2 Peter 1:16-21; Matthew 17:1-9
A number of years ago Bev and I were spent a few days in Toronto with some friends. We explored various parts of the city, and we saw a fair bit in the 3 days we were there. One afternoon we were exploring some of the shops along the waterfront when a man came up to me. He said, “I know you. You’re one of those movie stars aren’t you?” He kept me cornered for a few minutes before he finally decided maybe I wasn’t so important and continued on his way. I don’t think he had anyone in particular in mind, but somehow I triggered a memory in his mind that reminded him of someone famous. He was probably also on the lookout because there was an international film festival coming in the next week or so.
It was a very strange moment because I wasn’t really sure what this man was up to. He didn’t exactly look like a typical fan, and was a little aggressive, I was very pleased when he gave up and went on his way.
Have you ever met someone and you were just filled with awe? Maybe it was someone you really admired that you just met in person for the first time. Or it was a surprise encounter of someone you know to be great in some sort of field. Or, maybe it’s just someone you know and creates a sense of awe within you, your own personal hero, a family member or friend.
I suspect there are a few of us who have met someone we felt a bit tongue tied around. Unsure of what to say, or even afraid to speak in case we come out sounding like a complete idiot. So we just remain silent, soaking in the moment, knowing it’s something we will never ever forget.
Like it or not, we put people on pedestals. We lift people up and put them in places of great honour, and with that there are also expectations. I’m sure the fellow I met in Toronto is not going to be the first to line up for any of my movies.
But that’s the danger of placing people on pedestals, they’re human. There’s no way our heroes can be perfect all the time. They are bound to slip up, and if they’re lucky, it won’t be anything serious.
Look at the backlash in the last year. There was the expense scandal in our provincial government. Remember how disappointed everyone was when it hit the news. These are the leaders of our province, the people we put in positions of trust to do the right thing for the people of Nova Scotia, and a number of them take advantage of it. Not all of them, but enough to put some serious doubt into our minds about the effectiveness of all our leaders in government.
Movie stars, pro athletes, musicians, they all seem so great, they can’t do wrong in their chosen field. But they do make mistakes. Sometimes they make big mistakes and people’s view of them are changed forever.
At least when we make mistakes they don’t show up on the 6:00 news, the newspapers, and people all over the world don’t wait to see how we’re going to dig ourselves out of the hole we find we’re in!
Part of the problem too is that we accept the pedestal very happily. We’re very happy to have our 15 minutes of fame, and we’ll take it over and over again if we’re able to. Celebrities who find themselves with a quiet spell in their careers often will take drastic measures to make sure they remain in the spotlight by ending up on reality shows. They want the attention, they want to be well known, they want the fame, and they most certainly want the money.
So when we read an amazing scene like we read in our Gospel reading this morning, where Peter, James and John witness something we could never imagine, Jesus turning into almost pure light right in front of them, and then he talks with Moses and Elijah, two men who lived a long time ago, it’s hard to believe how Jesus responded.
Here is a chance for the disciples to really share with the world what they saw, and what they heard when the voice said “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” SO what does Jesus say as they walk back down the mountain? “Don’t tell anyone!”
The three disciples have probably seen the most amazing thing they have ever seen in the entire lives, and they’re not allowed to tell anyone? People getting healed is one thing, but to see Jesus transfigured and talking with Moses and Elijah? That’s something else entirely. There has to be no doubt in their mind who this man is, this man they’ve been following for a couple of years now, he must be who he says he is.
They’ve got to be absolutely bursting at the seams with excitement to go and tell the others what they have seen. It must feel pretty real at this point. They have to think they have it all put together. They know Jesus must truly be the son of God as he has been telling them all along. And now they have seen it with their own eyes, and Jesus tells them to keep quiet. Well, actually, he orders them to keep it quiet.
Why would Jesus take them along with him, to see what they saw, and then order them to not tell anyone? Why does this seem like a good idea?
Jesus is wary of the pedestal. Jesus knows his work is not done yet, so he doesn’t want to draw too much extra attention to himself while he is still travelling. Sure a lot of people seem to be paying attention to him, coming to him, watching him. But if all of a sudden there is this great proclamation coming from the disciples that he is truly the son of God, this is going to bring lots more attention to him. Including attention from the Pharisees and the Romans. People who are already concerned enough with what he has been doing.
Jesus has work to be done, he knows what is to come, and to draw extra attention to himself may make what he must do, well… hard to get to. This could land him in the hands of those who wish to get rid of him much sooner than planned, so he keeps this secret so his plan may unfold as it is supposed to.
That is, to enter Jerusalem and die on the cross.
We are co-keepers of this secret. We may not have seen it with our own eyes, but it has been recorded in our Holy Scripture so we may know it happened. So we may know what Jesus Christ did, and know fully what his death on the cross means. Jesus came, he lived, he healed, he taught, he loved, and he died so that we too may have life eternal with God.
But you know what? It’s not a secret anymore. Jesus ordered the disciples to keep quiet, but only until the Son of Man died and rose again. They were then free to share what they saw with everyone, as we too are free to share our own experiences with God in our own lives.
Peter shared what he saw on the top of the mountain in his second letter. We read it earlier this morning. He tells us this is real. They really experienced many things with Jesus, they didn’t make it up.
Peter writes, “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honour and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain.”
Peter is sharing his own personal account with Jesus on the mountaintop. Peter saw for himself the majesty of Jesus Christ when he became like a dazzling light and talking with Moses and Elijah. An experience he holds dear to his heart and has to share with the world.
Peter tells us, “that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.”
We can interpret the Bible however we like. But it’s not prophesy. It’s not truly sharing the Gospel, the Good News, of Jesus Christ unless we are moved by the Holy Spirit, unless we are inspired through a relationship with the one true God.
My friends, on Wednesday night we will gather to recognize the start of Lent. A time of intentional travelling with Jesus Christ as he moves towards the cross. There is no turning back now, Jesus has come down the mountain and set his face upon Jerusalem, making his way to the place where he knows he will die for his people.
As we journey with him these next 7 weeks, may we too look at the majesty of Jesus Christ, the Son of God who came to show us the way to God. To teach us about living with one another as we follow in the path God has laid out before us, and loves us enough to walk it with us.
Jesus Christ, the only man in all of history worthy enough to be put on a pedestal has rejected it so that he could walk among the people, sharing intimately their pain and sorrows in order to help them on their way.
If Jesus Christ doesn’t need a pedestal, then who does?
Let us walk with Christ. Let us be open to the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives as we too seek to live in relationship with our God.
Celebrities, stars, they don’t know the way. Only Jesus Christ knows the way. We should follow him.