Posted on Sun, Feb 19, 2012
February 19, 2012 – Transfiguration Sunday
Gospel Text: Mark 9:2-9 “Don’t Just Stand There!”
2 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. 4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5 Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ 6 He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!’ 8 Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.
The Coming of Elijah
9 As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
Mark, as well as Matthew, begins today’s Gospel text with “Six days later.” What happened “six days earlier?” Did something happen, “six days earlier” that caused Jesus to bring Peter, James and John up the tallest mountain in Israel? The mountain Jesus brought them up was probably Mt. Hermon, a very tall mountain with snow on the summit most of the year. When God had something important to announce or to give the people of Israel, oftentimes God did things from the tops of mountains. When Jesus had something to teach or pray about, or was troubled, he went up to high places to pray. And in today’s text, in order to show these three disciples, one of whom, called Peter, who Jesus says He will build his church upon, Jesus has something very important to show him. Six days earlier, Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter, showed great courage and answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Peter saw the miracles, he heard Jesus preach, and when Jesus asks him, “who do you say that I am?” He thought he really knew who Jesus was and said, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God,” but does Peter really know what his confession means? Does Peter know why Jesus was born? Does Peter know why Jesus is teaching and leading them all over the countryside preaching, teaching and healing? And most importantly, does Peter know why they are going to the holy city of Jerusalem? Only after Peter makes his famous confession of faith, does Jesus begin to tell them the real reason they are marching to Jerusalem.
But it will only after Jesus sends the Holy Spirit, AFTER he has given his life and risen from the dead, will Peter understand the meaning of today’s lesson and be prepared to teach to the world the real identity of Jesus the Christ, The Chosen.
Today is “Transfiguration Sunday.” The season of Epiphany is over and from next Sunday we begin the season of Lent. During Lent, we ask ourselves, “Why was it necessary for Jesus to go to the cross.” We live in a “post-resurrection” period; therefore we know Jesus was killed on the cross and rose again. Through the scripture and our own faith, we know Jesus was raised just as he promised… but why? Why? For my sake, why was it NECESSARY for the beloved Son of God, the sinless one, to suffer and die on a cross… for me? Jesus’ existence and teaching are factual and historical; therefore, we must ask ourselves this question. “For what purpose was that babe born of Mary, in that little town of Bethlehem, 2000 years ago, why was it necessary for Jesus to go to the cross?” What was the significance of the words, “he was wrapped in swaddling clothes?” Lent is a time to ask this question on a personal level, then on a communal level, then even on a national and global level.
In order to show Peter, James and John, who he truly was, Jesus takes them up onto a mountain and before their eyes they see Jesus “transfigured.” His face shines like the sun, and his clothes became like dazzling white. And then, the three fishermen suddenly see Jesus speaking to Elijah and Moses. (How did they know it was Moses and Elijah, I do not know, it was only important for Mark to know…)
Why Moses and Elijah? What is the significance of these two Old Testament Bible heroes suddenly appearing before the disciple and having a personal meeting with Jesus? And why are they talking to Jesus just before Jesus is to enter Jerusalem? And why is it especially important for this scene to be played out before Peter, James and John?
Through Moses God gave us the law. The law was given to teach the Children of Israel a new way of living free from the slavery and bondage of sin, SO THAT Israel could show God’s love and mercy to the world.
Elijah was a prophet of God. He proclaimed God’s warning, God’s goodness, God’s faithfulness and even God’s wrath. It was up to the people to listen to the prophets, but they were the ones proclaiming God’s instruction to the Children of Israel.
The words and actions of Jesus define our faith. Jesus IS the Word of God made flesh; Therefore, Jesus fulfills the Law and the Prophets. Therefore this is a huge theological teaching about how the Old and the New Testaments work together.
But what the disciples see is an amazing thing. They appear to be talking, or maybe encouraging Jesus as Jesus is on his way to the cross in Jerusalem. Peter, of course, is amazed. (He is “beside himself.”) He is overcome with emotion, just like “six days before.” The moment is powerful and amazing; and in order to “preserve the moment,” Peter says, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He wants to preserve this amazing opportunity to have a Bible Study with Elijah, Moses and Jesus, but because he has heard Jesus prophesy that he will be crucified after they arrive in Jerusalem, he wants to stop Jesus from continuing on to Jerusalem. In order to STOP Jesus, build a tent, a tabernacle, a dwelling place for the Bible Heroes!
However, as it is true that Jesus has been born and was wrapped in ‘swaddling clothes,’ at this stage in the unfolding drama of the fulfillment of our salvation, there is no stopping for Jesus. Stopping Jesus from entering Jerusalem is exactly what the devil would want, because even the devil knows that he is helpless against Jesus’ power and the faithful promises of God. We see the grace of God in Jesus’ obedience to fulfilling the promise of salvation. While Peter is babbling on about building tents for Jesus, Elijah and Moses, from the clouds God interrupts him. “Stop your talking about foolish tents! Don’t even think of stopping Him for a moment!
As Peter babbles and tries to make plans, God sets the moment straight. There is a huge cloud and God speaks! ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!’ Put your human thoughts and desires away and LISTEN TO HIM!! He knows exactly what He is doing!”
Imagine what was going through Peter’s mind. And then when they looked up, the only one they saw was Jesus. Only Jesus. Only Jesus. Only Jesus. As they lay on the ground, unable to move, Jesus comes to them, puts his hand out the same way he ‘healed’ so many people before and says, “get up and do not be afraid.”
They are ordered not to tell anyone about this amazing experience, because it will not be until Jesus has risen from the dead and sent the Holy Spirit that they will be able to interpret it correctly.
In the same way God told the people Jesus’ true identity when Jesus was Baptized, God has explicitly told them who Jesus was, and now it was time for them to come off the mountain and continue their work.
We have been made new through the forgiveness of our sins, we have been given a new identity as Children of God through our baptism, and we have been fed and strengthened through the Holy Supper. It is nice to be here, the view is pleasant, the fellowship is the best, but there are so many hurting people out there who have never heard the Gospel. There are more and more people out there without food or adequate health care. There are countless people out there that just need to know they are not alone and are loved.
This is the best time of the week for me, but we can’t remain here… we have work to do. We have God’s work to do. God’s work, God’s strength, God’s faithfulness, but our hands… Let’s go! Amen.
“And may the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)
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