Posted on Sun, Feb 10, 2013
February 10, 2013
Gospel Text: Luke 9:28-36 – “Only Jesus Remained”
28 Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus* took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30 Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. 31 They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake,* they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33 Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings,* one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah’— not knowing what he said. 34 While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. 35 Then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen;* listen to him!’ 36 When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.
Open your Bibles to Luke Chapter 9 and take a look at those “sayings” Jesus told his disciples eight days earlier. Luke’s purpose in writing his Gospel is to teach Jews and Gentiles alike who Jesus was, as the Messiah to Israel and the Savior to the Gentiles. Chapter 9 is full of some heavy experiences as well as teachings. Even a talented teacher or rabbi is not able to cast out demons or feed thousands of people with a few fish and loaves of bread… but Jesus was able to do those kinds of things; and he was sure to involve His disciples were involved in each of these miracles. Jesus also told them that if they were going to be his disciples and “follow him,” they must carry no purse, no money, no extra tunic, only trust that the Lord will take care of you through the people you meet and have ears to hear and eyes to see. He did warn them that is they were to be one of Jesus’ disciples they would have to take up their own cross and carry it. A cross to the disciples was not a pretty accessory hanging on a necklace, it was only known as a tool of execution for those who would be dissenters of Rome. After they heard Jesus tell them these difficult lessons, they really wanted to know more about this man who simply said, “Follow me,” and their hearts could not resist his call and they left their old way of life and began a totally new life following Jesus. “Who are you?” they wondered in their hearts, until Jesus, reading their minds and feeling their troubled hearts, asked them himself, ‘Who do the crowds say that I am?’ 19They answered, ‘John the Baptist; but others, Elijah; and still others, that one of the ancient prophets has arisen.’ 20He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Peter answered, ‘The Messiah* of God.’
With his own mouth, Peter stated what was correct; Jesus was their Messiah, the Chosen One of God. And in order to prove to them that He was the Messiah, Jesus had to fulfill the promise of forgiveness and salvation. So He tells them point blank what was in store for them, what they will witness after they arrive in Jerusalem, 22saying, ‘The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.’ Do you think they really heard what Jesus was saying?
For you, after you have been told something that either you didn’t want to hear, or something that you certainly didn’t want to believe but was the truth, what do you do? Where do you go?
For me, I have spent many hours in hospital chapels alone with my thoughts and prayers. After a traumatic experience, I know I will be soon be thrust back into the drama or tragedy, so I take a short mental retreat, cry if I have to, wipe my face, and go right back into the situation that I was called to deal with… I don’t have a choice, that is what I am called to do, and I always trust the Jesus is walking with me, or leading me back into the situation no matter how bad it is, and that promise truly comforts me.
It took eight days, for Jesus to go up onto a mountain after telling the disciples all about how He was to fulfill his ministry. Luke doesn't tell us what they did for eight days. Maybe the disciples needed eight days to let the message about what will happen after they arrive in Jerusalem sink into their hearts and minds. But one day, Jesus takes three of his main disciples, Peter, James and John up a mountain for a very special lesson. Jesus would one day build His church upon Peter, the “Rock.” John was known as the “beloved,” and one day he would be charged with taking care of Jesus’ mother, Mary. James known for his zealous piety would be the first of the twelve to be martyred. This was the “inner circle.” And even though they wouldn’t fully understand the ramifications of what Jesus had just taught them, and what he is about to show them, one day, after Jesus sends them the Holy Spirit, only then would they begin to understand that Jesus was truly the Messiah, the Savior to the world; and only then would they begin the mission to change the world by preaching the Gospel of Christ.
Jesus ‘takes them “up onto the mountain.” Whenever we hear about Jesus, or a prophet, going up a mountain, that should be an indicator that GOD IS ABOUT TO DO SOMETHING AMAZING! Whenever we hear that Jesus or a prophet is going “up onto a mountain,” we need to get our hearts and minds prepared. The three mortals witness Jesus’ appearance to turn a dazzling white and then suddenly, Luke tells us that they saw Moses and Elijah standing with Jesus. How did they know it was Moses and Elijah? Did they have their trusty “Hello, my name is: Moses” name tag? But that is not the point; Luke is writing this Gospel FOR YOU! Luke is making sure you know who is standing and talking with Jesus.
This text is for the reader, Luke wants us to know who Jesus is… and who is he? Do you recall in Matthew 5:17 when Jesus says, ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.’
Remember, we receive the law through Moses when he went up Mt. Sinai, and Elijah was one of the greatest prophets who was saved from death by a fiery chariot sent by God. Both, of these guys are very dramatic characters; they represent the Law and the Prophets that Jesus came to fulfill through the cross.
The three are talking together, what could they be talking about? They are talking about how Jesus will fulfill all that the Law and the Prophets were trying to teach the world through this little group of ‘stiff necked people’ called Israel. From their story about God’s faithfulness, and God’s ability to save ones’ own people, from Jesus death and resurrection, our relationship with God would be reconciled from now until eternity! They were talking about Jesus’ “DEPARTURE.” The word for ‘departure’ in the scripture is, “EXODUS!”
They were talking about Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension! And they were purposefully having this discussion in front of the three central disciples so that, after they had received the Holy Spirit, they would know exactly whom they would be preaching about as the Messiah to the Jews and the Savior to the Gentiles. With the Transfiguration, the disciples were able to put the entire message of the scripture together through the words and actions of Jesus, the Chosen One.
Then, to add color and a bit of humor to the story, just as Moses and Elijah appeared to be leaving, Peter feels that this amazing event must go on and on! “It can’t end! We were just about to have the greatest Bible Study in history! Can you imagine attending a personal Bible Study with Jesus, Elijah and Moses as the leaders? This is huge!!!!”
So he tempts them to stay by offering to build them some dwellings so that they can all camp out up on top of the mountain, cook some s’mores, eat some beans and weenies and tell great Bible stories… (Come on Mr. Moses, tell me about the plagues again! Especially the ones with all the bugs and stuff!) Peter wanted to anything to stay with his two Bible Super Heroes as long as they WOULDN’T HAVE TO GO BACK DOWN THE MOUNTAIN TO ALL THOSE HURTING, WHINING, AND DEMANDING PEOPLE!!!
As usual, Peter didn’t get it. What was Jesus’ purpose? Why was He born at all? Jesus’ name should give it away; Jesus’ name means, “One is able to save one’s own people.”
Who is the object of God’s grace and mercy? Are they up on the mountain? No, they were down in the valleys.
And with that, a voice comes from the cloud that has now encircled them and says, “This is my Son, my Chosen (“Christ” means, ‘anointed’ or ‘chosen) listen to him!”
Can you imagine what God’s voice would have sounded like? Was it booming? Was it angry at Peter’s silly response? All we know is that we have heard this message before… when was it that we heard a voice from the sky announce to the people, “This is my Son, the Beloved,* with whom I am well pleased.” It was at Jesus’ baptism, when God made it clear who Jesus was and how God felt about Jesus…
At that moment, only Jesus stood before them. I tend to picture the three disciples look very much like three terrified stooges cowering before Jesus, but that is just my imagination…
They didn’t stay on the mountain long. Soon Jesus was leading them back down the mountain to return to the people. They had much work to do. I can’t imagine there were many words spoken between the disciples as they trudged down the mountain. But I bet their minds were spinning. Even though Jesus ordered them not to tell anyone what they had just witnessed, I would bet that they couldn’t wait to sit with the other nine disciples and tell them all about what they experienced up on the mountain.
Open your Bibles back up to Luke Chapter 9, what kind of reception did Jesus and his disciples receive when they got back to the people? Was it a banquet or potluck to welcome them back after their journey? Were they able to stay in some nice soft beds and a few days to rest before they continued their journey to Jerusalem? Nope, it was back into the world of pain and sorrow, and a world desperately in need of a savior. A desperate man comes running to Jesus begging Jesus to save his son who appears to have been possessed by a demon and not even Jesus’ other disciples could help the young man.
There is no hesitation in Jesus to show compassion for this man and Jesus casts out the demon. More than a demon, Jesus casts out fear, and the young man is healed. No tests, no applications, Jesus just responds to the fear and hopelessness immediately through grace and mercy. The only response the people can offer is to be ‘astounded at the greatness of God.’ How appropriate.
When we call out to God, Jesus does not stay on the mountain in heaven… rather, when we call out to God, Jesus comes to us and remains with us now until the end of the age. Amen.
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