Is that all there is? Is what we see all there is? What if there is more? What if Jesus has more to show us - a greater vision, a grander view?
The Transfiguration moment of Jesus with his three disciples is our lesson in more. It is the moment Jesus’ appearance changed from his earthly state to a heavenly one, revealing a grander view of who he was and what he was about.
With only a few days before the beginning of Lent, this is a good weekend to consider what it is we see when we look at Jesus; when we consider his life, what he taught, and whether or not we see God’s intended glory and truth, or simply see what we want to see.
Jesus had been with the disciples for three years. They had traveled many a miles together, walked many a dusty roads, witnessed many a miracles, and heard many a teachings. They saw with their own eyes what Jesus was about, how he treated people, taught people, changed people, challenged people, and loved people.
AND YET they still struggled to answer Jesus’ question “Who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:15) They still wrestled to grasp the kind of suffering and death Jesus told them he had to endure. (Matthew 16:21) They could not see beyond what they were looking at to comprehend God’s grander view made manifest in Jesus. They saw what they wanted to see.
I ask you people of God, are we any different? Do we see beyond what we are looking at? Beyond the categories and boxes we put things and people in? Beyond the labels we so easily attach to define one another or keep others in their place? Beyond any number of political, religious, spiritual, racial, mental, sexual, or mental issues that scare us, challenge us, or make us uncomfortable? Perhaps we are not so different after all, for we often see what we want to see, and fail to see beyond what we are looking at.
That is why we need the transfiguration moment today as much as those early followers. Jesus knew what waited for him and his followers. He knew they had not yet grasped the bigger picture of who he was, why he walked among them, and what he wanted for them after he was no longer physically with them.
So imagine for a moment, you are in the initial steps of the biggest, most breathtaking yet horrific journey of your life, and the people closest to you don’t fully understand the weight of what you are facing or what you are about to endure. I think I would want them to come with me and get away for a time of sharing, remembering, reflection and prayer. And that’s what Jesus did. I think Jesus did this at some level for his disciples and for himself, because he needed the support of his friends. He needed them to see the bigger truth of his identity and authority.
He also needed God in a way we may never fully comprehend. He needed to make absolutely sure, it was God’s will for him to continue to Jerusalem. This was not the first time Jesus took time to get away, pray and fill his tank with the assurance of God. Now more than ever, he had to know with every ounce of his being that God would be with him every step of the way. It didn’t hurt in this case, that Moses and Elijah showed up as well. Moses the greatest of all the law-givers and Elijah,he greatest of all the prophets. It was as if the great figures in Israel’s history came to Jesus, as he was setting out on the last and greatest adventure into the unknown, and told him to go on.
On the slopes of Mt. Hermon, the disciples see the glory of the Lord Jesus like never before. They hear God speaking truth over Jesus, claiming him as God’s beloved son, in whom God delights. But more importantly, they hear God say, “listen to him.” It is important to note that the Greek word used here is not your casual, “hey you might want to hear what he has to say.” It is a direct command from God. Much like at his baptism, this is the moment, Jesus’ identity and authority are fully recognized.
This moment held power to open the eyes of these three disciples. To help them see beyond what was right in front of them.
God was giving the disciples the bigger picture to hold on to through the coming struggle and shame. The view from the top which was a view of triumph through the humiliation and a view of the crown beyond the Cross.
The experience on Mount Hermon gave the disciples what they needed to keep going even when they didn’t understand. Even when their fear and uncertainty, when all was said and done, they would remember what they saw that day, and it would give a new understanding of what Jesus taught them and modeled for them. It would give them clarity to love the way Jesus loved even others chose not to, and passion to go about life in a way that brought hope, peace, comfort and joy to others even when what they saw said otherwise. It would give them vision to create the kind of community Jesus showed them was possible regardless of what their eyes were seeing around them. The transfiguration gave them the realization and truth to see the glory of Jesus and the big picture of God’s love.
The same truth God has for us when we look beyond what we see. When we look beyond opposing thought and opinion and find common ground. When we look beyond the labels, categories, and issues and see the actual person. When we look beyond anger, judgement and prejudice and see the gift of other. When we look beyond disputes and divisive action and see the need for one another. When we look beyond perceptions, assumptions, and limitations and see God’s grace, goodness, and glory. When we are willing to go up that mountain, and see what such God designed glory, we may very well fall on our face in fear and trembling as well - for such glory is a sight to behold.
Lent has begun. It is a season for followers of Jesus to reflect on their spiritual walk, take inventory of their faith, and surrender that which keeps them from fully experiencing the abundance of Jesus’ sacrifice. We cannot do that dear church if we do not recognize God’s grander view for us - as individuals, as family, as a church, as community, as people sharing life on this planet together. We cannot fully experience the glory of God if we do not look beyond our assumptions, beyond our ego, our agenda, our criticism, our fear and our shame and see vulnerability, connection and the common ground found in Jesus. Jesus, who stands with his hand on our shoulders saying, “Do not be afraid.”
I pray as we step into this season of growth and glory, we will recognize and confess where we fall short. I pray we will let go of our need as Christians to be right at the expense of hurting others. I pray we are willing to offer and receive forgiveness. I pray we will see beyond what we are looking at.
May it be so.
Pastor Jenothy Irvine