“On the Mountaintop with Jesus”                                                    March 2, 2014

Matthew 17:1-9                                                                                   Stephens City UMC

 

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

I.                   Today is one of those juncture points in the liturgical year.

A.    This is Transfiguration Sunday which is the last Sunday in the season of Epiphany while on Ash Wednesday we will transition into the season of Lent.

1.     Now you might remember that one of the ways we transitioned from Christmas into Epiphany was by recalling Jesus’ baptism.

2.     It was at the Jordan River that the divine voice spoke from heaven and said, “This is my Son with whom I am well pleased.”

3.     That was back in the 3rd chapter of Matthew’s Gospel and this morning we read from the 17th chapter of that Gospel so some time has passed, but the divine voice returns to speak again.

4.     Jesus has taken Peter and James and John to a high mountain and while there they first get to see Jesus transfigured with his face shining like the sun, and his garments as white as light which was followed by the appearance of Moses and Elijah.

5.     This was better and more spectacular than any Broadway show.

6.     Then a bright cloud overshadowed them and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”

B.     OK, what exactly are they to listen to?

1.     They are supposed to listen, which means you and are to listen, to what Jesus has just been talking about.

2.     And what he has just been talking about is the cross.

3.     His cross and the how we are to pick up our own cross and follow him.

4.     In all honesty, that’s a lot for us to listen to.

C.     In fact, that’s what the Transfiguration seems to be about.

1.     As Matthew Skinner has said in his commentary (The Abingdon Creative Preaching Annual – 2014, Jenee Woodard, Editor), the Transfiguration is not an attempt to reassure Jesus.

2.     Jesus doesn’t appear to need any reassurance.

3.     The voice from heaven which is the very presence of God addresses the confused disciples and thus you and me.

4.     This moment was for them; this moment was for us. (Skinner)

5.     This was a privileged glimpse into Jesus’ majesty which was made apparent by his dazzling face and clothes.

D.    Moses and Elijah had been privileged to meet God on Mount Sinai which is also called Mount Horeb and there had heard the voice of God.

1.     For Moses it was to receive the 10 Commandments.

2.     For Elijah it was while in a cave that a still small voice spoke to him and instructed him to return to Israel to carry on his prophetic tasks.

3.     Those holy encounters were why Moses and Elijah were remembered as Israel’s greatest prophets and what each of them did helped to bring a new future for God’s people.

4.     But according to Deuteronomy 18:15-20 and Malachi 4:4-6 an even greater prophet would arise to usher in an even greater fulfillment of that future.

5.     The Transfiguration is about affirming that those prophecies were about Jesus AND the instrument by which God’s future would be produced would be of all things – the cross.

E.     The cross would neither be a failure or a mistake.

1.     Jesus knew that.

2.     Peter in particular doubted that.

3.     Many people since then have doubted that the cross can lead to God’s future but as the Apostle Paul wrote in I Corinthians 1:18, “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

F.     This morning I would like to help you connect with the power of God as we stand on the edge of Lent and begin the journey to the cross so I’ve been trying to think of a biblical way to accomplish that and I like a suggestion made by Ann Scull from her blog site (http://seedstuff.blogspot.com).

1.     In your bulletin is a picture of a mountain with a blank space to the side.

2.     Over the next few minutes imagine ways you can climb “the holy mountain” as did Moses and Elijah and Peter and James and John.

3.     Think of the times and places when God has spoken to you and after that has come to your memory write a prayer, draw a picture, compose a poem or jot down a resolution about that experience and how you can begin to transition from transfiguration to the Lenten journey to the cross with Jesus whom the divine voice has told you that you are to listen to.