Before I share with all of you these few stories, I would just like to make it clear that I don’t often get lost when I am driving but when I do, I really get lost. For instance, during my college years – and this was before I owned a smart phone or GPS – I was driving home on I-90 in South Dakota, and let’s be honest it is pretty hard to get lost traveling across the interstate in South Dakota, you either go West or you go East. Well, I was headed West at the time, and I stopped off an exit for gas. But for some reason, when I got back on the interstate, I did not take the on-ramp that went West, no, I took the one that went East. 40 minutes later as I drove by a town called Mitchell, I asked myself “How did I get here” because, you know, I had driven by that town going the opposite direction about two hours ago. Embarrassing…how did I get there?
A similar thing happened to me as I was headed back to college. I was driving in Minnesota and was headed North, and yet somehow, I got turned around and went South…how did this happen…how did I get here? The worst though was probably at the end of my vicar year, my intern year at the Seminary. I was driving from Nevada and was making my way to my parents home in South Dakota. I went through Utah, then Colorado, in Colorado I had every intention to swing north into Wyoming, and yet, no joke, I remember it very clearly, I sat there in the driver’s seat of my car staring in unbelief at a sign that said this, “Welcome to Nebraska”…how in the world did I get here? Don’t ever go on a long trip with me. No, now Siri tells me where to go so it’s okay.
As we look at our lesson this morning and we see Peter, James, and John on a mountain with Jesus and we read about all these incredible things that happened on that mountain do you think those three disciples maybe thought to themselves, “How did we get here?” I mean it all started out ordinary. Jesus took those three with him where they could be alone so he could pray, but that’s about as ordinary as it got. We read, “As he, Jesus, was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning.” That right there doesn’t happen too often – it never happens – and it only got, stranger. Look what else happened: “Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus.”
So, you picture all of this. Jesus’ face changed. Clothes like lightning. Crazy bright. And, the way I picture this brightness and flashiness is like an actual lighting storm that you are seeing from far-off. It’s mesmerizing. You can’t stop looking at it and being in awe of how bright and colorful it is as bolt after bolt comes shooting out of the sky. It’s miraculous! So, there is Jesus and now there are these two other guys, dead guys, long dead, Moses and Elijah. Perhaps they are there to represent the Law and the Prophets, the Old Testament, which Jesus came to fulfill as our Savior.
But maybe there is another reason these two Biblical figures are present. These two had immense frustrations in their ministry. Moses struggled as he led the Israelites in the wilderness and Elijah often felt like he was alone proclaiming a message from God that few wanted to hear. Yet, they both had a unique relationship with their heavenly Father. They, more than anyone else, understood God’s marvelous, tender, awesome wonder – and then how it was so tough to serve, to get here, to the glory that they were now in a glory that was theirs because of the man before whom they now stood.
Now these two spoke with Jesus who, like them, would soon endure an exodus, a departure. They spoke of the greatest and highest theme in heaven and on earth. They spoke of Jesus’ suffering, his death, and his resurrection. They, with the Son of God now shining in all his glory, spoke of God’s plan for our salvation. A plan that would lead Jesus to a cross where all our sin would be crucified with him.
But let’s not forget those three disciples who were also present to witness this unique and powerful scene. How did they get there? They were invited. Jesus brought them to this moment of his glory. As they saw it, Peter spoke for them. He cried out, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” But we are told “He did not know what he was saying.” Yet even though Peter in that moment was confused and thought it would be smart to build some shelters for these three divine beings, his first words are forever true, “It is good to be here.”
Brothers and Sisters, it is good to be here today. It is good to witness this moment in Scripture. To see our Savior in all his glory as he planned our salvation, and then to know that he carried out that plan and gifted us a place with him in eternal glory, a place in heaven. It is good to be here because we are not there, in heaven, yet. And like Peter we might wish to stay here in our safe space surrounded by God, and his Word, and his people, but the reality is that we are still of this world. And this world is broken.
This earth, once God’s masterpiece, has been ruined by sin and death. We have been ruined by sin and death. Maybe that is enough for us to remember why it is so good to be here today. Because we don’t deserve to be here. We confessed that today, do you remember? We confessed together that “we are altogether sinful from birth” and that we “deserve only God’s wrath and punishment.”
Now it makes sense why Peter and the other disciples, even as they stood in Jesus’ glorious glory, were full of fear in verse 34 when they were enveloped by a cloud and heard God the Father’s voice. They were sinful men. Sinners are always filled with fear when confronted by their holy judge. Because in front of God we can’t hide who we are, we are nothing. We are nothing but worthless sinners fit to be utterly condemned and in moments of brutal clarity we pass that same sentence on ourselves. We condemn ourselves to the hell we deserve.
That is what God did too. He condemned us, except in his condemnation he provided a substitute. That substitute was revealed in a cloud, spoken by that voice that at first brought fear and terror into our hearts. Hear of him in verse 35, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” It’s him, Jesus. God chose his own Son. He chose him because he knew we needed him. He chose him to suffer. He chose him to die. He chose to forsake him so that he could welcome you. This was his plan. This was his will to save you. Here on a mountain this is what was discussed, you! How you would one day be brought into the glory of eternity.
And then this scene of glory ended, and Jesus stood alone. We read, “When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone.” It’s fitting. There he stood having left behind his glory to take those steps that would lead to our own at the fulfillment of his departure on Calvary. There he stood alone because this is how salvation had to happen. He stood alone because he remembered me.
How did we get here today? What brought you to this place? Jesus. He did. He alone set you free from this wrecked and ruined world. He alone gave you life and will keep you with him into eternity by speaking to you in his Word. That’s why it is good to be here. Here we get to listen to him. Here we get to hear his proclamation of pardon and his declaration of peace. Here we get to walk with him and talk to him as a family united in him. Here we take those steps that will one day lead to our own departure and an eternal glory with him forever. It is good to be here.
I take you back then to my directional mishaps while driving. I took some serious wrong turns. I missed some obvious signs that would have shortened my trips and lessened my frustrations. I always knew where I wanted to be, where I wanted to go, but I didn’t always make it easy to get there. That is our lives! As we are on this earth, we all know where we want to go. We want to be in heaven. We want to be there with our heavenly Father. We want to be there with our loved ones who have already left this world. We want to be free from the struggles and sorrows of this world, but often our path down that road is less than perfect. Sometimes we will become downright lost and will wonder how we will get there.
Today, we see how. God chose his Son, not us, to bring us to our destination. And as we listen to him, and him alone, we can trust that he will see us home. And I bet you know what we will say when we get there, “It is good to be here.” Amen.