A Glimpse of Heaven
When I was young, I often envied the disciples of Jesus for having a personal experience with Jesus when he was here on earth. I wish there’s a way for me to have an in-person relationship with Jesus so that I can understanding him biter. I’m more of a visual learner.
It would be a profound experience to be taught directly by the Son of God. Then I wondered, if I were one of the twelve, would I be like Peter, James, and John because these three seemed to have been given a special attention by Jesus. You know Jesus always took them to important occasions.
I would be even more envious if I found out Jesus took Peter, James, and John to the mountain and showed them his transfiguration without me because that would be an amazing experience to see Jesus in his divine form. If Peter, James, and John came back and told me what they saw on the mountain, I would bag Jesus to take me the next day because I also want to have a glimpse of heaven.
Wouldn’t you all want to have a glimpse of heaven?
Let us look at this passage to learn how to enjoy a glimpse of heaven.
The passage begins with, “Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray.” (v. 28)
It says “after these sayings,” which points to the context. In verse 18, it says,
“Once when Jesus was praying alone, with only the disciples near him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” 19 They answered, “John the Baptist; but others, Elijah; and still others, that one of the ancient prophets has arisen.” 20 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “The Messiah of God.” (Lk 9:18–20).
Based on these verses, Jesus wanted the disciples to know who he is because he was going to the cross someday later, and they are the ones to carry on spreading the good news. It’s important for them to be convinced who he is. However, he didn’t want his identity to be public because the sooner everyone knows, the sooner the religious leaders would get him crucified. He wants to train his disciples before the time comes.
But the disciples must know who Jesus is. Did they know? They were not quite sure. The crowd believe Jesus was Elijah or one of the ancient prophets that has arisen. Some people would have thought Jesus could be Moses reincarnated since Jesus fed five thousand people around the time of Passover. During Passover, the Jews were thinking about Moses who took them out of Egypt. Moses also fed the people with manna in the desert. When they put two and two together, they might be linking Jesus with Moses.
However, when Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.” In their concept, the Messiah is a mighty warrior of God who would come to overturn the Roman occupation and reestablish the kingdom of Israel.
Then Jesus told them that he would be crucified. Obviously, they were confused. They were expecting a warrior to save them, but Jesus was telling them that he would die. If he couldn’t save his own life, how could he save Israel? They were totally confused!
So the Transfiguration is a moment for clarifying Jesus’ identity to these disciples. Jesus is not Moses because Moses showed up in front of them next to Jesus. Jesus is not Elijah either because Elijah also showed up. So, this resolved the confusion. Jesus is not some past prophets that returned from the dead.
“And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30 Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. 31 They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.” (Lk 9:29–31).
The Bible says that Jesus, Moses, and Elijah discussed Jesus departure, which is about what Jesus has already told the disciples. Even though no details were mentioned, it hinted that he would be crucified in Jerusalem and that’s how Jesus would depart.
The word departure also means exodus. Just as Moses led the Israelites on the exodus from slavery in Egypt, Jesus will lead the entire humanity to depart from enslavement of sin.
At Moses exodus, each family had to sacrifice a lamb and paint the blood of the lamb on the door frame as a sign of salvation. At Jesus exodus, our spirit is marked with Jesus blood as a sign salvation. That’s why today, we receive the communion to remember Jesus’ sacrifice and our salvation through the blood of Christ.
Moses was also the law giver. So, in a sense, Moses represents the law, and Elijah represents the prophets. The two of them represents the Old Testament.
When the disciples saw the three giants from history, they didn’t know what to do. They want to capture the beautiful scene of the dazzling lights. The want to capture the glimpse of heaven. Seeing that they are about to leave, Peter said,
“Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” (v. 33c).
The Bible says Peter didn’t know what he was talking about, but his statement indicates two mistakes. The first mistake is that Peter wanted to build three niches for the three spiritual giants, but his statement put Moses and Elijah equal to Jesus. This statement might have reflected the disciples understanding of Jesus. They believed Jesus is the Messiah, but he is just like one of the great prophets.
Even today, many people believe Jesus is one of the roads to Rome, as in all roads lead to Rome. The Muslims believe Jesus is one of the Prophets. The Unitarian Universalists believe Jesus is just one of the many gods. Peter has made a similar mistake here. So, it must be corrected.
The second mistake is that he wants to freeze the moment and keep it there forever. He said it’s good for them to be just like that and he would build them three dwellings. God doesn’t want us to worship the moment. It’s a form of idolatry practiced by many religions. Now, God himself voiced the correction.
“While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. 35 Then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!’” (v. 34-35).
God’s voice came to clarify who Jesus is, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” This statement sealed the deal for Peter. Don’t think about building three niches because the three of them are not at the same level. Jesus is the Son and he is the Chosen one. Don’t put Jesus together at the same level with others.
Then God said, “You must listen to my Son!” You don’t have to freeze the scene of the glimpse of heaven. Jesus is the heaven and you are walking and talking in heaven as you walk and talk with him. Building a niche or freezing a wonderful time is idolatry.
Now it comes back to how to have a glimpse of heaven. The passage begins by saying, “Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray.” To do what? “To Pray!”
It is during the prayer that Jesus met Moses and Elijah. It’s during the prayer the Peter, James, and John had a glimpse of heaven. It’s understandable that we want to capture the moment and keep it forever, but God gives us a way make every moment a glimpse of heaven, “Listen to Jesus.” That means reading the scripture and contemplating on it. Don’t just dwell on a certain moment or experience. For example, sometimes on Sunday at the church you might experience a glorious revelation through sermon, or music, but don’t dwell on it. Make every day a glorious day by walking with Jesus. The Bible says,
“If we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 Jn 1:7).
God doesn’t want us to capture a moment of heaven. God wants us to walk in heaven at every moment by listening to him. How do you listen to him? Study his words and meditate on it. It’s called contemplation. So, let us contemplate on God’s word all the time.
Until we meet again, keep cultivating a fruitful life because faith is futile without fruit. Amen!