I Can See Clearly Now
(Luke 9: 28-43)
One of mine and Teresa’s favorite past times is hiking. A couple of years ago, after training for a year, we walked down into the Grand Canyon and back out, spending two nights at Phantom Ranch. It was a great experience and we are now looking forward to our upcoming vacation in Moab where we’ll spend a couple of days hiking at Arches and Canyonlands. But I will have to say that our favorite hikes involve climbing to the peaks of mountains. We’re not official mountain climbers and have no plans for Mt. Everest, but we do enjoy the mountains that Washington State has to offer. I would say our two favorite hikes are Hurricane Hill in Clallam County and Artist Point at Mt. Baker. The hikes are exhilarating and the vistas breath-taking. We like to take a snack with us and just sit, take in the view and marvel at God’s handiwork.
I don’t know what the attraction is in climbing to the top of a high hill or a mountain. Some do it, like we did in the Grand Canyon, just to say you did it. Others do it to clear their mind, to be closer to God, and to maybe see things just a little clearer, devoid of all the worldly things that cloud our vision at the bottom of the mountain.
I think that’s what Jesus liked to do when he felt the walls closing in on him. He would go to a garden to pray at night or to some secluded place where he could be free of distractions, especially now as his ministry was expanding and word about his teachings and miracles was spreading throughout the area drawing large crowds.
Jesus was slowly moving towards the culmination of his earthly ministry and things were ramping up. The Pharisees were putting pressure on him and trying to devise ways to trap him, so they could accuse him of heresy and put an end to this ministry that was upsetting their status quo. Jesus had just previously said that if anyone would come after him, they must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow him. It was an all or nothing call to action. It was starting to get serious.
In our scripture reading for today, we learn that eight days later, Jesus took Peter, John and James with him to a mountain top to pray. I’m sure the three disciples thought to themselves that this was an extreme measure just to pray, but by this time they had come to realize questioning how and why Jesus did things was an exercise in futility. We are told that as Jesus was praying in earnest to God about what lay ahead, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightening. The disciples observed two men, Elijah and Moses talking with Jesus in all their glorious splendor. They (Jesus, Moses and Elijah) talked about what was about to happen in Jerusalem, his departure, and the fulfillment of all that had been foretold. The long-promised coming of the Messiah. The three disciples who had been very sleepy, probably from their hike up the mountain, upon witnessing this, became fully awake as they looked on with amazement at what they were seeing. It was incomprehensible. They were so overwhelmed they proposed that they erect three shelters for Jesus, Moses and Elijah and never leave. Can you blame them? Who would want to go back down the mountain to all that turmoil in the world as they knew it. As this was happening, they were enveloped in a cloud and heard a voice saying, This is my son, whom I have chosen, listen to him. When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was now alone. We are told that they kept what they had seen to themselves, telling no one.
Jesus had taken the three disciples up the mountain to show them who he really was that he was not merely a great prophet as some were saying, but the Son of God. The appearance of Moses represented the Law and Elijah represented the prophets. The transfiguration on the mountain was a coming together of the three as God proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah, and that he was now speaking for God.
As great as it would have been to stay on the mountain with Jesus, there were people down below who needed ministering. They needed to return to the real world and get to work, the work of helping people with their problems. Ministering to the last, the least and the lost. Now that they could see clearly, they needed to put their transformed faith into action. So, we learn that the next day, when they came down from the mountain, they were met by a large crowd. A man in the crowd called out for Jesus to take a look at his son, his only child, as he had been seized by a spirit that was constantly tormenting him. The man said he had begged the disciples to drive out the spirit, but they couldn’t. Jesus had the man bring his son to him and as he approached the demon threw the boy to the ground. Jesus rebuked the evil spirit and healed the boy. The same encounter is recorded in the ninth chapter of Mark where you can sense Jesus’ frustration over people flocking to him with all their problems. It’s like, I know you have some pressing needs, but I’m here to offer you so much more. But Jesus took the time to engage the desperate father whose only child meant the world to him. Jesus inquired as to how long the boy had been possessed. The man asked Jesus to take pity on them and to help his son. Jesus said: Everything is possible for him who believes. The man exclaimed that he did believe and asked that he be helped to overcome his unbelief. The demon was expelled, as the disciples wondered why they couldn’t cast out the demon themselves. Jesus responded, This kind can come out only by prayer. The point being that prayer is the key that unlocks faith in our lives. Prayer demonstrates our reliance on God as we humbly invite him to fill us with faith and power.
Being a disciple of Jesus Christ means putting aside your selfish desires, shouldering your “cross” every day, and following him. For believers today, it means understanding that we belong to him and that we live to serve his purposes. As you have been transfigured, and your life has been transformed, and can see clearly now, are you willing to deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow him? Anything less is not discipleship. It’s merely superficial lip service. Will you heed the words of God when he said: This is my son, whom I have chosen, listen to him.
Please pray with me.
Our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. On Jesus’ blood and righteousness, we put away our selfish desires and shoulder our cross every day, following where he leads us. We have turned our lives over to Christ and we live to serve his purposes. Our lives have been transformed and we can see clearly now our purpose in living a life in Christ serving God the Father, secure in the knowledge that on Christ the solid rock we stand and all other ground is sinking sand. On Christ we stand. Amen.