Transfiguration Sunday

by Mack Phillips on February 26, 2006

Mark 9: 1-13

This is a WOW passage of scripture. Close your eyes and imagine that you are with Peter, James and John and you are seeing Jesus in His Glory!! What an amazing sight that must have been. Jesus, luminous, dazzling, brighter than the sun!

Mark says they saw his clothes become dazzling white, far whiter than any earthly bleach could ever make them!! Matthew's gospel in chapter 17: 2 tells us that Jesus' appearance was transformed so that his face shown like the sun and his clothes became as white as the light.

In volume two on Mark in his series, Preaching the Word, R. Kent Hughes writes: ``For a brief time the veil of Jesus' humanity was lifted and his true essence was allowed to shine thru. The glory which was always in the depths of his being rose to the surface for that one time of his earthly life. This was a glance back into eternity and a look forward into his future glory."

Imagine how excited and uplifted Peter, James and John had to be seeing Jesus in his glory. They had to be more excited than a five year old on Christmas morning. Then adding to their excitement, they see Moses and Elijah appear and they are talking with Jesus. Pulse rates had to be exceeding 100 BPM. Seeing this would be something to tell their grandchildren.

Luke tells us that the three of them were speaking about Jesus' exodus from this world which would take place in Jerusalem. Hearing Jesus, Moses and Elijah talk about this should have been further confirmation of what Jesus had told the disciples some six days earlier. But this was lost on the disciples, they just didn't get it.

You will recall from our scripture today, Mark 9: 2, that six days before they went up the mountain Jesus had predicted his death. We read in Mark 8: 31-33 where Jesus ``told all the disciples that he would suffer many terrible things and that he would be rejected by the elders, the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. He told them that he would be killed, and then three days later he would rise from the dead."

This information discouraged and confused the disciples. This news was troubling; they did not understand what he was telling them. We know they were confused when he told them he would rise from the dead. We know this because in verse 10 of today's scripture we read that the disciples were asking each other what Jesus had meant by ``rising from the dead?" These guys just didn't get it!

We know there was also confusion about what kind of ``kingdom" had Jesus been talking about? They wanted a warrior King like David, not a suffering servant as prophesied by Isaiah 53. They wanted a King that would take control now and rid the Jews of the Romans. They wanted to establish Israel to its former power and glory.

           How could they follow a King that would allow himself to be crucified on a cross? This was not the kind of ``Messiah" these men had signed on to follow; they had seen Jesus perform miracles, calm the storm, walk on water. How could he allow himself to sacrifice his life?

You may recall that Peter took Jesus aside and reprimanded him for predicting his death. Peter received a rebuke from Jesus for saying that. Jesus said to him, Get behind me Satan, you are seeing things merely from the eyes of men, not from God's. Peter and all the other disciples couldn't think out side the box. They were not considering God's purpose but their own.                

They needed reassurance. This was a low point for the apostles. So why did Jesus lead them up the mountain? In verse two of Today's scripture we are told that Jesus led them up a tall mountain to be alone. In 9th Chapter of Luke verse 28 we are told it was ``to pray." I believe Jesus had several purposes for taking them up the Mountain. One of these reasons was to boost their spirits because of how they felt after he had predicted his death.

I am convinced that Jesus let these disciples see him in his glory; let them see Moses and Elijah to give them hope, to encourage them and to shore up their faith for the days and years to come.

We do know Peter was encouraged by what he saw. He exclaimed, ``Rabbi, it's wonderful that we should be here! Let's make three shelters as memorials – one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah!!" Mark tells us that Peter didn't know what else to say. Maybe Peter was thinking about the Festival of the Shelters when the Jews would come to celebrate five days after the days of Atonement. They would build temporary shelters and live in them for seven days. Maybe Peter was thinking that all of them Jesus, Moses, Elijah along with James and John could hang out there for a few days. Peter's was encouraged by what he saw!

In first verse of today's scripture we see Jesus giving them a clue. Jesus told the disciples ``that some standing here right now will not die before they see the Kingdom of God arrive in great power." We know that Peter, James, and John witnessed the Kingdom of God in great power there on that mountain. Jesus let them see his glory and witness Moses and Elijah on that mountain because they needed encouragement for what was to come, his death and resurrection but for their ministries as well. Peter, James and John no doubt all held on to the transfiguration the rest of their lives. They did lose sight of it during the dark days of the cross.

Both John and Peter would record seeing the glory of Christ. In John 1:14 we read ``We have seen his Glory, the Glory of the Father's one and only Son" and 2 Peter 1:16-18 says ``For we are not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes when he received the honor and glory from the God the Father. The voice from the majestic cloud said, ``This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy." We ourselves heard that voice when we were with him on the holy mountain." The apostles saw Jesus in his glory, they saw Moses and Elijah, They heard the three of them talking and now they heard the voice of God. I think the apostles did see the Kingdom of God that night.

We can only speculate about why Jesus selected these three disciples. We do know that:

Perhaps it was because they were the ones most ready to understand and accept what they were about to witness.

There may be another reason Jesus had them witness the transfiguration.

If you have ever spent time in the mountains, you know that it get really dark early. Perhaps they reached the spot where Jesus wanted to stop just about sundown. They probably ate a bit of bread, drank some water and then, along with Jesus, they begin to pray.

Now bear in mind they are high in the mountains and they have been hiking for some time. The air is thinner and no doubt they are tired. The only light around them would be from the stars and the moon. Luke tells us that Peter and the others were very sleepy and dozed off. This would not be the last time they would fall asleep when Jesus asked them to pray.

The long climb, the altitude and the quiet made sleep irresistible and they fell asleep. But they woke up and saw Jesus' glory and the two men standing with him. They were witnessing the Light of the World. They saw Jesus as no one else on earth had seen him. Seeing Jesus in his Glory had to impress on them what Jesus had told them in Matthew 5:14-15. You are the light of the World- like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden and then puts its light under a basket. Instead a lamp is placed on a stand where it gives light to everyone in the house. Jesus was showing his Light on the Mountain. Showing them how bright his light really is and as his disciples their light would glow. Their light would show the way to Christ.

We must not hide our light by:

We must remove our basket and share the light of Christ with others.

This wakening by the disciples was not an ``accident." This wasn't just a fluke. Jesus' plan was for them to see him in his glory and for them to see Moses and Elijah. He wanted them to see Moses was the lawgiver and liberator. He wanted them to see Elijah was the first of the great prophets. Jesus wanted them to take this message after his death and share his light with the world. Jesus had shown them the Light of the World. He wanted them to be able to share His light with all Nations. The witnessing of the transfiguration on the mountain was no accident. God doesn't appear just by accident. And God himself made his appearance that night.

Once again God appeared in cloud form. This is the cloud that went before Moses in the desert. This was the glory that passed by Moses as God covered him in the cleft of the rock with his hand. This was the glory that covered the nearly finished Tent of the Meeting and so filled the new Tabernacle with God's Glory that Moses couldn't enter it. It was the same glory the filled Solomon's Temple on dedication day so that the priest's could not enter the Temple. It was the same glory Ezekiel saw rise from the Cherubim and move to the threshold of the Temple because of Israel's apostasy and then slowly move over the east gate of the Temple where it hovered finally rising to be seen no more from the Mount of Olives.

            WE have Peter, John and James surrounded by God's presence, and then they heard a voice that said ``This is my Son, Listen to Him!" This was the voice of the God the Father. This is the voice that was heard at Jesus' baptism (Mark 1: 11). This is the voice that was heard at Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem. (John 12:28) This is a voice to be listened to! And what did this voice say? It commanded them to listen to Jesus.

            Today's scripture makes you wish you could have been there to see Jesus in his glory. How inspired we would be to spread the good news to everyone. This is truly a wow moment.

Coming down the mountain an interesting thing happened. Jesus instructed them to not say anything about what they saw until the Son of Man had risen from the dead? Think you could have kept this quiet? Not me!!

We do know that the lesson from this mountain top experience was lost on these apostles for a while. It was only after Jesus had ascended that what they saw and heard came back to them. They had to go through the process of looking for the light. So it is with us. We often forget how great it was when we first found the Light of the World to be our Savior. How humbled we were to know that God had bestowed his grace on us.                    Jesus said, ``I am the light of the world." Christ was saying the pillar of fire that came between the Israelites and Egyptians was him. That the cloud that guided you by day in the wilderness and illuminated the night and enveloped the tabernacle was him; the glorious cloud that filled Solomon's Temple was him!" Jesus said, ``I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

            Jesus knew that he was on his way to the cross. Jesus purposely shared his light with the men on that mountain and when HE willingly gave his life on that cross that they would remember to share His light. Let us embrace Jesus, put your arms around him, and draw him close. His light is in you, go and share the light. Share this light with the unchurched, the hungry, the rich, the dispossessed and the one that does not know he needs it. Share His light; share the light of Jesus with the world.

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