Printable PDF: 2-11-2018 Transfiguration Sermon
Vicar Jordan Bence ~ Transfiguration ~ Mark 9:2-9 ~ February 11, 2018
Let’s Take a Hike with Jesus!
2After 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. 3His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. 4And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5Peter 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.) 7Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” 8Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus. 9As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people both now and forevermore. – Psalm 125:2
Brothers and sisters in Christ, fellow redeemed,
If somebody asked me to describe the landscape of Arizona in a single phrase it would probably be this: a hiker’s paradise. Honestly, Arizona is basically a giant jungle gym for hikers. You have the Grand Canyon (one of the Seven Wonders of the World), Havasu Falls, Antelope Canyon, Devil’s Bridge, Pinnacle Peak, Robber’s Roost, Superstition Mountains; the list goes on and on. I have, I’m not sure if Laura has, yet, finally come to the realization that no matter how often we hike, it will be impossible to hit every trail in Arizona during my vicar year. There are just too many of them. That being said, I will still continue hiking because it’s something I thoroughly enjoy doing. I enjoy the scenery, the outdoors, the wildlife, the work that goes into it. I enjoy all of those things. But what I enjoy most about hiking is the getting away. Getting away from the chaos of life. Even if it is for a short amount of time I get to forget about the voicemails, phone calls, the meetings, the bills, the loans, the work, the deadlines, the alarms. Hiking allows for time to take a break from all of the stressful chaos that life brings. That’s why today we are all going to take a hike. We are going to leave the voicemails, the bills, and chaos at the door, and take a hike together with Jesus and the three disciples up the mountain. As we do, we go up to see his glory revealed, and we come down with his guidance.
- We go up to see his glory revealed.
Before we tie our shoes, throw on our backpacks and sunglasses, and make the hike up with Jesus, we look back to see what brought us here. At this point in time much of Jesus’ earthly ministry has been completed. He has turned water to wine, he has healed the sick, calmed the storm, fed the thousands, and preached about his kingdom. Jesus’ ministry is almost complete, and his suffering is about to begin. Jesus takes time to prepare his disciples for what was to come. In the previous chapter he tells them of the suffering he is about to endure, about his death which is drawing near. Peter, who so bravely confessed Jesus as the Christ moments before, responds by pulling him aside to rebuke him. Jesus realizes that Peter, as well as the other disciples are nowhere near ready for what they are about to witness him suffer. So he pulls aside Peter, James, and John and leads them up a mountain. These three who made up the “inner circle” were allowed to observe some amazing things that the other disciples did not see. They were present when Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead, when Jesus prayed in the garden, and are present now to see a very spectacular sight. As Jesus makes the climb with these three, he picks a mountain that is so tall it is out of sight for the rest of disciples and anyone else in the area. What was about to occur was not for anyone else to see. There, on the high mountain, he was transfigured before the disciples. His appearance was transformed from his human form to show a glimpse of his divine nature. As the words in our text describe it, “His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.” His clothes shone with a white color that was whiter than we could ever imagine. It is a white that is beyond the capability of any bleacher on earth as the text describes. Think back to when you were a kid and you got a stain on your nice white dress shirt, and your mother had to bleach it back to its original color. This white is far whiter than anything she could ever attain with bleach. It is a white beyond natural means. A white whiter than any brand new shirt even. The gospel writers Matthew and Luke also wrote down the account of this event for us in the Scriptures. Their description adds to the beautiful sight that was witnessed that day. Matthew describes Jesus’ face as being as bright as the sun. Luke compares Jesus’ clothes to the light of a lightning bolt. Jesus’ radiance is so great, it can only be compared to the power of the sun and the striking of a lightning bolt.
We are also told that Jesus was not alone in his glory. Moses and Elijah appeared there to talk with Jesus. We’re not exactly sure why these two were chosen to be the ones to share in this glory but, to be honest, it doesn’t really matter. If we look too far into the specifics we overlook the beautiful truth that Moses (the giver of the law) and Elijah (the giver of prophecies) were present with the Son of God, attesting to his incomprehensible divine power and glory.
Like the disciples, as you and I take a look at this we are astonished. We don’t even know what to say. In these verses for today we get to witness a side of Jesus that we have not been used to seeing as we have been walking through the gospels. We have seen bits and pieces of his glory through his miracles, but nothing comparable to this. Therefore we ask ourselves, “Why did this happen? Why this? Why now? Who was it for?” But let’s take one question at a time. First of all, was this transfiguration for Jesus? If we have in the back of our mind that Jesus is 100% true God then we would say to ourselves, “Of course not.” But we must remember that as much as Jesus is true God he is equally human. As much as Jesus is the Word that was present at the creation of the world and is the Son of God reigning at the right hand of the father, he is equally fully human. He is completely human in every way like us with the exception of being sinful. Therefore, as being fully human, he was going to feel every ounce of pain that he was going to go through. He was going to feel the whips, the thorns, the nail marks pounding through his hands in the exact same way as you and I would feel it. Jesus knew the pain and trial he was about to endure. Therefore we can’t imagine that the transfiguration was anything but encouraging for Jesus. Time spent talking with Moses and Elijah about the future; about his trip to Jerusalem, his death and resurrection. This revelation of his glory was even a reminder to Jesus of the power that he had set aside that was his divine nature. This event prepared Jesus for what was about to come.
But was it only for Jesus? Why did Jesus bring these three along? How did this event benefit them? Think back to the confusion that was present in their minds. The lack of understanding that was present about who Jesus was. The rollercoaster ride of ideas that they had about this son of man. As they followed Jesus they were allowed to see him perform miracles, heal the sick, relieve the afflicted. They were allowed to see a pretty marvelous side of Jesus and even during those times they were confused and unsure. If they were like this during the good times, what would happen during the bad? And we know the bad was coming. We know that it would not be long before the disciples would see Jesus betrayed by one of his own, he would be taken captive, beaten, spit on, mocked, and humiliated in front of many. He would be hung on a cross like a hardened criminal. The disciples were about to see the most human side of Jesus. His glory was to be placed to the side and his humility would shine bright before their very eyes. But before these events would take place Jesus allows them to see this. To witness a glimpse of the glory of the Son of God. To see with their own eyes the glory that Jesus has at his fingertips. Jesus’ transfiguration prepared his disciples for his humiliation. So that when the times of suffering took place, as the doubts would come, as they would begin to question and be questioned by others if Jesus really was the Messiah, they could look back to this day and be reminded that Jesus is the Son of God.
But what does the transfiguration have to do with us? Is it beneficial for us to be at the top of the mountain today? Absolutely. As you and I read these verses we do not look at them as some cool story, or tall tale, but actually witness the Son of God transfigured and revealed before our very eyes. We have been blessed with these inspired words which take us up the mountain to see what they saw. You and I see a glimpse of the glory that belongs to the Son of God. You and I revel in the beauty that is our Savior. These verses turn away any doubt in our minds about who Jesus is. Jesus’ transfiguration is the climax of his glory on this earth. Like Peter, we proclaim, “It is good for us to be here.” We love what we see. We don’t want to leave. But we know we must. Like the disciples, like Jesus, we have to go down the mountain. You and I must leave the season of Epiphany, where Jesus reveals his glory to us, to the season of Lent where we see him pay the price for our sins. As we go forward we say farewell to “Alleluia.” We no longer sing these joyful words until Easter as we walk with Jesus during his time of trial and suffering. As we do we are reminded of the consequence for our sin. We see the Son of God take the punishment we deserved. That’s not something we enjoy seeing. We wouldn’t say, “It is good for us to be here” during those times. But we must. This glimpse of heavenly glory prepares us for what is to come. The joy of the Transfiguration not only benefits us today, but for the days to come. As we take the hike down we come down with his guidance.
- We come down with his guidance.
Just like at his baptism, the Heavenly Father is present to tell us who this man is that stands before us in glory. He says, “This is my son, whom I love. Listen to him.” In case the bright shining light wasn’t clear enough of an indication that Jesus was no ordinary man the father comes right out and tells us; this is my son. He also says that he loves him. That is, he fully approves of what he does. He loves and supports every action that Jesus makes because it is all done according to the father’s will. Lastly, and probably most importantly, the Father says this, “Listen to him!” Why do you think he included this? Why do you think he needed to say this to his disciples? Didn’t everyone think that Jesus was the Son of God? Was everyone in full agreement on this? Absolutely not. There were many who claimed Jesus was a blasphemer, heretic, false god, son of Satan. There were many voices surrounding the disciples telling them who Jesus was. The Heavenly Father reminded them to shut out those voices and listen to Jesus. Drown out the legions of people that surrounded them saying that Jesus is a liar and listen to him when he says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” As they went down the mountain, as they witnessed Jesus’ suffering, there were going to be many there who would tell them, “I told you so,” saying that Jesus wasn’t who he said he was. Saying that it was all a lie. These words from the Father, this encouragement, prepared them for their departure. It prepared them for the future, even after Jesus’ physical departure from this earth, as they were reminded to look back and listen to what Jesus told them when he was on this earth. Be guided by him and nothing else.
And what do these words mean for us? As we reach the foot of the mountain, how do these words affect us? Above all, as Christians we listen to Jesus. The disciples were not the only ones whose ears were filled with lies outside of the truth found in Jesus. You and I have voices competing for our ears day in and day out. They may start as a whisper, but it won’t be long until they are driving us away from our Savior. These voices say that the teachings of Jesus no longer hold their weight. That the Bible’s teachings about marriage, fellowship, prayer, the Lord’s Supper have changed. It’s the 21st Century, times have changed. The voices that say that Jesus was a great guy, he did great things, but he is not your God. Other voices point us to comfort found in earthly things such as drugs or alcohol, money as a means of happiness on this earth. Even your own voice, which is tainted by sin, can stand between us and our Savior. Our own voice demands the podium at times and wants to be the voice in control. It isn’t long before these voices lead you away from the one who takes away your sins. So what do we do? How do we respond to these voices? Listen to him.
With the Super Bowl wrapping up I’m sure you all still have the commercials on your mind. The Tide commercials, which stole the show, the Bud Light “dilly dilly” commercials, Morgan Freeman’s freestyling commercial, and many more. The commercials have almost become more important than the game. I love the commercials. The day after the Super Bowl, I usually re-watch the best commercials as well as watch the best of the commercials from years past. As I did that this year, I was reminded of a popular commercial from last year from Dre Beats headphones. The commercial starts with an NFL player on the bus to the big game. As the bus approaches the arena he notices fans from the opposing team surrounding him with signs that tell him how terrible he is, with voices yelling his name in hate, and with objects thrown in his direction. As the bus arrives at the arena he is about to get off the bus, but right before he takes that first step off, he puts on these noise-cancelling headphones which drown out the hate. He walked into the arena unfazed. That’s what our heavenly Father asks us to do today. We don’t need noise-cancelling headphones, we have God’s Word to drown out the noise. To drown out the false teachers, the false comforters, and the false voices. We only need to listen to one voice, and that is the voice of our Savior.
Brothers and sisters, the hike is over. It’s time to head down the mountain. We went up to the top, we saw the glory, we saw our Savior, but now it’s time to head down. That can be tough. We don’t want to leave the mountain. We don’t want to leave God’s glory. But we know we must. We must head into Lent and witness the payment for our sins made by our Savior. We must go forward into our own daily struggles away from Christ’s glory. We must do all these things, but we don’t go alone. We go with the encouragement from seeing this glimpse of our Savior’s glory, and we go forward and listen! The voice demands to be heard, the voice that will never lead us astray, the voice that has your salvation in mind, the voice of Jesus. Listen to him as you go down the mountain, as you go out those doors. Listen to him in his word and listen to him throughout your day as you depart from his glory and move one day closer to seeing him in his full array of glory in the heavenly realms. We know that it was good for us to be here to see Christ’s glory. But the time to go is now. As we depart we listen to our Savior. Amen.
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father — to him be glory and power for ever and ever. – Revelation 1:5-6