Imagine the scene for yourself. Put yourself there.
Along with Jesus and three of his disciples, Peter, James and John, you are on the top of a mountain. It has been a long and difficult climb. You feel the strain of the walk. You are tired from the journey, exhausted.
Why, you wonder, did Jesus lead you here? You’d like to know the answer, yet you are reluctant to ask. He must have a reason, you say to yourself.
Now that you’ve reached the end of the trail your hope is that you’ll have some time to talk with Jesus. You’re still upset by what he told you six days ago before the journey began.
“The Son of Man,” he said, “will suffer terribly. He will be rejected and killed, but three days later he will rise to life.”
And then he said, “If you want to be my followers you must deny your self. You must take up your cross and follow me. If you want to save your life you will destroy it. But if you give up your life for me and for the good news you will save it.”
His words confused you. That’s why you need to talk to him. Maybe you’ve misunderstood him. He couldn’t have meant those words, could he?
And then it happens! Brightness!
You know who you are seeing, but can’t quite comprehend it . . . this vision of glory! It is brilliant and compelling and unbelievably beautiful, yet, at the same time, you are terrified, frightened to be in the presence of something so obviously holy.
You hear a voice, a voice you’ve not heard before. Yet somehow you know the voice: God’s voice. “This is my Son and I love him,” the voice says. “Listen to what he says.”
How to explain it, this vision of glory? How to explain the voice heard from heaven. Yet you yearn to share the vision, to interpret it, to understand it.
Your eyes are fixed on Jesus. You know it is Jesus you are seeing; he is unmistakable, yet different, so different – transfigured.
You see what you couldn’t see before.
In him you see the beginning and ending of all things!
In him you see the triumph of life over death, of hope over despair, of joy over sorrow!
In him you see victory!
“I’ll build a dwelling”, you say. (You can’t believe you said that out loud.) “I’ll stay here forever”.
But then, as suddenly as it came, the vision fades and, well, its Jesus again, Jesus as you know him.
With resolve he heads down the mountain. You are familiar with the look on his face. It’s a determined look, a look that says there is work to be done – down below. It’s the work of salvation. “Tell no one,” he says, “until I’m raised from the dead.”
It is quite a vision, isn’t it, this vision of Peter, James and John. It is likely they didn’t fully understand what they saw and heard that day until much later, when they saw Jesus for themselves – the Jesus they had thought was dead!
It is likely they thought about it throughout the rest of their lives trying to make sense of it, trying to recapture it, trying to recreate in their minds this special moment of glory. There is evidence their lives were shaped and inspired by it -- this trio of apostles who gave their all, faithful unto death, each of them, for the sake of Christ and the good news.
This is, after all, what godly visions do, they shape us and inspire us. They encourage us. They strengthen our faith and embolden our mission.
But, you are thinking, I’ve never had such a vision. And I’m right with you on that, I’ve never had one either – not, at least, like that of Peter, James and John. This much we know from scripture – such visions are rare. They are rare and infrequent gifts.
Still, we do have their vision, don’t we? It is shared with us in three of the four Gospels and referenced by the Apostle Paul. And we have other biblical visions as well.
We have the vision of Moses on Mt. Sinai, where he learned the name of God. We have the vision of Elijah, who heard God speak, not in a whirlwind, but in a still, small voice. And we have the vision of Jesus, who at his baptism saw the heavens torn open and heard God speak, “you are my beloved son, with you I am pleased”.
This is the unique power of scripture. Its words are God’s words, living words, active words, life giving words, transforming words, words that become our words, our memories – words of faith that shape, inspire and encourage us.
With these words, some of which are visions, we grow in confidence and share in the vision of faith. They teach us, these words, that our destiny is with Christ, who is not only with God, but is God; they implore us to listen to him, to take up our cross and follow him. They assure us that with Christ as our destiny, living by his words, we have nothing to fear and so, so much to gain.
Consider, then, these words of yet another godly vision, that of the Revelation to John. Describing the holy city, the New Jerusalem, coming down from heaven, he sees God’s throne and from it hears a voice.
Imagine it. Envision it. Make the vision your own.
I heard a loud voice shout from the throne. God’s home is
now with his people.
He will live with them and they will be his own.
Yes, God will make his home among his people. He will wipe all tears from their eyes, and there will be no more death, crying, suffering or pain. These things of the past are
Then the one sitting on the throne said, “Behold, I am
making everything new.”
This is John’s vision, and our vision too.
How we long for that day!
Until then, come what may, shaped, inspired and encouraged by godly visions of glory, we pick up our cross to follow him and listen to him . . . he who leads the way.