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Who Is Your Hero? / Transfiguration of our LORD

Matthew 17:1-13

And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.”

Much has been written since the death of Princess Diana about the burden of being a celebrity. Studies show that most Americans don’t even want to be famous.

A professor of classics at a major eastern university was teaching his students about the heroes of Greek legend. He tried without success to elicit their concept of a hero. Finally, he resorted to asking if anyone could name a hero. Only one student, a girl, raised her hand. She replied, “Dustin Hoffman.”

Well . . . Dustin Hoffman is one of the finest actors in Hollywood, but a hero? Patrick Mahomes possibly could be classified as football’s newest hero.

Heroes seem to be men of remarkable athletic ability. Heroes come along at a great time for baseball, and perhaps for the nation as well. Who is your hero?

We all seem to have a need to look up to somebody. We seem to have a need to identify with someone who can do something we can’t. It might be an athlete, an attractive movie star, a pastor with extraordinary preaching skills. There is something inside us that feels the need to have a hero.

This tendency to worship celebrities is not entirely new. Marie Antoinette, the First Lady of Louis (16th) XVI, was the celebrity style-maker of the eighteenth century. If she styled her wig in a particular fashion, all the ladies of the court were soon wearing their hair the same way. And when she became pregnant, the best-dressed women of Paris and Versailles wore cushions under their gowns in imitation. For nine months they inserted larger and larger cushions, to keep pace with Marie’s expansion. Then suddenly, with the birth of her son, cushions became passe.

There’s something in the human psyche that needs someone to look up to, someone with whom to identify, someone even to imitate. Who’s your hero?

There are some legitimate heroes in our world. There are people who live courageous lives, compassionate lives, meaningful lives.

We need heroes to inspire us. Many heroes are never known to the general public, but the world is better off because they were here.

A judge lived on a ranch near Dallas, TX. When the judge died, his funeral was held at the ranch. There were so many flowers that two trucks were needed to transfer them to the cemetery. As the flowers were being put on the trucks a friend turned to an old man who had worked on the ranch for many years and said to him, the Judge certainly received a lot of flowers, didn’t he?

The man replied, yes, sir. But did you know the Judge has been planting the seeds for these flowers a long time. We don’t even know the judge’s name, but my guess is that he was a hero. Who is your hero? With whom do you identify? Who do you try to be like?

Moses and Elijah were heroes to the people of Israel. To this day Moses and Elijah are two of the most influential men who ever lived. Their stories are told in three of the great faiths of the world, Judaism, Islam and Christianity. Moses was the man who went on the mountain to receive the tablets from God, the tablets we know as the Ten Commandments. Elijah was the great prophet of Israel, a man of heroic proportions. It’s significant that when the disciples saw Jesus in the experience we know as the transfiguration, He was in the presence of Moses and Elijah.

You know the story. Jesus took Peter, James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain by themselves. While they were on the mountain, something quite extraordinary happened. As the three disciples looked at Jesus, His face began to shine like the sun, and His clothes became dazzling white. Then suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with the Master. Then Peter said to Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.

While Peter was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with Him I am well pleased; listen to Him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear.

But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead”.

When they came down from the mountain, who do you think became the disciples’ hero? If you do not have a hero, may I recommend Jesus? If a hero is someone you look up to, identify with, even try to imitate, may I recommend Jesus? Let me suggest a couple of reasons.

First, other heroes will let you down. The truth is that no matter how remarkable our heroes are, they’re still human. They still make mistakes.

There was a time when heroes could be invented. Many of us remember when the press didn’t report on heroes’ shortcomings. The media would often exaggerate the strengths of famous people and ignore their weaknesses. Politically that was true all the way up to Watergate. Nowadays, it seems like things are reversed. We see our heroes’ weaknesses, and their strengths are minimized. Even when we do see a celebrity in a favorable light, we don’t know how much is hype. We don’t know how much is real and how much is just P.R. Many celebrities today are no more than surface clutter. Invariably, when we get a closer look, they disappoint. One reason to make Christ your hero is that other heroes let you down.

The second reason to make Christ your hero is that Christ can make a hero out of you. When you look to Christ as the object of your worship, when you identify with Him, even seek to imitate Him, you find that you are drawn to the heroic too.

Gladys, a missionary to China, was forced to leave her missionary work when the Japanese invaded her town. In fleeing certain death, she led nearly a hundred orphans over the mountains to Free China. It was a frightening journey. At times she was burdened by despair. One morning after a sleepless night, fearing they would never reach safety, she shared her hopelessness with the orphans. A 13-year-old girl reminded her of their much-loved story of Moses and the Israelites crossing the Red Sea. But I’m not Moses, Gladys said. The girl responded, of course, you aren’t, but Jehovah is still God!

And that’s the point, isn’t it? Why worship heroes, if our heroes can’t help us become heroes as well? Christ can help us become heroes. Christ can enter our lives and transform us into people who can accomplish more good things than we ever dreamed possible. And that’s the best kind of hero to have.

Winston Churchill knew the difference between celebrities and heroes. In the summer of 1941, Sergeant James Allen Ward was awarded the Victoria Cross for climbing out onto the wing of his bomber at 13,000 feet above ground to extinguish a fire in the starboard engine. Secured only by a rope around his waist, he managed to smother the fire and return along the wing to the aircraft’s cabin. Churchill, an admirer as well as a performer of swashbuckling exploits, summoned the shy Welshmen to 10 Downing Street. Ward, struck dumb with awe in Churchill’s presence, was unable to answer the prime minister’s questions. Churchill surveyed the unhappy hero with some compassion. You must feel very humble and awkward in my presence, he said, yes, Sir. Then you can imagine how humble and awkward I feel in yours, returned Churchill.

Churchill knew he was in the presence of a real hero. So did the disciples. In fact, they knew they were in the presence of someone whose significance went beyond celebrity, even beyond heroic. He was their Lord, their Master, their King. If we are wise, He will be our Lord, our Master, our King. If we are wise, Christ will be our Hero, too. Because in all honesty, He’s mine.