The Transfiguration tells us who is dying on the cross and who's image you are being formed into and who it is that you eat in the Lord's Supper.
Every once in awhile when traveling I like to grab a memento or artifact from a location I am visiting and want to remember how good it was to be there. Whenever we would travel to Mexico my grandparents would always buy the Mexican gum from the poor kids in the streets chic-le. I never really liked the gum because it wasn’t as sweet and full of artificial coloring as our American gums. Every time though we went down there we always had the chic-le.
Now when I see that gum, I’m immediately taken back to those trips in Mexico and all the memories. It was good to be there. I still don’t like the gum so much, but it’s chewable in a pinch.
Today Jesus gives us, Peter, James and John a memento, an artifact, a souvenir of sorts, “he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.” But what trip were they about to embark on and why would they need this memento?
The Transfiguration of Jesus is the memento for the disciples because Jesus is about to look anything but godly. Jesus is about to suffer at the hands of men and die for sinners. Jesus will not look like any sort of god we might want to follow. He will bleed. He will be scorned. He will die, naked and alone.
Would you like to follow this god? Is it good to be there with him? Is this a trip you would like to go on with the disciples? We know the end of the story. We know Jesus is raised, but consider what they saw. What would they take from Good Friday and the Saturday that followed?
Their only memento or souvenir was certain death themselves. They will hide to save their own lives. No matter how glorious life is sometimes even seeing miracles is not enough to sustain your faith.
Life this side of heaven will never be perfect but every once in a while we see glimmers of joy. God many times in our lives peels back and gives us a reminder of what his promises are. Every so often maybe on vacation or a day when you realize how blessed you really are. A good day at work. A sudden realization that we are blessed by God beyond measure and what did we do to deserve these things?
Every so often God gives a peak, we see that our kids are truly blessings. Our spouses are a great helpmate to us. Even folks we sometimes disagree with, there are moments when all in life is great. Our Lord is on his way to his cross and he gives Peter, James and John a peak into his promise that he is truly God.
Peter of course is willing to speak up. Peter is like the one in the tour group always wanting to impress the tour guide with his knowledge and dedication to the subject at hand. At the top of the mountain Peter isn’t ready for the trip to continue, “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 knows the world down on the bottom of the mountain is not as good. Peter wants to stay. Can you blame him?
Cant we stay a little longer Lord? That last day on vacation or the last day of summer and there looms the next day. Dad, can we stay here on vacation forever? Our Lord will not stay on the mountain and neither will Peter. They both need to pick up their crosses and lose their lives. Only then will true glory be seen. Not with eyes that cry and lament. Eyes that see pain and suffering and fear the threats of politicians and wicked people but eyes that see by faith.
For in this life our sinful nature doesn’t want to journey with Jesus. Sure we like it when being a chrisitian is easy. When we don’t suffer. When it doesn’t cost us anything to faithful. But that is not Christianity. You are fooling yourself if you think picking up your cross and following Jesus means not having to swallow your pride and apologize to someone even when you know you are right.
It is foolishness to think life in this world will not come with heartache and difficult times. But does it have to be so hard sometimes? Yes. Yes it does. This is how God conforms you into the image of his son so you will learn to despise your sinfulness and this world, which is the kingdom of the devil and begin to see the glory that it is to lose your life for your neighbor and Christ.
I think we have fallen in love with the kingdom of the devil. We don’t want to face hardship because we don’t want to fall out of love with the devil’s kingdom. We’re like Peter, we’re afraid to live by faith. We’re afraid of coming off the mountain. We’re like children on vacation that suggest to mom and dad, “Hey let’s live here on the beach every day!” No. I’m sorry that’s not real. We are to pick up our crosses and follow Jesus.
But how can we desire to die to our selves when we think the devil is offering us life here in this fallen world? How will you die to yourself if you are in love with yourself?
So it is when God shows us little peaks into glory it so that we might see He will deliver to us so much more if we remain faithful. He who gives up his life will find it. Jesus had to come off the Mt. of Transfiguration because a glorious god who doesn’t pick up his cross doesn’t save us. The devil won’t die for you. Your sinful nature won’t die for your sins. They are content to leave you with your sins as long as you enjoy a few minutes in this fallen world. The transfiguration tells you who it is that is willing to die for you. It is God himself. The unapproachable light takes human flesh so that he might approach us and be killed for our love of self and the devil’s world. Jesus came born of Mary, it was no vacation but he picked up your sins as his own. The devil offered him everything but he would rather purchase you. And he did, with his own precious blood.
In the midst of what hurts us and causes to suffer here, Jesus is with us. Jesus doesn’t forsakeus. In a way the Transfiguration was a memento an artifact that reminded the disciples of something greater. The transfiguration was great but it was never meant to be the end all of how God desired his people to see him.
We can’t travel to the cross, we can’t go to the Mt. of Transfiguration, well I guess we could attempt to find the mountain but we can’t go back to the event. We can’t tour and witness the event. Peter now recognizes this in his epistle. He knows the Transfiguration can’t happen again. He knows the cross won’t happen again. We don’t need to recrucify nor reTransfigure JEsus. Peter says we have something more sure, “the word.” That’s where Peter directs us, the word of God.
This Sunday is the marking of the end of Epiphany and the notice that this Wed Lent begins. Today as you ponder the light of Christ consider also how you might fast this Lent. Following Lent is a spiritual discipline. A discipline of receiving righteousness from God. We often pick up things from the world in sin that make us less receptive to the Holy Spirit. Lenten fasting is an opportunity to fast from something so you might desire Jesus more.
Lent is a chance for you to let go of some of the souvenirs you’ve picked up from the devil’s kingdom and be forgiven. That Jesus might call you to his mountain here and put his body and blood in you. It is good to be with Jesus. It is good to remember all the souvenirs he gives us, baptism and his body and blood. These are not of this world but is Jesus reaching down to you forgiving you and saying, “Rise and have no fear.”
We long for the fleeting things of this world and here is Jesus, his body his blood, more than a faint memory but real presence. We desire and fight for our opinions and posessions more than JEsus and what does he do? HE forgives us with the most glorious gift, his body and blood. He strengthens us to stay faithful, he says rise and have no fear. He shines his love in us by cleansing us from all sin.
This is where other churches get the Lord’s supper wrong. They think it only a souvenir from a long ago memory, “Wouldn’t it be great if Jesus was here but he’s stuck in heaven.” No. The Lord’s Supper succeeds where every souvenir, memento fails. Jesus is actually here bringing the forgiveness of his cross to you. Jesus is here, the very same one who shines brighter than the sun. Jesus the bright and morning star is placed on your lips, his body and blood to strengthen you. His flesh concealed the mystery of the incarnation, the bread and wine conceal the mystery of his presence with us. So that you may daily hear him say, “Rise and have no fear.”