Posts Tagged "Mark 9:2-9"

From Beginning to End

February 14, 2021
By Rev. David French

It seems to me that sometimes we as Christians struggle with what we’re supposed to make of the Transfiguration. Unfortunately, like Peter, while we try to look at it with awe and reverence, we can also end up missing the point. Like Peter, we also view the Transfiguration as an occasion to praise Jesus because He showed His glory, or because He is glorious. And so, we change a banner, put a different color on the altar, sing our praises, and pray our prayers to Him, but is that really all there is to the Transfiguration? Is it nothing more than a time we say that Jesus is beautiful and wonderful and glorious and so on? My friends, while Jesus is indeed all of those things, the lesson of the Transfiguration is more than: We and all who believe will one day shine like Jesus shines. But to see the bigger picture, we have to first step back, if you will, and consider the context that surrounds this day when our Lord was transfigured.

Six days before Jesus’s transfiguration, He spoke for the first time to His disciples about His suffering, death, and resurrection. The twelve disciples at that time had been told by Jesus, even if they didn’t fully understand “… that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.” Peter, as you know, who did not have in mind the things of God, says, no way. No doubt, thoughts of Christ’s suffering and dying just made no sense and scared Peter.

We would rather be joyfully celebrating God’s love and protection, not living a life of pain and grief. That’s because, like Peter, those things don’t make sense to us either, and so we at times may not share our faith because of the suffering and rejection it can bring into some of our circles, be that at home, work, or play.

And so, it was after a week of thinking about those words of Jesus and being filled with grief, Peter, James, and John hiked to the top of the mountain with Jesus. There, “His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.” And the glory of Christ was revealed, the glory of the only-begotten Son of God. This was the majesty that belonged to Him by His very nature, the majesty that had been hidden but proclaimed by shepherds on Christmas morning, the majesty that Christ now fully displays at the right hand of the Father.

So, what does this mean, this revelation of His glory? Jesus certainly gives us a clue when He tells His disciples to wait until after the resurrection before they talk to anyone about it. It appears that if they told others right away, then the true meaning would become confused and this blessed revelation misunderstood. So, it is to His resurrection that Christ points us as the key to unlocking the mystery of the Transfiguration. And in that light, first of all, we see this revelation of the glory of Christ was to assure His disciples what the end result of His suffering would be. That He, and all who follow Him, would overcome death and share in His glory in heaven. You see, from God the Father’s perspective, Christ’s end and our end was never in doubt. Christ would indeed suffer and die, but He would also most certainly rise again and ascend to the heavenly realms and be with the Father again. 

You see, His suffering, death, and resurrection are the glory of Christ. As I’ve shared so often in confirmation classes, it was His life that gave His death value. In other words, God became flesh so that He could live and die in your place, and so, with His life He fulfilled the law for you, and with His blood He paid the debt owed by you. In the Transfiguration we see that Jesus was not just a great teacher or mighty prophet miracle worker or even a really good friend, but Jesus is the very Son of God, the promised Messiah in whose flesh all the fullness, all the holiness, all the glory of the Triune God was hidden. 

It’s not that hard to understand, because we also hide things in our flesh. We don’t hide the glory of God, of course, but we hide the depth of our sinfulness. Our sins ... so well-manicured, so at home in our hearts, so subtle in their destruction as they hurt those around us. Surely, the things we hide are not our glory, but in fact, they are our shame. Left alone, they will condemn us to eternal suffering and sorrows unlike anything known on earth. But, thanks be to God for Christ our Lord, whose glory we have also seen, who took our sins and the eternal shame they’ve earned upon Himself and then offered His life as the payment for them all. 

The Holy One of God carried our sins to the Cross, and with His death, achieved the glory of God for us. And now, through our baptism into His death and resurrection, we stand before God as His children and heirs of His kingdom. About that, St. Paul would write to the Philippians, “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (3:20-21).

The Transfiguration doesn’t reveal a Christ whom we must praise because He is so glorious and wonderful, as if He were a work of art so beautiful to the eye that we can’t help but praise Him. Instead, He is our beautiful Savior because His glory is our glory made certain through His suffering, death, and resurrection. And so, we praise Him because He gives us the assurance of a glorious resurrection of our own.

Elijah and Moses appear, but not to distract us from Christ. They’re not visiting celebrities, as if we should cry out, “Oooh, look! It’s Moses and Elijah! How awesome!” No, these two are witnesses that Christ is the fulfillment of the Law and all that the prophets have written. Yes, Christ is the fulfillment of all Scripture. The voices of the prophets are speaking of Him. The voice of the Law is demanding that which only He can do. He is the beloved Son of God to whom we must listen! He is the mighty, majestic God who speaks to us not of the punishment we so richly deserve, but He speaks words of gentleness and grace, of compassion and mercy. It is He who is the Word that comforts us in all of our sorrows and assures us we will one day be with Him in heaven.  

Even now as we come together to worship, you don’t come to hear Pastor Heckert or me, you come to hear to the Word of God, who is Christ. And here, through the preaching of the Word and the administration of the Sacraments, you do hear Him as you are reminded again and again what God has done and is still doing for you. How He sent His Son to suffer, die, and rise for you; how He has made you His child; how He feeds, cares for, and protects you; how, through the forgiveness of your sins, He has opened to you the store-house of His glorious riches both now and forever more.

To Him be all glory and honor. Amen.

Tags: Mark 9:2-9

Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet

February 11, 2018
By Rev. Peter Heckert


+ Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.

The text for our meditation this Transfiguration weekend is, unsurprisingly, our Gospel lesson, specifically where Mark records, 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.” Here ends our text; dear Christian friends…

If your family is anything like mine, family gatherings revolved around bigger events – certain holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, events like that. Every Thanksgiving, for example, a majority of my mom’s family would gather at her sister’s house for food, football, sharing of memories, and of course, the obligatory family pictures. As a little kid, I didn’t appreciate them as much as I do now – like any child, I would fidget and squirm, preferring the fun of playing with my cousins than sitting still for a picture. Those of you with children certainly know the struggle that comes with having an energetic kid sit still for a picture. Now imagine having a gaggle of them sit in a coordinated way, according to the various family clans, all radiating out from the central figures, the familial patriarchs and matriarchs. I know it’s probably a circus to deal with, but I also know, as do you, how worth it the struggle is, as you look back at these photos, years later, and remember with fondness those times.

Those pictures are snapshots of time, a gathering of the different generations of your heritage, your family, who you are based on who and where you’ve come from and the people who have had an influence in your life. These are important to consider, as my dad is often wont to remind me, “Never forget who you are and where you’ve come from.”

With words, Mark paints us a similar portrait on the Mount of Transfiguration, only it is hardly a static portrait with kids sitting perfectly still for the microsecond necessary for the picture to be taken. No, the portrait that Mark paints for us is dynamic and alive. You see the select few apostles – Peter, James, and John – who have been brought up this mountain to witness an incredible moment. You also have, incredibly, two powerhouse figures of ancient Israel – Moses and Elijah –making an appearance, albeit in a mysterious, unknowable way, since the two of them had long since been removed from this earth.

Speaking of appearance, we come to the central figure in the portrait, the One commanding all the attention: Jesus Himself. Only … He doesn’t quite look the way that the disciples were used to seeing Him. They were, more likely, used to Him looking like an average Joe (or Jacob), perhaps with a sense of something extraordinary about Him, something one couldn’t quite put one’s finger on, but one knew when one is in His presence. No, here, on this mountain, Jesus isn’t just the teacher that they knew and loved. There, the disciples got to see Jesus in a raw display of His glory.

To say that this was a sight to behold is an incredible understatement, on par with Peter’s response to this extraordinary event, Rabbi, it is good that we are here! We are getting a rare glimpse at Jesus’s divine nature, the unadulterated majesty, holiness, and grandeur that is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. It’s almost an aside that Moses and Elijah are there. Their presence is certainly impressive, puzzling, and wondrous, but certainly not the focus. The focus here, as always, is Jesus, and Who He really is.

That’s what we see here in this family snapshot that Mark describes: the family is there, and they’re important, but of more importance is the central figure, Jesus. Peter’s desire to make three tents – one for Him, one for Moses, and one for Elijah – indicates Peter’s ignorance of Who Jesus really is in spite of the magnificence he has just been made privy to. This is undoubtedly one of the reasons why the cloud envelops the disciples and they hear the voice of the Father say, This is My beloved Son; listen to Him. The focus of this monumental moment, of this dynamic snapshot, is Jesus.

Awe-inspiring as this image of Jesus is, as majestic and powerful and glorious as we see Him in this moment of transfiguration, even then we are not seeing His divine nature most fully. That’s right, even this incredible spectacle on a mountain is not the complete display of Jesus as God. We see His glory, to be sure, but the true nature of divinity in Jesus is best beheld at another snapshot, one which we will begin contemplating in a matter of days with the coming of Lent. Yes, one sees Jesus most fully as God as He is suspended between heaven and earth, lifted up as the Lamb of God, Who takes away the sin of the world. There isn’t glory to behold, but rather gore as the blood of the Lamb is shed for the people. We don’t see His splendorous majesty, but we see the humble love of the Creator for His creatures as He lays His life down for them. We don’t hear the booming proclamation from the Father, but rather His deafening silence, as Jesus breathes His last and says, “Father, into Your hands, I commit My spirit.” We see Jesus doing the impossible, what only God can do: making atonement for sin by taking all sin upon Himself, and killing it in His own physical death. We see Jesus’ divine nature most clearly as He becomes the physical embodiment of love in His self-sacrifice upon the cross. We see Jesus as God most clearly as He dies out of love.

That’s not where the disciples are at, though. Right then and there, as Jesus is standing before them, resplendent and regal on the mountain, in this picture, we see a snapshot of the family of faith, those who trust in what and Who He is as the Messiah. As Jesus displays His glory, He is the bridge between the Old and New Testaments, bridging the gap between ancient Israel and those who see the promises given to Israel fulfilled.

While you may not see it, as we read these words and believe them to be true, we are likewise privy to this private, majestic display. That’s because we likewise are members of this family of faith. We are of the same family as Moses and Elijah, all the Old Testament believers who clung to the promise of the Messiah. We’re in the same family as Peter, James, and John, those first apostles who not only witnessed Jesus holy life, death, and resurrection, but also were sent out to bear this Gospel message to our forebears! The same family as Constantine, as Augustine, Luther, Walther, Pieper, all those who have gone before us, as well as those who will come after us who trust in Christ our Lord!

With Him at the center of the picture – both true God and true man – we have nothing to fear! When the focus of our teaching and faith is nothing by Christ, and Him crucified, resurrected, and returning, we know from where we come, and to Whom we belong! We gaze upon Christ as we partake of His body and blood, broken and shed for us! We hear His forgiving voice in absolution pronounced to us! And we shall see Him most truly and fully when He returns in a glory and majesty that is sure to outshine even what the disciples saw on that mountain! Yes, dear Christian friends! The best is yet to come!

+ In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. + Amen.

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