Peter, James and John went up the mountain with Jesus. They were Jesus’ friends. They were Jesus’ followers. They were Jesus’ disciples. And they were to become his witnesses.
Something amazing happened at the top of that mountain. It was one of those experiences that is very difficult to put into words. It was a bit weird. It was not normal. There was some strange mixture of light and cloud, but the light was not from the sun and it was not from fire – it was not from a physical source. But it was there, in and around and glowing through Jesus. And he was not alone, but two other people appeared. They were figures from history, a long time past, but, somehow, you knew who they were, you recognised them. Moses: hero, saviour of his people, prophet, law-maker. And Elijah: prophet-supreme, wonder-worker, critic of kings. And they had come from the realm of beyond to talk to Jesus, a summit of the great and the good and the anointed. Which only went to show how special and important Jesus was.
Peter, James and John began to see Jesus in a new light. Quite literally. All of a sudden he was more to them than he had ever been, so much more. With their own eyes they were seeing him in glory, shining bright, exalted, more than just a man. He was their friend. Now he was someone so much more. It was wonderful, utterly wonderful.
So they said to each other, “this is amazing. Let’s make a shrine here, a place of worship, where people can come and pray!” But that was the point when they stopped seeing the vision. They were over-clouded. Their spiritual vision evaporated into the mist. But through the cloud they could hear a voice, God’s voice, “This is my Son, my dearly loved Son. Listen to him.”
And what Jesus said to them then, as they came down the mountain, is don’t say anything about this until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. But at that point, after the resurrection, their job was to tell people what they had seen. They were witnesses. Their job was to tell people and pass on the good news. And when they had seen Jesus’ life on earth through to the end and beyond, that’s what they did with joy and gladness, sharing their experiences of Jesus and all the things they had seen him do and heard him say. And over the generations, that responsibility has been passed on.
All of us are here because God plays a part in our lives. We have all been touched by the glory of God. For each of us, the story is different. We have had moments when we feel God very close to us, when we have seen the beauty of creation, or when the light of Christ has shone in a very special way, or times when the Holy Spirit has guided us. For some people, it is about knowing God’s forgiveness for the things we have done. For others, it is about the presence of Christ in very difficult times. And when we know those moments, we can rejoice, because God is with us, God loves us and cares for us, God gives us strength and courage and guidance. We come to church each week to meet him here, to receive the body and blood of Christ, to remember him and be part of him and let him be part of us. God has given us so much. God has given us everything. And we respond to God in love and praise. We rejoice, because he has given us love and joy and hope and peace. That is the way that the Good News of Christ plays out in our lives. We have seen it. We have heard it. We have experienced it. And that is such a privilege!
Of course, people do have amazing experiences of God. This month’s Premier Christianity magazine (see http://www.premierchristianity.com/) includes an interview with the preacher and writer R T Kendall and tells the story of his vision:
It was a vision … but Jesus was as real as you are, looking at me. But I was driving. And I could see him praying for me, but I didn’t know what he was saying. I just kept driving and I burst into tears. I thought, ‘He loves me more than I love myself.’ … we were coming into Smyrna, Tennessee, … I heard Jesus say to the Father, ‘He wants it.’ The voice replied, Father to Jesus, ‘He can have it.’ In that moment, I felt a warmth just go into my chest like liquid fire. I never had such peace in all my life. It was so wonderful. And then, for about 30 seconds, there was Jesus looking right at me. It was so real.
And that vision inspired and sustained him in his ministry.
We don’t all get to see Jesus in that very real way, though it happens more than you might think. We all have a story to tell. We are witnesses. We may not have seen the Glory of Christ transfigured on a mountaintop, but we have seen the light of Christ in our own lives. We may not have witnessed the empty tomb on that Sunday morning nearly 2,000 years ago, but we have seen Resurrection in our own lives, the new life that Christ brings, the way we can always start again because he loves us and forgives us. We are witnesses here in Bensham and Teams and Christ calls on us to live the good news and to tell the good news, in what we say, in what we do, in the way we live, in the things we get involved with. We have received such a treasure and we are called to share it and pass it on.
We are Jesus’ friends. We are Jesus’ followers. We are Jesus’ disciples. We are Jesus’ witnesses. We have seen the glory of God and we are called to share the vision.