Well, those three disciples of Jesus walked through a setting so magnificent that whenever I come in contact with this text I am able to revisit the site in my mind’s eye long before looking again at the pictures I brought back. The only way to the top is walking up as I did – and as Jesus and His three disciples certainly did.
Today the Greek Orthodox Church takes care of the beautiful gardens with their abundance of animals, plants and trees. You can truly feel the Presence of God like a visual PSALM glorifying our Creator. But as Al Jolson used to say “You ain’t seen nothing yet”.
The view from the top is a natural setting for Bible study. The Modern State of Israel is not a large country so a majority of our Holy Bible texts certainly happened at sites that can be seen from atop Mt. Tabor and Biblical prophecy tells us the key events during the final days will happen in the Pass of Geddon – Armageddon - below.
Inside the Chapel of the Transfiguration, we have the only church with two chancels placed one atop the other – the one on the bottom celebrating God entering our world as the vulnerable flesh and blood Christ – the one on the top celebrating the event that reveals The True Man born of the virgin Mary is The True God through all eternity.
Jesus was transfigured before them, and His clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no fuller on earth could bleach them. Peter, James, and John discovered their wonderful human Teacher is indeed God The Lord Who made heaven and earth and blessed them and their ancestors throughout all of human history.
And There appeared to them Elijah with Moses; and they were talking to Jesus.
Back in 1977, Steve Allen had an award-winning talk show, “Meeting of the Minds”, in which he and his guests had roundtable discussions of historical events and issues. His guests were costumed actors who engaged in those discussions as Socrates, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther, and other well-known historical figures. “Meeting of the Minds” truly provided an easy way to think about historic events and issues. On Mt. Tabor, Jesus’ three disciples had front row seats for the ultimate “Meeting of the Minds” discussion – and none of the participants were mere actors playing a part.
As we discussed in last week’s sermon, Jesus and His disciples spoke of the BIBLE as The Law and The Prophets.
God’s Law is actually Covenant Law – a Covenant established by God with His People – and God taught God’s Covenant Law through Moses who was God's Own spokesman when God rescued the people from slavery in Egypt and molded them into God's Own people.
When the people failed to live up to God’s Covenant with us, God promised a Saviour Who alone could mend the relationship and make it eternal again. The prophets were called by God to proclaim God's Word of judgment and promise. Elijah was the great prophet who never saw death, but was carried to heaven in a fiery chariot.
There on Mt. Tabor Moses and Elijah were discussing God’s Covenant Law and fulfillment of Divine Prophecy with Jesus Who was transfigured in all His Glory.
And how did the three disciples react? How would we have reacted?
The experience left them speechless – except for Peter who spoke even when what he saw left him with nothing to say. Peter said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three booths, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah." Booths are built in the fields during seed time and harvest time. At mid-day, you can relax and eat in the shade of the booth. At night, it is a place to sleep. Peter wanted a place of solitude away from the world Jesus had come to save at such personal cost.
Jesus did not answer Peter - a far more powerful answer came as a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, "This is My beloved Son..."
We've heard those words from that Voice before at Jesus' Baptism when God arrived as the vulnerable flesh and blood Christ and entered the water to show He had come to enter our struggle for spiritual cleansing and reconciliation with God. The Voice from heaven identified Jesus at the beginning of His mission and ministry as God’s Son – as God Himself living as one of His creatures. Now, as Jesus moved ever closer to the cross, the testimony came again. This time the Word was joined by the visual testimony of a transfigured Jesus – and a command from above - " listen to Him."
On so many other occasions, Jesus told them He had come to “suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.” It would be much more comfortable for Jesus and His disciples to remain lounging in booths on Mt. Tabor – but our Creator commanded the disciples “Listen to Him".
The disciples had to come down from their mountain-top experience and follow Jesus as He set His Face to go to Jerusalem – and the cross.
Jesus had the Ultimate Mission to fulfill and for the disciples there was more to learn from Jesus and later there would be The Gospel (The Good News) to proclaim. Now as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them that they should tell no one the things they had seen, till the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept this word to themselves, questioning what the rising from the dead meant.
For us – as with those three disciples -by the Grace of God, hearing God's Word and celebrating our relationship with God can spiritually be a mountain-top experience. We have God's Love - we need to share it. We have God's Word - we need to proclaim it. There are millions of people throughout the world today who drastically need what we have been given and can now share.
THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH PASSES ALL HUMAN UNDERSTANDING KEEP YOUR HEARTS AND YOUR MINDS IN CHRIST JESUS – OUR CRUCIFIED AND RISEN LORD AND SAVIOUR.
The Transfiguration Of Our Lord
February 11, 2018
Dr. Kurt Borows
Pastor, Resurrection Lutheran Church, Catawba Island, Port Clinton, Ohio