There are certain times in life, certain events in life which cause our perspective to change, correct? Perhaps it was graduating from high school (or maybe even grade school), and the recognition that a “chapter in our life” has closed. Getting married, the birth of a child, the death of a loved one, a health scare – all sorts of events can cause our perspective to change, sometimes dramatically so. Perhaps for us pastors, the day that we were ordained was a change in perspective. “Wait. I’m really a pastor now?!”
I wonder if the disciples needed a change of perspective regarding Jesus? Think about it. Scripture tells us that Jesus was made like his brothers in every way, yet, was without sin. (cf. Hebrews 2) Day by day Jesus walked alongside of them, eating as they ate, sleeping as they slept, laughing, talking, crying, etc. In oh-so-many ways he was a normal guy! I’d guess it could have been easy for the disciples to lose perspective as to just who Jesus was.
Consider this. In the days leading up to this event, Jesus had been talking to his disciples about the future, specifically, that he was going to go to Jerusalem to suffer and die. Peter had then taken Jesus aside and rebuked him. Now, stop and think about that. Who is rebuking whom? Peter – a sinful human – was rebuking Jesus, the true God! Yes, a human was rebuking God! Can you imagine the craziness of that? That’s downright ridiculous! (And by the way, all three accounts of the Transfiguration have a time-connection to that event. In Mark 9:2 it reads, “After six days.”) It’s crazy that a human would rebuke God, and yet, it had happened.
So, was part of the purpose of the Transfiguration event to change their perspective? To remind them of who Jesus was, that he really was the true God? Perhaps so!
And, what a change of perspective! Jesus transfigured! His clothes are gleaming white! Matthew tells us that his face was shining like the sun! Moses and Elijah are there, talking with Jesus! Wow!
Finally God the Father speaks: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to Him!” (Mark 9:7)
Can you imagine how Peter might have felt as he heard those words? Did his mind flash back about a week, when he’d taken Jesus aside and rebuked Him? Can you imagine His consternation – indeed, terror – as he now sees far more clearly whom it was that he was rebuking? Do you think he might have wanted to do pretty much anything to be able to “undo” that rebuke, to retract, to have never said it? Oh, I’m guessing! Do you think this perspective-changing event might have helped Peter? Oh, I’m sure!
And perhaps it’s something which you and I need to see/hear, too. It’s oh-so-easy to get comfortable with sin. It’s oh-so-easy to slip into thinking that it’s no big deal for me to … lust, cheat, lie, fail to love my spouse, fail to be kind and compassionate, fail to humbly serve, etc. In short, we can slip into thinking that it’s okay if we’re not listening to God and his Word, not putting his Word into practice. In a sense, every time we do so, we’re “rebuking God,” similar to what Peter had done.
And then we see the Transfiguration. This is God, the almighty, holy God whom we’re rebelling against!
Do we remember that? Do we always remember just whom it is that we’re rebelling against? Do we always remember that the stakes are eternal? Or might you and I need a change in perspective, like those disciples seemed to need?
I know that I need that change in perspective regularly. You too? And, Transfiguration Day helps us. Yes, it’s God against whom we’re rebelling; yes it’s in front of this holy God that I will someday stand. And that glorious, holy God won’t be any more impressed by our “rebukes” than he was with Peter’s rebuke. Indeed, if left to what we deserved, we would be face down on the ground, terrified, just like Peter, James, and John.
“Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.” (Mark 9:8) The glory was again hidden, his clothing was normal once again, Elijah and Moses were nowhere to be seen. Wow! How their minds must have been spinning!
And the head-spinning probably intensified as they walked down the mountain and Jesus tells them not to tell anyone about this event until he’d risen from the dead. “Risen from the dead?!” They had just seen glory like they’d never seen before! What in the world did “death” have in common with this Jesus, who had such stupendous glory? This glorious one could die? Would die? How could that be?
Yes, it’s reasonable to ask that question, what death had in common with the glorious Jesus. But in the next couple months, we’re going to watch it unfold. For, Jesus didn’t take Peter’s advice, that they stay, and that they put up shelters. Once again, the advice from the sinful human was dead wrong.
Instead, Jesus walked down the Mount of Transfiguration and walked purposefully to Jerusalem. Oh, he knew exactly what awaited him there – sufferings and crucifixion. But he went anyway. Again, during the next couple months we’re going to watch it unfold. We’ll see Jesus undergoing terrible sufferings, being rejected, being whipped and beaten. One of his own will sell him, another will deny him, the rest will run away from him. He’ll die in the most humiliating of manners, nailed to a cross.
And this is … who? Who will be doing all of that? Yeah, it’s the same Jesus who was up on the Mt. of Transfiguration! It’s the same Jesus whose clothes were gleaming like the light, whose face was shining like the sun! It’s the same glorious, powerful Son of God!
What a perspective that gives us concerning the love of God for us humans, concerning God’s love for you, pastor. Who’s on the cross? It’s the all-powerful God! He loved you, he loved me, that much! Yes, the all-powerful God was willing to set aside the full use of his glory in order to win salvation for you, for me! It’s the all-powerful God who wanted to win eternal life for you, for me! The all-powerful God loves you that much!
So, we will want to remember the transfiguration event as we walk through Lent. As we remember that this is the all-powerful God who is suffering, we’ll be even more amazed, even more appreciative, even more thankful for what’s happening. For this Jesus – this glorious Jesus! – certainly had the power to stop every single bit of the suffering if he had chosen to.
But he chose to not stop it. Instead, he chose to endure it. He loves you that dearly! That gives you and me a perspective regarding God and his love that helps you and me tremendously!
Oh, one last point. Moses and Elijah were there talking with Jesus – and they didn’t seem to be the least bit afraid. Yes, Jesus was showing his glory – or at least, a glimpse of it – but it didn’t seem to faze them at all.
And someday, it won’t faze you, either. Someday you will be able to see Jesus’ glory – or at least, this much of it – and it won’t bother you. You will be able to look at your God face-to-face.
And why? All because the glorious, holy, almighty God was willing to lay aside his glory and power and instead go the cross. Because he set aside his glory, you have glory now, and you will have glory forever. Yes, God’s given glory to you.
And that’s an amazing change of perspective! Amen.