Transfiguration Sunday (A) February 03, 2008
Welcome to the Mountain, Now Go Home (Matthew 17:1-9)

“Welcome to San Diego. Now go home,” stated a bumper sticker. Soon there was another: “Enjoy San Diego. Then go home.” People who have been to San Diego say it is a friendly city with the ideal year-round temperature and a place of promise. But, its many residents believe that San Diego is big enough. So they put bumper stickers on their cars for the many visitors and tourists to enjoy but don’t stay there.

This message is one of the subtle messages of the gospel. There is the mountain-top experience of God’s presence, where we are refreshed and refueled, but, then, there is the valley of service, where we reach out to those who are hurting, being the body of Christ in the world. We need both experiences and we need to live in both dimensions.

I. Welcome to the Mountain (v. 1-8)

Jesus withdrew with three of His closest followers to the mountain top. It was a special opportunity, a place of privilege, a time of worship. Jesus’ communion with God was all important. On the mountain top, these three men witnessed something that is nothing short of amazing-a majestic transformation. They catch a glimpse of His pre-incarnate glory (John 1:14) and a revealing of His powerful majesty (2 Pet. 1:16).

The word translated transfigured gives us our English word “metamorphosis.” A metamorphosis is a change on the outside that comes from the inside. When a caterpillar builds a cocoon and later emerges as a butterfly, it is due to the process of metamorphosis. Jesus’ glory was not reflected but radiated from within. This transformation demonstrated His authenticity and His underlying authority.

Peter, once seeing what was unfolding before his eyes, wanted to stay. “Let’s build three shelters,” he requests. While Peter’s response was enthusiastic and sincere, it was a miscalculation and misunderstanding. Peter was putting Jesus on the same level as Moses and Elijah. And, he was missing the point. He wanted to stay on the mountain where it pleasant and exciting and not return the drudgery and hardship of everyday life.

While Peter was still speaking, he was interrupted-a divine interruption. The voice of God came out of the cloud telling the three disciples that He was pleased both with the private life and public ministry of His Son.

Jesus was having a conversation with His Father. Jesus knew that He must be with God to be of use to God. When Jesus was with God, He talked to God. He spoke to God, and God spoke to Him. In this passage, we get a chance to listen in on part of that conversation. Interestingly, we hear God speaking but not Jesus.

It reminds me when Dan Rather was interviewing Mother Teresa. Rather asked Mother Teresa how she prayed. She said, “I listen.” When Rather asked what God said to her, she responded, “He listens.”

A fit reminder to us that our conversations with God should not be one-sided, we must listen, too.

II. Now Go Home (v. 9)

There comes a time for us to come down from the mountain to face the real world. Worship is not only spending time in God’s presence; it is serving humankind. In fact, the true test of worship of God is always followed by a willingness to come down from the mountain and give ourselves in service for the Lord we worship. The time we spend in his presence prepares us to carry his presence into a lost world.

Albert Einstein received many requests for help. The most unusual came from a distraught mother. She wrote: “Dear Mr. Einstein: My son thinks he is Jesus. I write to ask if you will talk to him. For no one else will he come down from the mountain, and he has been there for three weeks. Will you do this for a broken-hearted mother?”

Einstein talked with the son, and he came down from the mountain. When asked what he said to convince the man to come down, Einstein explained: “I didn’t argue with his delusions. Rather I reminded him that Jesus came down from the mountain to become a fisher among men.”

The proof of our mountain top experiences is our service in the valley. To see God as he is, we see humankind as they are. We worship, and then we serve. (Rick Ezell)

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