Oddly though, I don't often do this when I read Bible stories. Occasionally I will make the effort, but usually - what? - am I in too much of a hurry? Looking too hard for an application? a teachable moment? something comforting or uplifting? Perhaps.
But the other day as I started reading Matthew 17 I pretended to be there, and I read the first verses from that point of view instead of one from a person hundreds of years later sitting on a porch enjoying flitting butterflies, colorful flowers and trees softly blowing in the breeze.
As I read of Jesus taking just three of his followers with him on a high mountain, I pretended I was one of them. Instead of Peter, James and John, it was me, Peter and only one of the bar Zebedee brothers. Oh goody, a special field trip with Jesus! Can't you feel my excitement as I climb the mountain wondering what is in store? Did Jesus want to tell us a secret? Give us some special instructions? Just experience a new view of the area down below? Whatever! Even if it's only the latter, I love me some awesome views from above! Especially if there are valleys below where I can see houses and make out roads and the occasional cars or trucks -- oops!, I mean donkeys or people walking to buy needed food for dinner preparations. There's just something about seeing it all from above that makes me want to keep looking. (Sorry for those who hate heights [Amber] and now have queasy stomachs as you visualize this with me!)
So there I am gingerly climbing the mountain. Watching my step so I don't startle a snake or walk over the edge or trip. (I wouldn't want to fall down on a root and, ohhhh, have to get three stitches in my leg again.)
We arrive to the top. Ahhhh, pretty view! But then, oh my! What?!
I turned to the guys to see if they were enjoying the view from the top of the mountain and caught a glimpse of ... Jesus? His clothes and his skin just turned all white and...glowed!
Before I could contemplate what tricks my eyes were playing on me, I was startled to see Moses - huh? Moses has been dead for centuries yet I knew somehow it was the Law giver himself talking with Jesus. And Elijah? The very prophet whom God took to heaven in a chariot of fire? Somehow I knew that was Elijah. Moses representing the Law, Elijah representing the Prophets and Jesus ...
Before I could think of anything else, Peter found his tongue. He was nearly always the first among us to express himself. Such a bold fellow. I admired his spunk. But I think even Peter didn't know what really to say for he started yammering about how good it was to be there (ya think?) and asking Jesus if perhaps we should build some sort of shelter for each of them.
He was still speaking when a bright cloud descended, enveloped the three of them and we heard a voice which sent us trembling and terrified, face down into the dirt!
That day I learned the reason for our jaunt up the mountain. It wasn't for exercise, it wasn't really to get a new teaching from Jesus or even to see the pretty view. Instead it was to see where Jesus stood alongside the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah).
After all he'd already told us he did not come to destroy the law or the prophets but to bring about what they said (see Matthew 5:17). So what did that voice from heaven tell us about Jesus?
"This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!"
When God tells you
1. This is His Son
2. Whom He loves
3. And With Whom He is well pleased,
we'd all be wise to heed God's advice and LISTEN to Jesus!
Here's just a sampling ...
28"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11)
6Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14)
36"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" 37Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matthew 22)
43"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5)
34"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13)
What is Jesus saying to you?