“Here I Am”
“Here I AM”
When was the last time you were having so much fun, that you didn’t want it to end? We all have had those experiences where because of the place we were, or the people we were with, or the activity being done, or a combination of all of those things, it made the event so special, we didn’t want it to quit. I remember when Erica and I were in Alaska, or our honeymoon, or when I was in THE church in Wittenberg, Germany, as a few examples of this. Maybe you have felt that at your wedding reception, or at the birth of a child, or on a really great vacation of your own, or standing in line to get a new driver’s license. (Just seeing if you were listening.) On the day of the Transfiguration, Peter, James and John had an experience they did not want to see end, either. Today we are going to discuss the wonderful things the Transfiguration of Jesus means to us as He says to us, “Here I AM.”
Today’s Gospel lesson puts us on a mountain of glory. Those three apostles got to see Jesus the way He appears right now in heaven. In other words, Peter, James and John got a quick glimpse, a quick taste of heaven. They were having a real “pet the bacon” kind of day! A heavenly visit certainly has appeal, as it did for them. Who could blame them for wanting it to be longer? When we remember the context (Jesus had just said He would die in Jerusalem, which is where they were headed), we can understand their desire to stay there.
Whatever Jesus meant about being killed, about denying one’s self, picking up one’s cross, losing one’s life and the like, standing in heavenly glory with Moses and Elijah seemed better. It would seem better to us, too. We have those things that distract us from our thoughts and troubles: such as spending time in the workshop, at the lake, watching movies, golfing, shopping, antiquing, Netflixing, Playstationing, gardening and so on, and just as we are prone to do these things to avoid the realities of life, surely we’d welcome a heavenly interruption by the likes of Moses and Elijah for the same reason. Think how wonderful it would be to be able to ask Moses what it was like to see God part the Red Sea or ask Moses how cool it was to talk to Him in the burning bush (where God said “My Name is I Am”), or to ask Elijah to describe his chariot of fire. A longer heavenly visit does have its appeal.
For Jesus, securing eternal glory for us had greater appeal. While those three apostles, while anyone would like to stay up there on that mountain, while you might like to stay here in Epiphany and not go into Lent on Wednesday, Jesus knew He had to go back down the mountain. For Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, their discussion on that day 2000 years ago was not a day to reminisce, they were talking about Jesus’ exodus, about His delivering us from Sin and Satan and Death. Although the apostles did not understand what Jesus plainly spoke to them when He predicted His Passion, Jesus knew. There is one plan of salvation, and Jesus is it. Jesus had to go down from that mountain and journey to Jerusalem to die for us, just as we descend from this spiritual mountain today and begin our Lenten Journey on Wednesday. Jesus would descend from that mountain of glory not to provide people with a way to forget their problems, or with one more temporary diversion, but He descended that mountain to reach Mt. Calvary, curing people of life’s problems, even the problems of sin, death and hell for all eternity by His death and resurrection.
And as Jesus went down that mountain after His Transfiguration, He had to lead His apostles down with Him. Jesus’ hope was that His followers would be strengthened for what was to come by seeing this vision of heaven; strengthened to endure Jesus’ suffering, and their own suffering as well. And they were. While their faith was shaken that first Easter weekend, by Pentecost they were boldly witnessing their faith to anyone who would listen.
We also need to be strengthened for when we leave from our time with God here and face the trials and challenges we run into each and every moment of each and every day. But before we leave here, through the eyes of faith, we are part of a heavenly meeting when we partake of Jesus’ body and His blood “with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.”
Following Jesus is not a passive life. We are called to follow. Jesus’ followers follow. We all have troubles we are dealing with: illness, divorce, trouble with the kids, loss of a job, old age, loneliness, finances, a pandemic, and so on. 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 to us, “Here I AM with you,” and we know He will, because He prevailed.
We also know that while Peter, James and John had their brief look at heaven interrupted, and while we only get a taste of it here in church, we know that Jesus has promised us eternity with Him there. Jesus told us, “I will bring you back with me to heaven when I come again. I AM the one who keeps His promises. Therefore, when I AM with you in heavenly glory, it will be without end.” That’s what we celebrate today.
Let’s get near the finish line with this: The favorite game four-year-old Sara liked to play with her father, Max Lucado, was “jump in Father’s arms.” She would set him at just the right distance—not too close but not too far. Then she would crouch and spring, throwing herself completely into the support of those big arms. She didn’t worry if her father was strong enough to catch and hold her or if he’d back away and let her fall. She had learned from living with him for four years that he was reliable. One day as they played the game, Max said to Sara, “Will you jump into the arms of your older sister, Andrea?” Sara refused. When her father coaxed her, she wouldn’t budge. He asked her, “Why not?” She said, “I only jump in big arms.”
By His own work and witness, death and resurrection, Jesus earned our trip to heaven. He is the one with the “Big Arms.” We follow Him because He says, “I AM with you here on earth, and I AM taking you to be with me in heaven.” And when we get there, Jesus has promised us there will be no interruptions. He will tell us, “Here I AM,” and we will get to stay with Him, and hang out with Him, forever.
Does that sound pretty good?
In the Name of Jesus.