What Would You Do?

Today is the day that is traditionally called Transfiguration Sunday. In the synoptic gospels it is approaching the time when Jesus will begin his final entry into Jerusalem and the terrible suffering that he foretold was to commence, with His eventual death and resurrection. But for now, that time is still many days in the future and the significance of the transfiguration is that it is the second confirmation by God that Jesus is in fact His Son and the Messiah. I am going to ask you to place yourselves in your minds eye in those men’s sandals. Consider for a moment, I am going to ask you to continually remember a couple of facts. One, these men are just like you and me and as far as they are concerned, so is Jesus. They have not had the benefit of two thousand years to think about this. In their time, Jesus was a radical Rabbi, preaching the kingdom of God for all, that salvation was for everyone, not just the wealthy or the priesthood. That salvation was not earned but was freely given to those who would ask for it. That God did not want their sacrifices but rather their love and devotion. The second thing I want you to remember is that to these men Jesus was just a man. We know that he is the Son of God but two thousand years ago before his death and resurrection he was a man, born of woman and raised just like you or me. His mother changed his diapers when he was a baby and kissed his owies away when he fell. To these men he was just another man. A teacher to be sure, a worker of miracles absolutely, but at the end of the day still a man. We focus so much on His ministry and the miracles and divinity that we forget that he was foremost sent to us to be human. Jesus came to be tempted by the same sins that we are tempted with, in order that he might show us the way. So, I want you to consider this passage from the viewpoint of the three men whom Jesus took up the mountain that day. Because to them he was not God, and even though Peter had just recognized Him as the Messiah in [Mark 8:29] Jesus “asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Messiah.” We will see how easily that is forgotten. We are more fortunate in that we did not know Jesus as the disciples did. I know that seems contradictory but think about it, our faith is based purely on faith not on sure knowledge, not on facts. The disciples had all the facts and still they didn’t get it. They literally witnessed the salvation of mankind and still they did not get it. They did not have the same faith that we have, now stay with me a moment, I am not saying that it was greater or less, just different, in  [John 20:29] Jesus is speaking to Thomas and “Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” We are all familiar with the phrase don’t be a doubting Thomas, right. So think a moment, you have never seen Jesus in the flesh or seen Him perform a miracle and yet we believe that he is alive and will return, we affirm this every Sunday in worship and confirm our belief every time we participate in the Holy Sacraments. Not so the very men who were daily with him for three years, they were able to see these things that we take on faith, first hand. And that was their problem, I think Chaucer, first used it in print but the origin of the phrase goes back much further, and that is “familiarity breeds contempt”, I know no one likes to think of that word in the same sentence as Jesus, much less connected directly to him, and I do not suggest that the disciples held Jesus in contempt on the contrary they were in awe of him. But you cannot live with a man day in and day out, watch him eat and sleep and do all the things that you and I do daily and keep them on a pedestal. I think most of us are or have been either married or in a long-term relationship before, so let me ask you how long did the honeymoon last? How long before familiarity set in and you became comfortable with each other, before dirty socks and morning breath stopped bothering you. Exactly, not too long. So, as we go through this passage, remember that at this end of history we know the rest of the story and try not to judge the other guys to harshly. Even though I am going to hammer Peter pretty good, I recognize that he is still the one that Jesus chose to build the church, our church and happily, they did eventually get it. Now that we have the right frame of mind let’s look at one of the more important passages in my opinion in the entire bible, only His birth and His final days are more significant to humanity. Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. [9:2a] Jesus did not take everyone only those three, and remember who those three are, Peter who would build the church, James Jesus’ brother who would be the first bishop of Jerusalem, and John the beloved who would write the Revelation, the only disciple that was not martyred. He did not take Matthew, Mark, or Luke. He took the three men who would be instrumental in the creation of the church. They were to witness Jesus in all his Glory “And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them”. [2:2b,3] the Greek word used here for transfigured is metamorphoō it means to change in appearance, literally Jesus’ appearance became something else. His clothes became dazzling white, beyond anything possible at that time. Both Matthew and Luke report that His face was changed and that it shone like the sun. “And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus”. [2:4] The bringer of Gods law and the defender of Gods law, together with the Son of God in all his heavenly Glory. We are talking about heaven on earth, when we pray on earth as it is in heaven, this is what we mean. The Messiah reigning on earth, this is what we are waiting for. This passage is called the Transfiguration and it’s a snapshot of the second coming of Christ and the redemption of mankind, but I think it’s also not the first transfiguration. The first was when God came to us as a man, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.’”) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known”. [John 1:1-18] Now is when I need you to remember what I said in the beginning, now is the time to remember that these three men disciples of Christ and pillars of the church to come are in fact just as human as you or I. Peter the rock of the church given the opportunity to see the coming Glory of the messiah, God incarnate and the two greatest historical  figures in Judaism, I want you to put yourself in his shoes and ask yourself what would you do? What would I do? I want to believe that I could come up with something better than Peter, but that would be my pride talking. “Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” [9:5-7] You have just seen your friend, your teacher, your confidante transformed before your eyes into the Messiah that you acknowledged as such, talking to the two greatest men in your history on the side of a mountain and the voice of God confirms him as his Son.  Tells you to listen to him and you say, hey bro, this is cool, I think we should throw up a few tents and kick back for a while, figure this all out. Now I am paraphrasing that, call it the gospel according to me, but what would you do? And then “Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them anymore, but only Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. [9:8,9] Poof…all gone. No more glory, no more Moses, Elijah, or God. Just Jesus, just an ordinary man, once again your Rabbi, your friend. His glory covered until his resurrection. Four men coming down the mountain. One with surety and three perhaps a little unsteady. What would you do? What would you believe? Would you believe? Would you have faith? Would you? It’s easy to look back with all the answers, we can be proud of our faith because we never witnessed the miracles and still we believe. We like to say that all you need is a personal relationship with Jesus and I believe that it is a fundamental need to have that relationship, but if you had been there on the mountain with Jesus had been witness to the Glory of the Son of Man. What would you do? Would you be terrified, would you praise his name, would you pitch a tent, would you walk away, or would you glorify God? Because Jesus will come again. We will see him as Peter, James, and John did either here on earth or in heaven. We know how the story ends so the real question I think is not what would you do? But, what will you do?

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