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“This is a NICE place to Be” “This is a NICE place to Be”

Transfiguration icon by Theophanes the Greek, 15th century
Transfiguration icon by Theophanes the Greek, 15th century
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“This is a NICE place to Be”

Posted on Wed, Feb 18, 2015

Mark 9:2-9 (Transfiguration Sunday)

February 15, 2015 – Transfiguration Sunday

Gospel Text: Mark 9:2-9 “This is a NICE place to Be

The Transfiguration

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?” Mark 9:1 says, And Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with* power.” What is wonderful about what Jesus is proclaiming is that, in the midst of totally unnatural acts like, healing, exorcisms, raising people from the dead, and soon Jesus’ meeting with the representatives of The Law and The Prophets, Jesus is telling us all that the coming of God’s Kingdom has already begun in the presence of Jesus Christ. Even though there is evil, sickness and disease of every kind, war, occupation, strife, greed and religious perversion, the Kingdom of God was at hand. God is present in all that is going on, and God is marching on in Truth and Light, to bring salvation to the world through the cross in Jerusalem. And even though the disciples may doubt, assume the worst, and promise what they cannot deliver, they are part of God’s plan. Therefore, it was time for Jesus to bring Peter, James and John up a possibly Mt. Hermon. Jesus brings these three important disciples up the mountain to demonstrate to them how the journey that they are following with Jesus is part of God’s plan from the beginning. On this day, all the profits and the Law would be seen before their eyes.

 

When God had something important to announce or to give to the people of Israel, oftentimes God did things from the tops of mountains. When Jesus had something to teach or pray about, he went up to high places. 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 Peter.

 

Peter saw the miracles, he heard Jesus preach, and when Jesus will ask him, “who do you say that I am?” How will Peter, James or John know that the one they proclaim is truly the Messiah? First they must journey with Jesus, seeing God’s power through healing, preaching, mercy and forgiveness and then, only be after Jesus sends the Holy Spirit, AFTER he has given his life and risen from the dead, will Peter, James and John understand the meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection and be prepared to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus the Christ, The Chosen, to the world. The same is true for us… we must live and walk with Jesus through all the good and the bad; and then after we have witnessed and experiencing the joy of being forgiven and Re-Created every time we hear we have been forgiven through hearing the Gospel… then we begin to understand this Jesus, whom we proclaim to the world.

 

Today is “Transfiguration Sunday.” It is like a ‘holiday’ between Christmas and Holy Week! The season of Epiphany is over and from next Sunday we begin the season of Lent. Our confirmation students were asked if they put up their Transfiguration Trees, sent Transfiguration cards, or exchanged Transfiguration presents… it didn't seem to happen…

 

During Lent, we ask ourselves, “Why was it necessary for Jesus to go to the cross for me and the world?” We live in a “post-resurrection” period; therefore we know we will make it through Lent and Holy week and arrive at the empty tomb on Easter. Through the scripture and our own faith, we know Jesus was raised just as he promised… but why? Why was this suffering act, necessary, for me? For Us? For our sake, why was it NECESSARY for the beloved Son of God, the sinless one, to suffer and die on a cross… for us? Was it fair that the sinless one, HAD TO give his life for us, a sinful people? There is nothing fair about God’s mercy, grace or justice… God just is… Love… The great “I am” is Love, filled with grace beyond understanding.

 

The baby born of Mary, in that little town of Bethlehem, 2000 years ago, and wrapped in bands of cloth was born to die for us… why? 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, and make the connection between Jesus words and actions with the Law and the Prophets, 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, they must have had name tags.)

 

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?

 

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, for 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. Moses and Elijah appear to be talking, or maybe encouraging Jesus who has just “turned his face to Jerusalem, to bear the cross in Jerusalem. Peter, of course, is amazed. (He is “beside himself” with “terror.”) He is overcome with emotion. 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! It is safe and wonderful to be away from the demanding crowds and the pain of the world, and he just wants to preserve this “mountain top” experience, but because he has heard Jesus prophesy that Jesus will be crucified after they arrive in Jerusalem, he also wants to stop Jesus from continuing on to Jerusalem!

 

However, there is no stopping for Jesus and His mission. 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 to “love God’s people from death!” 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 essentially by saying, “Stop your talking about making foolish tents! Don’t even think of stopping Him for a moment!” It is the “GET THEE BEHIND ME SATAN,” kind of message.

 

God sets them straight. And just like the day when God proclaimed to the people Jesus’ identity at Jesus’ baptism, here 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.

 

Now it was time for them to come off the mountain and continue their work.

 

It is nice to be here… At worship, we have once again been made new through the hearing of the forgiveness of our sins, we have been reminded of new identity as Children of God through our baptism, and we will have been fed and strengthened through the Holy Supper. It is nice to be here, the view is pleasant, the fellowship is the best, and I love the music and prayers… But we have not received Grace upon Grace, just to stay in this nice place. The words and actions of Jesus define OUR faith. And our calling is to be God’s people among all people, not to just stay here, in this nice place near the sea.

 

Our calling is to be like Jesus among all people, especially the hurting, hungry, lonely, or lost people. There are so many who have never heard the Gospel. 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 for we have been blessed with Grace upon Grace. We have God’s work to do. God’s work… through our Hands. This is a nice place to be, but beyond these doors, our service begins. Let us be Jesus Body, an unconditional blessing to the world 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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