moses, as the representative of the Law and Elijah, as the representative of the prophets, appeared to Jesus and went into conversation with Him.  The significance is that the Law and the Prophets had been fulfilled in Him.  Everything what the Law represented came together in Jesus and everything the prophets wrote about pointed to Him.  But what do you think was the conversation about Moses and Elijah had with Jesus?  Were they talking about the spectacular show they put on for Peter, James and John?  If this world was ever to see a show like no other, it was the one on Mount Tabor.  There Jesus changed into the form of a heavenly being and two visitors came down from heaven when it happened.  But you see, it wasn’t about this extraordinary event Moses, Elijah and Jesus talked.  Luke in his recording of the Transfiguration tells us what the conversation was about – “They spoke about His departure, which He was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem.”  Luke 9: 31.  Jesus, Moses and Elijah were talking about the way that He would become the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets.  That conversation was a continuation of what Jesus talked about with His disciples a few days before the Transfiguration.  In Matthew 16 He asked them who the people were saying He was.  In verse 14 they replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”  After Peter made the famous confession by which our faith stands, that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God, Jesus told His disciples that He was to go to Jerusalem.  There He was going to suffer by the hands of the elders, chief priest and the teachers of the Law.  Now on Mount Tabor, there was the affirmation of what would follow - the Via Dolorosa, the road of suffering.  My friends, the significance of the words spoken on that mountain is as relevant to us as what it was the day it was spoken more than 2000 years ago.  Do we believe that Jesus, the Son of God, was the One Who was sent to atone for us on the cross of Golgotha?  Because if we think like some that Jesus was just a historical figure, then all we can think of about the transfiguration is the spectacle of Him changing of appearance.  You have to say with all your heart and your whole being, “I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son Who suffered under Pontius Pilate, Who was crucified, died and Who was buried.”  Our faith, our salvation and our destiny stand by the departure from Jerusalem after what only Jesus could accomplish.

You will agree with me – 2 There is The Lack Of Understanding Among People About Jesus’ Mission.  We read in verse 4 Peter’s response to what just happened when Jesus was transfigured - “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters – one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”  That was after Peter’s confession a few days earlier of Jesus the Messiah, after Jesus rebuked him when he never wanted his Lord to suffer and die and after he witnessed the transfiguration.  You see, Peter wasn’t one for suffering.  To him, suffering wasn’t glorious, it wasn’t what Peter was looking for.  He wasn’t looking for a Suffering Servant, he was looking for a glorious leader, someone Who would be great in the eyes of the world.  Yet, Jesus was quick to tell him, “It’s not about the things of the world, Peter. You missed the point, you’re not listening to me!”  You know, there is still the same lack of understanding about why Jesus came to the world.  To many His coming at Christmas is something they want to be reminded of all the time – the sentiments of a God Who loved the world that He sent His Son.  But they don’t want to accept the sacrifice of Jesus.  I vividly recall conversations I had with a Muslim about why Christianity is far different from any other religion.  When I spoke about the cross he said, “But that's not telling me anything about victory.  It tells me everything about defeat.”  There is such a lack of understanding in the lives of many about victory in the cross.  They too have to come to the point to confess with the Roman Centurion – “Truly, this man was the Son of God.”

But will you appreciate with me?  There was 3 The Commissioning Of Jesus For His Task on Mount Tabor.  In verse 5 we read that God the Father spoke from heaven, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”  It was the Father Himself Who spoke about the pleasure His Son gave Him and was still going to bring Him.  Jesus was the One those disciples and all the people of the world could follow, for His sacrifice was going to change the world.  The Son received the blessing of the Father - “I commission you for your journey to the cross and your sacrificial death.”  Never in the history of the world was there ever a more significant commissioning than the one Jesus received from His Father.  My friends, next week we begin the Journey of Lent.  Are you willing to follow Jesus on the Road of Suffering?  Do you identify yourself with Jesus in the midst of falsehood and deception we see and hear in the world?  His journey is your journey too.