Can you recall a life-changing experience you have had? Was there ever a single point of time where everything stood still and suddenly and with great clarity you knew and saw things in such a profoundly different way that immediately changed your thinking, your attitude, or even your life? Good teachers and mentors can do this with people they are helping. Good parents can do this by identifying things in their children that have gone unnoticed. Going away to focus on our spiritual lives can often result in a new understanding of where we are heading and what we need to change to get there. Addicts speak of “hitting rock bottom” and arising to find help and tools to walk away from the harmful things. Teenagers see their lives changed at youth retreats. What was your mountain top experience?
This Sunday we will celebrate “Transfiguration Sunday” in the protestant church. It celebrates a moment in time when three disciples ascended a mountain top with Jesus and experienced something quite profound:
Luke 9 (The Message)
28-31 About eight days after saying this, Jesus climbed the mountain to pray, taking Peter, John, and James along. While he was in prayer, the appearance of his face changed and his clothes became blinding white. At once two men were there talking with him. They turned out to be Moses and Elijah—and what a glorious appearance they made! They talked over his exodus, the one Jesus was about to complete in Jerusalem.
When I said “quite profound” I really meant scary as heck. I can’t imagine what this was like for Peter, James, and John. They were already confused by who Jesus was and were quite mystified about what his messiahship was really about. One could hardly blame them for their dullness. But here in this moment, they were literally blinded by the light … a light so profound, they immediately fell asleep. I am sure that Jesus’ blinding white appearance hurt their eyes, but even more so, it hurt their heads.
32-33 Meanwhile, Peter and those with him were slumped over in sleep. When they came to, rubbing their eyes, they saw Jesus in his glory and the two men standing with him. When Moses and Elijah had left, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, this is a great moment! Let’s build three memorials: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He blurted this out without thinking.
I like how Peterson in this translation writes that “when they came to … they saw Jesus in his glory.” Oh, how this applies to all of us! Oh, how this applies to the unbelieving world! We are stumbling around in the darkness of sin and despair, sleeping through all of God’s revelations around us, and we need to wake up.
And then there is Peter’s reaction, who suggests they build memorials for Moses, Elijah, and Jesus. Of all the things wrong with this notion, (poor Peter!) the fact that he equates the three men proves that he entirely has missed the point of Jesus’ glory. This is the moment where the Law represented in Moses and the Prophecy represented in Elijah have come in submission to the One who is Lord over all of the law and the prophets combined. Jesus was being elevated in this glory moment, and Peter missed it.
Until God spoke:
34-35 While he was babbling on like this, a light-radiant cloud enveloped them. As they found themselves buried in the cloud, they became deeply aware of God. Then there was a voice out of the cloud: “This is my Son, the Chosen! Listen to him.”
By shining light on the fact that only one of these three pillars of faith was actually his Son, his Chosen, God settles one and for all what direction his children were meant to go … Jesus is the great high priest above all others. Follow him.
36 When the sound of the voice died away, they saw Jesus there alone. They were speechless. And they continued speechless, said not one thing to anyone during those days of what they had seen.
Peter, James, and John were treated to a mountain top experience like none other. There they met and saw Jesus for exactly who he really is.
Do you need to see Jesus? Are you wandering in a valley of darkness? Take some time today to pull away from the noise of your activities and go away and pray. That’s what Jesus did. May you meet him there and be forever changed.
Radiant Light by Michelle Robertson