Scripture Reading: Luke 9:28-45
There are times when life is pretty great, and there are times when it’s draw-dropping, awe-spiring, amazingness. Now unfortunately those moments don’t happen very often. And maybe that’s a good thing. If things are totally amazing all the time, then how do we respond when things are bad, or even just “normal”?
Peter, James and John had a pretty good day with Jesus in our reading from Luke. But before we dig too much into today’s reading, we should back up and take a look at what’s happening in the life of the disciples before they head up the mountain with Jesus.
What’s been happening in the earlier verses of Luke 9 is that Jesus had sent out his disciples to do ministry on their own. Then he fed the 5000 people with 5 small loaves of bread and two fish and ended up with 12 large baskets of leftovers.
Right after that, Jesus asked a question of his disciples. He asked them, “Who do they say that I am?” (v18)
It sounds like Jesus is taking a poll of the crowds, trying to gauge his popularity, to see how his publicity campaign is going. Is all this effort actually helping people understand who he is?
The disciples said things like “You’re a prophet” or John the Baptist, or an old prophet who has returned, some even said he was Elijah, who is a significant prophet to be considered as.
So hearing these opinions, Jesus turns to those who have been closest to him for some time now, and he asks them, “But who do you say that I am?”
To which Peter answered, “The Messiah of God.” Other translations may say “The Christ.”
Well, that’s an interesting answer now isn’t it?
Could it be that the disciples are starting to figure it out? Maybe. Just maybe. But as you read on in Luke, you see it isn’t certain.
However, Peter has made a pretty bold statement. When asked who Jesus is, Peter has answered correctly! Yet Jesus isn’t quite ready for the real story to get out just yet.
Jesus responds to Peter by telling his disciples to tell no one and,
“The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” (Luke 9:22)
In other words, things are going to get serious really soon. For word to spread about his true identity, it may accelerate those events and things may not go as planned. Jesus may not get to finish everything he has come to do.
So that’s all the excitement leading up to our reading today, where Jesus takes Peter, James and John up the mountain to pray.
If we remember, when things happen on top of mountains in the Bible, there’s a pretty good chance God is going to do something amazing. Like write commandments on a stone tablet, or just talk to people.
And this trip up the mountain is pretty amazing too.
As Jesus was praying, he lights up! He becomes dazzling bright. His face changes, his clothing glows! And then he’s not alone. Two more figures join him, Moses and Elijah! And it says they came in glory. Now what this precisely means is hard to predict, but one may believe they are in a similar state to Jesus.
Peter, James and John are watching this amazing scene unfold. Jesus and Moses and Elijah are standing there right in front of them talking about what’s coming up next in the life and ministry of Jesus, as he heads to Jerusalem.
Peter is just in awe of what he is seeing. And he sees Moses and Elijah start to leave, and he doesn’t want this moment to end, so he blurts out the first thing that comes to mind, “Let’s put up some tents.”
Peter wants to stay on this mountaintop. He wants to stay in this incredibly divine moment where he is witnessing heaven and earth intersect. Who wouldn’t? Am I right?
Yet, Jesus still has work to do. He has a plan which needs to be completed. He has just spent some time in prayer; he has received confirmation from Moses and Elijah about what comes next. He’s ready to keep moving. Peter of course can’t understand this, he just knows he is currently part of a beautiful moment that, if he could pull it off, it would last forever.
Just then a cloud moves over the mountain, and a voice is heard. “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!”
And then Jesus, Peter, James and John are left alone. The moment is over.
Those words from the cloud should remind us of something. They should remind us of the words we heard when Jesus was baptized. Remember those? “You are my Son, the beloved; with you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:22)
Once again God is speaking, and He is identifying Jesus as His Son. He is the Messiah. He is the one you have been waiting for. And his words are important. So listen to him.
I love what happens after the voice and cloud disperse. Verse 36 says, “And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.”
They keep silent. It’s like some sort of reality hits them and they don’t know what to do. Are they excited? I’m sure they are. But there’s also a weight in that statement, like it’s a heavy piece of knowledge for them to carry, which leaves them speechless. And it was a piece of information they really aren’t sure what to do with. It’s clear they don’t quite yet understand the magnitude of what they are witnessing up close and personal. It’s a lot to process isn’t it?
Have you ever had a piece of information fall into your possession that completely changes the way you look at the world, in a good way? That would be a life changing event, but also something you would probably need time to process before you could share it in a way where others would understand what you are talking about.
So things were pretty quiet as they come down the mountain.
When they return to the rest of the disciples, a great crowd comes back to Jesus and tell him of a boy who has a terrible demon. This is a violent one, and seems powerful. The disciples tried to do what they could, but nothing seemed to help. Jesus, of course, heals the young man easily and gives him back to his father and we’re told everyone was amazed at the greatness of God.
Then Jesus turns to his disciples, while the crowd is still revelling in what they had just seen, and he says, “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands.” (Luke 9:44)
I love how the New Revised Standard translation of the Bible puts it. “Let these words sink into your ears…”
You have to think when Jesus sets you up by saying something like this, you want to pay attention.
It’s sort of like he might be saying, “How many times do I have to tell you this? Pay attention this time.”
“The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands.”
Jesus is telling them, once again, and this is not the first time even in this chapter of Luke, he is going to suffer and die. Remember just a few paragraphs back in the book of Luke, Jesus told them, “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” (Luke 9:22)
Jesus is telling them something very important here, AND he wants them to remember it. That’s why he keeps telling them over and over again!
He will suffer. He will die. And it’s all part of the plan.
Now at the end of our reading in verse 45 we hear this, “But they did not understand this saying; its meaning was concealed from them, so that they could not perceive it. And they were afraid to ask him about this saying.”
Jesus keeps telling them, but they just don’t get it. In fact, we’re told the meaning was hidden from them. The words aren’t just quite ready to sink in. But they certainly have heard them a number of times, they are starting to take on some meaning. But the full understanding just isn’t there yet.
We are called a church because we gather in the name of God. We know a lot of the stories of Jesus and other people in the Bible. We talk about them here each and every Sunday. We are becoming familiar with the stories of the Bible. For those of you have been here almost every Sunday of your entire lives, and for some of you that probably surpasses 80 years now, you’ve heard a lot of these stories over and over again. And you’ve also heard a lot of sermons on these stories, some good, some maybe not so good. You know these stories well.
Even if you are hearing it for the first time today, you will remember aspects of it. Some of it may make sense, other parts of it may trouble you, or cause you some confusion about what the true meaning is, but you will remember parts of this story. And the next time you hear it, you may remember another part of the story. And you will gain a greater memory of it, and possibly a better understanding of what it means.
Do you know when the disciples finally understood? When those words finally fully sunk into their ears?
It was weeks after Jesus left the earth to return to God. When the Holy Spirit descended upon them, that is when they fully understood.
They had to experience what Jesus was saying was going to happen. They had to witness his punishment, his death, and experience him after his resurrection before they finally understood.
Our advantage today is that we can read these events over and over, and we can even read them in any order we want. We can know these stories. And we have libraries full of interpretations, historical facts, biographies, Biblical analyses, all to help us in our understanding of these stories. We can read and read and read all we want, for a whole lifetime!
But there’s only one way to understand them in our own lives.
There’s only one way the meaning can truly sink in.
That’s to love Jesus and let him be our Lord and Saviour.
As Jesus is coming down the mountain with Peter, James and John, there is only one direction he is heading. He is on the road to Jerusalem. His sight, from now on, is squarely on the cross.
Today, we hear from the disciples that Jesus is the Messiah. We see it when he meets with Moses and Elijah to go over the plan. We hear it in the cloud as God Himself speaks of His Chosen One.
And we need to let the words sink in.
Belief is a tricky thing. We want to believe, don’t we? We want read those stories and know they are meant for us.
We can read a lot of books on any subject we please. And these books can fill us with a lot of knowledge about how the universe works. These are good things to learn, and some of these things can even help us in our understanding of what Jesus was trying to tell us.
But belief is more than just reading and knowledge. Belief requires a commitment not just from our heads in knowing the stories, it requires a commitment from our heart to live the stories. To take them in as our own and let them transform who we are as children of God.
Jesus did all of these things not just so we could have a nice book on our nightstands. Jesus did these things so that the world would know God personally, and that you would know His love for you.
You can read all you want. But greater understanding of the love of God comes when you are willing to bow before the King of the universe and let Him into your life… not as words… but as life. A new life apart from how the world around us wants us to live, because, really, much of the world around us isn’t doing much to follow God and His ways.
Thankfully we don’t have to wait like the disciples had to wait. When they got the stories, in person, they didn’t understand until God released His Spirit into the world. The same Spirit that is still in the world today.
And it’s because of this Spirit that we can take these stories and bring them into our hearts, right now.
What a beautiful thing when God’s love is made known in our hearts.
May we all know Jesus Christ as God’s Chosen One, the One who brings hope, life, faith, and meaning to the world that only God can bring.
My friends, this is the Jesus we read about. He is the transforming force in a world which struggles with moral issues, many of which God has spoken about in the Bible.
So let us turn to the One, God’s Chosen One, who when he came down that mountain, after meeting with Moses and Elijah. As he turned towards us, through the cross he would die on, so that we can know how far he was willing to go to show his love, God’s love for us.
My friends, this is our Lord and Saviour. This is the One we have been waiting for.
May we know him today.
May his words sink deep into our lives, so that we may continue to be transformed by the depth of love and mercy our God has for us.
Let us pray,
You have spoken to your disciples so they could remember the stories you told them, and in turn they could share them with others when the time was right. And now as we read these stories, may we be moved by your Spirit to share them as well, as they “sink in” and penetrate our lives.
Lord Jesus, help us to see the love of God in our own lives, our own hearts, and may we be moved to not only change our lives, but the lives in our own community as we seek to follow in your way.
In gratitude and praise we pray. Amen and amen.