Mark 9:2-9: 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, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 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.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus. 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.
You’ve probably heard someone say, maybe even me, that the season of lent, which begins this coming Wednesday, is a time that we intentionally draw close to God. It is a time we maybe abstain from certain things or perhaps add in a new spiritual practice. We do this and we commit ourselves to denying ourselves so we can get closer to Jesus. What you give up or take on is certainly up to you, it is a personal thing. Candy, meat, television may be cut from your life or a new bible study, devotional or prayer practice may be added. You choose something that will help you focus on Jesus. We may not all share the same method but we do all share the same goal, which is to work on our relationship with Jesus.
So my question is, Who is Jesus?
It is a fair question, especially if we are focused on drawing close to him, it is important to know who he is? I fear sometimes we may take our relationship with Jesus for granted, perhaps we don’t take the time to stop and really think about who he is. When we take on our lenten practice of prayer, study and abstinence we want to have a clear image of who this Jesus is that we are seeking.
The transfiguration, which you just read, was literally a change in Jeasus’ appearance or form, it was an actual event that took place near the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry. Jesus takes Peter, James, and John into a very secluded place and He begins to pray. He asked the disciples to pray and they fell asleep. Then, as they wake up, they see Jesus standing before them with an indescribable manifestation of light and glory. A glimpse of what will be His when he reigns as King in days to come. He had laid aside that external glory as Paul wrote to the Philippians, “have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man,he humbled himself.”
For just a few minutes as the disciples watched they saw Jesus transfigured into this radiant being. The point is that the caterpillar had become a butterfly, the one who had so carefully veiled his physical glory now allowed it to be seen with the whole purpose to reinforce the faith of those apostles.
Ok, so now we know what is going on here but how does this get us any closer to answering my question…Who is Jesus?
Well, first of all the transfiguration shows us that Jesus is God
When Mark describes Jesus’ transfigured appearance in verse 2 he says that he was transfigured and his garments were glistening, dazzling white. Brightness and light is a characteristic of God. In Ex 24:17 the the Lord’s presence is on top of the mountain and the Israelites described what they say like a bright consuming fire. Further on in Exodus, after Moses had an encounter with the Lord his face became radiant to the point that it frightened the Israelites and he needed to place a veil over his face. In Daniel 7:9 we are given a vision of the heavenly throne and the Lord is described as wearing bright white robes, as white as snow. Picture, the brightness when you’re out driving on a sunny day in the winter, after a fresh snowfall has occurred. If you don’t have sunglasses, the brightness is overwhelming. That’s how I have always pictured this event, on the mountain when Jesus was transfigured, the radiant brightness displayed his divinity. He took off the veil that had been suppressing that side of him to show these three disciples who he truly was.
The second thing the transfiguration shows us is that Jesus is the Messiah
Verse 4 tells us that while Jesus stood there transfigured, Moses and Elijah were there as well, talking to Jesus! Moses and Elijah represent the two principal components of the Old Testament: the Law and the Prophets.
Moses was the giver of the Law, and Elijah was considered the greatest of the prophets. The importance of these figures illustrates that the Law and the Prophets point forward and are fulfilled in Jesus. There is a scarlet thread that weaves through the Old Testament, and is displayed here at the transfiguration. The thread is what holds together all of scripture and the story of redemption through Jesus. Another moment in Jesus’ ministry where we see this occur was on the road to Emmaus after his resurrection, when he taught the two disciples who didn’t recognize him all about the scriptures beginning with Moses and going through the prophets. By doing so, the scriptures pointed to him as being the Messiah and the disciples, knew instantly that he was Jesus, the Christ.
The third thing that the transfiguration tells us is that Jesus is Lord. In verse 7, just like Jesus’ baptism, during the transfiguration a voice comes from heaven and proclaims “This is my beloved son” but this time adds, “Listen to him” The word listen implies not only hearing but obeying. The title of Lord, warrants obedience. When we say that Jesus is the Lord of our life, we say that he is who we follow, he is who we listen to, he is who we obey. In John’s gospel Jesus says, “If anyone loves me he will obey my teaching” and then he says “you are my friends if you do what I command.” The teachings and commandments of Jesus are not to be passed by, Jesus is the Lord, God Almighty, and he requires obedience. He wants us to follow his commands, to not only love God and others but to choose life and abstain from sin.
So, the transfiguration shows us that Jesus just isn’t just a good teacher, a healer, a prophet. Jesus is God, Jesus is the Messiah and Jesus is Lord.
Those defining characteristics of Jesus are what we should all be focused on as we take steps to draw closer to him this lenten season. We are to intentionally praise him as our God, thank him for rescuing us as our messiah and obey him as our Lord. The Transfiguration was a special event in which God allowed these apostles to have an experience that was meant to strengthen their faith. Today the transfiguration helps us to have a clear sense of who Jesus is, and if kept at the forefront of our worship can strengthen our faith as we journey this life. During this lenten season let us welcome and seek experiences where we can truly get a glimpse at the glory of God. Let us seek to set aside time for prayer and worship looking for momentary glimpses of the endless joy we will experience in heaven.
I would like to say a quick thank you to Cn Robert Haskell who provided me with a great outline to use for the writing of this sermon. It is great to have a mentor!