How Do You See Jesus?
We’ve all woken up to change in our lives, and our world. Maybe some news regarding our health, our relationships, our investments or our relationships. We’ve all gotten up that next morning wondering what just happened and what do I do now? Sometimes it was change we wanted and others times it was change we never wished for or wanted. Sometimes we experienced the change as positive and good. Other times the change was painful and a loss of something we valued or wanted. Whether we see it as good or bad, desired or unwanted, change always comes with consequences, challenges, and questions. Every one of us have stories about the changes we have experienced, the changes that are happening in your life right now, or the changes that you hope for or that you fear happening. How do we live in the midst of change? What can we hold onto when it seems the world around us as well as within us is changing?
Jesus “ was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.’ When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Rise, and have no fear.’ And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, ‘Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.’”
~ Matthew 17:1-9
Matthew 17 starts with Jesus taking Peter, James and John up high on a mountain and something spectacular takes place. You have heard the expression “mountain top experiences.” It is often used by many to describe those monumental experiences in their life of faith, the ones that are instrumental in shaping who we are or pivotal in our understanding of God. When the Bible says someone is going up a mountain, something is about to happen.
Now we read that Jesus “ was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.” The Greek word here for transfigured is ‘metamorphoo’ where we get our word “metamorphosis.” Here then we have a complete change in the appearance or form of Jesus in the presence of the disciples. He now was brighter than the light, revealing His true glory to them.
This physical change is in part what has earned the title of “the Transfiguration.” It signifies that in this story, things change. Not in small, subtle ways, but in transforming ways that alter our very appearance. Some of you today may need to hear that hope! THINGS CHANGE!!! The Transfiguration prompts us to consider those life-changing experiences in our own lives, the mountaintop moments in which we, too, have experienced God. Or, perhaps those times when we have been like the disciples, observers of the mountaintop moments of others in ways that have inspired or changed us.
Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ Peter is quick to respond to the incredible nature of this event, and offers to build tents so that they can stay there just a bit longer. He wants to hold onto the moment. But mountaintop moments are not meant to stay on the mountaintop.
He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.’ When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified.
One of the things I am aware of the midst of change is how many voices begin to speak. Some are outside of me and some are from within. There are voices chirping about what is happening and what should be done, voices of judgment, voices of second guessing, voices of fear. There are voices of self-doubt, self-criticism, and all the “would’ves, should’ves, and could’ves. Some voices tell us to run and hide, and others tell us to fight and resist. Some voices ask questions and want explanations. Other voices deny what is happening, blame, or declare it to be the end of the world.
So many voices cry out for attention. Not every voice, however, is helpful or worth listening to. Some voices may sound sweet but they are not good for us. The story of the transfiguration says there is only one voice to listen to. The voice of God speaks from the bright cloud overshadowing Peter, James, and, John, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him.” What if in the midst of change we sought to hear and listen to that one voice, the voice of Jesus? What if we kept our ears open to what he is saying in our life and world today?
Jesus is always speaking a word larger and more powerful than all the other voices. In the midst of change Jesus speaks a word of life, a word of hope, a word of forgiveness, a word of mercy, a word of beauty, a word of generosity, a word of courage, a word of love, a word of healing. Jesus speaks a word to and for you and me. Are we listening to that word, to his voice?
But Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Rise, and have no fear.’ And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.
Matthew tells us that the disciples “fell to the ground and were overcome by fear.” Jesus touches them and says, “Get up.” But it’s more than just “get up.” A more literal translation would be something like “be raised up,” “be aroused from the sleep of death,” or maybe even “be resurrected.” Jesus comes to us in whatever circumstances of change we find ourselves, touches us, and says, “Get up, be raised” It’s the promise that event-though life has changed, it has not ended.
And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, ‘Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.’”
And what really may be not more than a few minutes’ time, probably not even an hour’s time, Jesus is leading these three disciples back down from the mountain top into the valley and once they’re there they will face head on all the realities of life in a fallen world. There’s a demon to cast out and that reminds them of the reality of daily, spiritual warfare. Their friends are upset because their best efforts have been unsuccessful. They’re faced with the need to understand that prayer is a work and that much prayer is required, much labor in prayer is required to do the work that they are called to do. Then there’s always nagging, persistent unbelief that’s always there - it’s always gnawing, it’s always leading away, it’s always letting us know are we really sure - causing us to ask the question. Grim realities; hard realities; real living that pushes thoughts of the mountain top far, far away to what happened there seems like a dream.
But you see, that’s the point of the transfiguration. Life in the world as we live it every day is not the whole story. There’s a reality beyond what we see or recognize and it’s beyond all words.
Listen to him. Be raised up. Do not be afraid. Jesus wasn't the only one who changed on the mountaintop. Peter, James, and John did. Maybe their eyes were opened and their seeing changed.
Jesus comes to us in whatever circumstances of change we find ourselves, touches us, and says, “Get up, be raised” It’s the promise that though life has changed, it has not ended. Somehow new life is hidden in the midst of change, even when cannot see it or do not believe it. God uses the changing circumstances of our lives and world to bring us into new life. I’m not suggesting that God directly causes change to come upon us. I’m suggesting that God never wastes a chance to draw out new life.
I don’t know what changes you are dealing with. Maybe it’s in your marriage, or with you children. Maybe it’s the death of a loved one. Maybe it’s about your health, your age, your physical or mental well-being. Maybe it concerns your work, your job, your income. Maybe it’s a dream or plans that didn’t work out. Maybe life is going exactly like you want. Maybe you are on a road to recovery and well being. Maybe everything has fallen in place and for the first time you felt alive.
God gives us signs and inspiration for the journey ahead. Change. Maybe the transfiguration story has something to teach and show us about how to live in the midst of change. Change, whether on the mountain top of life or in the valley of the shadow of death is a reality for all of us.
~ Pastor Gerry Michalski | Lead Pastor