Mark 9:2-9—Transfiguration Sunday, February 14 2021
Climb that mountain. Reach the peak. Take in the view from the top. It is exhilarating! It doesn’t matter what mountain or peak. It doesn’t have to be Mount Everest. The experience is transformative, life changing. Everything looks different from the view at the top.
This Sunday is Transfiguration Sunday. It is also Valentine’s Day. Both go together quite well. Nothing pictures true love the way Jesus’s life and mission for us as His redeemed and forgiven people. Beloved. That’s what we are.
Jesus has taken the inner circle of the disciples with Him, Peter, James and John. They have hiked and climbed to the top of a mountain. We are not told what mountain. Knowing the exact location and peak is not important. What is important is what takes place there.
A week before this transfiguration event Jesus has talked with His disciples about His mission and purpose in life. Peter has correctly identified Jesus as Messiah and then scolds Jesus regarding Jesus’ talk of His impending death on the cross. Jesus, in turn, corrects Peter. Jesus speaks about seeing the kingdom of heaven coming in power—demonstrated through the weakness, the foolishness—of the cross. That was six days prior to the transfiguration.
And, now, on the mountain of transfiguration we find Jesus with Peter, James and John. Picture Him standing apart from them, praying, when suddenly His whole demeanor and appearance are changed. Metamorphosis is the Greek word. His appearance is changed, but Jesus Himself is not changed. His true divinity is shining through His humanity.
Moses’ face shone when he came down from the mountain where he had been given the two tables of stone containing the Decalogue—the Ten Commandments. When Moses met with God in the “tent of meeting” in the wilderness, speaking face to face with God, Moses would come out of the tent with his face shining brightly. He wore a veil to cover his face so the Israelites would not be afraid to look at him (Exodus 34). Moses’ face shone because he had been in God’s presence.
Here Jesus’ entire appearance is changed because His divinity—which has been hidden and cloaked within His humanity—now shines visibly. Make no mistake. Jesus is God in human flesh! True God. True human. Our Savior and Lord.
While Jesus’ appearance is transformed two clearly identifiable characters from the Old Testament suddenly are with Him. Moses representing the Law and Elijah representing the Prophets. The Law and Prophets—the heart and soul of the Old Testament. Luke’s Gospel tells us they are talking about Jesus’ departure—His approaching death on the cross. The essence of the Old Testament points to the reality of Jesus’ coming and mission. That mission is focused on the cross—picturing our redemption, our salvation through Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection.
This is stunning. It reaffirms for us that Jesus came for one reason, one purpose—our salvation through our forgiveness; our restored relationship with God the Father through Jesus the Son.
Peter, ever the extravert, blurts out that they should build shelters for Moses, Elijah and Jesus. He is beside himself with confusion and should have just been quiet! Then, just as suddenly, a think cloud enfolds them and a voice speaks to them from the cloud, “This is My Son, the Beloved One! Listen to Him!” Then, again, suddenly, they see only Jesus and things go back to “normal.”
The Old Testament points to Jesus. It points to His coming to us as one of us, human like us, yet also divine. God among us. God, our Immanuel. It centers on the purpose of Jesus’ coming, culminating in the His ultimate sacrifice that ends all sacrifices. With Jesus’ death on the cross the Temple and all the Temple rituals and laws are now extinct. They are the shadow. Jesus is the reality.
The disciples must be confused and numb. They are bewildered. Jesus only tells them not to speak of these events until after He is risen from the dead. That, too, confuses them. But it also reaffirms our understanding of what has just taken place.
Jesus up to this point has preached, taught and performed many miracles. He still does so, but His face, His resolve, is focused on the cross and what it means for us. Jesus’ reference to the resurrection helps us to see the end of the story. The cross is not the end. It is the opening of our new beginning.
Jesus’ metamorphosis—His change and transformation on the mountain top pictures and predicts our metamorphosis. Through the cross we are changed. We are transformed. He takes our pain, our suffering, our garbage and transforms it into a splendorous display of His life changing love.
All the hurt, pain and abuse we have experienced, our brokenness, our regrets and shames, all that “stuff” — none of it matters. What matters now is living in His grace and experiencing His resurrection power every day, every moment, every hour. Forgetting the past, we strive forward to claim what is ours in our majestic Savior and Lord.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.