Be Transformed!: Sermon Matthew 17:1-9
Lord, open our hearts and minds by the power of your Holy Spirit, that as the Scriptures are read and your Word is proclaimed, we may hear with joy what you say to us today. Amen.
I want us to do a little mental exercise this morning. I want you to remember that perfect spot. A place you might have seen on vacation, perhaps at the beach or in the mountains. Perhaps it is a special place on your own property that is sacred to you. I want you to close your eyes and place yourself there. That perfect spot. There are no bills to pay, no doctor’s appointments, no stress. The sun is softly kissing your face and warm breeze brushes your hair. We all have this place. This is a place that you feel at one with nature, at peace with yourself, and somehow closer to God. Are you there? Do you remember? When you where in that place, perhaps it was only for a moment, did you want to leave? Did you want to stay there forever, locked in that perfect place in that perfect moment?
This is where Peter, James, and John found themselves in our story from Matthew this morning. They climbed a mountain with Jesus and sat with him on the mountaintop. This was already a privilege for them because Jesus had chosen them for his inner circle, his VIP entourage so to speak. They were already excited and they were in anticipation of what was to come. Then it happened. Jesus was transfigured; the Greek might be better translated to metamorphosed in to something glorious. His face shone like the Sun, his clothes were a dazzling, brilliant white, and he stood there in his glory that was to come. Peter, James, and John had to shade their eyes from the brilliance. Then Moses and Elijah, the two biggest people in the Hebrew Bible stood with him and were discussing something with Jesus. Peter wanted to stay in that moment; it was like nothing he had ever seen before. He told Jesus that it was good for them to be there and that he would build three shelters for him, Moses, and Elijah. Peter wanted to stay there on the mountaintop, but he couldn’t just as we cannot stay in our perfect place.
These perfect moments in time are just that…moments. This glimpse that these three inner circle disciples saw was only temporary. We don’t know exactly how long it was, but we might assume that it was only a few minutes and then it was over, back to reality. It was in the past, but Peter wanted to stay there in the past, it was safe, it was beautiful, it was perfect. Peter, James, and John could not stay in on the mountain and we cannot stay in our perfect place for too long. We cannot dwell in the past no matter how perfect and beautiful the moment. That doesn’t seem like good news, it is disappointing. There is good news that just as those perfect beautiful moments pass temporarily, so to do the ugly, hurtful moments. The moments that we or someone we love are in physical or emotional pain only last temporarily. We cannot dwell on the past no matter how beautiful or how ugly they might be. Jesus tried to teach this to the disciples as they were coming down the mountain. We must not dwell on the past, but be mindful of the present and hopeful for future.
Why? Why is this, why can’t we live in the past? One reason is because there is work to be done here in the present. Let’s go back to our story from Matthew. Jesus was speaking with Moses and Elijah; we don’t know what they were talking about. Perhaps they were laying out the plan for Jesus. Perhaps, they were telling Jesus what he must do in order to receive glory. This might be the case, but probably not because earlier in Matthew Jesus reveals to the disciples what must take place. That he must be arrested, beaten, and killed and on the third day be raised. It does not seem that this is what Moses and Elijah are talking about.
Perhaps Elijah and Moses were offering Jesus encouragement for the hard road ahead. Jesus knew what had to happen, Jesus knew God’s plan and we can only imagine what was going through Jesus’ mind. Is this what I really have to do? Is there not other way? In this moment, Jesus got a taste of future glory along with the three disciples. This was the reward at the end of the path, but Jesus path went through
We don’t want to think about Jesus having a choice. We want to believe that Jesus came down and followed the pathway of God without pause or question. But if we believe that Jesus was fully man as well as fully divine then we must believe that Jesus had a choice and a difficult choice at that. He could take the easy path or he could take the difficult path of God. Jesus could have said, “I can’t do it, it is too hard, too painful.” But the love that he had for us, all of us, trumped the difficulty of the path of God that went through
Our paths are before us as well. Beware the easy path because it might end up being a trap. Often the path that God has for us is rocky and difficult, just as it was for Jesus. We can’t stand still we have to follow a path. We can’t just come to the safety and sanctuary of this church to talk about God. We have to follow God’s path, go out into the world and spread the love of God. It is the same path that Jesus followed. We have to tell the people we meet along the path that Jesus loved us so much that he chose the path that went through
This Transfiguration was just a taste of what is to come. It was a sample of the goodness of what we can expect. If you have ever been to Costco, Sam’s Club, or sometimes even Wal-Mart they have these stations giving out free samples of things they are trying to sell. We have a taste in this story of our glory as well as Jesus’ glory this is because when Jesus went to the cross of us we get to share in his glory. We get to share in the glory of Christ.
The Transfiguration put Jesus on a new path. Moses and Elijah were encouraging Jesus to follow the plan that God had made for him. As he came down from that mountain he was more resolute and determined than ever. He entered into
Let us pray…
Grant, O Lord,
that what has been said with our lips we may believe in our hearts,
and that what we believe in our hearts we may practice in our lives;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.