A Mountain Top Experience
Rev. Elmer L. Saa, Minister for Christian Witness and Service
(A sermon delivered by Rev. Elmer L. Saa at the Udarbe Memory Chapel on February 10, 2013.)
A pastor told this story, “A teacher in a Sunday school class was reading the story of the Transfiguration. As she read, she noticed one little boy seemed confused. When she was finished she asked him, “Johnny, why don?t you tell us where Jesus was in this story. He replied, “Oh, he was on a mountain.” “Yes, that?s right; said the teacher, “Do you remember why he was up there?”
Johnny answered with a confused look, “I guess that?s where his arithmetic class was held.” “The teacher looked at him and wondered what he meant, “What do you mean, arithmetic class?” “Well” Johnny replied, “The Bible said, ?Jesus went up on the mountain and there he began to figure? The teacher smiled and said, “The scripture said, He went into the mountain and there He became transfigured not began to figure.?
The passage tells us that Jesus takes with him Peter, James and John up on top of a mountain, and upon arriving, Jesus was transfigured, his appearance shining like the sun, Moses and Elizah standing there next to him and the cloud envelops them. Then Peter gets caught up in the moment and wants to stay, but before he can finish his thoughts a voice from a cloud says: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to him.” After the voice has spoken, Moses and Elizah are gone and find Jesus alone stands before them.
There up on the mountain, the disciples have a foretaste, or moment glimpse of what heaven will be like. There on that mountain, stands Jesus in all of his glory. They have a religious experience that fills them with emotional wonder. This experience is so incredible that they don?t want it to end. They don?t want to come down from the mountain. They want to stay there on top of the mountain with Jesus.
Have you ever had that kind of experience? I?m not just referring to religious experiences?have you ever had an experience or a moment in your life that you just didn?t want to end; a moment that you want to recapture and hold onto forever? Perhaps it was your wedding day; maybe it was your first date with your friend; or maybe it was a glorious sunrise over the ocean. I?m talking about experiences that changed your life in some way; experiences that were so wonderful and so exciting.
You see, that?s what has happen to Peter, James, and John in today?s lesson. They?re having an experience that is so emotionally overwhelming that they simply want to stay there on that mountaintop. Then Jesus leads them down off the mountain. He leads them down off that mountain top and back to the reality of the world; the reality of what is to come for him and for them. You see, Jesus knows what is coming.
That is what Jesus, Moses and Elijah is talking about up there on the mountain. Verse 31 says: ?They [Moses and Elijah] appeared in glory and were speaking of his [Jesus?] departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.? On top of that mountain, they are discussing his departure . . . his exodus . . . that will take place in Jerusalem.
Here Luke is trying to tell us a very important lesson on the saving act of God. Think about what exodus means. Think about Moses? relationship to exodus. What was Moses doing with the people of Israel? In the exodus from Egypt, Moses led the chosen people of God to the Promised Land. In the same way also Jesus is leading an exodus from the slavery of sin into freedom from sin. When Jesus has his exodus in Jerusalem, he leads us into salvation . . . into the Kingdom of God.
And that?s why Jesus couldn?t stay up there on that mountain. He had an exodus to lead. He had to come down from the mountain top so he could lead us into salvation. Peter, James, and John had to come down for another reason; and it?s a reason that applies directly to us and the way we witness to our faith.
In our lives we climb that mountain with Jesus many times. We experience the near presence of God in our lives, time and time again. We have a mountain top experience or encounter with God, and we are never again the same. That experience takes hold of our lives and we are forever changed.
But God wants us to do something with that experience. He wants us to hold onto the experience, but He wants us to come down from the mountaintop and use the mountain top experience to help others . . . because that?s where you?ll find the real glory of God.
The true glory of God is found wherever there is a need for us to practice our faith; wherever there is a need to help a neighbor; wherever there is a need to speak a word of comfort; and wherever there is a need to love others. And God wants us out there where the need exists.
That?s the message of today?s Gospel. God comes to us in our lives, and sometimes God comes to us in those mountain-top experiences. But God wants us to use those experiences to spread his Word; to spread the Good News?both in words and in actions.
All of us need the vision of the mountaintop. All of us need transfiguration experiences, where our entire perspective is changed. However we cannot prolong this transfiguration experience by attempting to make three dwellings for Jesus, Elijah, and Moses. We cannot live on the mountaintop forever. The valleys beckon us to come down and live our lives as servants with other people?just as Jesus did with Peter, James and John.
Each time we worship together, it is a mountain-top experience, but we can?t stay here, my friends. We have to come down from the mountain top, so that we might tell others what we?ve seen. That?s God?s message to us. That?s what God meant when he said, ?This is my beloved son; listen to him.? And what is Jesus saying to us? He?s telling us to spread the Good News both in what we say and in what we do.
We have to follow the example Jesus set when he guides his disciples down from that mountain. Jesus will lead; we will follow. But we also have an obligation to tell others what we saw and what we experienced on top of that mountain. We have an obligation to tell the Good News and to practice that Good News.
May our mountaintop experiences help us to see Jesus more clearly, in order for us to follow his holy will to live a life of cross-bearing service to others. Amen.