February 15, 2015 – Transfiguration Text: Mark 9:2-9
Dear Friends in Christ,
Toni and I were vacationing with my parents and 3 year-old Karson in Monterrey, California. We were at appropriately…and my mom always thought this was funny…Dennis the Menace Park. This is a great park for children. Slides and swings and sand and you’re on the coast of California. Anyway, Karson had a wonderful time sliding and swinging and just enjoying being a kid. At some point it had to end. We had other places we wanted to go to and we didn’t want to wear out the grandparents. Karson, of course, didn’t want to go. It wasn’t quite Dennis the Menace like but you can understand his reasons for wanting to stay. He was in his glory – take a look at this park on the Internet and you will know what I mean.
We were all kids once. We can relate. There are places we just did not want to leave. As adults our understanding is a little different. We know we have to come down the mountain. Life is like that. And when it is, aren’t we glad we have a Savior? It’s Transfiguration Sunday and the Lord says . . .
“HERE I AM”
On the mountain of glory, a sustained heavenly visit has appeal. It did for Peter, James, and John. Who could blame them. Jesus had talked about being killed, denying self, taking up a cross, losing one’s life. Now they are in heaven’s company with Moses and Elijah and it seemed better.
It would be for us too especially if the last word we heard from the surgeon was cancer, or from the boss, “We’re going to let you go.” Just as we are prone to rely on worldly diversions – in the workshop, playing video games, snapchatting, facebooking, on Netflix, shopping, investing in our sports teams, knitting – to avoid the painful realities of life, surely we’d welcome a heavenly interruption by the likes of Moses and Elijah for the same reason.
How powerless life’s problems seem when we allow our imaginations to converse with the one who crossed the Red Sea and stood before I AM on holy ground. Or sit beside the prophet and ask him about the chariot of fire. A sustained heavenly visit has great appeal.
For Jesus, securing our eternal glory for us had greater appeal. He must go back down the mountain. There is but one plan of salvation and He is it. The blood of thousands and thousands of lambs sacrificed for hundreds of years means nothing, and the Spirit of death cannot “pass over” our sins if the blood of the Lamb of God is not poured out for us. Jesus would descend from the mount of glory not to provide people with problems, one more temporary diversion, but to reach the crest of Calvary, curing people of life’s problems, even sin, death, and hell, for all eternity.
Jesus leads his disciples back down the mountain. They were to be strengthened by this heavenly meeting for what was now to come – Jesus’ suffering and theirs. Following Jesus is not a passive life. It’s highly interactive. Now works righteousness here. No merits for salvation earned or given. It’s just that Jesus’ followers follow.
The pains suffered by first-century Christians is well-documented. Scripture itself tells us of Paul, Peter, James, and Stephen. We know about the millions of Christians today who are persecuted around the world. If we are not directly persecuted for our faith, then life’s situations – illness, divorce, trouble with children, loss of job, old age, finances – cause suffering or hardship. It becomes suffering for Christ’s sake when we endure and respond in faith.
Followers of Jesus will not allow the quality of life, money matters, or worldly comforts to dictate our outlook or decisions. Rather, we picture ourselves coming down the mountain, not alone, but with Jesus saying, “Here I AM with you,” and we know His glory will prevail.
Jesus’s followers know that he says, “I AM here to strengthen you through suffering.” And, “I AM here with you in suffering to use you to witness to others.”
Pastor Richard Wurmbrand knows about Christ’s strength for him in suffering and about witnessing. Before his release in 1964, he was tortured for 14 years in communist Romanian prisons for his involvement with the Christian underground.
At one time, Rev. Wurmbrand survived on an hour of sleep a night with a guard opening and shutting the spyhole in the door each minute or so. His interrogator constantly threated him, “Don’t you know I can order your execution tonight?” Wurmbrand spoke of Christ and told his torturer to put his hand over Wurmbrand’s heart. If it beat rapidly from fright, the man would know there is no God and no eternal life. If it beat calmly, indicating Wurmbrand was at peace, then the interrogator would know there is a God and eternal life. Instead of putting his hand on Wurmbrand’s chest, he struck his face saying, “Can’t you see that…your savior, or whatever you call him, isn’t going to open any prison doors?” Wurmbrand replied, “His name is Jesus Christ, and if He wishes, He can release me.”
Paul writes, “Our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Rom. 8:18) That is the way it is for Jesus’ followers. We work and witness and even suffer for Christ. We are not earning a trip to heaven. We just know that He has work for us to do. By His own work and witness, death and resurrection, He earned our trip to heaven. We follow Him because He says, “I AM here with you on earth, and I AM taking you to be with me in heaven.”