Monday, March 10, 2014


Mat 17:1-9
The story of the transfiguration is just a bit strange. Jesus takes only His most trusted friends. Then He instructs them not to tell anyone until after He rises from the dead. It is a special glimpse of the supernatural just for them. His face shines like the sun. His clothes become amazingly white. It is just this wow moment. Then it keeps happening. Moses and Elijah show up and start talking to Jesus. They don't want to go. Peter makes a comment about building 3 tents. Most likely that is just expressing a desire to stay on this mountain a long time. If that is the case it would be quite ironic because it seems Peter's suggestion precipitates the end of the vision. A cloud comes, then a voice, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him." They are terrified at the cloud and the voice.

Then it is over.They go from being overwhelmed by the amazing presence of God to being alone with Jesus. There is a real emphasis on that. They saw no one else but Jesus alone. He touches them. He speaks to them. He calms there fears. Still the supernatural stuff is gone. Jesus is just His normal human-looking self. It is a bit of a letdown. They have all this amazing new data and no hard evidence to back it up. Who is going to believe them? Are they going to believe it themselves?

A lot of Christians can remember a mountain top experience. A time when the reality of God was so clear and so obvious. Maybe it was on a retreat. Maybe we experienced an amazing answer to prayer. Maybe we just had a moment where we knew God was speaking to us. Whatever it was it is something that happened and strengthened our faith.

The trouble is they end. Often we don't have any objective evidence that what we experienced was real. We know we experienced God but we kind of wonder if people will think we are crazy. Sometimes you are wondering that yourself. Maybe I am just nuts enough to make this all up in my mind.

This is why there was so much emphasis on being left alone with Jesus. He is all they had but He is enough. What they saw on that mountain is still true. He is still the Son of God. He still has the face that shines like the sun and the clothes that are dazzling white. In fact that picture of Jesus is just as true and just as real as the ordinary man that presents Himself to the world every day. We like to say we get back to the real world when these experiences are over. Like the mountaintop experience was somehow not real. It is real. We need to hang onto that.

So what about us? We are not even left with Jesus. He has ascended into heaven. What are we left with? The church. The same thing we always had. Still it is enough. The teachings, the sacraments, the saints, the community, everything that the church is. That is enough. In some ways it looks just ordinary much like Jesus looked just ordinary. That means we need faith. We need to walk down from the mountain and declare that we have experienced God. Maybe not right away. Jesus suggests they wait. Still they do tell the story. Many believe it. Many do not. You always get both responses.

This happened just before they had to witness the crucifixion and the resurrection. Jesus knows they need something to strengthen their faith. We like to declare we don't need miracles. We just believe based on God's word. If that is true then that is wonderful. Yet if we really follow Jesus right to the cross we probably need all the help we can get. That is when we have these mountain-top experiences.

It is a kind of pride to say you don't need them. The say you are somehow above miracles. It is a rationalist pride. I am not one of those wacko Christians. I am a good solid thinker. Yet the bible is full of wacky stories. The central story of the incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection is the wackiest of all. 

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