“Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!’ Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.” This is the word of the Lord.
There are many, many different ways of appreciating God’s creation and beauty. We need to celebrate God because of everything, not just because of one or two things, but because of the totality. Everything that God has provided for us. I was thinking about the life of disciples with Jesus, what would have it been like? Life with Jesus Christ… Before they met Christ, they were pretty ordinary people. The fishermen, they believed in God, and they worked hard. But after meeting Christ, somehow a lot of wonderful things were happening. It must have been fantastic and they never witnessed that kind of things in their lives. Before day to day was predictable. They just worked hard. But when Jesus was so different, every day they were shocked, surprised, totally unexpected. So in life with Jesus Christ, it must have been really fantastic. They witnessed many out of this world experience. They saw sick people coming and Jesus laid his hands and they were healed. Then demon possessed people, then Jesus came and just with his word of authority, he challenged them and exorcised them. They were terrified, they were trembling and then they left. And this miracle of feeding 5,000, 10,000 people with only five loaves of bread and two fish… they actually witnessed all these things. Every day they experienced some out-of-this-world experience. They’ve never had that kind of a thing. They never saw that thing. And most of all, Jesus even brought them Lazarus. Come on.
So I think they experience, tremendous joy, and excitement. Life was very, very different after meeting Christ. Even today’s experience is very much an out-of-this-world experience. This story is one of the five pillars of Jesus’ ministry or Jesus’ manifestations, resurrection, ascension, and all that. So it’s a one-five. Up in the mountain they saw Jesus completely being transformed. His clothes became dazzling white such as no one on Earth could bleach them. Not only that, they saw Moses and Elijah who are on Earth 14 years before Jesus Christ came, and the 900 years before Jesus came respectively. And all of a sudden they saw Moses and Elijah. The teachers were talking with them. What would he talk about? Probably might be my guess, but probably he was talking with them about the cross, how he had to die. The cloud came and then from the cloud they heard the voice and the voice said “This is my son.” They loved it. They listened to him.
Wow. Best of the best. He can’t get any better than this. He can’t get any more dramatic. The ultimate supernatural experience. We e don’t have that kind of experience more often these days. I hope that we could have more of these experiences, then they will take God more seriously. They’ll come to Bible study and be more serious. Like, “Wow, God is really alive, God is really there.” I just hope that God really shows a little bit more.
It’s Not All About The Glory
I don’t want to explain to these stories in a way we can understand and accept, that’s no fun. You don’t kill the power of the story. It was not an understanding of experience. It was an inexplicable experience. No matter how much we tried to explain it scientifically or whatever, it is inexplicable. I don’t just leave it as it is. It wasn’t beyond our ordinary day-to-day experience, the experience was beyond that, and I wonder if the disciples were even there. I think they would have just stood there with their mouths open in awe. They could not even communicate with each other. They were just standing there. They were terrified. Yes, of course. When you experience what you cannot explain, you become terrified. But it can be good at the same time. They were terrified, but it was good. Peter liked that experience so much that he was like, “Hey, why don’t we build three tents, three dwellings, and then one for you, one for Moses, one for Elijah. So why don’t we just say here in this mountain? This is great. I never experienced it and I feel so peaceful. I feel so glorified here. I want to stay here. Why don’t we just stay here?”
But Jesus’ reaction was strange. That’s why I like Jesus, that’s why I’m fascinated by this person, Jesus. He’s not like any other human being. He’s not like any other. When you read a story, you can see how different he is from most of us. I mean, the utmost experience was a wonderful out-of-this-world experience and they were so excited and then they were coming down and thinking that they were going to be the three disciples that Jesus took. Not all twelve disciples. Peter, James and John were the main core disciples. They took these three and then went up and then on they way down, they must have been like, “Wow. This is really, really great. I’m going to go down and talk to the other guys. You know what I experienced at the top of the mountain? I met Moses and Elijah. We heard a voice and we saw the dazzling white that was the transformation.” They were just dying to share what they experienced on the top of the mountain with the people down there. But strangely Jesus said, “Don’t tell them what you experienced.”
I wonder, isn’t it better for them to share about how wonderful they experienced it with other people so that they could believe in God more? That was not Jesus’ way of letting other people believe. Jesus was always saying that’s not how you can believe. That’s how you can obtain, but that’s not how you change. That’s what Jesus used to say. We didn’t read it today, but right after the story, there’s another story. It was after the experience, all these fantastic things at the top of the mountain. They came down and there was a father who came to the disciples with a sick son and then they asked the disciples, “Please, can you heal my son?” The disciples could not. They had a wonderful experience, experiencing the mountain. When they came down, they could not heal the son of this man. Then this was what Jesus said: “You faithless generation. How much longer must I deal with you? How much longer must I put up with you?” They had a wonderful experience at the top of the mountain. It was a heavenly experience, but when they came down and faced that dark reality, they were powerless. Experiencing God is great. I think we should all experience God at some point of our lives. But Jesus is telling us that there is life down there, where we have to deal with the evil, darkness, hurt and pain. Christian life or Christian discipleship is not just about experiencing God. Christian life is about dealing with our everyday situations, where we experience suffering, disappointment, sadness, anger and frustration.
The Christians live in a matrix of glory and suffering. Both are present in our lives. Every day we encounter pain, suffering, hurt, and all kinds of negative things. Everyday you encounter your own dead demons. You’re encountering your own darkness. You cannot expect life to be just always good and glorious. The secret of life is not in searching for the experience of His glory, but in it to be empowered and to be able to deal with our dark reality. We cannot always look for honey and some kind of pleasure of this sweetness. We cannot always ask for, “Okay where is the fun or where is the honey? Where is the pleasure, where is His glory?” We cannot always do that. We have to learn to be strong in every situation that we encounter in our lives. Yes, we need to experience God, but we cannot stay there as Peter wrongly suggested. You have to come down to where we have to deal with the suffering in this world. We should not only ask God to give us the joy of experiencing God. Also ask God to empower and equip us to deal with the pain and suffering of this world. I do believe that God will give us the wisdom and power to do so.
The Ability To Suffer
Last night while I was finishing up my sermon, my mind was wrapped around this mountain top experience. Yes, these disciples experienced this wonderful manifestations of God and the Bible was reflecting on it. I’m on my bed and this call came in and then one of the ministers in Toronto – he’s an intermediator of our church – we started talking about the problems that I have at church and he asked me for advice. I was at the top of the mountain right there. Oh my goodness. This church problem, people fighting, kicking out ministers and and all that stuff. Oh my goodness. We are always facing challenges in the world. Ask God to give you wisdom and abilities to be able to deal with challenges in this world. God will grant that.
Last Thursday I visited one of our retired elders. Actually he’s Jenny’s grandfather. Just very recently he discovered that he’s suffering from lung cancer. There was no symptom, he was healthy. Just three weeks ago I talked to him. He was at the service and all of a sudden, terrible lung cancer and he’s fighting right now in uncertainty. How am I going to deal with this? I pray that God may grant him and his family the power and the grace to go through this very, very difficult time. Let us ask God to equip all of us for a source of strength when challenges come to us. Transfiguration, that is the foreshadow of resurrection. Transfigurations show what will come at His resurrection. The resurrection will be different from the transfiguration. These disciples just went up to the mountain to experience transfiguration, but without the cross, there is no resurrection. You cannot just experience resurrection. Only through the cross, you can experience resurrection. St. Paul said, “You die and you rise with Christ.” You’ll need, to experience the resurrection, you’d have to take up the cross.
It is easy to believe in God when everything is going right, when everything is good. It’s easy to be living up. When the darkness comes to you, difficulties come to you and hardships come to you, when the cross comes to you, are you going to give up?
When you’ve had a mountain top experience, it’s good to be living up. But down there, when you experience the evil darkness and the cross, are you going to give up? Without that cross there is no resurrection. I saw some people – they started well, coming to church and experiencing God and all that. They experienced the cross in their lives, but they stopped there. They gave up. They don’t go through to get to the resurrection. This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday. That means starting this Wednesday, Lent begins. Meaning we reflect on Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection. That we are already on the way of the cross, our journey to fullness, is also our journey to the cross. Without having journeyed into the cross, there is no fullness. There is no resurrection. May God give you strength and insight about the journey for each of us. I hope that we Christians become able to deal with the darkness of this world. I don’t want Christians to be soft, or Christians just sucking on the honey and pleasure and joy in God. I want our Christians to stand up. Deal with the darkness, injustice of this new world to stand up strong. That’s what Christian journey is all about.