Sermon for February 19, 2012

Mark 9:2-9 (The Transfiguration of Our Lord—Series B)

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT

February 19, 2012

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Our text this morning is the Gospel lesson recorded in Mark 9:

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only. And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

D.M. Stearns was preaching in Philadelphia.  At the close of the service a stranger came up to him and said, “I don’t like the way you spoke about the cross.  I think that instead of emphasizing the death of Christ, it would be far better to preach Jesus, the teacher and example.”  Stearns replied, “If I presented Christ in that way, would you be willing to follow Him?”  “I certainly would,” said the stranger without hesitation.  “All right then,” said the preacher, “let’s take the first step.  He did no sin.  Can you claim that for yourself?”  The man looked confused and somewhat surprised.  “Why, no,” he said. “I acknowledge that I do sin.”  Stearns replied, “Then your greatest need is to have a Savior, not an example!” This is also our greatest need—a Savior.

But to need a Savior means that we acknowledge that we do sin.  To have a Savior means that Jesus goes to the cross to save us from our sin.  Neither of those is particularly appealing.  Might it not be easier simply to hang out with Jesus on the mountain, bask in His glory, and not have to confront sin or cross?  Peter had no clue what he was saying when he suggested to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here.  Let us make three tents, one for You and one for Moses and one for Elijah.”  At the very least these tents would provide enough shelter for worship to prolong the glorious event.  The disciples need not go back down the mountain to confront their sin.  They need not go down the mountain to see the rejection that lay ahead of Jesus at the hands of the elders and chief priests and the scribes, to the cross, to the resurrection.  Peter didn’t understand what he was witnessing in the glory of Christ and His divine conversation with Moses and Elijah.  Moses and Elijah were preparing Jesus for going to His death, the very thing that Peter rebuked Jesus for talking about six days before.

However, there is going to be a death.  It is going to be Jesus’ death for the sins of the world, a death for Peter’s sins, for James’ and John’s sins; a death for your sins and for mine.  So we are forced again to take a look at our sins.  If there is no sin in our lives there is no need for a Savior from sin.  If there is no need for a Savior from sin then Jesus doesn’t have to come down from the mountain to go to the cross.  If Jesus doesn’t need to go to the cross then Peter can build three tents so that they might remain together in Jesus’ glory on the mountain.

But that’s not reality.  The reality is spoken by God the Father from the cloud that overshadowed them, “This is my beloved Son; listen to Him.”  We’ve heard these words before, haven’t we?  At Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River, as the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove, the Father’s voice spoke from heaven, “This is my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”  Jesus is God-made-flesh in the Jordan, identifying with the sinners He came to save.  Jesus is God-made-flesh revealing His divine glory and majesty on the mount of transfiguration so that we might know that God Himself has come to save us from our sins.  Paul in 1Timothy 1:15 says it most appropriately, “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.”

The beloved Son with whom the Father is well-pleased is the beloved Son to whom we are to listen when He says, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him.  And when He is killed, after three days He will rise.” (Mark 9:31)  And why must this happen?  Because Jesus came into the world to save sinners.  Listen to Him!  “And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.’”(Mark 2:17)  “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)

I am the sinner, I am the lost, for whom Jesus took on flesh in order to suffer and die in my place.  You are the sinner for whom Jesus took on flesh in order to suffer and die in your place.  It is because we are sinners that we need a Savior.  It is our sin that necessitates Jesus’ cross.  When we honestly examine our lives according to the Ten Commandments we recognize our sin.  We are clearly shown that we have not always trusted in God for financial security, physical safety, or emotional support.  We are not always diligent and sincere in our prayers, nor do we always adorn our speech and conduct with the Gospel.  We have been ashamed of, angry, stubborn, or disrespectful toward parents, teachers, employers, government, and other authorities.  You and I have held grudges and harbored resentment.  We’ve been abusive in word and deed to others.  We are guilty of lust, indecency, and the use of pornography.  We have gotten things in dishonest ways and we have failed to give generously and to always respect other’s property.  You and I haven’t always spoken the truth.  We have gossiped or taken pleasure in talking about the faults of others.  There have been times where we have neglected our marriage, family, church, and other relationships in attempts to satisfy the wants and desires of our flesh.

We know sin as it is revealed to us through God’s Word.  We feel our sin and guilt in our hearts and we rightly mourn and lament our iniquities and offenses.  God’s Word lays bare our sin for which we deserve nothing but punishment.  Yet in that same Word we listen to our Father’s voice who says, “This is my beloved Son!  This is your Savior from sin, death, and everlasting condemnation.”

The beloved Son of God came down from the mountain where He displayed His transfigured glory so that He might climb Golgotha’s hill.  Jesus the beloved Son willingly chose death on a cross and resurrection from the dead for our sakes because He is the Savior.  Every last one of our sins is forgiven because Jesus died on the cross and shed His blood to win our forgiveness.  All of our guilt is removed from us because Jesus died on the cross making our peace with God.  And is there any greater joy than hearing the words, “As a called and ordained servant of Christ, and by His authority, I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen”?  No, because those words are true and they accomplish that for which the Lord sends them forth.  The Son of God has died and is risen from the dead.  He forgives us our sins.  That forgiveness is real because it is God’s free gift to you and me in Jesus through faith in Him who lived, died, and rose for us!

On this Transfiguration Sunday we are again brought to the mountain where we can see Jesus’ glory shine.  Standing before us in transfigured brilliance we see the Son of God who is our Savior.  As we enter into the Season of Lent on Wednesday, let us follow our Savior to the glory of the cross and the empty tomb to celebrate His power and to marvel at His life given for us so that we are forgiven, now and always.  Amen.

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