Get Ready

  This is where Peter and Jesus had some words with one another.  Jesus talks about the Christ suffering, being rejected, being killed and then rising on the third day.  The suffering part didn’t sit well with Peter.  The Christ would do nothing at that sort.  The Christ is triumphant, glorious, victorious.  He always wins.  He never loses.  Peter got in the face of Jesus and told him not to talk like that anymore.   

            But Jesus told him that suffering comes before glory.  He called him “Satan” and told him to leave.  He then told them that this suffering wasn’t only going to be His but theirs.  “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.”  (Luke 9:23-24)

The Transfiguration of Our Lord  March 3, 2019

“Get Ready”  Luke 9:28-36

Rev. John R. Larson  Ascension Lutheran Church  Littleton, Colorado

 

Usually every Thursday afternoon the program staff at Ascension meet in my office.  Mike Zehnder, Kathy Johnson, Jenna Lawrenz and Christa Kirschner, those in charge of music and worship, education, youth and young adult ministries, meet to talk about what has happened, what is going to happen and what we wish to do in the future.  Christa brings little Emery, three months old and Jenna brings Jensen, now about 18 months – making the meetings quite amazing every time!!

I reminded Jenna that she has the children’s message at the late service this morning and she remarked that she has always found speaking about the Transfiguration is a little bit difficult.  How do you relay what happened there to kids that are young?  (I guess we’ll find out how she did!)

The Transfiguration is a little bit hard to understand.  It is an odd story.  Peter, James and John, who always seem to go with Jesus on His biggest events, are there with Him.  But then, two dead people, guys that have been dead for hundreds of years, show up.  What is that about?  And then, Jesus, begins to become illuminated.  He shines like the sun.  Dead people.  A guy that looks like E.T.  I don’t know why Jenna has trouble with telling that to 4 year-olds.  (Though I do know why she got assigned this Sunday and I somehow avoided it!!)

What about this Transfiguration?  What does it mean to adults?  Three things:

  1. Suffering always comes before glory.
  2. Jesus is exactly who He is – God’s brilliance and light.
  3. It is His words that give us hope.

If you can tell me those three things when I’m done speaking in 13 minutes then you can do the children’s message on February 23, 2020, the next time we will have the Transfiguration of Jesus.

Suffering always comes before glory.  The Transfiguration is dated this way, “About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray…”  (Luke 9:28)  Eight days after what?  The events of Luke 9:18-27 are the things that happened eight days earlier.  This was the time when Jesus, once again in prayer, asked His own what people were saying about Him.  “Some say [you’re] John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.”  (Luke 9:19).  But Jesus wanted to know what they thought.  Peter gave the great answer, the confession that saved his soul, he said that Jesus was “The Christ of God.”  (Luke 9:20b)

This is where Peter and Jesus had some words with one another.  Jesus talks about the Christ suffering, being rejected, being killed and then rising on the third day.  The suffering part didn’t sit well with Peter.  The Christ would do nothing at that sort.  The Christ is triumphant, glorious, victorious.  He always wins.  He never loses.  Peter got in the face of Jesus and told him not to talk like that anymore.

But Jesus told him that suffering comes before glory.  He called him “Satan” and told him to leave.  He then told them that this suffering wasn’t only going to be His but theirs.  “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.”  (Luke 9:23-24)

The great brilliance of the Transfiguration is tied to what happened eight days before – all this talk about Jesus suffering – all this talk about His followers suffering.  And did you catch what Moses and Elijah talked with when they were speaking to Jesus? “They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem.”  (Luke 9:31)

It is the same with us.  The greatest moments come after the hardest moments.  Spiritually, when we are in pain over our struggles and our sin and how we are far from what God desires us to be and do, we find ourselves in the right place.  Only then can we find joy when we become assured again of God’s heart toward us, of our cleansing and hope, when we are lifted up by the grace of Jesus.  Suffering always comes before glory.

Point two.  Jesus is exactly who He is – God’s brilliance and light.  “As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning.”  (Luke 9:29)  Last Sunday we used the Nicene Creed to confess what we believe as Christians.  Concerning that of Jesus Christ we say, “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.”

There was no doubt in the minds of those three apostle’s that Jesus was divine.  Peter, in his epistle writes, “We did not follow cleverly invented stories, when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.  For 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.’  We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.”  (II Peter 1:16-18)

We began the Epiphany season on January 6 with light.  The Magi followed the star so they could worship the Christ child.  And we end the season today, on Transfiguration Sunday, in the flood of light.  Jesus Christ, the light of the world, was showing the brilliance of that light on that mountain.  Jesus is God’s brilliance and light.  Into the darkness of our sin, into the darkness of our death, He is greater.  He is exactly who He says He is.  No doubt about it.

Point Three.  It is His words that give us hope.  The scene on that mountain had to be amazingly scary.  Dead people, who were not Zombies, by the way, were present.  Jesus changes appearance.  He is filled with light, emanating light.  And then a cloud envelopes everyone.  A voice booms, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen, listen to him.”  (Luke 9:35)  God doesn’t say, “This is my Son, look at him!!”  Or, have you ever seen anything like this!!??  No.  “Listen to him.”

When doubting Thomas demanded on seeing the body of Jesus, putting his fingers into the nail marks and his hand into His side, Jesus spoke about faith being greater than sight.  “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”  (John 20:29).  Paul said it this way, “We live by faith, not by sight.”  (II Corinthians 5:7)

The words of Jesus are what we hunger for.  Whenever we have failed to listen to Him and His words we find ourselves in trouble.  When we stop reading the Scriptures, the Bible, the words of Jesus, we lose our way.  If we become quite haphazard in our frequency of worship, losing our hunger and thirst for the things of God, we find ourselves going in directions that are sinful and far from the path that God directs.  When we don’t hear Him and His words that bring life, we find ourselves losing hope, not knowing that we are God’s beloved children and that God always has good things in store for us.  “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.”

Do you know what the Transfiguration of our Lord means?  It means, “Get Ready”.  Lent is next.  Get ready.  In three days we get rid of the alleluias.  In three days the season is 40 days of contrition and repentance.  You know where this will all end, right?  It is no mystery to you where we are going in all of this.  On April 19, Good Friday, the kettle drums will pound telling us that the tomb was sealed and that suffering came in a bitter way.  On April 21 we can take away the grief and replace it with joy and smiles and laughter.  God’s light was greater than Satan’s darkness.  With the greatest words, God’s words, we are also resurrected.

I’m not sure how Jenna will tell those kids about this day.  I’m glad she is doing it and not me.  But I know I can tell you these three things:

  1. Suffering always comes before glory.
  2. Jesus is exactly who He is – God’s brilliance and light.
  3. It is His words that give us hope.

Get ready.  Those things that God gives us today, He’ll give us the next forty days, and beyond.  Amen!!

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