Surprises often happen when we’re least expecting them. Sometimes when we’re tired or perhaps confused, or maybe a bit down.
Perhaps it was like that with Peter, James and John. They’d been following Jesus for some time now, and they must have wondered just who he was.
They must also have been really tired with the constant comings and goings of so many people, and the knowledge that the Authorities really weren’t best pleased with their leader. They were probably a bit frightened, too.
And now, here he was, leading them up a mountain path because presumably he wanted to say some prayers with them, and hill tops were good places to be alone without the press of the crowds.
We can work out how tired they must have been because we’re told they were very sleepy. And then, the surprise broke right in to their sleepiness, and for a moment they saw Jesus as he really was. Whatever they actually saw or heard, left them with absolutely no doubt that Jesus was God’s chosen one. They were convinced that he was the fulfilment of the Jewish Law, and the one of whom the prophets had spoken down through the ages. That’s what the presence of Moses who represented The Law, and Elijah, who represented The Prophets, was meant to tell them.
Now, will it surprise you if I tell you that you’ve probably had experiences like this as well?
Let me remind you of a few lines from a hymn which you might know.
It goes like this:
“Sometimes a light surprises the Christian while he sings;
It is the Lord who rises with healing in his wings;
When comforts are declining, he grants the soul again
A season of clear shining, to cheer it after rain.”
Experiences like this can happen right out of the blue. Perhaps you’ve been saying some prayers; maybe even struggling, and wondering where on earth all those people who tell you that prayer is easy, have been all their lives. Perhaps you don’t know what to say, or where to start; you might even feel like giving up. And then, right out of nowhere, something grips you. You don’t need any words; you don’t need to say or do anything. You just know, at a very deep level that God is very close to you.
You may feel moved to tears without really understanding why .You might just feel a great sense of peace. But you won’t want the moment to end.
This was Peter’s experience wasn’t it?
“Master “he said, “It’s good for us to be here. Let’s put up three shelters; one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah”
He wanted to prolong the experience. He’d been given a glimpse of who Jesus was, and he didn’t want the moment to end. But it had to end.
You might become acutely aware of the presence of Jesus, in your prayers. Or perhaps through a beautiful sunset, or as you lose yourself in a piece of music or a song which is special to you.
It probably won’t happen very often, and it’s always something which is right outside of your control .You might want to stay with the moment, but in my experience, it can be very hard to do that. You just have to come away from it. It’s too intense.
And all of these things are “the light which surprises the Christian whilst he sings.” Just as the author of our hymn tells us, they’re nothing less than “The Lord who rises with healing in his wings.”
I think we’re given these rare experiences when we need them most. We can’t conjure them up, and often they come when things have been going badly, but not always. And sometimes I think God might well withhold them from us because He wants us to live by faith.
But we need to remember them, because like Peter, James and John, we shan’t stay on the mountain for long.
Our gospel passage tells us how very shortly after leaving the mountain top, they found themselves back in everyday life surrounded by people who needed Jesus to heal them. They met their friends who, we’re told, were unable to help the little lad who was having the epileptic fit.
We have to live our lives in the valley, not on the mountain top. And all too often the valley seems a dark and difficult place. But Jesus is right there with us. We won’t be aware of His presence for most of the time, and that’s why it’s so important to remember those times when you’ve met him on the mountain.
And then you can call on him from where you are in the valley, and you can be confident that He will hear you.