Written by Courtney McHill, United Methodist Pastor
Bible Background This Sunday is typically what we call, “Transfiguration” Sunday. The scripture that we will be reading takes us to a scene where Jesus transfigures/transforms right before the eyes of a couple of the disciples. He shines from every pore and heroes of the biblical past show up. They affirm the call of Jesus. This scene encourages yet again that Jesus is of God. This is also the place where Jesus tells us what is to become of him. I once heard a sermon where the preacher referred to Jesus in this scene as “glow in the dark Jesus.” The more I look at this scene though the more I see Jesus shine. This is a pinnacle moment for Jesus ministry. He shines so brightly that the disciples fear and we have to shield our eyes. Not only does he physically shine but Jesus is really getting into his prime teaching moments. He is shining as he speaks, divinely and in pure human form. One is more blatant than the other but both areas of shininess are important to recognize and remember. By Jesus bringing us back down the mountain and living into his ministry, he allows us to shine as well, a sign of a great leader.
But like the disciples, we tend to want to stay where things are clear. We want to rush over the part just before the mountain when Jesus explains that we must make space to see others. We must self sacrifice in order to follow. We must lose self in order to gain self. What does that mean anyway? We want to stay on the mountain in brilliance, don’t we? We want to build around the shiny. It seems clearer there. There are more signs to where we need to be. We forget that the shine has to be taken back down to everyone. Jesus calls us back down. Jesus takes us in a reverse direction to where we need to lead. Jesus insists on remembering the rest of it all, the suffering down below. We can’t hide on the mountain. We can’t forget about the relationships and people in the valley.
It is not that Jesus’ glory and glow is less below but it is much harder to perceive. It is harder for us to see clearly and be excited about the message because the shine is within a cross and within human connections. This is where the shininess shines even brighter. It will shine through the love God has for us. It comes back to the call from before the shine, the call to taking up the cause. It will be through following Jesus that we are called to love like we have never loved before. The shininess allows us to see that it does come from God and we are called to give off glow below. Jesus shows his brilliance in his leadership by bringing us up to see and then back down below to do what he called us to do. We are to love with self giving love modeled to us by the greatest example, Shiny Jesus.
Quotes of the week
“It is a curious thing, Harry, but perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it. Those who, like you, have leadership thrust upon them, and take up the mantle because they must, and find to their own surprise that they wear it well.” ― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
“The way of the Christian leader is not the way of upward mobility in which our world has invested so much, but the way of downward mobility ending on the cross.” ― Henri J.M. Nouwen
“You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.” ― Woodrow Wilson
“A leader. . .is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.”
― Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom
Matthew 16:24– 17:8 (Message) Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?
“Don’t be in such a hurry to go into business for yourself. Before you know it the Son of Man will arrive with all the splendor of his Father, accompanied by an army of angels. You’ll get everything you have coming to you, a personal gift. This isn’t pie in the sky by and by. Some of you standing here are going to see it take place, see the Son of Man in kingdom glory.”
17 Six days later, three of them saw that glory. Jesus took Peter and the brothers, James and John, and led them up a high mountain. His appearance changed from the inside out, right before their eyes. Sunlight poured from his face. His clothes were filled with light. Then they realized that Moses and Elijah were also there in deep conversation with him.
Peter broke in, “Master, this is a great moment! What would you think if I built three memorials here on the mountain—one for you, one for Moses, one for Elijah?” While he was going on like this, babbling, a light-radiant cloud enveloped them, and sounding from deep in the cloud a voice: “This is my Son, marked by my love, focus of my delight. Listen to him.”
When the disciples heard it, they fell flat on their faces, scared to death. But Jesus came over and touched them. “Don’t be afraid.” When they opened their eyes and looked around all they saw was Jesus, only Jesus.
Questions for the Week
What would it look like to self sacrifice for following Jesus? How would you react to the mountaintop experience? Would you want to stay? What does it look like to let Jesus lead?