A Glimpse of Glory
A Glimpse of Glory
Text: Matthew 17:1-9
A few of you have heard this story before. I was in about 4th or 5th grade. My younger sister and I got pulled out of class to see the principal. We were leaving early that day. Shortly after, my mother was burning rubber down the street and came to a screeching stop at the school. “Jump in the car. We have to go get dad from the airport.”
My father had been on a flight from Oakland to Milwaukee. He saw a man he knew on the plane who was working for the Oakland Athletics baseball team at the time. You might know him—Hall of Fame baseball player Reggie Jackson. Fearless, he walked right up to Reggie and asked if he wanted a ride to his downtown hotel because he was the pastor of a church just down the street. Amazingly, he said yes.
I will never forget that 25-minute car ride from the airport to the hotel. My dad drove and Reggie Jackson was in the passenger seat. My sister and I were in the back with my mom in the middle. As a huge baseball and sports fan I was hoping my dad would take a couple dozen wrong turns to make the drive last longer.
After an awesome ride, with my dad even having opportunity to witness to Reggie and give him a Bible, we finally arrived at the hotel. I asked Reggie Jackson if he would sign two baseball cards for me. He said, “What was your name again, Scott?” I remember thinking, “You can call me Sally for all I care Mr. Jackson!” That was a glorious moment I never wanted to end.
Peter, James, and John had one of those moments. We heard about it today. Jesus took his three closest disciples up a high mountain one day. Suddenly he was transfigured, or changed, right before them. His face was shining brightly like the sun. His clothes were white like light. Moses and Elijah, two of the greatest heroes of faith of all time, appeared.
Can you even fathom what that was like? Surely you knew Jesus was the Son of God. You had seen him change water into wine and walk on water and heal people. But every now and then you would forget because he looked like a normal human. You had seen him tired and sleeping and eating and even crying. Now suddenly Jesus’ face is shining so bright it’s like looking directly into the sun. His clothes are so bright white that it looks like they are radiating light. Two great prophets they had only read about in Scripture were standing right next to him.
How would you have reacted? What would you have done? What would you have said? I’m guessing I would have responded much like Peter in verse 4: “Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.'”
Yeah it was good to be there! It was A Glimpse of Glory like they had never seen before. It was unlike anything in this world. Why not stay there? Wouldn’t you want to ask Moses what it was like to walk through the middle of the Red Sea? Wouldn’t you want to ask Elijah if the chariot of fire was a smooth ride up to heaven? Wouldn’t you want to put up a couple tents and camp with them too? What do you think it would be like to sing the old spiritual song Go Down Moses with Moses? Wouldn’t you want to freeze that moment of glory here in this world forever?
I know I would want to do that. You would probably want to do that. Even Peter wanted to do that. But that’s the problem, isn’t it? We are always looking for A Glimpse of Glory, our own little slice of glory right here in this world.
You might have your own Reggie Jackson story. That totally famous person you saw in person. Maybe at the airport. Maybe at a concert. Maybe in the most unexpected place. But you thought, “This is so cool! I can’t believe! I got to see So and So.”
We do this to ourselves with our TV and movies and magazines. I know I got so used to seeing Tiger Woods play golf on TV that when I once had him walk two feet from me at a golf tournament my mind was telling me it was fake. Another time I went to the David Letterman show in New York and Jennifer Anniston was a guest. She is so famous from TV and movies that even though I was siting twenty yards away from her I felt like I was watching the TV. We love these moments of glory lives.
We love moments of glory with our children too. These days with technology my generation wants to document every last moment of our children’s lives. Then we have to make sure everyone else sees it in our precious scrapbooks and on Facebook. “Look what Susie did! She ate her first Noodle!” “Wow! Cody is the smartest kid in the world! He stacked three blocks on top of each other! LOL!” One of my old high school classmates exemplifies the glory we want to experience through our children. The other day I saw his excited post about his son’s basketball game. He went on and on bragging about his son, writing MVP, MVP over and over again. You would have thought this kid had won a state championship. But oh no. He had 8 points and 4 rebounds in his 4th grade team’s 14-6 victory.
Deep down inside we all want glory here in this life. That’s why there are dozens of shows like Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. We all want to have that dream home or mansion. We want to be the ones who have an elevator down to our garage where we keep our three dozen vintage cars. We want to have our own jet. We want to be able to shop Loius Vuitton whenever we desire. We want to have personal attendants and housemaids clean our homes while we gallivant across the globe exploring untold wonders and unseen sights. We want glory and we want to have it right here, right now.
Like Peter, James, and John attracted to bright and shiny Jesus, we want glory in bright and shiny things—trophies, TVs, new cars, big houses. But Peter, James, and John quickly found out what real glory is like. Take a look at verse 5: “While he [Peter] was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!’ When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified.” When the disciples saw what real glory was like—God’s glory—they fell down to the ground terrified.
There are two symptoms of sinners that we see in the disciples today and that we can easily identify with. First of all, they wanted to preserve their small little taste of glory here in this world. We often look for glory here, too. But secondly, those disciples quickly realized that sinners don’t belong anywhere near God and his glory. In fact, God’s glory is so great that it terrifies sinners.
Do you see how shortsighted and earthly Peter was? He wanted to stay up on that mountain with Jesus shining like the sun. But he was failing to realize that if Jesus didn’t go down the mountain and die on the cross, Peter would never ever see more than that little glimpse of glory because he would end up in hell. Don’t we do the same? When our eyes are on the glories of this life and its experiences, we are losing track of the true glory Jesus came to win for us.
This moment on the mount of Transfiguration was not for the disciples so they could be impressed. This moment on the mount was not for us to ooh and ah at. This moment on the mount was all about Jesus. It was Moses and Elijah encouraging Jesus to go and do what he came for. It was the Father declaring that this was his beloved, perfect, and holy Son. It was Jesus being strengthened according to his human nature to accomplish the plan of salvation laid out before him.
Jesus would need every minute of this moment’s encouragement too. Soon he would walk down this mountain to ascend another mountain called Calvary. There all the glory would be completely hidden behind splatters of blood and shouts of pain. There all the glory would be seemingly lost as the sins of the world converged on Jesus Christ and the Son of God bowed his head in death.
We are about to embark on a journey with Peter, James, and John down this mount of Transfiguration. During the 40 days of Lent we will walk with them and with Jesus towards Jerusalem. We won’t see much glory. We will be reminded that Jesus conquers our enemies, but our worship will be much more muted and quiet. The alleluias will gone. Our meditation will become more solemn and serious. The weight of our sins will grow quite heavy.
Then on Good Friday we will see hardly any glory at all. The sanctuary will be dark. Everything will be covered in black. As the guilt creeps in and Jesus’ life fades away we will nearly forget there is such a thing as glory.
But then, then that glimpse of glory will return. On Easter Sunday morning the light will return. At the crack of dawn we will gather. The black is removed and traded for white. Lilies will cover the chancel. And as the sunlight rises and emerges the alleluias will return as we sing Jesus Christ is risen today, alleluia! On that day we will see yet another glimpse of glory—our Savior risen from the dead, triumphant over death and the devil.
And then, then we will remember what this mount of Transfiguration was all about. It wasn’t about a special show that we would camp out to watch with Moses and Elijah. It wasn’t about all the great things we get to see here in this world. It was about preparing Jesus to win real glory, eternal glory, for his people by dying to take away their sins.
You see, this little glimpse of glory on the mountaintop is like a little teaser or trailer for a movie. Haven’t you ever seen a preview in the theater or on TV and thought, “Ooh! I would like to see more of that!” That’s what this day of Transfiguration does for us. We see Jesus shining brightly as the eternal, beloved of Son of God and we say, “Ooh! I would like to see more of that!”
But unlike Peter thought, that glory is not for here in this world. And unlike we think, that glory has nothing to do with celebrities or Reggie Jackson or fast cars or huge bank accounts or our kid’s blue ribbon from the spelling bee. That glory we see today is a glimpse of what heaven will be like. It’s a glimpse of our privilege to see Jesus one day face to face shining in all his glory forever. It’s a glimpse of our blessing to hear the Father speaking to us one day about his beloved Son. Today is a glimpse of our loving God’s greatest gift—the forgiveness of sins that allows us to leave our temporary home with no glory here to live with him in all glory in our eternal home there.
Look carefully today at this mountaintop. It’s just A Glimpse of Glory. But burn the image in your mind. Soon the glory will disappear as Jesus walks down the mount of Transfiguration to ascend Mount Calvary. Then the glimpse of glory will flash but for a moment and whet your appetite once more on Easter Sunday. Burn that image in your mind, too. For soon, that little glimpse of glory that we see today and on Easter morning will be the permanent, real, true glory that we will enjoy forever and ever. Keep your eyes on Jesus, and he’ll bring you there and show you all his glory.
Posted on March 2, 2014, in Church, Sermons and tagged Church, David Letterman, Glory, James, Jennifer Anniston, Jesus, John, Matthew, Matthew 17, Peter, Reggie Jackson, Sermons, Tiger Woods, Transfiguration. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.