This Time the Disciples Don't Get Scared

At least they wake up.

Luke 9:28-36 (ESV)

Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.

Everything about this incident is different. It’s the most profound encounter with holiness this side of Isaiah 6 – yet no one gets scared. Instead, they get drowsy.

Jesus starts glowing; the Greek literally says that His clothing became as bright as lightning. Two famous dead people (Moses and Elijah) show up as if they’re alive and no one freaks out. They’re just standing there talking to Jesus. It’s an important conversation about what Jesus would accomplish in Jerusalem, but there’s no action.

It’s like being in a secret government command center. The scene doesn’t seem all that action packed, but everyone you see is famous and the things they’re talking about are super important.

This doesn’t feel like Earth. It feels like heaven. But the passage doesn’t say they’re in heaven, or were transported to heaven, or anything like that. They’re definitely still on Earth.

Remember verse 27? But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”

Then 8 days later this happens. The specific mention of the 8 days (in the very next sentence) ties the two passages together. Those who view this as the fulfillment of verse 27 definitely have a point.

It’s no stretch at all to think of this as seeing the kingdom of God.

So, where is the kingdom of God now? It’s us. The church is the kingdom of God. But can anyone see it?

Well, if they can’t, we’re not doing our job. One of the most visible aspects of the kingdom is community outreach – charity.

Consider what you’re doing to make the kingdom of God visible. While you can do some charity individually, programs are indispensable because they involve training, and training is essential.

Charity in modern America is complicated. There are lots of ways to do more harm than good.

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Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.