“About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray” (Luke 9:28).
This Christmas season we’re following a fictional character named Amanda who was specially chosen by her Great Uncle Eli for an extended retreat in his luxurious log cabin perched on the fanciful Mount Mystic. This part of my sermon series is an allegory of sorts on the story of the Transfiguration, where three others were chosen by Jesus to go up on the mountain for an unforgettable and transformational experience.
In today’s Mount Mystic Meditation, I simply want to invite you to reflect on what it means to be “chosen” for something special. Can you think of a time you were selected for some special role, or reward, or experience, or trip? How did it feel to be chosen? Likewise, how does it feel to be overlooked and watch others get chosen ahead of you?
Two memories of high school come to mind for me. First, I was one of the final candidates for the Excel Award for excellence in extra curricular and leadership achievements (or something like that). I the end, however, I was not the chosen one. (By the way, I think my wife may have been for her school.)
On the other hand, I remember being selected for some other Outstanding Young Leader of the Year award. A family friend went out of his way to rent a letter board sign and placed it at a main intersection in town reading:
CONGRATULATIONS JEREMY BERG!
OUTSTANDING YOUNG LEADER OF THE YEAR
You don’t forget being chosen for something like that. Now, I realize my examples have to do with my own achievements and that’s not the same thing as being chosen sheerly by grace to be given a gift, e.g., a free cruise, but the feeling is still much the same: being special, seen, not overlooked, an insider on something amazing, privileged and blessed.
Back in Luke 9 and the Transfiguration, we find Jesus tapping three on the shoulder for a special journey and experience. Eight days earlier Jesus had dropped a bombshell, confirming that he truly was the Messiah and Son of God, and that “some standing here will not die until they see the Kingdom of God coming in power” (Luke 9:27).
Eight days later, they get to see Jesus dazzling in divine glory, shining like the sun, conversing with Moses and Elijah, enveloped by the Cloud of God’s shekina presence and hear his Voice from the cloud. The scene ends with the three disciples shocked and tongue-tied, keeping “this to themselves” and not telling “anyone at that time what they seen.” It was too special to share just yet.
What if they would have turned Jesus’ invitation down? What if they would have said, “Thanks, but no thanks, Jesus. I’m a bit too busy for a trip to the mountain tomorrow. Maybe next time.”
Here’s the real tragedy: We essentially say the same thing to Jesus all the time. We read stories like the Transfiguration in the Bible, and think those disciples were so special for getting to walk with Jesus during his earthly ministry. But Jesus says it is us believers since his resurrection and ascension, recipients of the power from on high at Pentecost, who really get in on the juicy Kingdom stuff! “Greater things will you do in my name because I’m going to the Father” (John 14:12). That is, if we’ll only let ourselves be chosen for his Kingdom purposes here and now.
During his earthly ministry, Jesus chose Peter, James and John for an awesome experience of his divine glory. Today, from His Heavenly Throne, Jesus is choosing you and me for the awesome purpose of being those “who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory” and “are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
That’s a mouthful, for sure. What does it mean? Not entirely sure, but that’s kind of the point. It sounds like something mind-blowing, something we need to take some time to meditate on in prayerful communion with Jesus, in our quiet time at breakfast or perhaps on our own spiritual retreat on a mountain somewhere. Or consider Jesus’ prayer to the Father for you and me in John 17: “Father, I have given them the glory You gave Me, so that they may be one as We are one… Father, I want those You have given Me to be with Me where I am, that they may see the glory You gave Me because You loved Me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:22, 24).
What?! Without climbing a mountain, we somehow have been chosen by Christ to experience some kind of mystical union with the Triune God, and we possess the same glory that the Father gave to Jesus? Is that the same divine glory that momentarily blinded the three disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration? I don’t know, but it’s worth joining the saints down through the centuries in pondering such things.
Listen friends: This Christmas you will receive many invitations, or be chosen, to attend a holiday work party, family gathering, Christmas athletic tournament, a Christmas getaway with friends, etc. Each one of these invitations has a “chooser” behind it. But let us be mindful of the greatest invitation of all this Christmas: to be chosen by the Savior to be the object of His eternal affection and recipients of his amazing grace.
Before all of that, He simply wants us to accept his invitation to “get away with [Him]” and “recover [our] life.” Peter, James and John have nothing on us to whom he also says, “I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (Matt 11:28-30 MSG).
Relish your chosen-ness today, friends. And by all means, do not make excuses or turn down an opportunity to contemplate His glory this Christmas. Set your face toward the One who instead of asking us to climb up to where His Light and Glory dwells, instead chose to come down as Light into our darkness to be Emmanuel, God with us.
Heck, that’s an even better reason to put a sign on every street corner of town proclaiming:
OUTSTANDING RECEPTACLE OF GOD’S GRACE & GLORY.
We shouldn’t forget being chosen for something like that!