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A Sense of Wonder

The Transformation of the Worshipper

Text: Luke 9: 28-36

Dr. Alex Tang

 

Summary

The Wonder of God is His Son Jesus Christ. Knowing Jesus Christ as He really is, is a powerful spiritual experience. We can try to control this experience which will make it useless or we can listen to Him and transforms our lives.

 

Text: Luke 9:28-36

LK 9:28 About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. 29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. 30 Two men, Moses and Elijah, 31 appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. 32 Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. 33 As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, "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." (He did not know what he was saying.)

    LK 9:34 While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 A voice came from the cloud, saying, "This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him." 36 When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves, and told no one at that time what they had seen.

 

Introduction

Ayers’ Rock or Uluru to use its aboriginal name, near Alice Spring is sited right in the centre of Australia in the Great Australian Desert. It is literally in the middle of nowhere. Rising 1,100 ft out of the flat landscape, it is the largest monolith in the world. It is made up of sandstone. We visited it a few years ago. When I first saw it, I was not impressed. Nothing but a big rock. You seen one rock, you see them all. But our tour included sunrise viewing of Uluru. So we woke up at around 4am and was taken by bus to a viewing area. It was really cold in the desert in the morning. But as the sun rises and the sun rays hit the giant rock, it began to change colours and we saw the wonder of this creation. It was a great experience for us. A sense of wonder. To see another aspect of something we have seen before. And I wonder how do we see Jesus. Do we see him as a big brother? God? The disciples in this passage who has been with Jesus three and a half years begin to see Jesus as He really is. That He is the wonder of God. And they experienced a sense of wonder.

 

1. The Sense of Wonder of God

    LK 9:28 About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray.

We have to put into context this passage of Scripture, often called the Transfiguration. The transfiguration event which Luke was reporting in Lk.9: 28-36 is sandwiched between Peter’s confession of Christ in Lk. 9:18-27 and the healing of a boy with evil spirit in Lk. 9: 37-43.

The eight days referred to the time after Peter’s confession that Jesus of Nazereth is the Christ.

Lk. 9:18-27

  Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, "Who do the crowds say I am?" They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life." "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Peter answered, "The Christ of God."

 Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. And he said, "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life." Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God."

29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning.

The common conception is that Jesus begins to change here, i.e. transformed. The point Luke is making here is not that Jesus has underwent some form of international transformation when he was praying, but that Jesus’ inner being was made transparent to those who were with him. Jesus’ disciples see Jesus as he really is- the glory of God.

The wonder here is seeing Jesus as he really is. Luke’s account has brought us to Peter’s realization on who Jesus really is. Jesus is the Christ. Now Luke recorded the real appearance of Jesus. This happened when Jesus was praying. While he was praying, God gave us an opportunity to look as the inner appearance of Jesus. In the Old Testament and Jewish tradition, one’s countenance is the mirror of one’s heart and a manifestation of one’s relationship with God. His face changed reminds us of Moses who having met God had a shining face. So shining that it scared the people who saw it. The Bible described it as the reflection of the glory of God. Jesus change that begin to shine is not a reflection but from within. From who he is.Luke also noted Jesus’ clothes too become to change. Dazzling white clothes is symbolic of heavenly glory.

The poet Awhadi of Kerman was sitting on his porch one night, bent over a vessel. The Sufi Shams-e Tabrizi happened to pass by. “What are you doing?” he asked the poet.

“Contemplating the moon in a bowl of water” was the reply.

“Unless you have broken your neck, why don’t you look directly at the moon in the sky?”

We often have inadequate sense of the wonder of the glory of God because we are not looking at the right place. We look at the reflection of the moon in a bowl of water and we think we have seen the moon. We look at the wonders of God’s work, his creation and thinks that we know God. To see the moon, the poet has to look up. Then he can see the real thing. To see Jesus we must look at Him directly with spiritual eyes. Then we will see Jesus revealing Himself.

30 Two men, Moses and Elijah, 31 appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem.

The crowds were wrong when they think Jesus is Moses or Elijah. Again Luke refers to the earlier part of this chapter. To Jewish thinking, Moses is the identification with the law of God and Elijah represents the great prophet. Elijah did not die but was taken up to heaven in a chariot. Moses died but according to Jewish tradition, his body was never buried because God took his body. Both appeared in glory signifying their present heavenly abode.

The association of Jesus with Moses and Elijah is a reminder of God’s plan of redemption that started with the Law and the prophets and will culminate with the salvation of all mankind.

They are talking about Jesus ‘departure’. The Greek word Luke used is ‘exodus’. Again it reminds Luke’s listeners of the exodus of the Israelites and God’s role in it. Here the emphasis is on Jesus’ exodus which will start and end in Jerusalem. In Jerusalem, Jesus will be rejected by the leaders of his own people, tried and found guilty and executed and died. On the third day, he will rise and later ascend into heaven to receive his glory. That is the heart of the gospel, the good news. That is the wonder of God, that God will come down and take on the form of a human being so that he can save his own creation. The problem is that we have heard this message so often that we have lost the sense of wonder. We have taken it for granted.

 

 

2. The Danger of Trying to Control the Sense of Wonder.

 Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, "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." (He did not know what he was saying.)

The disciples were sleepy but were suddenly alert of the wonders of God amongst them. The wonders of God has a way of waking us up to a sense of wonder of God. God is aware that we are so weak and of our ability to lose our sense of wonder. So God often gives us wonderful experience of his presence. He rekindles our sense of wonder. It happens in certain moments of our lives – when our newborn babies are born, when we received an epiphany from God, during church camps, conferences and seminars, during our quiet times and retreats. We call these our mountaintop experience. We feel so good and energized. We feel so strongly the sense of wonder of God.

In trying to prolong the moment, Peter suggested building shelters for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. Peter may have remembered the Feast of the Tabernacle (booths, tents) which were celebrated yearly in remembrance of God’s provision during the exodus.

Peter did what many of us would do. Mountain-top experiences does not last. As the glow on Moses’ face fade, so does our maintain top experiences also fade. We are be thankful for the experience and record it in our journals so that we can remember it.

But instead we not try to prolong the experience or even worst, we try to control the experience. That’s what Peter was trying to do. He is trying to control this wonderful experience of being in the presence of Moses and Elijah by offering to build them shelter. One of our greatest problem is that we try to control worship. Peter wants to control Jesus. “O, God, it is good to be here.” we says too, “I like this splendor, this glory so let’s try to prolong it. Stay longer. Let me know you more”. Look at it from Peter’s perspective. Moses and Elijah are the two greatest figures in his religious upbringing. So here he is in the presence of these two. Wow. What an experience. Can I keep it? 

I always remember my first feeling of a sense of wonder of God’s presence. I cannot remember how old I was then but I was a boy scout and we were camping by the Gombak river in Selangor. One morning, I woke up earlier than others so I walked to a bend in the river away from the campsite and sat down. Looking at the sparkling waters in the early morning, I suddenly felt a deep sense of wonder and peace. It was the most wonderful feeling I ever felt then. A few years later, I tried to recapture that feeling again so I went to the same place. I could not recapture that experience. Recently I went to Gombak but I could not even find the river!

Luke censured Peter’s remarks by an editorial comment-he did not know what he was saying. (1) the disciples’ drowsiness can also be interpreted as their spiritual dullness. Jesus must be equally tired as them but he was not sleepy. (2) Peter addressed Jesus as ‘master’ even after he claimed that Jesus is the Christ. When God gives you an experience of his wonder, enjoy it and be thankful. But do not try to hang on to it but move on.

 

3. The Transforming Power of the Wonder of God

While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. A voice came from the cloud, saying, "This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him." When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves, and told no one at that time what they had seen.

God response to Peter’s attempt to control his spiritual experience was to show himself. Luke was emphatic in giving three reference: (1) the cloud, (2) his enveloping presence and (3) voice from the cloud. God was telling Peter. Stop it. Stop trying to control the experience. Get the real thing. I am here.

Who entered the cloud? Jesus, Moses and Elijah has been portrayed as in some way sharing the divine glory so it does not make sense to picture the cloud as enveloping them. It is likely that the disciples were enveloped. They responds with fear.

The word of God identified Jesus in three ways-as the Son of God; as the Isaianic servant of Yahweh and as a prophet like Moses. Hence they must listen to him. Moses and Elijah had left. Jesus is left as the interpreter and finally fulfillment of the law and the prophets. God said, “I have an even greater wonder for you. Listen to my Son”. Jesus is the wonder. He is going to Jerusalem and offer himself as a sacrifice for you. He is going to fulfill the law and the teachings of the prophets. He is going to redeem God’s creation, bring salvation to all man and woman. He is going to bring in the kingdom of God, here and now. That’s why in Lk.9:27 27

 I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God."

This is followed by the healing of a boy with an evil spirit in Lk 9:37-43.

 The next day, when they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met him. A man in the crowd called out, "Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child. A spirit seizes him and he suddenly screams; it throws him into convulsions so that he foams at the mouth. It scarcely ever leaves him and is destroying him. I begged your disciples to drive it out, but they could not." "O unbelieving and perverse generation," Jesus replied, "how long shall I stay with you and put up with you? Bring your son here."

 Even while the boy was coming, the demon threw him to the ground in a convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the evil spirit, healed the boy and gave him back to his father. And they were all amazed at the greatness of God.

While Peter, John and James were with Jesus on the mountain, the rest of the disciples were trying to drive out the demon from this child. They did not succeed. But Jesus was able to do it with his rebuke-his words. What Luke is showing his is that even demons is subject to Jesus’ words. That’s why we have to listen to him. Because listening to Jesus’ words have a transforming effect.

Words have a powerful transforming results. I remember clearly when I was in standard two in Brickfield School in Kuala Lumpur. One day my class teacher, Chikgu Noordin called me to her table and spoke to me. I never forget what she said. She said, “Tuck Hon, you can be great person if you work hard.” Can you imagine the impact this has on a skinny 8 years old. Someone who believed in you. I am not great yet but I worked hard. The transforming power of words. And God told us to listen to his son.

 

Concluding remarks

As we continue in our series on worship, a sense of wonder at the glory of God is an important aspect of worship.

(1)   The wonder of  God as revealed in his Son, Jesus Christ (Revelation)

(2)   The danger of trying to control this sense of wonder experience. (Experience)

(3)   The transforming power of this wonder, Jesus Christ. (Transformation)

 

How can we apply this in our worship?

Get to know Jesus, the wonder of God. Our worship must be Christ-centered.

(1)   Know Jesus through His words. The Renovare Spiritual Formation Bible will be launched in spring this year. The editors wrote in their recent newsletter, ‘We came to understand that the Bible is all about human life “with God.” It is about how God make this “with” life possible and will bring it to pass. In fact, the name Immanuel, meaning “God is with us”, is the title given to the one and only Redeemer because it refers to God’s everlasting intent for human life, namely we should be in every aspect a dwelling place of God. Indeed, we came to see that the unity of he Bible is discovered in the development of life “with God” as a reality on earth, centered in the person of Jesus.’

(2)   Know Jesus through His people. Listen to other people’ life experiences of God. I love to listen to what God is doing in their lives. It is an education for me because it widens my perception of Jesus. Another way is to serve His people. Getting involved in various ministries inside and outside the church helps us to know God. I find that as I serve Him in various capacities, it stretches me and makes me depend on him rather than on myself. It makes me know Him better.

(3)   Know Jesus through God’s Creation. God’s creation can be a powerful teaching. The recent tsunami disaster brings to mind the awesomeness of God’s creation. I do not know why God allows the earthquake to occur. Or why He did not stop the wave. I am struggling with this. But I still know that He is a good God, worthy of worship.

(4)   Let Jesus be part of our life. Be Christ centered. Do everything for the ‘audience of one’. We live our lives in the presence of God. God is spirit and He is everywhere. So we are actually living in His presence all the time. Would we do things differently if we are aware that we have an audience of one. In these quiet secret moments when we think nobody is watching?

(5)   Be like Christ- grow into maturity in righteousness.

 

The Wonder of God is His Son Jesus Christ. Knowing Jesus Christ as He really is, is a powerful spiritual experience. We can try to control this experience which will make it useless or we can listen to Him and transforms our lives

 

Soli Deo Gloria

 

 

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