(Significant Scriptures: Matthew 17:1-9)
I have an impairment that, at times, causes me serious grief and frustration. And my impairment is this: I have trouble finding things. I set important things in special places so that I will be sure to find them when I need them. And then when I need them, I can’t find them.
This past Wednesday, Susan and I and our four youngest children were all set to go to the Bronco’s game. It was about a quarter to seven and we were all getting in the family van. It takes about a half an hour to get from our place to the I-plex, so everything was working out just fine. I only had one thing left to do and that was to make sure that I brought my wallet which contained the tickets to the hockey game. I thought that I had set it on the dash of the van, but it wasn’t there. I looked in all the places where I had been since I came home from work and the wallet wasn’t in any of those places. Panic set in. Susan and our oldest son, Brandon, pitched in and helped out with the search but none of us were having any luck. Time continued to tick on by and I became more and more desperate. I was almost resigned to the possibility that we were all going to have to miss the game when Brandon found my wallet on the floor beneath some coats hanging close to the floor on coat hooks. I had looked in that exact same spot just a few minutes before and never saw it. And that is typical of what happens when I am trying to find something. But I did find $15 in a pair of pants when I was looking for the tickets.
Sometimes life can be frustrating like that. We tend to live life based upon what we see. And while there is much great beauty and wonder to life, much of what we see really isn’t all that appealing. We are born into this world and we grow in strength and stature and ability. We keep getting bigger and stronger and faster until at some point we peak. And then it is all downhill from there. And it is a struggle to cope with the loss of our strength and our abilities.
But there is more. Because even when we are at our best, we still mess up. Even when everything is right, we can’t get it right. We say things we shouldn’t say, we do things we shouldn’t do. We think things we shouldn’t think. And then we have to live with the consequences. And it all weighs us down.
There are aspects of life that are hidden. We are all well acquainted with our own frailties and failures but we long for something more. We know that there has to be more to life than this. We long for something good that goes beyond ourselves, something wonderful that will last forever. But the reality of that better life remains hidden from us and we cannot find it even if it is right in front of us.
There were also aspects of Jesus’ life that were hidden from those around him. He was born as a humble baby in a manger. He lived an ordinary life growing up to from a boy to become a man. He had human needs just like you and me. Generally speaking, there was nothing exceptional about this son of a carpenter from Nazareth.
And yet, from time to time, there were glimpses of something great and glorious hidden within this ordinary person. There was a time when he was twelve when he amazed the teachers in the temple with the wisdom and understanding. When he was in his early thirties, Jesus became an itinerant rabbi, going from place to place teaching and preaching. As he did that, Jesus would heal those who were sick. He would give sight to those who were blind. And Jesus even raised some people from the dead. Jesus also forgave sins and that was offensive and unthinkable to religious people because only God can forgive sins. And then we have this event that Matthew has recorded for us. I’ll read it to you from an easy-to-understand paraphrase called The Message:
1 Six days later, three of them saw that glory. Jesus took Peter and the brothers, James and John, and led them up a high mountain. 2 His appearance changed from the inside out, right before their eyes. Sunlight poured from his face. His clothes were filled with light. 3 Then they realized that Moses and Elijah were also there in deep conversation with him. 4 Peter broke in, “Master, this is a great moment! What would you think if I built three memorials here on the mountain-one for you, one for Moses, one for Elijah?” 5 While he was going on like this, babbling, a light-radiant cloud enveloped them, and sounding from deep in the cloud a voice: “This is my Son, marked by my love, focus of my delight. Listen to him.” 6 When the disciples heard it, they fell flat on their faces, scared to death. 7 But Jesus came over and touched them. “Don’t be afraid.” 8 When they opened their eyes and looked around all they saw was Jesus, only Jesus.
9 Coming down the mountain, Jesus swore them to secrecy. “Don’t breathe a word of what you’ve seen. After the Son of Man is raised from the dead, you are free to talk.” (The Message, Mt. 17:1-9)
Jesus healed people like only God could do. Jesus forgave sins, which only God could do. Jesus’ appearance changed, revealing a brilliant glory like only God could have. So the natural conclusion is that, hidden within the ordinary humanness of Jesus… is God.
And the divinity of Jesus shown through for a few moments in time, but then it was hidden again. And Jesus’ divine nature remained hidden as he came down off of that mountain and journeyed steadfastly towards Jerusalem. And there, the hidden God allowed himself to be beaten and whipped and nailed to a cross to die. There was no obvious glory here. All that could be seen was a man who is broken, bleeding and suffering for sins that he did not commit.
And yet, hidden in that crucifixion was a wonderful and glorious gift for the whole wide world. For there were on things happening that we could not see on that Friday so long ago. We could not see it, but on that cross Jesus was carrying all of the brokenness, all of the guilt and all of the shame of the whole wide world. We could not see it, but as he hung there, Jesus allowed all of the evil and all of the hatred and all of the death in this world to be poured out on him instead of us. We could not see it, but Jesus absorbed them all into his body until he completely broke the power that they had over all humanity.
But three days later, all was revealed! Jesus rose from the dead. He is alive! This is a glorious event that has never happened before. Now this was something that people could see! They see Jesus, they could hear him and they could touch him. And so the resurrection of Jesus shows us that the hidden things of God are the things that are real and true and of lasting value.
And so we can trust what God has revealed to us in the Bible. We can trust that now there is no more condemnation for those who look to Jesus. We can trust that now there is forgiveness for everyone who trusts in Jesus. We can trust that now there is a rich, abundant life for everyone who follows Jesus.
But here is the catch. All of these wonderful gifts that Jesus gives to us are hidden. You and I cannot see the forgiveness that we have from Jesus. You and I cannot see the healing that we have with Jesus. You and I cannot see the life that we have with Jesus. All of these glorious gifts are hidden from our human eyes. And yet, they are all real and they are all true. As God tells us through Paul in Colossians, chapter three:
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4)
Our challenge is to live the hidden life that we have from Jesus.
In my life, whenever I find myself feeling a little down or depressed, as I take time to think about it, I realize that I have allowed myself to become discouraged by circumstances that I see around me. And when I find myself in those moments, I need to remind myself of the invisible promises that I have in Jesus Christ. Promises like: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” (John 14:1); “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33); and “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9) And when I remember those invisible promises, that is when the dark clouds in my life begin to lift.
The prophet Isaiah tells us that Jesus had “no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him” (Isa 53:2b). And yet, hidden in this ordinary-looking human being was all of the love and compassion of God for the entire world. That is what Jesus showed us on the Mountain of Transfiguration so many years ago. And Jesus came off of that mountain to be your Saviour, so that you may have a life hidden in him. Just as Jesus’ glory was hidden most of the time while he walked on this earth, so also the glory of our wonderful life with him is hidden while we are on this earth. And so remember to look at life through the eyes of faith. That is how to see things as they really are. Jesus loves you, Jesus is with you and you are forever safe with him.
This past weekend, while at the Break Forth conference in Edmonton, I was visiting with a friend who was telling me about his daughter. She was seeing this really nice guy, and one day he invites her over to his place. They go for a walk in the park and while they are walking he asks her if she would like a Kinder Surprise. She agreed and so he gave one to her and kept one for himself. My friend’s daughter unwrapped the outer foil and broke open the chocolate egg inside to discover the surprise inside. She was expecting some kind of a toy, but what she found was a diamond ring! So, do you think she said yes? Yes, she did.
And in the same way, Jesus comes to us and gives us a gift that looks plain and ordinary on the outside, but inside, it is the most amazing gift one could ever dream of-a life with him that will last forever! Is that a life worth holding onto? Yes, it is! Amen.
(Preached at Trinity Lutheran Church, Ponteix SK & Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church, Swift Current SK on 3 Feb 2008 )