Sermon based on Mark 9:2-9 for the Transfiguration of Our Lord
Dear baptized believers whose lives are hidden with Christ in God: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
We have been getting glimpses of the divinity of Jesus throughout this time of Epiphany. These glimpses show that Jesus is the Son of God; that Jesus is God in the flesh. Magi won’t travel across the world to visit just any baby who is born. Fishermen won’t leave there nets when just anybody calls them to follow. No mere man can teach with authority, heal the sick, and cast out demons. We heard how God the Father and God the Holy Spirit were present at the Baptism of our Lord and revealed that this is no ordinary man. We have heard glimpses of His power, His authority, and His glory. Today, we receive more than just a glimpse.
Peter, James, and John on the mountain see Jesus transfigured before their eyes. He is transformed. There is a physical metamorphosis that takes place. The three disciples see Jesus in His glory. They see that the fullness of God dwells in Him bodily (Col. 1:19).
Then Moses and Elijah appear and talk with Jesus. The church leaders of that time had accused Jesus of being opposed to Moses, but there Moses stands, next to Jesus. The church leaders had said that Jesus could not be the Messiah because Elijah had to come first, but here Elijah stands, next to Jesus.
What an awesome sight! Awesome enough to make the disciples terrified; awesome enough to make Peter speak nonsense about putting up three tents. Jesus visibly shines with the glory of God. There’s no question of His power. There’s no question of His divinity. Jesus radiates with glory like only God can.
That’s the Jesus we want. We want the Jesus that no one dares question. We want the Jesus that visibly shines with the glory of God.
We don’t want a Jesus who hides His glory. We don’t want a Jesus who hides Himself in water. We don’t want a Jesus who hides Himself in bread and wine. We don’t want a Jesus who speaks through the mouth of a sinful man. We want a Jesus that shows all of His power, so that the entire world can see that we are right and they are wrong. We want the Jesus of the Transfiguration.
But as we know, we are headed into Lent. This is not the time Jesus showed His power, might, and glory to everyone around. Jesus was mocked and ridiculed. This same Jesus who showed His glory and might on the mountain, showing Himself to be God, stood silently as He was accused of all kinds of crimes. He was accused of opposing Moses who stood by Him on the Mount of Transfiguration. He was accused of blaspheming the God of Elijah, who appeared talking with Him on the mountain. Jesus just stood there, taking the abuse. They taunted Him. They spat in His face. They beat Him. They whipped Him. They forced a crown of thorns on His head. They nailed Him to a cross and hung Him until He died. Jesus hid His glory pretty well, I would say.
But it was necessary for Jesus to hide His glory as He did. If Jesus would have faced His accusers in His glory and defeated them, it would have done us no good. If Jesus would have slain the devil without dying Himself, then we would still be in our sins. Jesus didn’t defeat sin, death, and the devil for Himself, but for us. Jesus had to hide His glory for our sake. He suffered and died to take our sins on Himself. There was no other way to save us. Our mountain of sins was not going to defeat itself. No matter how many times we try to reform ourselves and do better, we continue to fail. We continue to sin. Our salvation required the death of God Himself. The price of Jesus’ innocent suffering and death is what it took to pay for our salvation.
This will be our focus during the season of Lent. Lent is a time of humility and repentance. We replace the glorious white colour of Transfiguration that symbolizes perfection, celebration, and joy with the violet of Lent, the colour of sorrow and repentance. We don’t sing the alleluias. Alleluia is our Easter song of victory and joy. We don’t sing the Gloria in Excelsis – the joyous song of the angels announcing the birth of our Saviour.
Dropping the singing of alleluias is an old custom. The old custom included an actual physical burial. A banner with alleluias on it would be processed around the church during the singing of alleluia hymns on Transfiguration Sunday. Then it was buried in a coffin. The coffin would be placed in a visible location where the congregation would see it during Lent. On Easter morning, the congregation would arrive and find the coffin open, and the alleluia banner once again prominently displayed.
We may not carry on this Lenten tradition, but we do mute our joy to take time to remember our sins and mourn over them. We remember What Jesus had to go through to save us from our sins. We remember that Jesus hid His glory for us and our salvation.
But even as we do this, we remember the joyous resurrection that took place on Easter Sunday. We look forward to and anticipate the arrival of Easter, when Jesus rose from the dead. In the same way we look forward to and anticipate the arrival of the day of our resurrection, when we will be united with all our loved ones who have died in the faith. On that day we will be in glory. Colossians (3:3) tells us that through our Baptism our lives are hidden with Christ in God. Since we are baptized into Christ, God’s glory is in us now, but it is hidden. The passage continues, “When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Col. 3:4)
We will be with Christ in the glory that was revealed during the Transfiguration. We will be forever in the eternal glory of God and see Him face to face. And then we will not be terrified of the glory of God as the disciples were on the mountain. The disciples were terrified as any sinful being would be in the presence of the glory of God. But in the resurrection, we will no longer have sin. We will be perfect and pure, as He is perfect and pure.
John writes in his first epistle, “We know that when [Jesus] appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is.” (3:2) Jesus’ glory is our glory, because we are baptized into Christ.
While we await the glory to be revealed in the resurrection, Jesus is with us, although in a hidden manner. Jesus promised that He will be with His Church until the end of the age (Mt. 28:20). We even have His bodily presence in the Sacrament of the Altar. It is necessary that Jesus’ glory is hidden in the Lord’s Supper as it was in His suffering and death. If it was not hidden, we would be terrified as the disciples were on the Mount of Transfiguration. We would not boldly come to the Lord’s Table as Christ bids us to do if Jesus was present in all His glory in the bread and wine. We would be scared to receive the forgiveness of sins because in our sins we cannot stand to see His glory.
But Jesus comes to us hidden, and in humble form, because He wants to give us forgiveness. He wants us to receive His Holy Supper often and without terror or fear. The body in which He hid His glory is given to us to eat for the forgiveness of sins. The blood which He humbly shed for us is given to us to drink for life and salvation. But joined in Christ in this way we are joined in His glory that will be fully revealed when He returns.
All praise be to Jesus who hid His glory to give His life for us, and still hides His glory to give us forgiveness, life, and salvation. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.