Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
1. Today is the final Sunday before the season of Lent begins. And this morning, we celebrate the Transfiguration of Our Lord. Jesus’ Transfiguration is arguably one of the most significant moments of Jesus’ earthly ministry, sitting only behind the events of Christmas and Holy Week. And so, this morning we are going to take some time to meditate on Mark’s account of our Lord’s Transfiguration. But before turning to our text for today, it’s important that we take a quick look back at the events which happen at the end of Mark 8 which gives us the context for today’s Gospel Reading. Immediately preceding our reading for today is Jesus’ first Passion Prediction in Mark’s gospel.
In verse 31, Mark tells us that Jesus began to teach [his disciples] that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. Peter, who has a habit of not really “getting it” in the moment, rebuked Jesus. But Jesus, in no uncertain terms, let Peter know that he must overcome the power of evil by his death. Then Jesus said to those who were listening, starting in Mark 8:34: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.” And boy, did Peter, James, and John see the full power of the kingdom of God in the events which immediately followed.
2. And so, with these words of Jesus in mind, Mark tells us that Peter, James, and John start up a mountain with Jesus. Imagine the scene with me: These guys were probably huffing and puffing when they got to the top of the mountain—climbing a mountain isn’t a walk in the park for several fishermen who were used to spending their days on a boat. So, when they finally reached the top of the mountain, they all must have been relieved. You can imagine the incredible view from up there. You could probably see for miles in all directions. Maybe there was a village off in the distance, birds singing in the trees down the slope, animals running and playing in the thicket across the valley, fluffy-white clouds overhead, and overhead the sun might have been shining on a beautiful day. Then all of the sudden, there was a flash of light—almost like lightning—except the light didn’t go away. The light was coming from Jesus. He was glowing brighter than almost anything – almost as bright as the sun. His robe was whiter than anything those men had ever seen. Imagine how startling this must have been for them! And then, there were two men standing next to Jesus…Who were they? Ah, it’s Elijah and Moses…and they were talking with Jesus. Clearly in this moment the Peter, James, and John realized that they were witnessing an incredible moment. But they probably didn’t realize how incredible it was until sometime later. I say this because almost immediately Peter opened his big mouth and revealed the fact that he really didn’t understand what was going on. Peter wants to preserve the moment, so he says to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah” (Mark 9:5). But almost immediately, as if in response to Peter’s words, a cloud enveloped the mountain, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my beloved Son; listen to him” (Mark 9:7). In this moment, the Lord revealed something profound to Peter, James, and John. Jesus is not on par with these two great Old Testament figures. One greater than Elijah and Moses is here. The one who spoke out of this same cloud to Elijah and Moses so many years ago is now standing right here. Jesus is the Lord, and he has revealed a glimpse of his full might and power to Peter, James, and John on the Mount of Transfiguration. The same voice that called to Jesus at his baptism saying, “You are my beloved Son” (Mark 1:11) now calls to Peter, James, and John saying that Jesus is my beloved Son who came to overcome the power of evil.
3. But the final three words of the Lord’s statement are just as important: “Listen to Him.” Listen to what? Jesus hasn’t said anything this entire time on the Mount of Transfiguration. But that’s precisely the point. Peter, James, and John weren’t listening to him before they went up the mountain, so on the mountain they need to be reminded to truly hear Jesus. In other words, they need to listen to the message which he has been trying to get through to them, namely, that he must endure the cross even as his followers are subject to that same cross…because suffering precedes glory and cannot be escaped. It’s only when we truly listen to him that we recognize that Jesus is the beloved Son of God who came to overcome the power of evil by his death on the cross.
4. We would probably all rather avoid evil in the first place, but we can’t. In a fallen world, evil and suffering cannot be avoided. That’s why the message of Jesus’ Transfiguration is so powerful. In the same way that Peter, James, and John on the Mount of Transfiguration saw Jesus clothed in white, manifesting the presence of the rule and reign of God, so too will the women at the empty tomb on Easter morning see a man clothed in white, manifesting the presence of the rule and reign of God and proclaiming to them: “He has risen; he is not here” (Mark 16:6). Jesus is the risen, transfigured Lord who has overcome the power of evil by his death and resurrection. And now he invites us to turn to him whenever we face sin and evil trusting that our Father in heaven will rescue us from every evil of body and soul, possessions and reputation, and finally, when our last hour comes, give us a blessed end, and graciously take us from this valley of sorrow to Himself in heaven.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.