Throughout the season of Epiphany, we’ve been reading little stories from Jesus’ early ministry. Each story has revealed some part of his character.
At Jesus’ baptism, a voice from heaven said, “You are my Son, whom I love: with you I am well pleased”. So, we see that Jesus is the sinless Son of God.
By the shores of Galilee we saw Jesus call fishermen to be part of his teaching team. He came to rescue common sinners, and to reach them he would use common sinners.
In the synagogue of Capernaum Jesus explained God’s Word with intellectual authority, and he cast out demons with supernatural power.
Through numerous healings we have seen that Jesus was both compassionate, and powerful to heal physical disease.
Through all of these accounts we’ve seen that Jesus was wise and also dedicated to telling the masses that forgiveness of sins comes through faith in the promised Savior.
Today we end the season of Epiphany with a bang as we read the account of Jesus’ transfiguration. This account shows us that Jesus’ life was the single most important event in all of human history.
Jesus wasn’t just another political ruler. He wasn’t just another social reformer. He wasn’t just another religion inventor. He was the Savior foretold who was here to earn forgiveness for the thousands who had waited for his arrival and trusted that he would come. He was the Savior foretold who was here to earn forgiveness for the thousands who would come after him up to this present day.
Mark 9:1-10 (NIV)
1 And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”
2 After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. 3 His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. 4 And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.
5 Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)
7 Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”
8 Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.
9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.
Just about every year we use the transfiguration account to transition from the season of Epiphany to the season of Lent.
Epiphany is the season where we study how Jesus was revealed to be the promised Savior of the world. Lent is the season where we consider our own sins, and what Jesus endured to take them away.
Like I said, we use the transfiguration story just about every year to transition from Jesus’ revealing to Jesus’ suffering. And I think we do this for two reasons.
First of all, the transfiguration account is like an exclamation point on the end of Epiphany. In a way superior to any other story from Jesus’ early ministry, the transfiguration account shows Jesus to be the Son of God and the Savior that the whole Old Testament was looking forward to.
Let me explain what I mean.
First of all, let’s just look at the plain facts here. Peter, James and John accompanied Jesus up on a mountain where they were alone. There Jesus was changed before their very eyes. That’s what “transfigured” means. His appearance was altered. The glory that he had as the eternal Son of God burst out of him in a way that he had not permitted before. Our reading from Mark says that Jesus clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.
Jesus was not a normal carpenter’s son from Nazareth. That much was obvious. Jesus was supernatural.
But that wasn’t all. Next to him were two men. Men who had not been seen on earth for over 850 years. Moses and Elijah. Moses was the man who brought the Ten Commandments off the mountain from God. Elijah, was the chief prophet of the Old Testament. Moses had been dead for over 1,400 years. Elijah had been swept up into heaven in a fiery whirlwind 850 years previous. But here they were.
Any student of the Old Testament Bible would understand the significance. They stood as representatives for all the believers who had been waiting for the Messiah. From Adam and Eve until the time of Jesus.
Jesus was no new religious teacher building his own cult. He was the expected Messiah. He was the fulfillment of God’s promise to sent the human race a savior from sin. He was the fulfillment of all those Old Testament prophesies.
This is what Jesus had been teaching throughout Galilee, that the Savior was coming. That the people should trust in him. Listen to what Jesus told Nicodemus…
“God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16-17 NIV).And on that mountain where Jesus’ glory erupted, the voice of God the Father also erupted from the sky. Our reading says that after Peter blabbered a bit about setting up tents and staying a while, and then a great cloud enveloped them. And then a great voice spoke from that cloud saying, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” (Mark 9:7 NIV).
Jesus wasn’t just another Jewish teacher gathering followers from the villages of Galilee. He had God the Father’s endorsement on his message.
To review, the transfiguration shows Jesus was supernatural, the expected Savior that the Old Testament Bible predicted and that he was endorsed by God the Father by megaphone from heaven.
This is Jesus. God’s promise of salvation in the flesh. The Savior from sin. That’s what Mark is telling us.
Now, I said that we use this account to transition from Epiphany to Lent. The second reason why we use this account to transition from Epiphany to Lent is because the transfiguration account shows us how dark Jesus’ suffering really was. How much he gave. How much he held back when he suffered in our place. If we can keep the image of Jesus’ GLORY in mind as we read about his SUFFERING and DEATH on the cross, then we’re going to appreciate his sacrifice to a greater degree.
Just look at the contrast between the transfiguration and what is coming up.
Here Jesus stands in visible glory as Son of God. Light streams from his face and clothing. It’s so glorious that the disciples are too afraid to think clearly.
But soon, Jesus will be praying with his face to the ground in the garden of Gethsemane. He will be sweating blood, and struggling through the agony of expectation as he considers the suffering required to erase our sins.
On the mountain Jesus had Moses on one side and Elijah on the others. What greater place of honor could a Jew imagine? And not only that, God the Father spoke out and testified that this was His Son whom he loved!
But soon, Jesus will be flanked by two violent criminals on a very different mountain. Hanging from a cross. Soon, the approving voice of God the Father will fall silent and the only voices Jesus will hear will be voices that mock and insult.
On the mount of transfiguration the disciples finally got to see Jesus in glory. They had been waiting for this. They believed he was the Messiah, the one that the Old Testament prophet Daniel had called, “The Son of Man”. But they hadn’t understood why he wasn’t coming in glory just yet. Now they had a taste of that glory.
But soon, they would have a taste of bitterness and disappointment. Soon Judas would betray. Guards would arrest. Romans would scourge and spit. Soldiers would crucify and mock. All glory would be gone for a time, at least in their eyes.
The same Jesus who showed his glory on the mountain top could have shown his glory at any point during his suffering on the way to the cross and the grave. But he didn’t because he knew it had to be this way, he had to suffer all if we were to be released from our sin’s just punishment.
As we move through Lent and see all the suffering of Jesus once again, let’s think of the glory he had on the mountain. Let’s keep that in mind. And let’s thank Jesus for being so strong, dedicated and compassionate – that he would be humbled like this for our salvation.
Jesus knew that he had to suffer and die. He said as much to the disciples in verse 9…
“9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead” (Mark 9:9 NIV).You see, the kingdom of God was not going to be any earthly rule. The Kingdom of God is the reign of God in the hearts and minds of people like you an me. This reign of God comes begins with faith. When people believe that their sins truly have been erased by Jesus’ life and death. When people believe they too will rise from the dead because their Savior did, and promises them the same.
Jesus’ life was the single most important event in human history because through that life Jesus paid for the sins of the world. All the Old Testament people that never got to see the Savior, but who trusted in the promise that he would come, they have received His forgiveness and eternal life. People today who have not seen the Savior, but who trust in the promise that he came, have received His forgiveness and eternal life.
In all our stories about Jesus this epiphany we’ve looked back at his life to see who he was. In the transfiguration account we do something else. We look forward to what being with Jesus will be like someday for us in heaven. Where his glory will not be dimmed. Where he will be hidden from our sight.
May God bless our souls so that we trust in Jesus until the day we die. And may Jesus receive our souls into paradise, beside the souls of Moses and Elijah, Peter, James and John. Amen.