March 3, 2019
Pastor John Hering
28 About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. 29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. 30 Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. 31 They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. 32 Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. 33 As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what he was saying.)
34 While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and covered them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” 36 When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves and did not tell anyone at that time what they had seen.
I really hate to be the one to caste this shadow on your life, but if things are going along smoothly in your life right now, these good times just aren’t going to last. How do I know this? Because I’m 56 years old and have seen this happen to everyone I know. Sooner or later a cloud of gloom will fog up your life and cause you trouble or frustration. So, here’s the thing: when those days come, don’t you want to be able to cope with what’s going on? I’m not just talking about the people who drive too close behind me, who cough and don’t cover their mouths, who walk their dogs and don’t clean up my yard after they use it. I’m talking about the big things: sickness, fickle friends, death of loved ones! How can we deal with the “downs” of life? Well, there’s a way! It really boils down to two words today: The Transfiguration!
And if you doubt what I just said, then I would question if you really know what the Transfiguration is all about. Whether you’ve been a Christian your whole life, or just now figuring it out, for many of you the Transfiguration remains a mystery. Luke 9 takes place about 6 months before Jesus’ suffering, death and burial.
“Jesus took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. 29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning.”
It’s easy for you to see what’s happening, but do you know why? Why should this Transfiguration take place? What does it matter? Look again, not at the bright light, but at the shadows that are being cast all around you by the glorious Transfiguration!
If we are really going to recognize what is happening on this mountain top we need to remember how Jesus started his public ministry when he was 30. For the past 2.5 years his messages and miracles, his words and his works had one main focus:
“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost”
And now he was coming close for what he came to do. For the time remaining Jesus carries on an extensive training program for his disciples, preparing them for a time when they wouldn’t see him anymore. Every step of Jesus is a step closer to shocking time when they would see Jesus carry his cross to his death! And even with all the training we know how the disciples reacted: panicked, perplexed and puzzled; deflated, defeated and disturbed. How could they possibly deal with their crosses they were now carrying in their live? Well, if we can find the answer to that question, then we’ll have an answer to how we can also carry the crosses in our life! The answer is exactly why Jesus took Peter, James and John up this mountain. Jesus wanted the disciples and us to
Take Comfort From The Transfiguration Shadows Under The Crosses
Shadows for Jesus
As we begin let’s be sure we recognize who it is we’re talking about—Jesus. He was and is God. He has the power to break into this speck of a world, into your blink of a life and bend you over to kiss his sandals any time he wants. But, next Sunday you will see the devil tempt Jesus in the wilderness at the beginning of his ministry, and then at the end of his ministry his disciples want Jesus to avoid death! Do you see why these temptations were so detestable to the Savior? Look what’s at stake! The eternal destiny of the entire human race is on the line. What would have happened to the trying tailgater, the careless cougher, and the discourteous dog walker? Not to mention our sins of hatred, lust, greed and failure to defend our neighbor’s good name! If there is no Jesus, there is no payment for sin, no escape from God’s wrath and only an eternity in hell to look forward to.
However, the Transfiguration casts a shadow on all of this. Jesus knew full well what was waiting for him in Jerusalem—the mockery, whips, thorns, nails and cross. And because he knew all this very real pain and suffering was on the horizon the shadow of the Transfiguration couldn’t have come at a better time for Jesus.
“ 29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. 30 Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. 31 They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem.”
By a miracle of God the sun in the sky no longer was in charge of casting shadows. Think about it. As they walked up the mountain the sun cast it’s shadows, but now in the presence of Jesus’ glory the shadows were being cast in a whole new direction! On top of this the Father sent Moses the lawgiver and Elijah the great prophet to stand beside the Son who fulfilled all of God’s demands and fulfilled all the prophesies and promises recorded by the OT prophets. And what were they going to talk about?
“They spoke about his departure.”
They would talk about his mission, the action of carrying it out to the finish line, and the outcomes of this work as the Savior. Look, if you were going to go down a long, dark tunnel, you’d want a really bright flashlight to let you see what’s at the end, wouldn’t you? Jesus is exploding with heaven’s glory that casts a shadow of promise that he will once again be sitting at the right hand of God in the glory of heaven someday. Yes, the Transfiguration was casting a shadow of hope, power and determination for Jesus! Then Jesus received something better than a shadow of glory and encouragement from Moses and Elijah, he received encouragement from his Father:
“35 A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.”
Jesus heard these words at his baptism—at the beginning of his earthly ministry, and now as he approaches the end he hears this reaffirming works again, “Yes, You are the One and only Savior!” Yes, Jesus knew the cross was coming, but he could take great comfort form the Transfiguration shadows of power, hope and victory under the crosses he would bear for the sins of the world. Not only so, but this amazing miracle brought great comfort for the disciples as they carried their crosses for Jesus’ sake.
For the Disciples
Remember how the disciples were feeling panicked, perplexed and puzzled; deflated, defeated and disturbed at the death of Jesus? We can well imagine the questions that were running through their minds: If Jesus is going to rule over all things, how can he do that if he’s dead? How would Jesus be able to help their hurting hearts, their bothered brains and their unfortunate futures? The Transfiguration would have to cast some mighty comforting shadows for them under life’s crosses, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
“32 Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. 33 As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
And the answer is? No. At worst his suggestion is a temptation for Jesus to remain in this glorious state and avoid having to go and die in Jerusalem. At best, Peter and the others had experienced a foretaste of heaven and wanted this wonderful event to continue on for some time. For conversation’s sake I’ve often wondered, why three tents instead of one? Wouldn’t you want to keep them all together? Or maybe he thought the they needed privacy. Whatever! LOL! What we do know is this: The disciples were not going to stay on this mountain because the Lord had important work for them to do. The Transfiguration made a shadow for the disciples that would comfort them under their crosses.
You see, in a few months they would be standing in the shadow of Jesus’ cross watching blood from his hands, feet and side. How reassuring for them to think back to the Transfiguration and remember the one who is dying is not just the Son of Man, but also the Son of God! Later, by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, these disciples would write letters about how important it was for Jesus to be true Man so he could have human blood to pay for our sins, howbeit, perfect human blood. And how important is was for Jesus to be true God so he could have God-blood powerful enough to pay for the sins of all people, or all time.
There would be more to come. The disciples would also be serving Jesus in their lives facing horrible persecutions, but they knew they were on the winning team! Jesus had given them a glimpse of this victory on the Mount of Transfiguration. Remembering the shadow cast by the Transfiguration would give them thoughts of comfort, strength, peace and hope with which they could then cope during their difficult situation. Indeed, the Transfiguration cast such a long shadows that even when they were being attacked for proclaiming Jesus, it would become a reason for rejoicing. Listen:
“41 The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.”
You recall Peter’s impression concerning the Transfiguration shadow cast in his heart:
“16 For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” 18 We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain”
2 Peter 1:16-18
Yes, there is great comfort from the Transfiguration shadows cast under the crosses for the disciples who faced persecution for the sake of Jesus. That same comfort from the glorious Transfiguration Shadow is
When you’re sitting at a good meal, you usually want to change the subject if someone talks about the last time they ate there, they got good poisoning! But, we’re not naïve. Sooner or later a cloud of gloom will fog up your life and cause you trouble or frustration. Maybe you find out your kids are doing drugs, your marriage isn’t what you dreamed it would be, your job goes south, or you’re watching them lower the casket of a loved one into the ground? What if you learned today that your car was stolen, your house burned down, or your health is walking out on you? On a scale of 1 to 10 these are serious troubles compared to inconsiderate drivers, coughers or dogs! We might be tempted to cry out, “Lord, really! What’s going on!?!”
That’s the perfect time to remember Jesus’ Transfiguration Shadow that was cast on you under the crosses you bear. Yes, we do suffer under the cross of being a Christian and standing up for God’s Word. Yes, we do suffer under the crosses of having to live in a world infected with the curse of sin. And yes, sometimes we might even have to suffer under the cross of the consequences of dumb things we did. Do not be surprised because the Bible is super clear on this point. Paul and Barnabas were running into Christians that were going through the wringer of life in Iconium, Lysta and Derbe, and even though Paul had just been stoned and left for dead, Luke records this:
“22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. He said, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.”
Yes, we do go through hardships, but do NOT lose sight of the Transfiguration Shadow Cast on YOU under these crosses! You have the victory in Jesus. Jesus did not retaliate under pressure, give the stink eye to the sick, refuse to give crumbs to the dogs or make room for the suffering. Jesus won the victory, foreshadowed on the mountain, and promised to you: One day you will live in his glory in heaven. Therefore, today, while sufferings, hardships, troubles, and problems all come, let’s remember why we are experiencing them: 1) They prove we are frail and imperfect and drive us to rely on God’s power, not our own. 2) They remind us that our stay in this world is temporary and that God has something much better in mind for us. We know this because the Transfiguration cast a Shadow on US under the crosses of life.
Dear Christian friends, this Wednesday we will enter into the Lenten season by observing Ash Wednesday. This season of the church year helps us remember the suffering our dear Savior endured for us all. Our hymns and sermons will become a bit more somber. We do this on purpose. It reminds us that even if things are going along smoothly in your life right now, these good times just aren’t going to last. I do I know this? Because I’m 56 years old and have seen this happen to everyone I know. Sooner or later a cloud of gloom will fog up your life and cause you trouble or frustration. So, here’s the thing: when those days come I want you to be able to cope with what’s going on in your life. I’m not talking about driver, coughers and dog walkers, I’m not even talking about sickness, financial failure, and even the death of loved ones! I’m talking about what will happen when things are not running smoothly for you anymore because you are coming to the end of your life. How will you cope? Well, there’s a way! It really boils down to two words today: The Transfiguration! For Jesus, for the disciples and for you there is great Comfort to be enjoyed by the Transfiguration Shadows under the Crosses we bear, until we are with Jesus without any shadows at all because we are living in the presence of the Lord’s glory forever where there will be no more shadows. Amen!