Mountains. Have you ever noticed the number of times mountains appear in the Scriptures? At a quick glance in a concordance, the words mountain or mountains appears 335 times. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights that take place on a mountain. Moses received the 10 Commandments on a mountain. Jesus, on several occasions, took His disciples and taught from a mountain. The people would come to a mountain to see or hear Jesus. And today, Jesus is once again on a mountain, this time with three of His disciples to pray. The experience that the three disciples had was a changing experience. The lesson: “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!”
Verses before our text for today, Jesus told His disciples what was to come: “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” Hearing news like that would be quite unsettling to say the least. Imagine if a loved one were to share that type of news with us. What would our reaction be to such news? News like this would be hard to comprehend. When Jesus went up to the mountain, He took these three disciples with Him, maybe for that very reason, to help further explain what He had previously said.
While there on the mountain, something extraordinary happened: “And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white.” That must have been a sight to behold. They had walked from their last place, up on a hill in the dust and dirt. They were probably dust-covered, sweaty, and just all around dirty, much like we are. In our present state, we are covered in sin and death and all that keeps us from God. We can’t make ourselves clean, we can’t remove our sin, regardless of how hard we try.
The only way to remove all that hinders us from God is to be a part of Christ. This is what God desperately wants of creation, for it to be connected to Him. That is the whole point of Jesus. The only way for you to be connected to God is by Jesus, not by you. That is why God the Father’s words are so important in our text: “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!”
So it is that as we start today’s reading from the account of Luke, we learn that Jesus led a very confused and bewildered Peter, John, and James up on the mountain to pray. Peter, John, and James did what they usually do when they are alone with Jesus while He prayed: they went to sleep. What they saw when they woke up blew them away. Jesus was shining like the sun. Not only was Jesus lighting up the mountaintop, but He was also having a conversation with Moses and Elijah. This conversation was pretty amazing for the simple fact that Moses and Elijah had been dead for centuries. We have an account of Moses’ death and burial in today’s Old Testament lesson.
But as it stood, here was God’s Word present, from start to finish. You had Moses, the representation of the old covenant and the promise of salvation, God’s ever-present Law. There also stood Elijah, one of the great prophets, taken to heaven. Moses and Elijah together equaled what Christ is: the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. The topic at hand: Christ’s upcoming exodus, for you, for me, and for all of creation. His exodus, His death, marked not a defeat as Satan had hoped, but instead was a triumph, one that would set all of creation free from sin and death.
When Jesus took Peter, James and John with Him, they were unsure of what they were seeing and hearing. Maybe it was because they were still sleepy. Maybe it was because they were not meant to understand just yet. Regardless, there they were on the mountain, with the Law and the Prophets and the Gospel.
When they finally awoke from their slumber and saw what was going on around them, it must have been remarkable. A simple visit to a mountain to pray had turned into a visit between Moses, Elijah, and Jesus. Maybe Peter, James, and John happened to be in the right place at the right time. That would explain why Peter exclaimed that it was good for them to be there. And in the event they were going to be there for a while, Peter suggested putting up shelters for them. It was very likely that Peter wanted this moment in time to continue indefinitely, especially after hearing of Jesus’ impending death. It was far better to stay there on the mountain than to leave and face Jesus’ prediction of His death.
Just as Peter declared to Jesus that it was good for them to be there, so it is good for us to be here today. We come today to where God has said He will be found. We come together so that we may hear the words of Moses, Elijah, and Jesus; the Law, the Prophets, and the Gospel. We come here today to receive from the Lord’s bounty forgiveness of sins that have been won for us by Jesus Christ on the cross. We come here today to receive the very body and blood of Jesus. We do not come merely because God commands it but we come because He invites us. He invites us to come before Him, to confess our sins and to hear that word of absolution pronounced upon us. We come because Jesus Himself invites us to His Table, feeding us with the bread of life.
A moment like the Transfiguration would not be complete without God Himself being present. He comes with His almighty voice, speaking to the disciples: “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” Hearing the voice of God was usually reserved for those of great stature, such as Moses, Abraham, David and other prominent leaders of the Old Testament. Yet God saw fit to come to Peter, James, and John to tell them to cast aside any fears, any doubts that they may have, both today and in the future.
Just as He did at the Baptism of Jesus, God the Father addresses mankind. This man Jesus is the beloved and chosen Son of God. At that point, God establishes for mankind who they should listen to; not the things of this world, but to the Son of God. How easy it is for us to give in and listen to what the world says because it’s what our itching ears want to hear. We don’t always focus our attention on the things of God, the promised salvation that comes through His Son, the love shown by Christ for the Father, a love willing to be put to death so that creation would once again belong to the Father. But the words that Jesus speaks to us are the words that we need to hear. Today, we boldly say, “Master, it is good that we are here.” In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.