Our lives are made up of thousands upon thousands of moments, the majority of which I fear are not particularly memorable and are thus quickly forgotten and never recalled again. Even the memorable moments are sometimes lost until something brings them back, perhaps a picture, or a smell, or a friend’s recollection. But there are some moments that because of their importance or intensity are so fixed in our memories that we will, barring neurological damage, always remember them, and not only can
we recall them, but we do
recall them on a regular basis because of the impact that they had on us. The day we were married, the day we were converted, the day we lost a loved one, the day we were injured or wounded.
I was privileged to see one of those moments being recalled in Walmart near the checkout line the other day, as two old men, both of them sitting in those electric scooters, and one of them crying, leaned across to hug one another. I learned from what they were saying and what one of the men was saying to his wife, that the last time they had seen each other was in Vietnam as they were both being medevaced from a firefight. The man who was crying said, “I was so scared, I thought I was gonna die, but you took my hand and you told me I was gonna make it. And that kept me going, that kept me going.” That moment had made a “forever” impression on that man.
Now imagine not just having one or two of those incredibly intense life-changing “forever moments”, but dozens and dozens, and you have an idea of what it was like to be one of Christ’s Apostles. How could someone ever forget, for instance, going from thinking they were about to drown in the midst of a raging storm on the Sea of Galilee, to having Jesus rebuke the storm and having it stop dead in a heartbeat? The three years that the disciples spent with Christ were filled to the brim with moments like that. But of all those intense moments the Apostles were privileged to be part of and record, two in particular, the Transfiguration and the resurrection had perhaps the deepest impact on their theology. Three privileged apostles; Peter, James, and John, the inner circle of that inner circle, were taken up on a high mountain with Jesus (Matt. 17, Mark 9, Luke 9) and for a moment perceived just a fraction of his divine glory and then saw him speaking with two of the greatest figures from the Old Testament, Moses and Elijah, and then beheld him being suddenly engulfed in the glory cloud and heard the voice of God the father Himself saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!”
To say, as Mark does, that they were greatly afraid at that moment, is probably one of the great understatements of the bible. It’s probably a good thing that Jesus chose young men to be his apostles, because I imagine an old man might have had a heart attack at that moment!
This event fixed itself so profoundly in the memories of Peter and John that it became a key event in their writings to the church.
As John began to write His own gospel account, many years after the Resurrection, this event was still burning in His memory so that he wrote: John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
Peter also wrote about the importance of the Transfiguration. Just prior to his death, Peter recalled his time on the mountaintop as one of the most important events proving that Jesus is the Son of God and the Messiah. In 2 Peter 1:15 he wrote:
2 Peter 1:15 Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease. 16 For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. 17 For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” 18 And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. 19 And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; 20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, 21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
Whether Peter understood the full significance of that event at the time in happened, he certainly understood what it meant later, and his mention of the prophetic word being confirmed in verse 19, probably refers to what Moses said as he too was preparing to die:
Deut. 18:15 ” The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear, 16 “according to all you desired of the LORD your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.’ 17 “And the LORD said to me: ‘What they have spoken is good. 18 ‘I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. 19 ‘And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him.
This event coming as it did just after Peter had answered Jesus question in chapter 16 “But who do you say that I am?”
with “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
was a blessed confirmation that what Peter had confessed was true. That was probably one the reasons that Jesus had taken them with Him up on that mountain that day, rather than going alone – that and of course making it possible for us to read about it and have our own faith in Jesus confirmed as well.
I hope you’ve had your own life-changing forever moment with Christ (I had mine in 1993 while listening to Christian radio on the way to work) but if not, then I hope 2020 will be the year you do!