Immanuel Lutheran Church

Sermon

Sunday of the Transfiguration

"Beholding His Glory"

Mark 9:2-9

February 15, 2015

What happened on the mountain of the transfiguration reminds me of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic." It begins with the line "Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord." This is what the three disciples saw on the mountain when Jesus was transfigured in their presence. In a brief moment they saw Jesus in the fullness of His glory with Moses and Elijah beside Him.

Read text: Mark 9:2-9. Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah." For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, "This is my beloved Son; listen to him." And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.

And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

The transfiguration is the beginning of our Lord's final trip to Jerusalem. He was embarking on a journey that would end on the cross of Calvary. Although He knew this, the disciples had no clue. As was usual, when our Lord needed to be energized, He withdrew to an isolated place to pray. This time, however, He took Peter, James and John with Him. Although these three were tired and sleepy, they were roused out of their stupor when Jesus was transfigured before their eyes.

What a sight that must have been. The glory of the Lord, which had always been hidden in His humanity, for a brief moment shone through. They saw Him as He truly is. If that were not enough of a thrill, Moses and Elijah appeared with Him.

Both the transfiguration and the appearance of Moses and Elijah reinforced our Lord's claim to be the Messiah, the Savior, the very Son of God. Now, you may wonder why Moses and Elijah came. They were speaking with Jesus about the trip He was about to take. By suffering and dying on the cross, He would fulfill all of the demands of the Law and the prophets. This is why Moses as the giver of the Law and Elijah as the representative of the prophets stood with Him. They were offering support and encouragement to Him.

Peter and the other two were dumbstruck. They couldn't believe their eyes. What a deal! What a fantastic vision. They were almost speechless. Leave it to Peter to blurt out something. Because it seemed the two great men were about to leave Jesus, Peter wanted to extend the moment to make it last as long as possible. "Let us make three shelters and you guys can hang around as long as you'd like!" That wasn't part of the plan.

As quickly as Peter blurted out his idea, the moment was again transformed. Suddenly, the cloud of the Presence envelopes them. The excitement of the three disciples is turned into terror as stand in the presence of the Holy God. This is why they try to hide their faces in the ground. The voice of the Father affirms the Son.

Then, as quickly as the events had transpired, it was all over. Our Lord's countenance returned to its regular appearance. Moses and Elijah disappeared along with the cloud of the Presence. Once again they were alone with Jesus on the lonely mountain top. It was dark and quiet. Nevertheless, the three remained awestruck. This was a treat that was theirs alone. They had beheld His glory but they were also warned not to speak of it until after His resurrection.

You may wonder why they weren't to share this wonderful experience. First of all, what would have been the benefit? The other disciples had not seen this glory. How could they comprehend what it was all about? How could the three explain to the others the appearance of Moses and Elijah? What could they say that wouldn't sound like bragging? It was for their own good that they were told to keep this wonderful experience to themselves for the time being.

It was not time for Jesus to appear in His glory. He still had His greatest challenges awaiting. From the mountain He would journey south along the Jordan River to Jericho. From there He would begin the trip up to Jerusalem. The disciples remain fairly clueless, which is just as well. They will follow Him to Bethany to witness the resurrection of Lazarus. They will share the final Passover with Him and receive the new gift of the Lord's Supper. They will desert Him at Gethsemane. He will forgive and restore them after His resurrection.

Jesus realized all these things had to happen. They could not happen to Him in His glory. He had to continue to cloak His glory if He was going to fulfill all the Father had sent Him to do for us and for our salvation. Thus, He hid His divinity beneath His humanity.

Jesus could not appear in His glory. If He had appeared in His glory, He would have been unapproach-able. If He had appeared in His glory, the soldiers would not have been able to arrest Him. In His glory, neither the Jewish Sanhedrin nor the Roman governor Pontus Pilate would have dared to stand in judgment of Him. Had He stood in His glory, the mocking, the scourging and the insults would never have occurred. If Jesus had appeared in His glory, there would have been no crucifixion, no resurrection, no salvation.

Peter remembered the event saying, "We were eye-witnesses." Peter was not alone with Jesus when he saw our Lord transfigured and heard the voice of God giving His Son affirmation. James and John were also eyewitnesses who collaborated this awesome event. Peter wanted his readers to know this was not some "cleverly invented" story.

The Word of God does not have its origin in men. Still, men pass off their cleverly invented stories as the revelation and word of God. False prophets abound. Mohammed claimed to have special angelic revelation but he had no witnesses. Joseph Smith claimed that he was given a special revelation by the angel Moroni, but he had no witnesses to what he claimed to see and hear. Without witnesses, these self-proclaimed have nothing more than "cleverly invented" stories.

Yet, even without witnesses, these men have cultivated millions of followers. Many have been and continue to be deceived by their "cleverly invented" stories. We have been duly warned. There are lots of "cleverly invented" stories out there but Jesus alone speaks the truth of God.

This is why we are to pay attention to Jesus. There are so many self-proclaimed prophetic voices out there that we are all too easily distracted by their many and varied claims of signs and wonders. Sit back and ask yourself, "which is the better witness--Peter whose story is collaborated by others or the guys who have great stories but no witnesses to the marvelous things they've claimed to have seen and heard? The Holy Spirit uses the witness of Peter, James and John to point us to Jesus.

From the mountain top experience our Lord would journey to the depths of despair. He would suffer the terrible isolation of being separated even from the love of God as He suffered in agony on the cross. Yes, His glory would return. The disciples would see some of the glory in the resurrected Lord. Paul would encounter the fullness of that glory later on the road to Damascus. This is the true glory of our Lord. A glory that eye cannot behold without being blinded by it. It is a glory that will bring awe to believers and dread to those who have rejected Him.

On the mountain of the transfiguration, we have beheld His glory. John spoke of that glory when he wrote, "and the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." Amen.


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