Mark 9.2 thru 9 He is here, listen to Him!
City of Hope!
Mark 9:2-9: 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. 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 enveloped 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.
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Does the Transfiguration mark the beginning of Lent or the end of Epiphany? The thing is, it should be looked at both ways. This is certainly the epiphany of the Messiah as Jesus is revealed, without question, as the Son of God. This is done through His transfiguration and through God Himself proclaiming, “This is my beloved Son, listen to Him.” It is fitting that this occurs at the end of the Epiphany season. In that, on the first Sunday after Epiphany God reveals Christ’s sonship with His words at His Son’s baptism, “This is my Son, in whom I am well pleased.” While, on the other hand, this account falls right between two accounts of Jesus’ foretelling of His death and resurrection. Therefore it is also fitting that this text of the Transfiguration reminds the disciples who Jesus is before Jesus goes to the cross to die. People often take note of seasons as they change. The signs can be very obvious. These past couple of weeks provided days that seemed like spring. But a sudden snow flurry and drop in temperature reminds us that we are still in the midst of winter. These are signs we do not ignore. Today, in the church, is a celebration of the changing of church seasons. We have been in Epiphany where Jesus is clearly seen as the Light of the world, God’s own Son. Transfiguration marks the move from the Epiphany season into the season of Lent. During these 40 days before Easter we see Jesus as the Son of man. Jesus’ glory is moved to the background as his humility comes to the foreground. All of this we are privileged to learn and know as we gather around the word of God revealed in the Bible. We are privileged to learn God’s word by reading, studying, and gathering for worship. “Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.”
Why is it that the disciples are shown this incredible sight of the glorified Jesus along with Elijah and Moses? I think we have a tendency ourselves to forget that Jesus is present with us here in our sanctuary while we worship. And that his presence is an absolute, and along with it, His glory as the Son of the Living God. This is why we should be reverent and respectful in church at our worship service. Not out of respect for God in heaven but because he is here with us in all of His glory when we worship together. This glory is what is made clear to the disciples through this further revelation of Jesus Christ as the Son of God on the “high mountain” of the transfiguration.
Our text begins with a time frame. We are told: “After six days Jesus took Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.” If we turn back to the ending verses of chapter 8 of Mark, we see Jesus telling his disciples of Jerusalem and all that will take place there. Jesus must go to Jerusalem to suffer, die, and come back to life. But Peter rebuked Jesus and clearly didn’t understand. This is when Christ tells His disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” It is after this event, 6 days later, that Jesus took these disciples on a mountain and let them witness the transfiguration. Jesus’ clothing was changed – shining whiter than anyone could imagine…”intensely white.”
There was also more that took place. Verse 4 says Moses and Elijah were also there with Jesus. Moses had received the law of God from God Himself. Elijah the prophet defended God’s law throughout his life. Through this event, we have the meeting and agreement of God’s law with God’s Son. Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s law and through Him God’s Word is true. God’s word in the law and the prophets is fulfilled in the divine glory of God’s only Son!
By faith, you and I and every believer, have also seen this glory of God’s divine son. We have Jesus’ glory with eyes that have read the Scriptures. The gospel of John accurately and fittingly describes the glory of Jesus in chapter 1. Just one verse from chapter one declares: "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth".
Many find it difficult to consider Jesus as anyone more than Joseph and Mary’s son. Many in this world only see Jesus as a carpenter of Nazareth. They think Jesus to be a good teacher, so-so preacher and part-time miracle worker. But, Jesus as the Son of God, that is a stretch to understand. God’s word clearly declares the divine glory of Jesus, Savior of mankind. "The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word." What a comfort for every believer to realize Jesus is the same yesterday, today, forever and He cares for us!
Seeing the glory of Jesus and believing that he is God’s own son does not depend on us. By God’s abundant grace he has worked faith in our hearts. We can rejoice and praise God that his love for us causes him to cause us to believe. "For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ." We who once sat in darkness now sit in the light of the glory of God in the face of Christ. All of this is ours not by our own efforts or merit but comes freely by the undeserved love of God.
Remember that Peter, James, and John did not want to see Jesus go to Jerusalem to suffer and die. But all this worldly thinking was going to begin to change. In verse 5 we see Peter scrambling to build a booth because, “it is good that we are here.” Peter spoke out of fear. We know this because the disciples in Matthew’s gospel fell down because of fear. The eyes of the disciples were not mistaken. What they had seen would be confirmed. This is confirmed by God Himself when God’s cloud of glory covered them. Remember the glory that led Israel from Egypt this was also done with a cloud. God’s voice reminded the disciples to listen to Jesus just as the voice at Jesus’ baptism.
What the disciples had seen with their eyes they also heard with their ears. After the disciples and Jesus were alone Jesus spoke to them. It was now time to return from the mountain. But disciples would wait until after the resurrection to tell of these events because, “He charged them to tell no one.”
The sacrifice of Jesus out of love for saving sinful mankind is simply awesome. Here we have the very creator of the heavens and the earth becoming a part of creation by partaking of flesh and blood. Jesus subdued his divine glory and majesty that he might endure the punishment of sin for mankind. “Christ Jesus made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death--even death on a cross!” Jesus had to be flesh and blood so that he could face death.
This sacrifice was not just another person put to death by the torture of a cross. Even though He was flesh and blood, Jesus was also still God’s own son. When Adam and Eve sinned and passed their sinfulness on to every generation God demanded a blood sacrifice. The only blood sacrifice good enough and perfect enough God demanded of himself. “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”
What a privilege and blessing beyond compare to celebrate Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf. We read of Christ’s atonement for our sins in the Scriptures. We experience God’s forgiveness in the sacraments. At baptism our sins are washed away by the power of God’s word used in connection with water. In the Lord’s Supper the Lord says, this is my body…this is my blood. Very visibly, the believer sees, touches, tastes, and totally experiences God’s forgiveness through the sacrifice of his Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior! “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched…this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.”
Transfiguration is a special day for believers. Transfiguration marks a change of seasons. We move from the season of Epiphany – Jesus as God’s son and light of the world, into the somber season Lent – Jesus as Son of man and sacrifice for mankind. Today we celebrate Jesus’ divine glory and his human sacrifice for our sins and the sins of the world. In the next 40 days (Lent) we will be privileged and blessed to study this sacrifice of Christ. We will be reminded again of the depth of the love of our Lord for his creatures. As we see Jesus during Lent, we will be reminded how Jesus’ sacrifice took place according to God’s plan and timeline. “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men…the testimony given in its proper time.” Jesus’ transfiguration is revealing. At Jesus’ transfiguration we have seen Jesus’ divine glory and Jesus has prepared us for sacrifice.
The Old Testament Israelites had the Law and the Prophets and the Transfiguration was the establishing of the New Covenant with Jesus. The old passes and the new comes. Verse 8 shows us this when the disciples present are suddenly, “looking around” and “they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.” It was Jesus and Jesus alone that was now to be focused on!