The Transfiguration reveals to us the glory of God. It is hovering, just beyond the surface of this world.
Jesus takes His disciples with Him up a high mountain. They have traveled with the Messiah for a while now. They have seen Him go to solitary places to pray. This is not an odd detour or a strange experience. It is just another day with Jesus, on another mountain, as He makes His way through another region as they follow the best they can.
One moment, they are in the familiar presence of Jesus and then, the next moment, they wonder where they are at. The familiar suddenly becomes unfamiliar. They have not changed. Their surroundings have not changed. But Jesus has. He shines.
As they look at Jesus, they see the sun rising in a person. His garments gleam, not by their own power, but by His. He is the dayspring from on high (Luke 1:78), breaking through clouds of mortal flesh. Suddenly, their solitary space is peopled by prophets. Jesus is surrounded by figures: Elijah and Moses. Silence gives way to sound as familiar conversation breaks out and the disciples realize these men are not strangers but friends.
It is as if time has opened the door and, for a moment, eternity has come in. Prophets from separate times and different places hold conversation with Jesus in this time and this place. And Jesus, for a moment, shines like the dawn.
Have you ever had that moment in your life of discipleship? The moment when suddenly, with great clarity the wonder of God breaks upon you?
It may be when you first held your baby and were awe struck by God’s fragile gift of life. It could be when that psalm you have read for years suddenly broke through with new meaning because it captured the turmoil of your heart.
The Transfiguration captures for us a promise. It is God’s promise of being there in life with us through Jesus. In a moment, His presence can change everything, and we are struck by the wonder of God.
Sunrises, however, do not last forever. One second, the sky is brilliant with colors, and then the next second it has faded to a muted blue. As the disciples stare on in wonder, a cloud comes and overshadows everything. The brilliant vision disappears into obscurity. And when that happens, a voice speaks with crystal clarity. “This is My beloved Son; listen to Him.”
When life returns to normal, when the vision fades away, when suddenly the familiar closeness of God seems distant, we are not left alone. God’s voice continues to speak to us with crystal clarity. Jesus is God’s beloved Son. Listen to Him.
God’s voice continues to speak to us with crystal clarity. Jesus is God’s beloved Son. Listen to Him.
This Word from God shapes how we respond to the Transfiguration.
When Peter saw the wonder of the Transfiguration, he tried to prolong it. He wanted to build booths, one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. But Peter was wrong on two counts. First, Jesus is greater than Moses and Elijah, not equal to them. So, there should not be three booths, but one. But even then, there is a problem because, second, the Transfiguration is not something you prolong. It is here for a moment and then quickly passes away.
Of course, we can try to capture the Transfiguration and prolong it, but that will end in frustration. God cannot be boxed into our timetables and our life plans, bringing precisely the kind of help we think we need at precisely the moment when we think we need it. God is more mysterious than that. He dwells in unapproachable light (1 Timothy 6:16) and His ways are beyond our understanding (Isaiah 55:8). So, prolonging the experience or bottling it up to bring it out on just the right occasion is not an option.
When the wonderful experiences cease, when the visions of graciousness fade away, when the power and the mercy of God seem distant, we are tempted to walk away, despondent and empty.
But the Father’s voice reminds us that Jesus is God, and not just in moments of transfiguration. He is God in the midst of the clouded portions of our lives as well. His voice remains with us, wherever we go, and we live by listening to Him.
The voice of God has the power to transfigure our world.
On Mount Calvary, Jesus hangs on a cross. Although the sun should be shining, it is dark in the middle of the day. Creation itself is losing its light. Christ’s once gleaming clothes are now part of a game of dice. Jesus is naked, His body bruised and bloody, a piece of sport to the mockers who pass by. He is joined in death, not by two prophets, but by two criminals. Their presence, however, turns our attention to God’s Word. They fulfill God’s prophecy. Jesus would “be numbered with the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12).
In this place of darkness instead of light, of bloodied flesh instead of gleaming garments, of criminals instead of prophets, we listen to God’s voice. Jesus is the “suffering servant” who takes our sins away. His death brings life. His broken body brings healing. His Word brings direction to those who have lost their way. There is no need to prolong the Transfiguration because the love which has come in Jesus is powerful. It is transformative. It transfigures the world.
How do we celebrate the Transfiguration? We listen to Jesus. His words bring forgiveness and life that transfigure our world.
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Mark 9:2-9.
Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Mark 9:2-9.
Lectionary Kick-Start-Check out this fantastic podcast from Craft of Preaching authors Peter Nafzger and David Schmitt as they dig into the texts for this Sunday!
Lectionary Podcast-Dr. Arthur Just of Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, IN walks us through Mark 9:2-9.