Last Epiphany (Transfiguration) 1 Kings 2:1-12 2 Corinthians 4:3-6 Mark 9:2-9
Let us pray: Gracious God, speak to us now and help us to listen. Lead us up the mountain with you and transfigure us. Amen.
We human beings are a strange mixture of belief and doubt. We say we believe something, but there is always doubt present. I guess it is part of being human. The Bible says we see only in part now as through a dark glass. We can't understand everything in the world around us. So we are always questioning what we believe to be the truth. I guess faith and doubt are like two sides of a coin. Without one the other would be meaningless.
But thank God we still venture to believe despite our doubts. Even though we can't see God, some of us still believe that God exists. Despite all the evil in the world we still believe that God is in control and that God is good. If we do not admit however that we have doubts then we are fooling ourselves.One day a man came to Jesus. He was a leper and wanted to be healed. Jesus asked him if he believed. He said, "Yes Lord I believe. Help my unbelief." He was honest with Jesus and we should follow his example. We need to admit that we are all a mixture of doubt and belief.
Jesus' disciples were no different. They believed and yet they doubted also. One day Jesus asked them who people were saying he was. They said, "Some say Elijah or John the Baptist come back." Then Jesus said, "Who do you say I am?" And Peter said, "You are the Messiah." He believed in Jesus and was the first disciples to say so out loud.
But then Jesus started saying that he must go to Jerusalem to be rejected and killed. Peter didn't like the sound of this. He probably began to doubt not only Jesus' divinity but his sanity as well. Mark says that Peter took Jesus aside and rebuked him. He didn't merely ask for a clarification of something he had trouble understanding. He rebuked Jesus and told him he was wrong. If Peter believed without a doubt that Jesus was the Messiah, he would have accepted whatever Jesus said as the Gospel truth. But he questioned what Jesus told him and doubted.
This incident demonstrates that Peter, the chief apostle, was a mixture of belief and doubt. Don't misunderstand. Peter did believe. He honestly believed that Jesus was the Messiah. But at the same time he doubted. He questioned the truth of Jesus' teaching when it didn't make perfect sense to him.
Peter and the other disciples had to live with this mixture of faith and doubt just as all humans do. So Jesus took them on a journey to help them grow in faith. It took six days of walking to reach the destination: a mountain. Then Jesus took three of the disciples: Peter, James and John up a mountain to pray. Some scholars believe that this mountain was Mt. Hebron. Mt. Hebron is 9200 feet up and its summit is always covered with snow.
So it was quite a hike to the top. At the top something happened. Jesus was transfigured. His clothes became an unearthly white and his face glowed. Moses and Elijah were standing there with him as a testimony to Jesus' holiness. Then a voice came from heaven and said, "This is my Beloved Son, do as he says."
I believe that this happened to confirm their faith. They believed that Jesus was the Messiah but at the same time they probably wondered if he was not mistaken about going to Jerusalem to die. But despite their doubt they followed Jesus to the mountain. They even hiked to the top of a high cold mountain. And God showed them that Jesus was the Messiah, and their faith was strengthened.
Like the disciples you and I are a mixture of belief and doubt. If we are honest with ourselves we can all join that leper in saying, "Lord I believe. Help my unbelief." Even faithful people, like the apostle Peter, have doubts. "Lord I believe. Help my unbelief." That is the prayer of a true disciple. Anything less is a failure to be honest with ourselves and with God.
We all have doubts, and one of the main areas of doubt is that Jesus actually is the Son of God. Like Peter people say Jesus is the Messiah, but they doubt at the same time. Many people say they believe that Jesus is the son of God, but they have never committed their lives to him. They accept the historical premise that Jesus is God's Son. But they are unwilling to base their lives on that. Many who say they believe Jesus is the Son of God are unwilling to set aside the time to worship him on a regular basis. They believe, but not enough to give up a hour a week for study and worship. Or to give some time to him in prayer or service. But all of us have some level of doubt. Even those who have committed their lives fully to Christ have room to grow. No matter how deep our faith in Christ is, there are always new depths to discover.
And yet Jesus' sonship is at the cornerstone of our faith. Maybe that is why people have doubts about Jesus from time to time. After all if he was only a great moral teacher and not the only begotten Son of God, then his teachings are no more important than say Buddha's. There were many healers in Jesus day. If he was not God's son than he was just another healer. If he was not God's son than he could not have died for our sins and we would have to rely on our own moral ability and good works to save us. And we know no one is saved by works. Perhaps people doubt Jesus' divinity because it is so central to our faith.
We all have doubts. When you have doubts, just follow Jesus anyway. There are some people who believe they should just sit still until they get it all figured out. They say they will start going to church after they are finished reading the Bible and understand it. Or they won't make a commitment to Christ until they are free of all doubts. It'll never happen!
That's not the way Jesus works. When Jesus called Peter and the others, he didn't say come and I will explain everything to you then we will minister. He said, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people." Christians learn on their feet while they walk. Jesus believes in on-the-job training. Every Christian needs to take classes, but we also need to sign up for an internship. We must follow to learn and grow. If we try to learn it all then follow, we will never learn a thing.
Have you ever heard the saying, "If you want to have faith, live as if you had it." That doesn't mean that you should put on a religious show as if you had faith. It is saying that we should step out in faith especially when we doubt. Because it is only when we step out in faith that our faith is verified and our doubts are quieted.
Step out in faith like Peter, James and John. They doubted, yet they followed Jesus up that mountain and their faith was confirmed and strengthened. In the same way we must follow Jesus up the mountain. Even though it seems an uphill struggle and your doubts nag at you continue to step out in faith. And you will see for yourself that Jesus is the Beloved Son of God.
Let us pray: Heavenly Father help us to listen to your Son, whom you have chosen. Help us listen to the one whose face not only shone - but his entire being, for in listening we ourselves will be transformed, and your perfect light will cast out the darkness of sin and death. Blessed be the God of Moses and Elijah, and blessed be the name of his Son, Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.