(Based on Matthew 17:1-9)
Good morning! My name is James and I am a fisherman by trade. You may have heard of me as being a follower of Jesus bar Joseph or Son of Joseph from Nazareth. I came to tell you about some of the craziest times of my life, hanging out with Jesus. I guess I should tell you how we first got to know each other. Some of you may know that we are related. That’s right, we are cousins. My mother Salome was a sister to Mary, Jesus mom. I know it’s kind of confusing, but that is how some family trees are. The Bible writers say that John my kid brother and I are sons of Zebedee. It also says that Zebedee’s wife is Salome. And then it says that Mary’s sister Salome was one who supported the ministry of Jesus and was at the foot of the cross.
I have been called by many names as well like James the Greater or James the brother of John or even James one of the Sons of Thunder. I am called James the Greater because I am taller and older than James the Lesser, John seems to think he is really cool because he wrote a gospel and three letters to the church in Jerusalem and the Son of Thunder that’s a good one. One time we were hanging out and we had just seen how Jesus drove a demon out of this kid who many thought that he was cursed because of what his parents had done. But Jesus said, it was set up so that we would know who he was. Then he sends us ahead into a Samaritan town to get things ready to spend the night. Well the men of the town who heard about all the ruckus Jesus caused with that boy said no way could we spend the night.
I had been walking all day and was hot and tired and was ready for a glass of wine when Mr. Puffy Chest told us no. So, when Jesus showed up and we told him what they said, I asked Jesus to let thunder and fire reign down on this village just like Elijah had done with the priests of Baal. Jesus laughed and said no, and then of course John begged like he always does and so Jesus called us the Sons of Thunder from then on. Yes, Jesus was mocking us, he really did have a great sense of humor. Jesus did really like us and kind of treated us and Peter as his favorites. That part got us into trouble one time to when Mom, Salome, asked if we could sit at the right- and left-hand side of Jesus when he came into his kingdom. The other disciples were not amused.
But Jesus did take us on special trips. One time we went to a Roman soldier’s house named Jairus and he had a daughter that everyone thought had died. Jesus took John, Peter and I into the bedroom upstairs in the house and left the others outside. When we walked in, she was laid out on the bed. Jesus took her hand and said Talitha Koum, which means Little girl, I say to you, get up. Immediately she sat up and looked around the room and then started walking. Jesus told the parents to feed her and not to tell anyone what had happened.
The coolest thing that we did together was when Jesus took the three of us to a mountain top. Right before this Jesus asked all 12 of us who we thought he was? Now most of us knew he was the best rabbi we had ever heard but Peter throws out what some of us had been thinking and that was Jesus was the Messiah. It startled all of us when Jesus said, you’re right but don’t tell anyone and then he said that he was going to go to Jerusalem and be handed over to the authorities and tried and killed. We all just looked around saying whoa that’s pretty extreme. Peter fires off again—no way Lord will we let that happen. And Jesus calls him Satan. So, we just let that awkward moment go right on by and no one said a word until 6 days later he asked the three of us to come up to the mountain with him. Interesting enough Moses waited 6 days before he went upon the mountain to get the 10 commandments—which turned out to be twice the number of days that was required to be cleansed before going into the temple.
We get to the top and it is a great view. You can see forever it feels like. But we were tired as well and kind of out of breath. I was starving so I asked everybody if they had something to eat and John was rummaging in his sack when Jesus just kind of wandered off. Now this was nothing new. He had a habit of doing that saying he was praying and needed some alone time. We always laughed and thought he just needed a nap. We are sitting there eating some figs and salted fish, and we look over and Jesus is standing with two other guys. Out of nowhere they show up and they are all glowing like nothing we had ever seen before. They were white looking like a ghost. It was like their whole beings had been transformed. They were talking about the trip that Jesus was going to make to Jerusalem.
We figured it out pretty quick that it was Moses and Elijah who was there with him. You know, the giver of the Law and the greatest prophet who never died but was snatched up straight to heaven. We just stared and my mouth had to be hanging open like I was catching flies. The loud mouth Peter says, Lord it is good for us to be here. Let us make you three shelters, one for you one for Moses and one for Elijah. I looked around thinking and who is gonna build that with you? We ain’t got any supplies and the trees are not going to fall by themselves.
Suddenly this cloud came out of nowhere and covered us all up. We couldn’t even see each other. I reached out and grabbed Peter and John and pulled them down to the ground so that we didn’t fall off the side of the mountain. All of a sudden, a voice boomed from the cloud, “This is my Son, my beloved, listen to him!” I was so loud that I covered my ears. With my arm, but then in a blink of an eye I looked up and saw Jesus standing there all by himself.
I have no idea where Moses and Elijah went, the cloud was gone and Jesus was back to looking normal. He was not glowing or looking like a ghost at all. It was in that moment that I realized that when Peter called Jesus the Messiah, he was not fooling around. My entire life changed from that moment forward. I never doubted for once that Jesus was the Son of God. This moment linked the past, present and future together in knowing that God’s moments do interrupt our lives.
The last time that the three of us were on a journey together it was the night that Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. That was the last time we saw Jesus until his resurrection. He was way different then in appearance, like a soft glow from that day on the mountaintop. I have thought back on that day so many times and how we wished that we could just preserve the moment. Kind of like how we think of the church, if we could just go back to the way things used to be. But that’s impossible.
The reason we can’t is because God still speaks to us today. We are called to by God to listen even when it is cloudy. We are called to spread the message that Jesus is the Beloved of God, and we are to act like it. We have been transfigured in our own baptism, called to be different from the world—even when it is not easy. I got my head lopped off by Herod Agrippa I because of that day on the mountaintop. I saw my life on earth differently after seeing Jesus, Moses and Elijah. I knew that this world was important, but that there was more—so much more. It is the love of God that can’t be silenced in any of us. It is the same love that was given to Jesus that God gives to us today. We are forever transfigured because of it. Amen