The Mount of Transfiguration
(You may first wish to read Matthew 17:1-9)
We have a little fellow at our house who daily does his impersonation of the Eveready Bunny. Four years old and just a shade over three feet tall, he keeps going and going and going. After a long day of trying to keep up with him, my wife collapses onto the couch, wishing she could bottle some of his “get-up-and-go.” How is one so tiny capable of such non-stop movement?
A wise seminary professor once said that one of the things he’ll appreciate most about heaven is never again being tired. Life in this sin-worn world can get awfully weary at times. There’s so much to do, and never enough time or energy to do it. But as we hike up the Mount of Transfiguration, we find power and incentive to keep us going.
Peter thinks the sights on top of the mountain are so wondrous that he proposes building three shelters, one each for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. Peter wants to remain at that blessed location. What does he see that makes him want to stay on those near heavenly heights? Just that–a glimpse of heaven. Jesus, as it were, lets His glory out of His pocket for a moment. The Savior’s clothes gleam white as lightning, His face shines bright as the noonday sun. And there, beside Jesus, very much alive, are two prophets who had walked the earth many hundreds of years before Peter’s day.
To get an idea of Peter’s excitement, imagine if you were to see Martin Luther and the Apostle Paul right before your eyes, living, breathing, talking. Yes, Peter is given a foretaste of heaven: Jesus in His eternal glory along with visible proof that God’s children really will live forever. How thrilling and beautiful! It’s enough to melt away all of Peter’s spiritual and emotional fatigue.
A Glorious Task Remains
But Jesus won’t let Peter stay on the mountain. Soon it’s time to leave and head back to the real world. It’s time to get back to work–to put the nose to the grindstone. Jesus’ mission to redeem the world is not yet complete. He has a rendezvous with death. There will be no rest until He first endures the shame and pain of the cross for all sinners. And after Christ’s departure to His Father’s right hand, Peter and the other disciples will also have much work to do. The sweet rest of full and free forgiveness in Christ needs to be declared and shared. Sinners everywhere need to hear the good news. A glorious task to be sure, but also hard and tiresome.
You and I long for the final rest of the saints, of which Peter got a mere taste. Soon we’ll have it. But right now there’s work to do. Congregations need continual feeding and nurturing from faithful pastors. Students need consistent and wholesome instruction in God’s Word from dedicated Christian teachers and professors. Children need constant training and discipline from godly parents. Believers, one and all, are called to speak and live the Gospel every day. If you’re like me, you get worn out just thinking about all there is to do.
How can we keep going? Peter’s mountain-top experience gives the answer. Jesus took Peter back to the real world. But the world on the mountain–of which Jesus allowed Peter a brief glimpse–is every bit as real as the one we’re in right now. It won’t be long before we see Jesus shining in His full glory. Soon we’ll turn the corner and meet with Moses, Elijah, Paul, Martin, our departed Christian parents, spouse, children and friends. Jesus completed His mission. Our sins can no longer block the gate to paradise. Death cannot keep us from an eternal rest. By His resurrection Jesus has made death a servant to us. It serves us as the portal to an endless and awesome new life.
The realities atop the Mount of Transfiguration are ours to hold and treasure. We find them in the Bible and are renewed by them in the Sacraments. Every day we can turn to God’s grace to get recharged for our earthly tasks. The Savior’s conquering love keeps us going and going–unto life everlasting.
–Pastor Michael Wilke