St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

The Transfiguration Helps Us Understand Our Savior

Sermon on Mark 9:2-9
Text: 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.
     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.)
     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.
     9 As 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.
     This morning, you may have noticed that we have different paraments on the altar, pulpit and lectern.  Last week, we had green paraments and this week they were exchanged for white.  White paraments signal a festival of joy for the church.  They are normally reserved for Christmas and the Sundays following, for Easter and the Sundays following.  This morning, we wish to celebrate another portion of Christ’s life, namely, his transfiguration.  As we study Christ’s transfiguration, we see that THE TRANSFIGURATION HELPS US UNDERSTAND OUR SAVIOR.  1. It Discloses His Divine Nature.  2. It Anticipates His Agonizing Death.  3. It Foreshadows His Glorious Resurrection.
     “After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone.” (Verse 2)  We learn from the other Gospels that Jesus went up there to pray.  As Jesus was praying, the three disciples were sleeping.  Yet, when they awoke, they saw something.  Jesus’ appearance had changed.  This is what is meant when it says, “There he was transfigured before them.”  Jesus stood before them and “His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.”  His clothes were glistening.  His face shone like the sun.
     What was happening?  In order to understand, we must go back to the idea of Jesus’ humiliation.  Jesus was true God with all of the power and glory that is his.  Yet, Jesus did not always make full use of these heavenly powers.  He allowed little glimpses of his divine nature show when he performed the miracles that are recorded for us in the pages of Scriptures.  However, for the most part, he chose not to make full use of them.
     Now, however, Jesus was allowing his disciples to see himself in his glory.  The writers of the Gospels try to create a mental picture of what Jesus looked like in all of his glory.  I am sure that mere words cannot do justice to what Peter, James and John saw on that mountain.  They saw Jesus in his divine glory.  Christ wanted them to see this to strengthen them for the weeks and months ahead.
     We, also, benefit from this description.  We, also, need to be reminded of and strengthened by the fact that Jesus was true God.  Events, such as the one recorded in our text, show us Jesus in the glory that is his.  We are again reminded of the fact that the Son of God came down to this earth to save us from our sins.  We thank the Father for showing his Son in his glory.
     Two people appeared on the mountain with Jesus, They were Moses and Elijah.  There are many speculations as to why Moses and Elijah and not other Old Testament heroes of faith.  Perhaps, it was because Moses brought the Law of God to the people of Israel and Elijah brought many Israelites back to the Lord from the worship of idols.  Perhaps, it was because Moses represented the Law and Elijah the prophets, whose words Jesus came to fulfill.  Whatever the reason, Moses and Elijah appeared on the mountain, talking with Jesus.
     We learn the topic of the conversation from Luke’s account of these events.  It says in Luke 9:31, “They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem.”  They were speaking with Jesus about his suffering and death that he would soon face in Jerusalem.  Jesus was about to fulfill all of the prophecies that had been written about him in the Old Testament.  These two prophets were conversing with Jesus and giving him encouragement as he was about to take the sins of the world upon himself and suffer and die, so that full payment would be made.  Jesus had announced six days earlier, for the first time, that he would suffer and die.  As he traveled along the road to that time, the Father wanted to encourage him.  He did so by sending Moses and Elijah.  He, also, did so by speaking from a cloud that covered the mountaintop.  He said, “This is my Son, whom I love.  Listen to him!”  By this, the Father was showing his complete satisfaction with everything that Jesus had done so far.  He was putting his seal of approval on Jesus’ life, because Jesus had not sinned.  The Father was announcing to the world his approval of the course that had been set out for his Son, which would lead to suffering and death, for the sake of all people.
     We, also, see that Jesus was sent to this world to pay for our sins.  As we see what Jesus endured for our sakes, we cannot help but be sorry for the sins that we have committed.  We see that Jesus did all of this, out of love for us.  As a result, we cannot help but want to do things that are pleasing to him for all that he has done for us.
   God the Father gave his Son this transfiguration to strengthen and encourage Jesus as he was about to face his suffering and death.  The three disciples also received strengthening and encouragement from it.  Soon, they would see Jesus being taken captive, mistreated, falsely accused and condemned and nailed to a cross.  To strengthen them, Jesus allowed his disciples to be witnesses of this transfiguration.
     Peter said, “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.”  Peter wanted to preserve this little slice of heaven on earth.  We are also told, “He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.”  Being in the presence of God’s glory and seeing Moses and Elijah frightened them.  We are told in Matthew 17:6 that, when the Father spoke from the cloud, “When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified.”  Sinful man is terrified to stand in the presence of a holy God.  However, since Jesus has come and paid for our sins, we need not be afraid of God.  Indeed, we can call him “Father.”
     As the disciples were cowering on the ground, Jesus came to them and touched them.  When they looked up, only Jesus was standing there in front of them.  Just as quickly as the event started, it had come to an end.  Jesus showed his love for them by going to them, touching them, and telling them not to be afraid.  Jesus wanted to comfort them and strengthen them in their faith.  Then Jesus and the disciples came down from the mountain.  As they did so, we read in verse 9, “Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.”
     Why would Jesus give such orders?  Doesn’t it seem strange that Jesus would give such orders?  Surely the people would follow Jesus, if they knew about this!  Yet, we have seen how people followed Jesus when he did miracles.  They looked to him as one who would provide an endless supply of bread, so that they wouldn’t have to work.  Some looked to Jesus to be some sort of political Messiah, who would free them from Roman rule.  They had lost sight of the reason the Messiah was to come into the world.  If the disciples told others what they had seen on the mountain, some would get the wrong idea about whom Jesus was.  In addition, the disciples didn’t fully understand what Jesus was teaching.  So, until they saw God’s plan of salvation completely unfolded, they were to tell no one about what they had seen.
     Jesus made mention of the fact that he would be raised from the dead.  He was telling his disciples that he would not only suffer and die, but would also rise from the dead.  Jesus was allowing his disciples to see what would happen before it did.  Jesus was preparing them for the events that would soon come to pass.
     We, also, see from the Gospels how Jesus prepared his disciples for what would happen.  We thank him for allowing us to see that he voluntarily allowed himself to be put to death for our sins and then rise again from the dead.  Jesus allowed his disciples to see his transfiguration to prepare them for what would happen.  We, too, have seen Jesus in his glory in the words of our text.  Soon, we will be entering into the season of Lent, where we will meditate on Jesus’ suffering and death.  As we come together for the Lenten services, let us also keep in mind the events of our text.  This Jesus, who was punished for us, is the Son of God.  We thank him for allowing us to see him in all of his glory.  We thank him for telling us about his transfiguration, so that we might better understand him as our Savior.  As we leave the mountain top to enter the season of Lent, may we do so, praising our God for his love for us.  Amen.