Based On: Mark 9:2-9
The Old Testament prophet Elisha was the best spy Israel could have. He knew exactly what the King of Aram was going to do and when. Of course it was God who supplied him that information, but the King of Aram was so frustrated by this he sent a large group of soldiers and chariots to capture Elisha. They surrounded the town Elisha and Elisha’s servant were in. The servant was terrified so Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes so he may see.” When the servant looked he saw horses and chariots of fire covering the hillside and surrounding their Aramean enemies. What comfort that glorious sight must have given the servant. As we approach Lent and focus on the suffering of Christ, we have an even greater comfort. Christ’s glory brings us comfort. It brings us comfort as Christ suffers and also as we suffer.
In our Gospel for today we hear about Christ’s glory. We read, “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.” It is a very simple little statement – “There he was transfigured before them.” Yet the change in our Lord’s appearance was anything but simple. His clothes became whiter than anything you or I have ever seen and he began to radiate with the light of his own glory – a light unreflected and unborrowed. His appearance changed dramatically, but it was the same Jesus that the disciples had known for a few years already. This glory belonged to Jesus all along, but until now there were only glimpses of this glory in the miracles he performed.
Moses and Elijah appear and make the connection clear between Jesus and all of those promises and prophecies written in the Old Testament about the Messiah. As if all of that were not enough, the voice of God identifies this glorious Jesus as the all-powerful and all-knowing Son of God. We certainly should obey God’s command and “listen to him.”
Let us go back to the first three words of our Gospel lesson – “After six days.” Six days after what? Six days before the transfiguration Jesus was talking to his disciples. He told them how he would suffer and die on a cross and then rise again. Imagine your best friend tells you that in a few months people are going to take him away, beat him up, and then murder him in one of the most horrific ways possible. What would you say? Perhaps something like, “No way, that will never happen.” Probably much the same thing Peter said.
After hearing Jesus talking of his own death, what was going through Peter’s mind when he saw the glorious Christ? These two things don’t seem to go together, do they? On the one hand is the suffering and death of Jesus, on the other is Jesus showing his glory as the Son of God. Now, here we are reading about his glory up on the mountain yet we know as Lent approaches we will read about a friend who betrays him for money, soldiers who make fun of him and beat him, Pharisees who demand his execution, and a Roman governor who honors their request.
From a worldly point of view Peter’s words seem to make sense. “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.” Why can’t they just stay on the mountain? Perhaps they would invite the other disciples to come up. Jesus can remain in his glory and he wouldn’t have to suffer and the disciples can enjoy his glorious presence. It sounds like a good plan for everyone involved.
Remember what God said, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” What Jesus said about his suffering and death is important. Jesus needed to come down from the mountain and suffer if we are to enjoy the glory of heaven. The display of glory on that mountain was to comfort the disciples as they watched him suffer. As we look again at his suffering we can take comfort in the glory he chose to hide for our sake.
This display of glory and the heavenly Father’s words of affirmation from the cloud certainly prove that Jesus had the power to avoid the cross, but the wonderful comfort is that he didn’t. This mountain top experience is proof that nothing would happen to our Savior unless he wanted it to happen. He was in control throughout his suffering. He and the Father planned it and made it happen so that we would not suffer in hell.
The glory he revealed to the disciples on the mountain gives us the proper perspective with which to view his suffering. The glory of Christ also comforts us as we suffer.
God has promised that there would be suffering in this world because of sin and Christians are not immune to this suffering. Perhaps, we are in an accident caused by another driver. We must deal with the difficult boss who, it may seem, wants to make our life difficult. Others forget their appointments with us or in some way waste our precious time. The world is sinful, what do we expect. But when we think of all those problems that other people cause us, remember that you and I are the sinful people that others must deal with. We are the cause of some of their problems.
Yet the glory of Christ on the mountain reminds us that he is in control and uses even these problems to bless us. His glory comforts us as we watch Christ put aside his glory for a time to become one of us and die on the cross for the times we cause other people problems.
As followers of Christ we expect to suffer because he suffered. Jesus said, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” Our presence among unbelievers is a reminder to them that their relationship with God is not right and that God will hold them accountable for their sins. They feel uncomfortable at the very least. It shouldn’t surprise us if someone avoids us when they find out we are a Christian.
It also shouldn’t surprise us that people call us intolerant, arrogant, or unloving when we teach as Christ did and say that Jesus is the only way to salvation or when we ask those not in our fellowship to not join us in the Lord’s Supper. The world does not realize that to ignore sin or false teaching is the unloving and arrogant thing to do.
Of course, sometimes we fail to let our light shine to avoid our own discomfort and we fail to talk about our faith when opportunities arise. It isn’t so easy to tell people, “My God promises that I will suffer on this earth.” We become ashamed of Christ’s suffering and fearful of our own.
That is the time to take comfort in Christ’s glory. Our Savior is the Son of God. There is no reason to fear the world’s reaction to our faith. They can do us no real harm. Even more comforting is the glory Christ hid from the world’s sight so that he could rescue us from the world and bring us to the glory of heaven.
Christ’s glory is not only visible on that mountain to the disciples, but we see it as well. It is revealed to us as we listen to his Word, as we watch a baptism and know that the miracle of faith has occurred, as we taste the body and blood of our Lord along with bread and wine and we know our sins have been paid for. This is how we see Christ’s glory.
We can take comfort in Christ’s glory revealed to us through the Word and Sacraments. These things assure us of the glory waiting for us in heaven. It is far greater than any glory we might receive on this earth.