Monday, February 12, 2024

The Greatest Revelation. . .

Sermon for the Transfiguration of Our Lord (B), preached on Sunday, February 11, 2024.

No one would expect the disciples to fully get who Jesus is right away.  Jesus does not.  He nurtures them in the faith, revealing Himself to them, revealing Himself in the Scriptures, and revealing His purpose in coming.  Jesus identity is obvious to us but it was hidden behind miracle and message that often left the disciples dazed and confused.  But when it comes to this day and what happens upon the Mount of Transfiguration, the glory of our Lord is revealed, the scales fall away from the eyes of the disciples, and the truth cannot be mistaken.  Jesus is the Son of God.

How could they not get this?  Peter, James, and John were there for the great revelation that also included Moses and Elijah.  There was Jesus without any veil over His glorious identity.  There was Jesus to whom Moses pointed as the very Lawgiver who fulfilled that Law.  There was Jesus to whom Elijah pointed as the prophet of prophets who fulfills every promise of His coming.  The cloud, the voice, the patriarch, and the prophet made it unmistakable.  This Jesus is the Son of God in flesh and blood who has come to save His people.

The first instinct of the disciples who watched Jesus transfigured before them was to be afraid.  Mark tells us they were terrified.  Now you might think that fear and terror would silence them in the midst of such a miracle.  You would be wrong.  While Moses and Elijah were talking with Jesus, Peter opens his mouth to say something.  Imagine that.  The great patriarch Moses is conversing with the great prophet Elijah and they are both talking to Jesus about His exodus – His departure.  Luke wanted us to know that they were talking about Jesus suffering, death, and resurrection and not some casual conversation about the weather.  But Peter interrupts the solemn occasion with some childish banter about setting up camp because it was so cool to be there.  Really????

In this brief turn of events you see what the problem was and is.  Jesus is always talking to us about the cross and we are not listening.  Jesus is always talking about His death and resurrection and we interrupt Him with foolish words about how cool it all is.  Now Moses and Elijah are there to say the Law and the Prophets were all about the cross.  On the Mount of Transfiguration it took the voice of the Father in heaven to tell them to shut up and listen.  And on the way down the mountain, it took Jesus to tell them not to speak of what they had seen and heard until He had risen from the dead.  
Only six days before Peter had cut off Jesus as soon as Jesus spoke of the cross and here and he shut down this conversation also.  None of us wants to talk about the cross, about suffering, about sacrifice, about death.  The cross is not the shape of glory in our play books and so we are ready to shut down the game as soon as Jesus mentions it.  It is as if Peter was saying again what he had said and been rebuked for only six days before.  Not the cross, Jesus; not the cross if I have anything to say about it.

But that is the point.  Even at this moment of glory, the cross is neither absent nor forgotten.  It is front and center.  Peter interrupts the conversation about the cross because Peter does not want to hear about it.  We are there right with Him.  We are not interested in hearing about the cross either.  We are tired of such sermons and weary of Bible studies where the cross is front and center.  It is the thing we don’t want to talk about but it is the only thing Jesus must talk about.  

Few people are worried about the divine glory of God’s Son.  We are not afraid of it at all.  We want it.  We are tired of church services with the same script every Sunday and we are tired of praying if we cannot be assured of getting the answer we want.  We tell people about the Church and the Gospel with nary a mention of the cross – we talk about nice people, about youth programs, good music and the like.  We cannot tell them about the cross – that might turn them away.  We are all in search of some glory, some excitement, something new and different, and something new and spontaneous.  We are tired of the same old talk about the cross.  In this, we are just like Peter and, I suspect, the rest of those who followed Jesus.

At this moment of Jesus great revelation and when His glory will not be hidden, we think the conversation is going to be exciting.  In reality, it is the same thing that Jesus has been harping on since they followed Him – the cross, the cross, and the cross.  What we think we have heard enough about, Jesus insists on talking about over and over and over again – and with Jesus every faithful hymn, every faithful pastor, and every faithful Bible study.  

When they were chastened by the voice from heaven and shocked when Moses and Elijah suddenly were gone, Jesus was still there.  Jesus is always still there.  Jesus is always teaching us that we never outgrow the cross, there is no glory except the cross.  So when the rooster crows to announce our failure and when the doors to the church are locked out of fear of those outside, Jesus is there to manifest the power of the cross.  To sinners needing to be forgiven and the fearful who worry more about the enemies out there than they trust in the Jesus who is with us here.  Jesus is there to manifest the power of the cross.

Jesus told them it was time to go back down the mountain but the world and the rest of the disciples were not ready to hear what they had seen and heard upon the mountain.  The message they would bring to the world was not going to a moment in the clouds with Moses, Elijah, and Jesus.  The message they would bring to the world was Christ crucified and risen for the forgiveness of our sins.  

My friends, we live in a world in which Church is about everything except the cross.  We tell the world about our scout troops and youth groups and senior lunches and men’s clubs and yard sales and musical concerts and all kinds of things.  Some churches have pronouncements on every world event or cause.  It is not that these are bad.  They are not.  But they are not the cross and the cross is what makes us unique.  We are constantly being taught this just as the disciples were taught on the Mount of Transfiguration.  It is all about the cross – the glory and the hope, the peace and the promise, the power and the presence.  We cannot be offended by the cross or scandalized by the suffering our Lord endures.  For this is the only Gospel that can offer salvation to us.  That is what Jesus was teaching to Moses.  The Law cannot save anyone.  Only the cross.  That is what Jesus was teaching Elijah.  The core and center of the kerygma is Christ crucified and risen.  That is what Jesus was teaching Peter.  And that is what we are being taught week after week.  Listen to Him.

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