Transfiguration Sunday February 14, 2021


Heavenly Sights and Sounds on a Mountain Top Retreat

Mark 9:2-9

Scripture Readings

2 Kings 2:1-12
2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2


359, 135, 471, 50:1-2

Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted

+ In the Name of Jesus Christ. Amen. +

  1. They are a foretaste of a glorified life and a blessed fellowship.
  2. They help us to keep our sights set on heaven.
  3. They are fully realized because Jesus went down from the mountain in order to ascend the cross and caused His gospel to be proclaimed

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.

In the name of our Savior Jesus, dear fellow redeemed,

Have you ever found yourself in a most enjoyable circumstance where you thought how wonderful it would be if this could continue on indefinitely? Perhaps this thought crossed your mind when you were able to get away from it all, so to speak, like on a vacation or a retreat that was restful, refreshing, and invigorating.

However, it doesn’t take very long for us to wake up to the reality that in this present world those enjoyable conditions will not go on forever. That enjoyable break finally has to come to an end, because we have to get back to our daily routine and carry out our responsibilities. As much as we might like, we simply can’t run away from or escape difficulties and problems in this world. Rather, we have to face them and with God’s help deal with them as they come along. In fact, we learn from the Bible and from our own experiences that the closer we come to the end of this world and Judgment Day conditions will continue to get increasingly worse.

With this unpleasant thought in mind, what a wonderful thing it is to be able to leave behind, even if it is for just a short time, the outside world and all its wretchedness, and come together in God’s house of refuge where through God’s Word and Sacrament the Lord restores our souls, uplifts our spirits, and strengthens our hearts.

On a mountain top retreat, the apostles Peter, James, and John witnessed sights and sounds that were truly glorious. It was in certain respects like a glimpse of heaven. This event was so marvelous that Peter expressed a desire for it to continue on. However, it was not meant to be in this world. This extraordinary experience would have to come to an end so that important work could be completed and special preparations made so that these disciples together with all of us could finally enter a truly heavenly life that will never end.

While Peter, James, and John were on that mountain with Jesus, they beheld Him in a way they had never seen before. In this instance, His appearance changed in such an extraordinary fashion that the disciples’ eyes were filled with marvel and awe. In the Gospel of Matthew the evangelist reports that Jesus’ face shone like the sun. (Matthew 17:2) Our text reports concerning His clothing that they became shining, exceedingly white, like snow, such as no launderer on earth can whiten them. During Jesus’ life of humiliation the visible sight of His glory as the Son of God was concealed from the human eye, because He did not make full use of His divine power and majesty. The only evidence of His glory as God was to be found in His mighty miracles, and His preaching and teaching with divine authority. Yet, on this special occasion, the three disciples received a glimpse of His divine glory shining through His physical form.

This splendid sight gave evidence of Jesus being our Lord and God who is powerful to save all of us from our sin and deserved punishment. This blessed fact was further confirmed when the heavenly Father declared out of a cloud above that Jesus is His beloved Son, that is, His only begotten Son from eternity in whom He was well pleased. He was satisfied with all that Jesus had done and would do for our eternal redemption. What a great comfort and wonderful assurance it is for us to hear this and believe it!

In addition to these heavenly sights and sounds, the three disciples saw Moses and Elijah standing alongside of Jesus and talking with Him. We recognize these two as having been great prophets in Old Testament times who looked in faith to the coming redemption through the promised Christ and who proclaimed this message of salvation to many others in their day. These two men were representative of all the believers of old who up to this point had departed this life believing in the eternal redemption the promised Savior would accomplish for them. And now Moses and Elijah were tangible proof that they had not believed in the Savior in vain. According to God’s promise Jesus fulfilled the work of man’s eternal salvation. Moses and Elijah were visible evidence of all believers being translated into heaven upon their departure from this world.

This glorious sight of Jesus, Moses, and Elijah is a glimpse of the heavenly life that we too will have a share in on the new heavenly earth in eternity. For even as Moses and Elijah stood on the mount in a glorified form, so also we and all believers in Christ will dwell in heaven in a glorified, perfected state.

On the Last Day we will be raised with a glorified body, and perfected minds and souls. No more will we be robbed of the joys of life by a sinful nature within us or be subjected to loveless words and actions from those around us, for in heaven only righteousness dwells. (2 Peter 3:13)

While living in this glorified state on the new heavenly earth, the Lord Jesus will dwell in our midst in all His glory, power, and splendor. In the book of Revelation the apostle John reports concerning his vision of heaven, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. (Revelation 21:3)

The psalmist describes what it will be like to be in the presence of the Lord, as he says of Him, In Your presence is fullness of joy, at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Psalm 16:11) As citizens of heaven we will have an existence of indescribable joy. And unlike the momentary experience of joy in this life, in the heavenly world to come we will have a life of perfect bliss that will continue on throughout all eternity.

In that future world not only will we have unending fellowship with Jesus, but also with all other believers in Christ. What a great source of comfort and hope this is to us concerning loved ones who died in the Lord. Because of Jesus’ work of salvation and the gift of faith, we will once again see in heaven those who were very near and dear to us, and never again be separated from them.

When the three disciples received a glimpse of that future life in the glorious sight of Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, Peter expressed a desire for it to continue on. He 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. When we receive these and other foretastes of heaven from Holy Scripture, our hearts are also delighted and comforted. Being confronted with sickness, disease, pain, sadness, and all sorts of troubles in this life, it is reassuring to know that we have a blessed future to come where as Scripture declares, there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. (Revelation 21:4)

During our sojourn here below it is so very important that we do not lose sight of our heavenly home. Otherwise we will simply become earthbound creatures. As we go about our daily activities, we can so easily fall into the frame of mind of just living for this life and not be living for the life of the world to come. If we lose sight of heaven as our ultimate goal, we will neglect our spiritual life with God, our spiritual need of receiving on a regular basis the nourishment of God’s Word and Holy Communion, and we will forget that while we are in this life we are to be concerned about serving our Lord in His kingdom. The apostle Paul exhorts us in this regard saying, If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth… When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. (Colossians 3:1,2,4)

But this mountain top experience could not continue on indefinitely. Jesus would need to go down from the mountain in order to complete His earthly mission of delivering us from the fierce wrath of God over against our grievous sinfulness and enable us to cross over into the promised land of heaven. A short time after this happening Jesus told His disciples, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again. (Matthew 20:18,19)

Peter, James, and John would also need to come down from the mountain in order to carry out the mission the Lord had given to them, namely to reveal to others all they had seen and heard concerning the Savior Jesus. In his second letter, we find Peter writing, For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’ And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. (2 Peter 1:16-19) From the testimony of the three apostles and other Bible writers we have been privileged to see through eyes of faith the great glory of Jesus as our Lord and Savior, and also the future life of glory that we will share with Him, with all the saints, and with the vast host of angels in heaven.

Earlier I spoke of enjoyable times that we experience in this world that are very temporary and are far from perfect. Surely what Peter, James, and John witnessed on that mountain top retreat far surpasses anything we will ever encounter in this world. Yet, thanks and praise be to Jesus for not following Peter’s suggestion of remaining on that mountain. Because He came down from the mountain to suffer, die, and rise again as our Savior, we have the blessed assurance of enjoying the full glories of heaven with the Lord and all the company in heaven. We also know and confidently believe that that blessed heavenly existence will never come to an end. Let us continue to set your minds on things above, looking to Jesus in faith, knowing that one day we will all enjoy that never ending retreat in heaven. Amen.

—Rev. Mark Gullerud

Sunnyvale, CA

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