Luke 9: 28-36 (37-43)
28 Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus[a] took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30 Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. 31 They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake,[b] they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33 Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings,[c] one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. 34 While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. 35 Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen;[d] listen to him!” 36 When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.
Jesus Heals a Boy with a Demon
37 On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. 38 Just then a man from the crowd shouted, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. 39 Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he[e] shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. 40 I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” 41 Jesus answered, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.” 42 While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. 43 And all were astounded at the greatness of God.
How are you feeling? Weary, tired? The tragedy unfolding in Ukraine is likely compounding the weariness and grief we all feel after adapting to another global crisis that is life during a pandemic. Notwithstanding the nomination this week of the first African-American woman, Ketanji Brown Jackson, to the US Supreme Court, which was a hopeful moment indeed, we still, on average, may find ourselves in a moment when our souls are just tired.
We’ve been called to the mountain top to have an encounter with God! What a shame it is or would be to miss it because we are simply too tired to engage or witness the miracles God is revealing in our midst.
Some of Jesus’ closest disciples, his inner circle of the most dedicated of followers, had this problem. Peter, James, and John had been invited to go up the mountain with Jesus to pray, but they were sleepy (v.32). Perhaps it was the kind of sleepiness that comes from grief, after all, Jesus had just shared with them the prediction of his own suffering and death.
Just as a voice from heaven came after his baptism while Jesus was praying, the same thing happened here and Jesus was transfigured- his appearance changed. He was radiant and his clothes became dazzlingly white.
The emphasis here is on the power of prayer to catapult us into the presence of God and set the stage for divine encounters.
A review the sequence of events: Jesus shares about his expected death and resurrection. About a week later, Jesus takes his closest friends up the mountain and there he is “changed”. But not really, his essence remained the same (he was the same yesterday, today, and forever fully divine and fully human)—his appearance changed to reveal his glorious continuation of the story of salvation. Radiantly standing aside Moses and Elijah reveals Jesus as the culmination of God’s plan to rescue God’s people. That’s a message we really need to hear today when it seems the world is still in such need of rescue. Wars and rumors of wars, sickness, death, climate change, homelessness, food insecurity, injustice and abuse of power: every manifestation of sin still plagues our world and we can’t seem to see our way through. That is, until we spend time going up the mountain.
Moses and Elijah were talking about Jesus ‘departure’ which is a way of translating the Greek word exodos. They were talking about the same thing Jesus had been talking about with the disciples, but Moses and Elijah got it, the disciples didn’t. Then the voice from the cloud says, this is my son, listen to him… In other words, you listened to Moses and his rendering of the law and the prophets, now listen to HIM, Jesus- my son. This pronouncement declared and affirmed Jesus’ authority as God’s son.
Peter’s response is to want to memorialize the event, hanging out on the mountain as if the transfiguration was the end-point. They wanted things to just stay in that glorified state, not fully appreciating the trials that Jesus would go through before his mission on earth was complete.
We may feel like that too, when we see glimpses of God’s greatness break-through, we want to stay in that moment—in prayer, in church, or another setting where you feel particularly close to God.
But we, like Jesus and the disciples, are called to go back into the valley. God is continually at work transfiguring creation through transfigured disciples. Jesus’ appearance changed so that the disciples’ minds, hearts, and souls would change. We may want to see Jesus change for us (some sign of a miracle perhaps) when Jesus really wants us to change for him—not for his sake but for the sake of others.
As the disciples were accompanied back down into the valley by Jesus, so are we. Nothing we are asked to do are we to do alone.
This is highlighted in the story of the man with the son with convulsions, described as a boy with a demon. In Mark’s account of this story, the father confesses his wavering faith—perhaps because he had believed in the power of God, but the disciples’ inability to help his son caused him to wonder. Perhaps the disciples had tried in their own strength and power and their efforts were proven to be ineffective.
We can be touched by the cloud of God’s glory and empowered to do the will of God through our prayer and fasting, worship, fellowship with other believers, acts of mercy and justice. We may not always be the conduits of healing God chooses to use in any particular situation, but we can position ourselves to be used by God by remaining prayerful and alert to opportunities where God may be calling us to serve, while constantly calling on God to help us do what God wants us to do. Examples in the current experience of our church might include the Housing Forward initiatives of the House to Home project and the Emergency Shelter program, as well as opportunities to become educated on climate justice issues and advocacy efforts in our area being presented through the movies that are part of the One Earth Film Festival.
As we head into the Lenten season this week, we shift our focus towards what change can look like for us. May we not only have the semblance or appearance of change, may we be truly changed from the inside out in ways that will be transformative not only for us, but for our families, our church, our community and our world.
With God’s help, we can do it! Amen.
Rev. Adonna Davis Reid