Monday, April 6, 2009

Holy Week--Encountering God From the Cloud

Jesus took Peter, James, and John up a mountain. These were the same three he had taken out in a boat and showed them the miracle of the great catch of fish. Miracles were not new to Peter, James, and John. Jesus stood in front of these three guys and his clothes radiated light, turning so white “as no launderer on earth can whiten them.” Elijah appeared, a famous but very dead Jewish prophet, and then Moses. Both of these dead guys talked to Jesus.

Peter was so overwhelmed with the spectacle that he suggested they build three tabernacles right there on the spot where Jesus spoke to Elijah and Moses. He was shaken to his core, and said the only earthly response that came to mind—let’s build something here. Then a cloud overshadowed them and a voice thundered out of the cloud, “This is my Beloved Son, listen to Him!”

Then the lights and thunder show was over and it was just Jesus again in front of them. On the climb down, Jesus told them to tell no one what they had seen, “until the Son of Man rose from the dead.” The men talked among themselves wondering what it meant to rise from the dead. Then they asked their Lord questions about Elijah and how he figured into the equation. They did not realize His time was short on the earth and that rising from the dead meant that first he had to die.

When they got to the bottom of the mountain a crowd had formed. Jesus performed another miracle and cast an evil spirit out of a boy, a task that the disciples had not been able to perform. Then he began to teach his disciples again saying, “The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, he will rise three days later.” But they did not understand his statement and were afraid to ask him.

Their response? The disciples got into a debate about who was the greatest among them. They had witnessed God in the body of a man (incarnate), and then the prediction of his own death. But they chose to focus on very small matters—who among us is great. They stood in the shadow of greatness but could not comprehend it. They stood in the valley of the shadow of death but did not recognize the signs.

It makes us wonder what we are seeing right now and not comprehending. What clouds overshadow us and cause us to concentrate on the cloud rather than the One who is standing beside us, teaching us His way; but we become sidetracked on the small things that cause us to lose focus. We can’t comprehend that we are in the shadow of greatness when shadows come. We want to know when we’ll be elevated, when we’ll rise from the shadows and have our moment in the sun. We seek elevation. But we can too quickly forget that God has walked us down to the low places to remind us that elevation belongs to him.

Holy Week Exercise: Find a place to get alone and ponder what cloud overshadows your life. Write down whatever comes to mind and then write down what God is saying to you from the cloud. Then vocalize your gratitude for your personal encounter with God.