Pastor Eric Schroeder - Transfiguration - Sunday, February 14, 2021

Text: Mark 9:2-9

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At some point, I’d guess that all of us have imagined what it would be like to live the life of a celebrity. We picture the adoring fans…and we can’t help but start thinking about the lifestyle, how we’d spend all that money: luxurious homes, fancy cars, maybe even a private jet that could take us wherever we wanted to go—like somewhere warm. You could have a personal chef, and a personal trainer, and a personal assistant. You’d hang out with other celebrities and eat at the finest restaurants and you’d never have trouble getting tickets to the biggest events around. 

Now…maybe by this point in your life you have resigned yourself to the fact that your life might not turn out that way. And you’re ok with that. You’ve been taught to be content and appreciate the blessings that you have and make the most of the life that God has provided for you. Maybe you’ve also learned enough to remember that celebrities are real people, too. They might have talents or opportunities different from ours, but they have most of the same problems we do—not to mention the extra complications in life that come with all that fame.

So, what does this all have to do with transfiguration? Good question. In the church year, Transfiguration serves as the final Sunday of the Epiphany season, where we see Jesus revealed through his preaching and teaching ministry and through the miracles that he performed as proof of his divine authority and as powerful witness to what he was saying. In some ways, Jesus became a celebrity, with crowds that followed him and listened to him and waited to see what he was going to do next. But the more attention he received, the more jealous the leaders of the people became. They saw their influence and their control slipping away, and so they actively began searching for a way to get rid of him.

Jesus knew all that. Just before our verses begin, Jesus had predicted to his disciples that he was heading toward rejection and crucifixion. They wanted to hear none of that, most likely for two reasons. They didn’t want to think about what that meant for Jesus, and they didn’t want to think about what it meant for them as his followers. And so we see transfiguration as a turning point, a bridge between Epiphany and Lent, a transition between preaching and teaching and his suffering and dying.  Let’s keep that in mind as we explore God’s Word.

2 After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. 3 His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. 4 And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. If there had been any doubt as to Jesus’ true identity, this moment confirms it. For thirty-three years, God’s glory had been hidden in humanity, clothed in humility. But not here, and not now. On this mountain, his glory is revealed. Jesus doesn’t have a spotlight on him; he doesn’t need one, because light emanates from his being. And if that isn’t enough, Elijah and Moses, two of the biggest names in the history of God’s people, suddenly appear at his side and engage in conversation. He isn’t just famous…he is God, and he is standing right in front of them.

What would you do? What would you say? We try to imagine, but it’s impossible to know. Here’s what Peter comes up with: 5 Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.) Like a starstruck fan meeting their favorite celebrity, but magnified—and understandably so—Peter has no idea of what to say in God’s presence, even with all the miracles they had already witnessed.  We can’t blame him. For as many times as we’ve had the thought of how wonderful it would be to see God in his glory, if we actually had the chance, wouldn’t our natural reaction be to run away and hide?

If we have any sense of conscience at all, fear plays a part in how we look at God. And unless we flat out lie to ourselves, as much as we might like to say, “it’s good for us to be here” like Peter did, we’d know it wouldn’t be right. People like us have no business being anywhere near God’s glory. Anything good we’ve ever done was only because he enabled us and allowed us to, and everything else just shows how far, and how much, and how often we’ve strayed. On our own, we are powerless to please him; we are entirely dependent on his mercy for every single breath of air we breathe, along with everything else we need. But we can say it even stronger…The fact that we woke up today and we weren’t in hell already shows God’s grace and his patience toward us all. And we still mess things up just about every chance we get…

7 Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” 8 Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus. We have no way of knowing exactly how long this transfiguration experience lasted, but as quickly as it was revealed, the bright, shining glory of Jesus is hidden again. And for good reason. Jesus has more to say. Jesus has more to do. In the person of Jesus Christ, God came and walked on this planet that he created long ago. And he hid his glory in humanity because he came to save humanity. He didn’t pile up possessions or real estate or money because all these things are temporary. Instead, he came to gather an eternal family, and he wanted you to be a part of it. And so this high point that we see today couldn’t be the end, because his work wasn’t done yet. 

 

Moses couldn’t help. Moses had given them laws, but he couldn’t keep them, and neither can we: instead of providing a path to heaven, they only prove our guilt. Elijah couldn’t help, either. He was a great prophet but he couldn’t fulfill the prophecies; he had his own weaknesses and doubts just like we do.  But even after these famous Israelites leave again, Peter, James, and John still have the one they needed, and so do we: no one except Jesus. Only Jesus could fulfill the laws of God exactly the way God demanded of us, and he did so to earn the Father’s full approval for our sake. Only Jesus could pay for our guilt and rescue us from sin, because when he sacrifices himself, it is holy, precious, divine blood that he sheds. Only Jesus can proclaim that the wrath of God has been satisfied, and when he says, “It is finished,” he means it. Listen to him… And only Jesus can burst the chains of death and come out the other side.

And so, wherever we are, whether in church or at home, or anywhere else, it is good for us to be here with Jesus in his Word. It is good for us to be reminded that Jesus loved us enough to hide his glory and humble himself, so that we can look forward to seeing his glory without any fear; we get to leave our sin, our guilt, our shame and all our fear behind when he takes us to our eternal home. We won’t have to set up any shelters, because Jesus went on ahead to prepare mansions for us in heaven. We won’t have to carry our crosses anymore because Jesus carried his for us, and will raise up our lowly bodies and transform them to be like his glorious body.  And all we will know is the eternal love of God, who calls us his beloved children for Jesus’ sake.

Moses and Elijah will be there. So will Jesus in all his glory, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Peter, James, and John will be there, too, and there won’t be any secrets to keep. It’s already out: The Son of Man has risen from the dead, and now he wants everyone to know it.

So, as we prepare ourselves for another Lenten season, is there someone you can tell? Is there someone you can invite to join us, either in person or online? Is it someone who has strayed from church along the way, someone who has been distracted or discouraged and could use a loving call to return? Is it someone who has never met the real Jesus before and doesn’t know him like you do? You have a few days to think. But don’t get so caught up in worldly things that you forget our heavenly mission. Thank God that Jesus didn’t lose sight of his. Truly he is the Son of God, our one and only Savior from sin and death. It’s good for us to be here with him. May God guide us in his plans for us, that we reflect the light, the love, and the glory of Jesus in our dark world, in Jesus’ name. AMEN.