Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and brought them to the top of a very high mountain where they were alone. He was transformed in front of them, 3 and his clothes were amazingly bright, brighter than if they had been bleached white. 4 Elijah and Moses appeared and were talking with Jesus. 5 Peter reacted to all of this by saying to Jesus, “Rabbi, it’s good that we’re here. Let’s make three shrines—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6 He said this because he didn’t know how to respond, for the three of them were terrified.
7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice spoke from the cloud, “This is my Son, whom I dearly love. Listen to him!” 8 Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.
9 As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them not to tell anyone what they had seen until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
Today is one of those interesting intersections of secular holiday and sacred moments. It is Valentine’s Day, when we celebrate the love of a spouse. I am so thankful Janna came into my life. She is an amazing woman, and a delight to my heart and life! But today is also Transfiguration Sunday. An interesting combination to say the least.
“For Love.” I have had some interesting ‘for love’ encounters. When I was in seminary and had the summer off, Arvid Schon, a Swedish carpenter, invited me to help him build an addition to a house. For love of carpentry, he took under his wing and taught me so much. I owe so much of my skills as a carpenter to Arvid. In another direction, Frank Dawson, who was a retired pastor serving as our minister of visitation in Englewood, modeled for me what it is like to visit with the sick and grieving. For love of being a caring pastor, Frank took under his wing and led me on a path I still walk today. One more. Shirley Ann Sheets, the organist, pianist, and choir director at Englewood United Methodist Church, encouraged me to sing and gave me piano lessons for a time. For love of the musical gospel, Shirley Ann took me under her wing and developed in me a passion for conveying the power of the Gospel in music.
There are numerous places in the gospels that we see Jesus pulling away from the crowds to go off by himself to pray. In Mark 6:46, after dismissing crowds (when he fed the 5,000) and sending disciples across the sea, “went up to the mountain to pray. So I have a Question. Why would Jesus later take the three (Peter, James, John) up on the mountain for the transfiguration? Why was this not one of those private conversations with Moses and Elijah? The Gospel of Luke tells us that Jesus, Moses and Elijah were talking about Jesus’ departure. Couldn’t that have been a private conversation? It was For Love! Jesus took them up the mountain with him For Love! The voice from heaven was for their benefit – “This is my Son, whom I dearly love. Listen to him.” The disciples were told to hold until information until after the resurrection. Jesus wanted to strengthen their core, so he took them into his confidence.
Maybe setting is important here. In Mark 8:27 we find Peter making his declaration at Caesarea Philippi, “You are the Christ, the Messiah.” Then, in Mark 8:34 Jesus commands them to “Take up your cross and follow me.” And, now, we have the transfiguration. It was a confirmation of who he was as God’s Son, spoken in words of love (“This is my Son, whom I dearly love”). This God who dearly loved his Son, dearly loves us. “He is the same one who shone in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4:3-6 CEB For Love, God wants us to see him as he is, and realize he is inviting us on the journey of a lifetime.
Jesus love for the three (and all his disciples, and all of us!) seeks to empower them. Out of his love, he wants the best for them. He wants them to thrive in faith and the power of the Holy Spirit. When you stop to think about it, it is Jesus’ love that characterizes the New Covenant in his blood. “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that who so ever would believe in his should have everlasting life.” John’s Gospel is full of statements of God’s love and Jesus’ love. In John 13:1, the beginning of the Upper Room experience, it says, “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them fully.” Some translations say, “to the end.” Then, only a few verses later in 13:34 Jesus says, ““I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other.” This is a powerful image. The image is of Christ’s love pouring through us to others. God’s full capacity to love is given to us that we might love as well.
The ultimate passage on the command to love comes in Matthew 22:37-39 It is the great commandment. “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind. 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: You must love your neighbor as you love yourself.”
For Love: Of God
It begins by commanding us to love God with all we are. What does it mean to love with that depth? When we love, we don’t just say it, we show it! How Have I shown my love for God this last week? Have I let God into my deepest thoughts and feelings? Have I allowed him to take me under his wing so to speak and teach me what I need – what he needs me to know? God wants a relationship with us that invites us to bring ourselves just as we are and meet God just as He is. When we really love, our hearts are a welcome mat to those we love. God pours out his love to us. All he asks is that we love him with all that we are.
For Love: Of Others
One of the ways we can show our love for God is to love others. Really love them! In John 15:12-13 Jesus says, “ This is my commandment: love each other just as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than to give up one’s life for one’s friends.” What would it mean for us to love others to that extent? Let’s start with the most common and safest – marriage. We are to ‘lay down our life for our spouse.’ Marriage Encounter invites us to let our spouse in on our deepest thoughts and feelings. To be real with each other. We are to trust our beloved with our real selves. “What you see is what you get.” We are invited to drop the masks that hide our inner selves. When I’m happy … When I’m hurting … When I’m overwhelmed … I need to be sharing that with Janna. LIKEWISE, as I sense Janna is happy, … hurting, … overwhelmed, … I seek to make myself available to listen. It comes from my human love for Janna. What would our marriages be like if we allowed God to love our spouse through us?! It would not just be our human capacity for love that would power us, but God’s infinite and unconditional love that would deepen our expressions of love. Think about it, Jesus knew he was going to die a horrible death, but here he is focusing on the needs of his followers. For Love.
Extend that to others outside our family. Here is where it gets a little more scary. What might happen if we invited others to see us as we truly are … . Warts and all! To love others enough to be truly real with them. And, to love others enough to be with them in their joys and sorrows in a way that reflects God’s love. Back to the image in John 13:34, Jesus is inviting us to let His love flow through us to those around us. How have I felt God’s love flow through me to others in this past week? Have I looked with love past a slight and sought to understand the other person’s feelings? Have I given the benefit of the doubt to someone who is struggling?
For Love, Jesus included Peter and James and John in the mountain top experience. For love, Jesus includes us as his family, his friends, his beloved! For Love let us live fully with Christ and for Christ, generously sowing his love to others. Amen.
Pastor Paul Grossman