Luke 9:28-36 (EHV) 28 About eight days after he said these words, Jesus took Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 While he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothing became dazzling white. 30 Just then, two men, Moses and Elijah, were talking with him! 31 They appeared in glory and were talking about his departure, which he was going to bring to fulfillment in Jerusalem. 32 Peter and those with him were weighed down with sleep, but when they were completely awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. 33 As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let’s make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not realize what he was saying. 34 While he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them. They were afraid as they went into the cloud. 35 Then a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” 36 After the voice had spoken, they found Jesus alone. They kept this secret and told no one in those days any of the things they had seen.
Our sermon text today starts off, “About eight days after Jesus said this.” Eight days after what? In order to fully comprehend what’s going on in our sermon text, we need to set the stage. We need to understand what happened eight days prior to Jesus ascending the Mount of Transfiguration where His face lit up like a police search light.
Earlier in this ninth chapter of Luke, we hear Jesus gave the disciples “power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and He sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” (Luke 9:1-2) The twelve disciples, under the direction of Jesus, took along no provisions for this epic missionary journey. No food. No money. No extra clothes. Nothing. It is rather obvious that God didn’t call them to be comfortable. God called them to do His will no matter the cost!
Then in verse ten, we have the account of Jesus feeding the 5,000. This massive crowd gathered to hear the wisdom and preaching of Jesus. They hung on His every word from morning until evening. And they were famished. In Matthew’s recording of this event, we find out that Jesus gave the disciples the job of finding enough food for all these 5,000 men plus woman and children to eat. How horribly uncomfortable a situation Jesus placed them in! “You feed the hungry mob!” Jesus told them. But then Christ again showed His absolute power. Jesus took two small fish and five loaves of bread. He gave thanks to God in prayer and began to break the bread and fish into pieces. And those gathered had their fill. So great was this miracle that there were twelve baskets full of leftovers after everyone had eaten. (Mt. 14:20) That’s more food than when Jesus started!
Then in verse 18 of Luke’s gospel, just before our sermon text, Jesus gathers together His disciples. After they had gone on their uncomfortable missionary journey and after they were placed in the uncomfortable position of having to feed a stadium’s worth of hungry Jesus fans, Jesus then asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?” The disciples replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.”
Jesus asked the disciples a rather uncomfortable question. Jesus put them on the spot saying, “Who do you say I am?” Jesus didn’t give the disciples any indication if the crowds were right or wrong. Now, it was up to them to give their opinion.
Bold Peter, spoke up. “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Mt. 16:16). Jesus is the Christ—the prophesied man who would come from the line of David to rule with all power and authority. And Jesus is the Son of the Living God—Jesus is 100% true God with the power to redeem the world of their sins.
Immediately after Peter gave his Holy Spirit inspired answer, Christ gave the disciples another warning telling them that God didn’t call them to be comfortable during their lifetime. Specifically, Jesus said, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will save it.”
Think about it. Three times in three different ways over three different days, Jesus stressed to His disciples God didn’t call them to be comfortable. God called them to be Christ-like, to be ready to sacrificially serve.
That last pop quiz question from Jesus, “Who do you say I am?” happened eight days before our sermon text. Now in our text, Jesus tests His disciples to see if they were listening. Jesus is going to see if the disciples learned the lesson. Will they choose to be comfortable or faithful?
Right away, Jesus did something making them uncomfortable. He split His disciples into two groups. Christ was just about to ascend a mountain where something magnificent was about to happen. And Jesus seems to play favorites. He only allowed Peter, James and John to continue with Him. That’s test one to put faithfulness into practice. Jesus placed His disciples in an uncomfortable position. The nine who weren’t allowed to continue on had to battle with fits of jealousy. “Why do they get to go I and I don’t?” And the three disciples invited along had to battle with issues of pride. “See, I am better than you!” The disciples commonly fought over this.
We are placed into similar uncomfortable situations. Were you part of the “in crowd” while in high school? For those of us who weren’t in the Cool Kids Club, we struggled with self-worth issues and confidence. And it stunk. For those of us who were voted Most Popular, we struggled with arrogance and a better-than-you attitude.
Wasn’t high school some messed up, difficult years of living? What a unique social experiment high school was. There were groups and cliques all over the place. People were trying to get into a different, more important group and others were trying to push someone out of their group. Everytime someone went out or came into a group, the whole balance shifted and everyone scrambled to find out their new ranking in the group order.
Do you remember this? It shouldn’t be that hard to recall because it’s still happening today. It’s happening in your work environment. It’s happening in your circle of friends. It’s happening in your extended family. It’s happening on Facebook. You’re in one day and out the next. And it hurts. God never says because you’re a Christian this life will become and stay comfortable. He doesn’t. He doesn’t say that at all. God didn’t call you to be comfortable. God calls you to be content and react in love and kindness when you are kicked out of a social group. And God calls you to not fall into the trap of arrogance when you have achieved a higher standing than those around you. This is easier said than done!
We aren’t told the reaction of the disciples when Jesus only took Peter, James and John with Him up the mountain. But there are plenty of times recorded in the gospels where fights broke out between the disciples about who was most important. The disciples failed Jesus’ first test and so do we.
The second test came as Jesus got to the top of the mountain. Our text tells us that Jesus went off to pray. What did the three chosen disciples do? They slept! They almost slept right through the moment of Jesus’ transfiguration! God didn’t call them to be comfortable. Jesus didn’t call them up the mountain to sleep at a higher elevation. Jesus called them to pray boldly, to be alert, to get ready for something amazing!
God commands us in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray continually.” How’s your prayer life? It’s probably not as strong as your TV watching life. How’s your devotional life? It’s probably not as strong as your latest, greatest, can’t-put-it-down best seller book club book. How many of you have such great intentions of praying to Jesus at night but you zonk about before you barely get started? God didn’t call you to be comfortable. Being a strong Christian doesn’t come from a good night’s sleep. Being a strong Christian comes from a strong relationship with Christ refreshed by weekly worship and daily prayer.
The disciples failed Jesus’ second test and so do we.
Peter, James and John almost missed it. Because they made themselves comfortable rather than consistent in their prayer life, they almost missed Jesus’ transfiguration. While Jesus was praying, His dirty, dusty roadwearied clothes became dazzling white—whiter than overtly dramatic TV commercials for bleaching your clothes. And Jesus’ face even shone as brightly as the sun itself. The true glory of Christ was squeaking out— showing itself in bright array! Then, suddenly, two Old Testament figures who haven’t been alive on the earth for hundreds of years appeared with Jesus. They encouraged Him about the saving work He was about to fulfill.
The three disciples, after wiping crusties from their eyes from a sleepy stupor, approached Jesus and His heavenly buddies. Peter—who should have kept his mouth shut and his eyes open—said, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for You, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” Peter didn’t getting it. Peter didn’t want this moment to end; he didn’t want things to change. Peter wanted to be comfortable. But God didn’t call him to be comfortable but to do what’s right!
What decision in your life have you been putting off? What direction do you know is right to do but it’s way easier to be comfortable than to be Christ-like? What conversation, what course of action, what life-change have you been avoiding because it will simply be uncomfortable to go that God-pleasing route? It changes today! God didn’t call you to be comfortable. God called you to action. God called you to be faithful. God called you to His service. God called you to do what’s hard!
Jesus rejected Peter’s offer to put up three shelters on that mountain. Oh, it would’ve been easier than what God the Father had planned for Jesus. It would have been oh so wonderful for Jesus to set up a little heaven on earth on that mountain. With His absolute power, Jesus could have made that mountaintop so similar to heaven it would have been incomprehensible to our earthly minds. But if Jesus had remained there, the world would have still been infect with our sins and headed to hell. If Jesus had perched himself on the mountain and sheltered Himself from the world, we all would have perished never to know what heaven was truly like.
Jesus knew He didn’t come to earth to be comfortable. Jesus came to earth to be compassionate. God the Father called Jesus to earth to action. God called Jesus to march down that mountain where His glory was seen by only a few as His face was transfigured and Jesus marched up the mountain known as Golgotha where the masses of people saw His face now bloodied from the beating and thorns. Where the soldiers gambled over his once transfigured closes now dirty from Him falling under the weight of the cross as Jesus would not stop, His love for you would not let Him stop His ascent to a new mountain, a mountain of death, to pay for the mountain of our sins. Jesus didn’t choose to be comfortable. He chose you! He! Chose! You! Before you were born, He chose you! Even though you struggle to be content, to pray boldly, to do what’s hard, He chose you! Christ died for you! Christ released you from the guilt of your sins as you chose comfort over faithfulness in your life.
On this Transfiguration Sunday, God is moving your heart to be transfigured. God is calling on you to make the hard decisions you know are God pleasing. God is commanding you to stop making excuses over why you can’t serve Him. God didn’t call you to be comfortable in your work environment, in your home environment and even in your church environment. The ministry at Salem Lutheran Church is at a crossroads as we work together as a family of believers to chart the course for our future. Be willing to be uncomfortable! Choose to be willing to be uncomfortable so that more people who are currently comfortable with sin and a life apart from the Savior might be able to hear about Jesus from you, from our church, from this place called Salem, this place called Peace. May the Spirit guide us, may the Father bless us, may the Son embolden us as we tell others about Christ. God didn’t call you to be comfortable; God calls us to be willing to be uncomfortable to that others might know the true, lasting, eternal comfort of Christ. May God bless it! Amen.