Transfiguration Sunday February 10, 2019
2 Peter 3:14-18
135, 291, (Printed Below), 47
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up on a high mountain apart by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His clothes became shining, exceedingly white, like snow, such as no launderer on earth can whiten them. And Elijah appeared to them with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—because he did not know what to say, for they were greatly afraid. And a cloud came and overshadowed them; and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” Suddenly, when they had looked around, they saw no one anymore, but only Jesus with themselves. Now as they came down from the mountain, He commanded them that they should tell no one the things they had seen, till the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept this word to themselves, questioning what the rising from the dead meant. And they asked Him, saying, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” Then He answered and told them, “Indeed, Elijah is coming first and restores all things. And how is it written concerning the Son of Man, that He must suffer many things and be treated with contempt? “But I say to you that Elijah has also come, and they did to him whatever they wished, as it is written of him.”
Dear fellow redeemed in Christ Jesus,
Have you ever had one of those moments that you just wish would last forever? Moments that we want to on hold tightly to and have them never end. Maybe it was a get-together with friends, where everything was so much fun. Maybe it was your wedding day where everything seemed just perfect. Maybe it was when your child was old enough to inner-act with you, but not old enough to crawl off your lap and run away. We’ve all experienced those remarkable and awesome moments in our life that we wish would never end.
On the other hand, we’ve also had times in our lives that couldn’t end soon enough. Maybe it was when you were sick and wished to feel better right away. Maybe it was some sort of legal or financial troubles you found yourself in and you just wanted it to be resolved and done with. Those days of suffering and sorrow we either wish would not happen in our life or that they would be over and done with as soon as possible.
On this Transfiguration Sunday, we have heard the account of Jesus being transfigured on a high mountain. In this text we hear of some truly remarkable events happening on that mountain. This event is so remarkable that Peter thought should not come to an end. What do you find to be the most remarkable event in this text? I would have you consider today how amazing it is that Jesus came down from the glory on this mountain to the suffering on Golgotha which awaited Him below. May God the Holy Spirit be with us, strengthening us as we behold the glory of our Savior Jesus.
At the time of our text, it is generally assumed that the events of Good Friday and Jesus’ crucifixion are only a few weeks away. By this time Peter, James, and John had spent about two years following Jesus and had seen Jesus do some truly amazing things. They had watched as Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead. They had seen Him cause the lame and paralyzed to walk. Twice they had seen Him feed thousands of people with only a few fish and a few loaves of bread. They had seen Him walk on water and calm the stormy seas. Peter had been led to confess that he believed Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God.
Yet never, in all the time they had been with Jesus, had they seen anything like the events of our text. We are told that Jesus took Peter, James, and John up on a high mountain where He was transfigured. “His clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them.” Luke reports that it was not simply the clothing of Jesus that changed, but also “His face was altered.” These three disciples were allowed to see the glory that Jesus always had as the Son of God. Glory which had been His from eternity. Glory which was so great that it shown through His entire, holy being—even His humble clothing. This is the glory which Jesus laid aside when He humbled Himself and became true Man.
This glorious scene became even more amazing with the arrival of two heavenly visitors. Elijah and Moses appeared and were talking with Jesus. What a sight this must have been! Jesus brilliantly radiating in glory. There stands Elijah, one of the greatest Old Testament prophets, man that never died, but went directly to heaven in a whirlwind. And with him is Moses, the great Old Testament figure who was the giver of the Law and was buried by God Himself.
Now, when we talk about awesome moments we don’t want to end, THIS certainly would have to be one of them! Peter certainly felt that way. “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Peter did not want this amazing event to end. He wanted to build three shelters for these three great men to remain in this great moment.
The glory of this event continued to grow. A cloud came and overshadowed them; and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” Like Mount Sinai and the dedication of the Temple, God the Father was making His presence known in a cloud and a voice. Later on, Peter would later write of this event in his second epistle, “(Jesus) received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory…” (2 Pt 1:17) The Father was giving His Son Jesus honor and glory on the Mount of Transfiguration.
Finally, Jesus, the true Son of God, was showing the glory that was His! Jesus had kept this glory hidden for the last thirty-three years of His life. Now if this was you, don’t you think you would want to show off your glory to everyone? Wouldn’t you especially want those enemies of yours to see it? Yes, Peter, build the tents for these three great men in glory so that others can share in this amazing moment! Truly this was one of those moments that we would have wanted to last forever.
Yet what do we read happened? Verses 8 and 9, Suddenly, when they had looked around, they saw no one anymore, but only Jesus with themselves. Now as they came down from the mountain, He commanded them that they should tell no one the things they had seen, till the Son of Man had risen from the dead. Just as suddenly as it had begun, it was over. They DID NOT stay there in that moment of glory. Moses did not remain. Elijah did not remain. The cloud lifted and the voice of God the Father ceased from speaking. “They saw no one anymore, but only Jesus with themselves.” Only Jesus remained. Jesus returned to looking the way He looked for the past thirty-three years. Then they came down from the mountain of glory. Going against our instincts, Jesus told His disciples to keep event to themselves until after Easter.
Jesus came down from this high hill of glory because His sights were set on another hill. This other hill would not radiate with brilliant glory. Peter would not ask to build a tent and remain on that hill. That hill is, of course, Golgotha or Calvary—the sight of Jesus’ crucifixion. Mere moments after the transfiguration, as the three disciples are asking questions about Elijah, what is it Jesus reminds them of? Verse 12, “And how is it written concerning the Son of Man, that He must suffer many things and be treated with contempt?” This second hill was the very thing Jesus had been speaking with Moses and Elijah about. Jesus’ mind is focused on the looming shadow of the cross. Jesus came down from the glory of that mountain to gory hill at Golgotha.
Is this not the most amazing thing of the Transfiguration? Which one of us would have chosen to hide that glory once again and instead “suffer many things and be treated with contempt?” And yet this is the greatness of Jesus, isn’t it? As the Son of God, Jesus always had such glory— it was His as true God from eternity. And yet He was willing to empty Himself of all this and take on the form of a servant. Paul writes to the Philippians, “being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:6-8). The Son of God came down from the glory of heaven, to suffer and be treated with contempt in this world.
While the glorious events on the Mount of Transfiguration seem as to end as quickly as they began, such was not the case with the gory hill of Golgotha. The contempt and shame that Jesus endured went all night and into the morning and afternoon of Good Friday. Even as Jesus was suffering the physical agony of crucifixion, many people continued to treat Him with contempt, saying, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him.” (Matthew 27:42) These blasphemers felt that Jesus should show His power by coming down from the cross. Yet the power of Jesus is seen in that He DID NOT come down and end His crucifixion quickly. It went on for six agonizing hours as the LORD lays on Him the iniquity of us all.
This event on the Mount of Transfiguration was an example of who Jesus truly is and what He was willing to do to save us. Jesus didn’t revel in His glory, but humbled Himself and gave His very life as a ransom for us all. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9) All this Jesus did that our sin would be removed and we might be able to share in His glory. How amazing it is, that Jesus came down from the mount of glory and headed for the mount where He would be crucified.
All too often we want our lives to be simple and free of suffering. We want the glories of heaven, without the tribulation and suffering. Yet our Lord reminds us again and again throughout Scripture that following Jesus involves bearing a cross. Paul too reminds us of this truth when he says, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God” (Act 14:22b). Tribulations will come from the unbelieving world which is hostile to the Gospel and the truth of God’s Word. Like Job, the devil also brings tribulation into our lives in hopes of making us curse God and die in unbelief.
And sometimes even God the Father brings tribulations into our lives. Not for our harm, but for our spiritual benefit. In fact, the writer to the Hebrews tells us that God allows hardship to come into our lives because He loves us. “For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives. If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?” (Hebrews 12:6-7) As Christians, suffering will happen. Such suffering does not come because we need to suffer here to get to go to heaven. Jesus has already suffered for our sin and removed our sin forever. But suffering will occur, both because sin is still in us and around us, and because our faith and trust in God constantly needs strengthening.
But be assured, for those who are in Christ Jesus glory will come! In Christ, we have been promised the eternal glories of heaven—“an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.” (1 Peter 1:4) The glories of heaven are given as a free gift of grace in Jesus Christ. Glory which has been secured for you by Jesus who came down from the mount of glory because He was headed to the gory hill of Golgotha. Praise be to Jesus who came down from the mountain to save us! Amen.
1) Once, upon a mountain sacred,
God in glory did appear,
As our Lord did shine so brightly,
Like the sun on earth so drear.
Can it be? Oh, praise the story:
God as man dwelt with us here!
2) Once on Calvary’s holy mountain,
God in glory did appear,
But that glory then was hidden,
As He suffered pain severe.
Now those cries of bitter anguish
Speak forgiveness in our ear.
3) Once upon the Mount of Olives,
God in glory did appear,
Far above this earth ascending,
From our sight to disappear.
Yet His promise shows us that
He Always shall be with us here.
4) Now from mountain unto mountain
Praises echo far and near,
That our sins are all forgiven!
Christ casts out our greatest fear.
This has now become our glory:
God in glory shall appear. AMEN.
by Prof. Em. John Pfeiffer
Melody: TLH # 56 (Used by permission)
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