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LSB Transfiguration of Our Lord B Sermon – Mark 9:2-9

February 16, 2015

February 15, 2015 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

“And after six days 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 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.”

Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up a mountain and is transfigured before them. That summarizes well the event that the Church commemorates on this day. The event reveals Jesus’ divinity to these three disciples. Jesus’ holiness is displayed as His figure changes and His clothing becomes radiant, intensely white. The company that Jesus keeps is shown as two Old Testament figures—Moses and Elijah—appear and hold conversation with Him, like it was Jesus and two old friends. Jesus’ relationship to the LORD is made known, as the Voice of the Father sounds from the cloud that envelopes the mountaintop: “This is My beloved Son; listen to Him.” All of these details are to make very clear who Jesus truly is.

But note the statement that Jesus makes to the disciples after the event ends: “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.” Jesus commands Peter, James, and John to keep what they had seen under wraps. Everything that testified about Jesus’ identity was to remain embargoed. No talk about the changed figure. No talk about the bright clothing. No talk about Moses and Elijah showing up. No talk about the Voice from the cloud.

Why is that command given? What does Jesus not want to be revealed to the general population? How is this to be a secret? Jesus’ instruction is rooted in the work that He is to accomplish as the Messiah. He had disclosed this to His disciples six days earlier: “He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And He said this plainly.” Jesus makes known what is to happen to Him, what is to take place as He had come to earth.

Jesus’ statements about suffering, rejection, being killed, and rising again are essential to His identity as the Messiah. They are just as important as the shining holiness, the goodly fellowship of the prophets who praise Him, and the affirming statement that comes from the Father. All of these make up Jesus’ identity. All of these are part and parcel to Jesus. They make Him the Redeemer who brings salvation to the world.

That is how this event starts to be significant to you. The Transfiguration reveals your Redeemer. On Wednesday, the Church will begin its Lenten journey, moving with Jesus toward the events of Holy Week. You will hear again about Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, His giving a new commandment on Holy Thursday, His being betrayed by Judas, His trials and beatings by the Sanhedrin, and His condemnation by Pilate. All will lead up to Calvary’s holy mountain, where Jesus will be transfigured again, beaten beyond recognition, stripped of all His clothing, taunted by the crowds, and left to die in crucifixion.

But the One who endures all the shame is the same Jesus who revealed His glory on the Galilean mountaintop. He is the Morning Star who shines brighter than the entire heavenly host. He is the True Man loved by the LORD. He is the subject of the prophets’ preaching. That does not change during the events of Holy Week. That identity is not lost as Jesus undergoes all the humiliation. Instead, that identity is confirmed. He does as was spoken about Him. Jesus accomplishes the task that was given Him, showing Himself to be the Father’s Beloved Son. He takes on His true figure, the glory and power that He possesses as the conqueror of death and the restorer of life as He rises from the tomb.

This is what Peter, James, and John proclaimed and made public. It happened according to Jesus’ command: “He charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.” And this testimony given by the apostles is what you confess about Jesus. This is what you believe. You claim Him as your Redeemer. You speak about Him as the Holy One of God who endured shame and the cross but overcame the sharpness of death and opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers. You declare Jesus to be the King of glory and the everlasting Son of the Father.

The confession that you make about Jesus’ identity is established in you as you receive the testimony about Him. It is part of the “listen[ing] to Him” that you are exhorted to do by the Father in heaven. But not all abide by this. Paul noted this in his writing to the Corinthians: “Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away.” And he speaks further: “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

Your seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ is a gift that you have received, just as Peter, James, and John did. To look at Jesus’ actions and note that He is special: that can be done by many. To claim that He is to be followed by people in all times and places: that is less accepted. To think that He is supreme and has dominion over all: that is a point of hesitation. And to believe that He is the Son of God and is the source of salvation: that is a dividing line. But this is your faith due to the divine work done in you: “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

That light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ shined on the mountaintop during His Transfiguration for Peter, James, and John. But even more so, it shined in the appearance of the Risen Jesus to Peter and the Twelve, to James, to Mary Magdalene and the other women, to hundreds of others who saw Him. For then, it wasn’t just a knowledge that Jesus was divine. No, it was a knowledge that Jesus was divine and has acted out of the character that the LORD shows: compassion, mercy, pity. He endures the ignominy and shame, so that you can be raised into glory and honor by sharing in His nature and the benefits of His work.

The apostle’s letter included another statement about you who have been given to know this identity of Jesus: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” There is a transfiguring taking place in you. Not only have you been led to confess the identity of Jesus, you are also being transformed into His character. You are given to share in the divine image, to love what Jesus loves, to think the way that Jesus thinks, to act the way Jesus acts, to endure what Jesus endured, to see the glory that lies beyond humility as Jesus did.

So you hear of Jesus’ Transfiguration and believe His identity. You receive Jesus as the Beloved Son. You accept the endorsement of Him that comes from the Father. You also hear Jesus’ prediction of suffering and death and know that the same Son of God endured this for your salvation. You trust the prophetic words that spoke of what He would do and the apostolic proclamation of what He has done. You hear and listen to Him, just as the Father says. You hear Jesus’ teaching of discipleship and know that this is the charter of righteous living for you. You speak openly of Jesus’ identity, since He has risen from the dead and opened the way of eternal life to you. And you look forward to your own transfiguration, when you will be able not just to hear, but to see Jesus as He is.

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

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