(watch here: https://youtu.be/TjBSTWtS2VU)
24Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 26For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?
27‘For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. 28Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.’
1Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. 2And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. 3Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ 5While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!’ 6When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. 7But Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Get up and do not be afraid.’ 8And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.
Reminds me of the one about three preachers who sat discussing the best positions for prayer while a telephone repairman worked nearby. “Kneeling is definitely best,” claimed one. “No,” another contended. “I get the best results standing with my hands outstretched to Heaven.” “You’re both wrong,” the third insisted. “The most effective prayer position is lying prostrate, face down on the floor.” The repairman couldn’t contain himself any longer. “Hey, fellas, ” he interrupted, “the best prayin’ I ever did was hangin’ upside down from a telephone pole.”
Isn’t it always about perspective? It’s easy to get caught up in silly arguments like the one the three preachers found themselves in. And really, there’s no one prayer position that is better than the other. Whichever position that helps you convey what you need to convey and receive what you need to receive is the best position. For some, hanging upside down on the verge of death helps convey exactly how much we are in need of God’s help in this world. Indeed, we need God’s help more than anything if we are to have a chance of surviving this world. So what matters the most is having the right perspective.
This morning we are celebrating an event in Jesus’ ministry that changed a number of perspectives. Late in Jesus’ ministry, he decided to take three of his most trusted disciples up a high mountain and while they were up there Jesus revealed his full, radiant glory to them. As if that weren’t enough to completely overwhelm them, Moses and Elijah appeared before the disciples as well. Peter tried to build three tents to house the three figure and capture their full glory. A voice from heaven interrupted and declared Jesus to be his Son, “with whom He is well pleased.” Now there are multiple perspectives changing in this mountaintop experience. First, the three disciples, though trusted as they were, were not fully convinced Jesus was who he said he was. They needed his full glory to be revealed to them to fully believe. And just as they were about to solidify their belief, two other major figures from Scripture show up as if to compete for importance. But God wasn’t about to let Moses and Elijah steal from Jesus’ glory so the Father calls out from heaven and declares Jesus the most important of the three. The disciples couldn’t help realizing who Jesus was with such heavenly validation. At the same time, God’s well-timed interruption got Peter to stop thinking about building tents to capture the three figures. We are not meant to capture Christ and contain him. We are meant to share him and be his hands and feet in this world. Besides God can’t be contained and to think otherwise is foolish. God is bigger than anything that could possibly contain him. Peter’s idea, though good intentioned, was a foolish idea and God needed to add perspective.
Mind you, because it was late in his ministry, Jesus himself had become somewhat defeated and dispirited especially since he knew what awaited him on the cross. He needed his Father to speak and encourage him to continue with the last part of his ministry. He needed to know that his life and ministry mattered…that his death mattered. So Jesus needed a heavenly validation too. All four figures—the disciples and Jesus—needed a change of perspective and they received it through this event.
Sometimes we need to change our perspectives too. We can easily get bogged down by life in trying to meet its demands and expectations. Life is a wonderful maze through trials and tribulations. Sometimes we’re rejoicing, other times we’re despairing. Life isn’t designed to be all joy or all sorrow. Life is designed to help us grow through a variety of ups and downs. And not just physically or mentally but spiritually as well. God designed life to help us grow in our faith and trust in him and Scripture reinforces this. Paul advises in his letter to the Colossians, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”(3:2) We are to continually seek God’s wisdom and perspective on all that we do. God’s ways are different than our ways and God understands things we don’t. We need his wisdom and perspective. Paul claims in his second letter to the Corinthians, “Because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.” (4:18) When we focus on only the things we can see, we miss out on the eternal unseen things. Not that all that is unseen is eternal but more of it is than that which is seen. Everything seen in this world is temporary and fades away eventually. We mustn’t place our trust in the things of this world but rather the things of the next world. What are those things? I believe they all have to do with relationships, things like kindness, love, honesty, empathy, sympathy, support, and encouragement. These are what will be needed in the next life so we should cultivate them in this life.
The prophet Jeremiah comforts us in writing, “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” (29:11) God has a plan for each of us and we take comfort in knowing they are plans of goodness and hope. God wants us to grow in life and He cares for us and gives us hope along the way. We shouldn’t be afraid by what life throws at us but grateful that whatever it is God will walk with us through it. Peter writes in his second letter, “But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.”(3:8-9) God promises to be with us no matter what and He delivers on that promise time and time again. Be assured…be patient…be confident in God’s perspective.
Having the right perspective, considering God’s perspective in all matters, is key to having a long, fulfilling life. Sometimes we need mountaintop experiences to get us in the right perspective as Jesus and his disciples did. Let us be quick to change our perspectives when life seems to hold us back or keep us down. God is always there with us, crying out, “in YOU I am well pleased!” Let us rejoice and be glad in our loving God!
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.