Transfiguration – We Have Seen His Glory
Watch the service
Read the sermon
Listen to Jesus’ Leaving
Show and tell never lasted. When we were children, at school, there was a time of the day called “show and tell.” You would bring an object from home and speak about it to the class. It was a great idea. But it had a problem. Humans are hard-wired with the desire not just to see from afar; but instead, to have and hold up close. And so I remember asking a classmate if I could “see” the toy he brought for show and tell. And he said, “you see with your eyes, not with your hands.” This morning, on a mountain top, God gives us his own show and tell session. But what Jesus shows us is worth far more than a toy or trinket from our homes. In Luke 9, we read: “28 About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. 29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. 30 Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. 31 They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:28–31 NIV11-GKE)
In the context right before this, Jesus had told his disciples that there were some of them standing there who would get to see the kingdom of God before they die. Eight days later this event happens. Jesus makes his prediction. And then heaven—at least a small part of heaven comes to Peter, James, and John. First of all, people arrive. There with Jesus are Moses and Elijah. Of all the people to have there, right there in front of their eyes for a sort of show and tell, Moses and Elijah would have been at the top of a top 10 requested list. Moses was there when the Red Sea was parted. Elijah was there at the showdown at Mt. Carmel, when the priests of Baal were defeated. Oh to hear them tell the story in in their own words!
So people arrive there on that mountain. But who else arrives? The persons of the Trinity arrive. There is Jesus. His face shines. His clothes flash. The glory that he hides, he now reveals a part of. And, as we’ll see, the Father in heaven is also there. What a show and tell! A small piece of heaven comes down to earth. People appear. And the persons of the Trinity appear. But what happens next? “32 Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. 33 As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what he was saying.)” (Luke 9:32–33 NIV11-GKE)
The people in heaven and the persons of the Trinity appear. And what is Peter’s reaction? He panics. He realizes that this is an amazing opportunity. But this moment could end at any time. And his fear becomes realized. Elijah and Moses were being separated from Jesus.1 And Peter’s time and moment to speak with them was leaving along with them. So Peter throws out an invitation that, no doubt, as soon as he said it, everyone realized it was inadequate. But what Peter says is a fact that we all need to wrestle with in our lives: time is a tragedy. Every since Adam and Eve fell into sin and dragged us with them, time is no longer our ally. It is our enemy. We don’t have enough of it. And we squander the time we do have. And the worst part is that time that is twisted and tortured by the fall into sin rob us of people.
Think, for example, of the mom whose son just graduated from High School. He goes to school a state or two away. And when he comes back home, she yearns to spend time with him as they did when he was a boy, watching shows and reading books together. But he comes home and spends time with his friends instead. Where did the time go? And how could she waste it? Or picture the teenage girl. She visits grandma a couple of times a year. And she loves grandma. But then grandma dies. And the Lord carries her to heaven. And the young woman thinks to herself: ‘where did the time go and why did I waste it?’ When we ask these sorts of questions, what Peter says begins to make perfect and clear sense. We have too little time. And it is all-too-easy to squander the time we have.
And my friends in Christ, here is where we need to pause and realize that the world around us can offer no solution to this problem. The eastern religions tell us to live in the present because when you die you will be reincarnated as a bug or a slug. The religion of macro-evolution tells us that we are all just stardust. And what we were made of we will return to when we die. And for just a moment, what the world preaches seems right and enticing. But what the world offers falls apart when you see what Peter sees. When people—real people enter the picture, that sermon they preach falls apart. For how can you live in the present, when you have no future? How can you see time tearing the people you love away from you and yet be content? That’s why what we hear next is so important to us: “34 While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and covered them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” 36 When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves and did not tell anyone at that time what they had seen.” (Luke 9:34–36 NIV11-GKE)
God, the Father appears in the cloud. And first of all, notice to what he does not say. He does not say, “Look at my son.” Instead, he tells Peter, James, and John to listen to his son—his chosen and beloved son. And what is it that they should listen to? Well, let’s back up and figure out what Moses and Elijah were talking to Jesus about. They were speaking to Jesus about his “leaving.”2 Shortly down the road Jesus there would be an “exodus.” Jesus would go out and away from his disciples to suffer and die alone, away from them. And in doing this he would pay for their sins. He would pay for their times when they did not appreciate the time they had or even worse, squandered it. And after he left his disciples to die, he would then leave this world to prepare a place for them in heaven.3
Can you begin to see why the Father says, “listen to my Son” instead of “look at him?” There will be a time for show and tell later on. There would be a day when they would be able to see up close and tangibly touch their risen Savior in heaven. But before they looked at him closely they needed to listen to him closely. They needed to listen to his leaving. For Jesus would leave them to pay for their sins. And he would leave them to prepare a place for them in heaven.
Let us, my dear friends in Christ, take our Father up on his invitation. Let us read, study, and ponder what Jesus says to us. For saying the future makes us into stardust and bugs and slugs gives people no hope and no help. But listening to Jesus does. We can have a restful present because we have a real future. And what does that real rest today look like? Jesus says: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matt. 6:34 NIV11-GKE)
I love how Jesus says this. In an almost snarky way, he lets us know that it’s not our job to worry about tomorrow. It’s tomorrow’s job to worry about itself. And on top of that, he lets us know that, yes, today has enough of its own evil to work and walk through.4
And so, my dear friends in Christ, today read and study God’s word. Today, see the moments of time you have not appreciated as you should have or squandered and confess them. Today, listen to Jesus’ leaving and what that means for you. Since Jesus left his disciples to die, your sins are paid for. Since Jesus left this world to return to heaven he will prepare a place for you. Live your life today, will all its evils and blessings. For for there will be a day when we can look at Jesus in his splendor and all those who have gone ahead of us. But today we listen to Jesus’ leaving. Amen.
1 “ⲇⲓⲁⲭⲱⲣⲓⲍⲉⲥⲑⲁⲓ” (Luke 9:33 GNT-ALEX)
2 “ⲉⲝⲟⲇⲟⲛ” (Luke 9:31 GNT-ALEX)
3 John 14
4 “ⲁⲣⲕⲉⲧⲟⲛⲧⲏⲏⲙⲉⲣⲁⲏⲕⲁⲕⲉⲓⲁⲁⲩⲧⲏⲥ” (Matt. 6:34 GNT-WAS)