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Seeing The Glory

About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. Two men, Moses and Elija, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, "aster, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters-one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah." (He did not know what he was saying.) While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and covered them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. A voice came from the cloud, saying, "This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him." When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves and did not tell anyone at that time what they had seen. -Luke 9:28-36

So since just after Christmas, we've been on a journey through Paul's letter to the church in Corinth, and so we've looked at some of the elements in there, but this series or loose series has been one that focus on that idea that the love of God never ends that love never ends, and we see that demonstrated as we began on that first Sunday, shortly after Christmas with the baptism of Jesus, where he's baptized in the Jordan by John, and God makes the declaration that, This is my beloved and I'm proud of him.

And then we moved from there into Paul's letter and looking at the way in which that love is woven through that story, and 1 Corinthians 13 is very clear about that, in fact, I took that love chapter is where we get that statement, love never ends and over the last couple of weeks, we've looked at that idea of what exactly is resurrection, not only the Resurrection of Jesus, but that promise for us to be raised to newness of life as well, and God's work of demonstrating that love through bringing redemption to the world. And this week, we jump back to the gospels as we experience his transfiguration Sunday of this change that comes over Jesus. Now, as we look at this in the gospel of Luke, this ninth chapter, there are some chapters that there's just so much going on and so setting the stage a little bit, there's been a lot that Jesus has done with the disciples early in this chapter is when Jesus commissions the disciples to go out into the surrounding towns and villages and to preach good news, but more importantly, to proclaim healing for those who were sick and the cast out demons, and in Jesus name they went, and the things they did happened, the demons were cast out and people were healed and the message was received, and they came back and reported this.

And then as Jesus had that large crowd gathered by the side seashore, 5000 of them, he told the disciples, feed them, they're like we had, and he said, Yes, you can, and they gathered up a few loaves and fishes, and they fed 5000 people. Mighty things had been happening, miraculous things had been happening, and so prior to the section we're looking at this morning, Jesus was talking with the disciples and had called them together and said, Hey, who are the crowd saying that I am? And they said, Well, some people are saying that you're John the Baptist, some say that you're Elijah, come again. Others, one of the prophets, but Jesus pressed him a little further, he said, But who do you say that I am? In a moment of inspiration that had only have been through the Holy Spirit, Peter who's usually putting his foot in his mouth, says, You are the Messiah, the Son of God, and Jesus responds by saying, Don't tell anybody, he then goes on and begins telling them the Son of Man is gonna have to endure a lot, and in fact, die and rise again, which brings us to today's text.

All of these things had been going on, and these disciples, these three that Jesus called, decide to go with him, had been a part of that journey of going and healing and proclaiming, they had been a part of passing out those fish and the loaves and collecting the surplus and scratchy there had saying, how did that happen? They were there when Peter made that profession, you are the Messiah, the anointed one, the son of God.

And they just a week before I heard Jesus talk about what was awaiting him, and so Jesus said to them one morning to mind... Let's go pray. Now, Jesus had done this often throughout the Gospels, we see occasions where Jesus goes off to a wild place, Jesus goes off beside the sea shore, Jesus goes up on a mountain to pray, and it's not unheard of for him to do that, but this time he invited the disciples with Him.

I don't know if they had any expectations of what was going to happen, if they had any idea that anything at all was going to happen, but they went with Jesus. And we have the story of them witnessing this change, this transfiguration that comes upon him, of His appearance of his face changing, of his clothes becoming dazzling white, and then these two figures appearing with him.

That we’re told our Moses and Elijah, and it says that they begin having a conversation with him about his departure, there's no coincidence or irony in the fact that the Greek word for departure is actually Exodus, that Moses who had a lot of experience with exodus, out of Egypt is now talking with Jesus about His Exodus or departure from this world... And in fact, when we consider Moses, this whole scenario of going up on a mountain is very similar to Moses story, that after he led the people out of Egypt, God called him to Mount Sinai, and Moses went up on the mountain and a cloud descended upon the mountain to shield the people from God's presence, much like that cloud that rolled in as Peter saying We should build tents and stay here.

Moses while he was there and in the presence of God, when He came down, the people made him wear a veil because his face was radiant and glowing. From having been in God's presence.

Much like Jesus, who not just his face but his whole being is glowing, important things seem to happen on mountain tops, that God's presence sometimes is more than people can handle, and that glory, that glory of God at times is visibly present in a dramatic and startling way, but I suppose that's where the comparisons end, because Moses was more like a glow in the dark sticker that had been in the light for too long, that glow remained. Whereas Jesus... Well, what was revealed in Jesus was who he truly was. It wasn't a reflection of God's light that had shined on him and he absorbed it, and now I was reflecting it down, but rather it was his own light as the Son of God that was shining. So was it the disciples who had been with him all of this time, had not seen it before now.

Peter maybe just by dumb luck happened to make that confession that... Well, you're the Messiah, the Son of God, which makes you think that he understood. And yet, on that mountain top that day, there was no question about who Jesus was. That glory of God that dwells within Jesus was revealed. And I think there are a couple of things that we could say about why it was revealed that day and in that place, we use the transfiguration as a metaphor to talk about those how high points in life that we have mountain top experiences of our own, that particularly in the years that I've been in ministry, we experience that when we take young people to camp and they go away from all the distractions of normal life and the business of their routine of athletics and school and band, and all of those things that occupy their time and they're pulled away from that and even limited with their electronics and other things, so they can focus on being in God's presence.

And for many of them that happens. But coming back from that then is like, Oh, that was so great, and they're often like Peter say, Can't we just stay here? But they can't. So part of them going up the mountain with Jesus was that Jesus knew they needed to step back, they needed to get away from all of those other things going on, the crowd of 5000 crowding around the listen and wanting to be healed and wanting to be fed in all of those demands of being a disciple of Jesus, they needed to get back. Now, just be able to take a breath and see what God was doing.

And we've also got that unusual statement in there, all of these things have happened, that they've gone up a mountain, that they've witnessed Jesus face change in his dazzling white clothes. They've seen the glory of God shining through Moses and Elijah that have appeared. But then it says, Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep, but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory.

I don't know about you, but that seems like maybe they needed to be diagnosed with narcolepsy because who falls asleep in a moment like that. How could you nod off when all of these things are going on around you, and yet it says they're weighed down with sleep, but somehow they've managed to stay awake, it fluttering heads kind of dropping and coming back to alertness, but maybe even that freed them from the distractions.

And allow them to be fully awaken away that they hadn't been before, that to be fully awake is to have the use of all of our facilities and all of our senses open and aware of what's going on. And it says, Because they were awake, they saw His glory, they saw His glory in a way that must have been profound in life-changing for them as well. Peter wanting to do something says Jesus, let's put up tents, we'll build shelter so we can stay here, because he perceived that Elijah and Moses were getting ready to go on their way, but Peter hadn't even finished speaking these words, When the cloud comes and God speaks... He says, This is My Son, the chosen. Listen to him.

Listen to him. Well, listen to his words, listen to his instructions, listen to the things that he has and will be telling you… Well, if there was any question about who Jesus was, it should have been dispelled by everything going on, including God speaking not to Jesus, but to the disciples. This is my son. I chose him. You listen. And I think it got through because we're told that in that moment, when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone, and they kept silent and told no one of these things... Presumably, the most remarkable thing that they or any humans had witnessed had just taken place on that mountain.

Seeing the glory of Jesus revealed for who he truly was, of having that certainty without any shadow of doubt in their minds that this truly is the son of God, what's more? Those pillars of our faith, I and Moses were there conversing with him, and if that's not enough, God spoke. And their reaction, crickets, silence. Not a word to anybody. And we can rationalize and try and make sense of it. Oh, well, all of these things that happen, but it's kind of like those moments when you're driving along and you think you see something out the window when you do the double take and it's not there anymore. Maybe they're doubting themselves saying that didn't really just happen, did it, or... Maybe they're more concerned about what other people are gonna say. Could you imagine coming down from the mountain with Jesus saying, Guys, guess what just happened? You're not gonna believe it. And they're gonna say, You're right, we don't. So where does that leave the disciples? Well, my sense of it is that maybe it's awestruck.

Maybe it's one of those moments that you and I sometimes experience where there is something that is so amazing, so powerful, so moving that they're just simply aren’t words that we just have to sit or stand and take it in. Give thanks for having been there to witness it. That first time you hold your newborn child or grandchild, those moments of watching a sunrise or a sunset, of being so moved by something that you've experienced that you just have to think... Wow, I have to think that's what happened to Peter and James and John that day. That they knew there was something about Jesus. They'd witnessed some pretty amazing things, they've been participants in some pretty amazing things, but in that moment, they saw Jesus for who he really was, and glory. That love of God shining through Jesus. That left them speechless. Where do we get those opportunities to glimpse this glory of God that shines in and through the life of Jesus Christ? It's there. We sing a hymn, it's just a chorus. Turn your eyes upon Jesus. I've mentioned this in the past, I can't remember what the sermon was or when, but that little chorus was written by a woman named Helen Lemmel.

She wrote those words in 1918. She'd been a well-known singer, and she actually taught music at Moody Bible Institute, and later the Bible Institute of Los Angeles. She'd marry in a wealthy European, but at the age of 55, she lost her sight, a difficult thing in and of itself, but because she'd lost her sight, her husband abandoned her, life was hard, and a friend of hers had given her a devotional tract that made reference to turning one's eyes upon Jesus and perceiving the difference that it makes in the world, and she attributes it to the movement of the Holy Spirit in her life, that the words and the tune for this chorus just flowed and she just began to sing it. Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in his wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace. Helen, in spite of all of the things that she had endured, invites us to look upon the face of Jesus.What's more when she penned and created this chorus, she was already blind, and yet this blind woman had seen The Light and the Glory of Christ.

And I think it's worth noting when we consider all that we have endured over the last few years, when we consider what's going on in Ukraine right now and the events of our world... She says, Look full in his wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, they don't go away, they aren't so far from us that we can no longer perceive them, but they grow dim in the light of the glory and grace of Christ. I suspect some of you have experienced those moments in life, we're in spite of overwhelming odds, in spite of devastating news, that glory and grace of Christ is present and brings with it an assurance and a piece that you simply can't explain that that glory and grace of Christ is revealed in some of those most wonderful moments that indeed take our breath away of new life that we get to hold in our arms of the beauty of flowers blooming in the spring, the warmth of the sun, the embrace of a loved one, that in those moments, the glory of Christ is shining brightly into your life and into this world, sometimes we go to mountain tops to get away and draw near to God, but here's the thing, God is always with us.

That glory that was revealed when Jesus was on the mountain top before the disciples, was the same glory had when he was walking down the dusty roads, but in that moment they had eyes to see it. Friends, take time to slow down. Catch your breath. Take a good look around. Maybe even ask God to help you to see where his glory is shining. Because when we know, when we understand, when we see that glory of Christ shine, well, that is the only difference that matters, and we too will be changed.


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