A Glimpse of the Savior's Glory
February 11, 2018
Lincoln Heights Lutheran Church
A Glimpse of the Savior’s Glory
Mark 9:2–9 (NIV84)
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 enveloped 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.
Dear Friends in Christ,
Peter’s life was a bit of a roller coaster ride. The last week had been especially bumpy. Just six days before our account in Mark for today, Peter had gotten an A+ on his seminary exam. Jesus asked his disciples who they thought he was. This is a vital question for everyone in the world. Eternal salvation depends on who we believe Jesus to be. Peter answers, “You are the Christ.” That is the correct answer. Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God who came to redeem the world from sin and death. If Jesus is anything other than the Christ, the Son of God, all people are doomed to eternal death. Peter is at the top of the roller coaster. He very quickly drops to the bottom.
Jesus tells his disciples that he is going to Jerusalem to suffer and die. Peter will have none of that kind of talk. He will not let Jesus die in Jerusalem and Peter rebukes Jesus for talking like this. Peter rebukes Jesus! That A+ has fallen to an F- or even lower than that. Jesus’ next words to Peter must have stung for some time. “Get behind me Satan.” The Christ, the Son of the Living God has called Peter, Satan. Peter is at the bottom. Peter has failed seminary. Even a young child knows that Jesus had to die on the cross to take away our sins. Peter did not get it, tried to stop it and was compared to Satan for doing so. It can’t get much worse for Peter.
Six days later, Jesus takes Peter, James and John with him up the mountain to see his glory. Peter did not deserve this glimpse of Jesus’ glory. James and John had not been star students either. They once asked if they could call down fire from heaven to burn up people who did not welcome Jesus. Jesus may not have picked the top students to witness his glory. They were perhaps the ones who needed to see it the most. Through their eyes, we too get... A Glimpse of Jesus’ Glory.
The Glory of Jesus on the Mountain
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.
These three, sometimes trouble-making disciples, were eyewitnesses of Jesus’ glory. No longer did Jesus appear to them in the form of a servant. No longer was his divine nature hidden from them. Peter had confessed six days earlier that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. But now there is no doubt. Just by looking at Jesus when he is transfigured in front of them told them that Jesus is true God.
Matthew tells us that Jesus’ face shone like the sun. Mark is more impressed by the clothing Jesus wears. No one in the world could get the clothes cleaner than they were when Jesus is transfigured. Not even the laundry detergent company that ran the clever Superbowl ads showing people in very clean clothes could get clothes as dazzling as Jesus’ clothing on the mountain. The clothes he wore must have been dusty and dirty from walking everywhere and from hiking up the mountain. But those clothes had no dirt or stain anymore. The glory of Jesus shows even in his clothing. The dazzling white shows Christ’s holiness, his complete separation from sin. He is pure and holy inside and out.
The three disciples were not the only witnesses on the mountain.
And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.
Elijah represents the prophets of the Old Testament who called on people to repent and trust in the promised Messiah whom God would send. Moses represents the law of God as Moses recorded in the first five books of the Bible. The law and the prophets testify about Christ. Elijah and Moses appear with Christ on the mountain. All they wrote and said about Christ was true and about to be fulfilled. They talked with Jesus in this moment of outward glory before Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem and his death.
Peter had a different reaction to this glimpse of Jesus’ glory.
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.)
Peter reacts like most react to seeing the glory of God. He is scared. When God showed a glimpse of his glory on Mount Sinai the people were terrified as God made the mountain shake along with thunder and clouds of smoke. Peter is not scared so that he runs away but he still reacts out of fear. Peter is scared because he is a sinner but he is also scared that this glimpse of glory might go away. So Peter is going to do something to fix it. He will build shelters for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. He will do something for Jesus and at the same time keep this glorious meeting on the mountaintop going as long as possible.
Was Jesus’ rebuke of Peter a week before still bothering Peter? Maybe Peter is trying to alleviate his guilty conscience by making a shelter for Jesus. Maybe we try the same thing when we are feeling guilty. We do something to help someone else to make the guilty feeling go away. We try to make it to the person we hurt with gifts or kind words. Maybe we try to take it out on ourselves, thinking that if we are mad at ourselves for that sin, the guilt will go away. But making a shelter for Jesus or any other good work will never take away our guilt.
Peter’s proposal would also prolong his glimpse of Jesus’ glory. Peter did not want Jesus to die and the longer they were on the mountain, the better. It was as close to heaven as one could get on the earth. Jesus is there with Moses and Elijah just like it will be in heaven. If Peter, James and John could just stay there with Jesus everything would be great. Jesus could provide food and everything they need. They never have to come down to the real world, to the sinful world. But that is really a selfish thought by Peter and would not even be good for Peter in the long run.
Jesus’ glory was shown on the mountain but would be shown in a different way when Jesus comes down the mountain.
The Glory of Jesus Coming Down the Mountain
If Jesus stayed on that mountain in his glory as the Son of God, the disciples with him would have a great experience on earth and then spend eternity in hell. The rest of the world would suffer the same eternal fate. Jesus’ glory would be shown to the world when he comes down the mountain.
Then a cloud appeared and enveloped 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.
The Father speaks and Jesus is alone with his disciples and they leave the mountaintop. The glimpse of glory is over so that Jesus may bring glory to his Father and to all people. Jesus tells them again that he will rise from the dead. That means that he is going to die just as he has also told them. Peter doesn’t argue this time. Perhaps Peter is learning and perhaps he listened to the Father who told him to listen to Jesus.
Of course, the disciples still did not understand. They see the glory of Jesus as God’s Son, hear the voice of the Father telling them to listen to Jesus and still don’t get it. Jesus’ death and resurrection were still confusing to them and would be until Jesus appears to them on Easter. The disciples are not great examples of trusting in Jesus and what he says. We should not follow their example but we do.
We don’t listen to Jesus and his Word all the time. We may not even know what Jesus says in his Word. At times we may even disagree or doubt what Jesus tells us in the Bible. We might be like Peter and tell God, “I don’t think you really meant what you just said.” This is why Jesus came down the mountain. Our sin and unbelief make it impossible for any human to save ourselves.
The pure and holy Son of God showed his divine nature on the mountain. His clothing was dazzling white to show that he is holy and righteous in every way. But again he hid this glory so he could suffer and die for all people. He had to hide his glory in human flesh and blood. No one would dare arrest him when he is shining like the sun. What false witnesses would have come forward to testify against the Son of God shining in all his glory? What earthly king, governor or emperor would dare condemn God’s Son to death when terrified before the holy God?
Therefore, the dazzling white clothing went away and he was given a purple robe to mock his claim to be King of the Jews. Instead of his face shining like the sun, it was bloodied and bruised and crowned with thorns. Most of his disciples did not want to stay in his place of suffering like in his place of glory. Perhaps only John stayed to watch Jesus being nailed to the cross and crucified. Christ’s suffering and death was his glory for he obeyed the will of his Father and opened heaven to all who have sinned. Since Jesus came down the mountain, we have the hope of seeing him in all his glory forever in heaven.
There, Jesus will again be dazzling and brighter than the sun. But he will not be the only pure and holy one there. All who believe in him will be purified of all sin and evil and we too will be wearing white robes. John was given another glimpse of heavenly glory that he recorded for us in the book of Revelation. In this vision, John sees the people in heaven and asked about them. Here is the answer that tells us what we also will be like one day. “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (Revelation 7:14).
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