+ In Nomine Jesu +
Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
The sequence of events in the life and ministry of Jesus are important for many reasons. One reason has to do with His pastoral relationship to His disciples and ultimately to each one of us. He was bringing them along in their faith so that after He was crucified, resurrected and ascended, they would have a foundation on which to build their lives. Of course, the sequence of events in Jesus’ life and ministry serve the same purpose in our lives too.
This morning is Transfiguration Sunday. Jesus went up on a mountain, taking Peter, James and John along with Him. He was Transfigured there before them. The word that is translated as “transfigured,” in most of our English translations, is “metamorphothe,” the word from which we get our English word metamorphosis. On the mountain, Jesus underwent a metamorphosis.
To describe the event, Mark says “His clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them.” Moses and Elijah, two of the Old Testament saints representing the Law and the Prophets, appeared on the mountain as well. Peter was overcome with the sight of the Transfigured Jesus, so much so, that he wanted to just stay there on the mountain forever.
We’ll come back to the Transfiguration in a few minutes, but it would helpful if we took a few moments to consider it in its context, again, because the sequence of events in the life and ministry of Jesus are important.
In the section of Mark’s Gospel just before this morning’s reading, Jesus had spoken to His disciples about His impending death and resurrection. He said, “the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.”
Though Jesus only told His disciples what He knew they were able to handle at any given time, Peter didn’t seem to be prepared at all for the course of events Jesus described. Consequently, he took Jesus aside and he began to rebuke Him. Can you imagine that, a disciple rebuking Jesus? What was that like, I wonder? I mean, what might Peter have said when he rebuked Jesus? Jesus, you’ve got this all wrong! Jesus, you’re not going to die! Jesus, we’ve got your back! We’ll take care of you! We’ll protect you! You’ve got nothing to worry about! Mind you, whatever Peter said when he rebuked Jesus, keep in mind that Peter is the man who ultimately denied that he even knew Jesus, not once, but three times. But, lest we be too hard on Peter, he was just doing and saying what everyone else was probably thinking.
As you know, Jesus, in turn, rebuked Peter because he didn’t understand that the cross and suffering had to come before glory. In fact, in trying to prevent Jesus from making His way to Jerusalem and ultimately to the cross, Peter was doing the devil’s bidding. “Get behind me, Satan (Jesus said)! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Wow! How many times might those words, or, words like them, be said to us, to you!? “You’re not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
Right after Jesus rebuked Peter, He called the crowd and His disciples to Him and said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” Again, the very thing that Peter wanted to avoid, namely sacrifice and suffering, would be, not only part of Jesus’ life, but part of his own life, as well as, the life of every disciple of Jesus.
With that little bit of background, let’s go back now to Mark’s account of the Transfiguration. He begins the narrative with a time reference, which puts the event into a particular context. “And after six days Jesus took with Him, Peter, James and John and went up on a high mountain.” The six days is in reference to the previous discourse where Jesus talked about His impending death and resurrection. Again, the sequence of events is important because, not only do the individual events of Jesus’ life teach us something about life and faith, the events in their proper order teach us something too. In this case, suffering and death come before glory! The cross comes before the resurrection! The one who follows Jesus is to deny himself and take up his cross before he enters into glory! Those statements make up the sum total of our lives in Christ, don’t they? Self-denial and suffering before glory!
The thing is, we are much more enamored by glory than by suffering and self-denial. When Peter witnessed the Transfiguration he was “captured,” if you will, by Jesus’ glory, evidenced by the fact that he wanted to stay on the mountain. He was ready to set us three tents, one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah. Perhaps he forgot that his wife was somewhere down at the bottom of the mountain. Perhaps he forgot that he had responsibilities to fulfill as a husband. Evidently, like all of us, he preferred glory over sacrifice and suffering and so, he was ready to stay there on the mountain.
Who doesn’t though? That is, who doesn’t prefer glory over sacrifice and suffering? Well, while it might be natural to prefer glory to suffering, we needn’t look at suffering anymore the way we did outside of Christ. Outside of Christ suffering is just suffering, but in Christ is a part of God’s great plan to bring us from this vale of tears to our future glory.
The fact is, suffering is mentioned in a positive sense over and again in the Scriptures. For instance, in Romans 5, Paul says, “since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings.” Did you catch that? “We rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings.”
It’s not that we rejoice because of our suffering, that, I suppose, would make us mosaicists of a sort. We don’t rejoice because of our sufferings, but we can and do rejoice in them. Jesus dealt with His disciples in a very pastoral way, just as He deals with us in the same way. In the sequence of events in His life and ministry, He wants us to learn something, something profound. “Cross” and “glory” are not mutually exclusive categories. Rather, they are the divinely ordained sequence of salvation, both for the one who accomplishes it, that is, Jesus, and for those who receive it in him, that is, you and me.”
“When the sun of bliss is beaming
Light and love upon my way,
From the cross the radiance streaming
Adds more luster to the day.”
“Bane and blessing, pain and pleasure
By the cross are sanctified;
Peace is there that knows no measure,
Joys that through all time abide.”
Peter wanted to stay on the mountain because he got a glimpse of glory! He saw what heaven was going to be like. And in that moment, in that glimpse of glory, nothing else mattered to him! Long forgotten were the words of Jesus’ rebuke, “Get behind Me, Satan!” Forgotten was the sting of his sin! Forgotten was the guilt of having supposed that he could stand before Jesus and rebuke Him!
Transfiguration Sunday has been referred to as the bridge between Epiphany and Lent. In Epiphany, we celebrate the light of Christ, the Gospel, as it goes out into the world. In Lent, we humbly stand before God, knowing that from dust we came and to dust we shall return. And just before we enter the wilderness of Lent, we get a glimpse of the glory that awaits us in Christ. That we might “learn that “cross” and “glory” are not mutually exclusive categories, but they are the divinely ordained sequence of salvation,” our God calls us to listen to His Son and to consider what we have confessed all these many years. “Jesus was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell. And, on the third He rose again from the dead.” In Jesus’ name. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.
+ Soli Doe Gloria +
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