O God, in the glorious transfiguration of Your only-begotten Son You once confirmed the mysteries of the faith by the testimony of the ancient fathers, and in the voice that came from the bright cloud You wondrously foreshowed our adoption by grace. Therefore mercifully make us coheirs with our King of His glory, and bring us to the fullness of our inheritance in heaven; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever.
Transfiguration Sunday – the last Sunday in the season of Epiphany is transition Sunday as we move from Epiphany to Lent. While the climax of Epiphany is Transfiguration, the climax of Lent is Good Friday. Both involve mountains: Mt. Hermon and Mt. Calvary. What happened on Mt. Calvary was decided on Mt. Hermon. Between the two peaks is the valley of lent. Jesus comes down the mountain of Transfiguration and begins His journey “up to Jerusalem” to Mt. Calvary. We examine today the twin peaks of Jesus’ life and ours today.
1. The place – a mountain top. Transfiguration and Calvary – glory and shame.
A. Transfiguration – went up with His three best friends, Peter, James, and John. Before the cross, Resurrection, and Ascension, we get a glimpse of the inner, true nature of the Son of God. Until this time we saw God’s glory manifested in Jesus as the Wise Men saw in him a king, in John the Baptist’s confession of Jesus as Messiah, and in the miracles of Jesus. Now we see directly the divine nature of Jesus. This brings us to the uniqueness of Jesus — “They saw no one but Jesus only.”
B. Calvary – went up alone. Christ will suffer alone for you. There, at the cross, suspended between earth and heaven the Son of God dies. He cries from the cross, “My God, why?” The Father turns His back on His own Son so that you will never experience separation from God. People have the mistaken notion of referring to a place as “God forsaken.” There is only one place that is truly God forsaken. We see the Son of God hanging there, alone, forsaken by God and by men.
Transition: We know of the place – a mountain. What is the response of those that were there?
2. The Reaction – men did not understand the experience.
A. Transfiguration – “Not knowing what He said” – Vs.33 The Transfiguration is an experience that blows the mind. Many questions go unanswered. How could the holy presence of God come into a human frame? How do you explain the exceeding brightness of the physical Jesus? How could Moses and Elijah appear in bodily form? Does God come in a cloud and does God have a real voice?
Perhaps our only reaction and answer is worship. Like Peter, we do not know what to say. Like the disciples, we are overcome with awe and adoration. Jesus and his three disciples go up to pray and worship and the experience results in worship of Christ.
B. Calvary – “For they know not what they do” – Luke 23:34. Someone once quipped, “If ignorance is bliss…this must be paradise!” Man, driven mad by his sin kills the Lord of life. Man, possessed by his passions and desires destroys an innocent man. Sinful humans obsessed and reckless by their refusal to listen to the clear words that offer salvation and life are content to live in their lack of knowledge. Man wants it his way and the Father allows it – at the expense of His own dear Son.
Transition: We go to the mountain. We hear the responses. But why have we come?
3. The Reason – why go up to the mountain?
A. Transfiguration – To get God’s approval to die. The Transfiguration was Jesus’ experience with God, not the first - nor the last, but it was an experience so intense that the glory of God transfigured him into the brightness of the sun.
B. Calvary – to die in obedience to God. Since Jesus has come to the full possession of God’s glory, he is prepared to fulfill his mission as Messiah by going to Jerusalem to the cross. Because of this, the Transfiguration is a preparation for our Lenten pilgrimage to suffer and die with Jesus.
Walking down from the mountain Jesus commands His disciples not to tell anyone until the Son of Man rises from the dead. As we enter the season of Lent we observe the Savior’s passion setting our sights on a hill called Calvary. But we always are and always will be Easter people. In that context continue to gossip the gospel as we fix our eyes upon Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.
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