FROM GLORY TO SUFFERING – THIS IS THE ONE!

Transfiguration Sunday – March 6th, 2011 Matthew 17:1-9

It is commonplace for people to use the most immediate information, the most recent evidence to draw conclusions. Let me give you an example. Spring training is upon us in the baseball world. Justin Verlander is probably considered by most to be the “ace” of the Detroit Tigers staff. Most of the time, when he’s pitching well, everybody loves him and thinks he’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. Every time he takes the mound, we expect that he’s going to blow away the opponent with his 102 mph fastballs. But when he slumps, as all pitchers do, you hear the rabid Detroit fans calling into the sports radio station, literally ordering his immediate demotion to Toledo, because he’s such a horrible pitcher. They forget the many times that he has been great for our team and use the immediate information, the most recent performance to draw extreme conclusions that appear to contradict an entire body of work throughout his career. We do that all the time, we draw conclusions based on the most immediate information in front of us. It happens in the sports world, it happens in a courtroom – where the most immediate evidence in the mind of the jury can sway them towards conviction or toward reasonable doubt. We do that regularly in our dealings with other people, as we formulate our opinions of another’s character based on the last thing they said or did, forgetting the collective evidence that we have obtained over a long period of time. Peter, James and John, the Big Three disciples, had a tremendous opportunity, given to them by their Lord, to get a glimpse of who Jesus really was on that mountain of Transfiguration, a glimpse of glory that would confirm everything that Jesus had proclaimed about himself, that he was the Christ of God and the world’s Messiah, and the one, through whom, all believers receive glory unto eternity. And what a tremendous blessing that was for them; because when Jesus descended the mount of Transfiguration, he began the final stages of his saving work that would culminate in the ascending of the holy hill of sacrifice, which, in all appearances would completely contradict the conclusions that they had drawn about Jesus and his identity God made man. Today, we too ascend the mount of Transfiguration so that we remember, from glory to suffering: THIS IS THE ONE, the Savior who was ordained from the beginning to bear the burden of the sins of man. How appropriate that the Transfiguration account comes just days before the official beginning of Lent, where we begin our journey with him to the place where his divinity will be least visible to the human eye – on the cross. Know that whether he is shining in unapproachable light, or nailed to a tree, THIS IS THE ONE! So, listen to him. Take his words to heart! And do not fear, fellow disciples, for even when we are asked to bear suffering in the name of our Savior, that such suffering “cannot compare to the glory that will be revealed in us.” “After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high

mountain by themselves. 2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3 Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.”

I.

Matthew begins his account of the events on the holy mountain. He says in the first few verses:

Listen to him!

What a tremendous blessing for the Big Three disciples to see their Lord in revealed glory. All of the things that they were privy to seeing with their own eyes during Jesus’ public ministry, the many miracles where Jesus displayed a power that can only rightly belong to the divine, where he spoke with an authority that put the sinful reason of the religious leaders to shame, all of that surely would have drawn the disciples to a certain conclusion about Jesus – that he worthy of their faith and trust as God in the flesh. And this confirmed their conclusion. If you noticed in our epistle lesson today, it wasn’t the miracles of Jesus that Peter cites as reason to believe his gospel message, but “we ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.” Without a doubt, Jesus’ transfiguration was a monumental occasion for the disciples. However, even in this verbal and visible confirmation of Jesus’ divinity, there was still great misunderstanding.

“4 Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters— one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

Immediately, Peter, who had the habit of doing this, opened his mouth and drew a conclusion that was contrary to what Jesus had communicated in chapter 16 of Matthew. It was clearly stated: “21 From

that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”

How quickly Peter had forgotten – that “cross” and “glory” were not mutually exclusive things, and work hand-in-hand in God’s salvation plan. Peter had already determined in his mind that this revealed glory was something he wanted to be part and parcel of without the cross, which is impossible! He didn’t listen to Jesus. He fought the notion that his Lord must die. “Never, Lord,” he said. That’s why the Majestic Glory, as he calls God in his epistle, emphatically calls Peter and the other disciples to “Listen to him!” Keep listening to him even when the immediate visible evidence of the passion will most certainly appear to contradict what your Lord is promising, listen and believe! That’s also what the Majestic Glory calls us to do today, to listen, not just to hear the words of Holy Scripture as if they are just words, but to really listen to them; because we, like Peter tend to draw conclusions based on immediate visible evidence. We find ourselves sick, suffering, struggling, and constantly burdened by the consequences of sin every single day, sometimes to the point of despair, and immediately our sinful hearts think, “God doesn’t care! God isn’t concerned about me or my family or my struggles or my circumstances. God isn’t the “LOVE” that he proclaims himself to be.” We need to learn the same lesson that Peter had to learn – that cross and glory are not mutually exclusive, for Jesus or for us. In order to achieve the royal splendor made visible on the mount of Transfiguration, our Savior had to descend the mountain, walk the road of shame and death, be rejected even by his own, and ascend the hill of sacrifice. He had to, because cross precedes glory. Keep listening to him, and be sure that the glory that is revealed on the mountain will be your glory because of Jesus’ atoning suffering. Keep listening carefully, and be sure that the Holy Spirit will give you the necessary strength of faith to trust in the promises of your Savior even when immediate detrimental circumstances might drive our sinful hearts to think otherwise. II. Don’t be afraid

But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.”

“Don’t be afraid!” I suppose there were any number of things that might have caused them to be in a state of paralyzing fear. Immediately, the cloud that enveloped them, the voice from heaven, the divine command to “listen,” knowing that they had not listened to Jesus or believed his message that cross precedes glory...fear that cross precedes glory...because the cross would bring shame, pain, agony and death. And yet Jesus says to them, “Don’t be afraid,” or “Stop being afraid.” It’s interesting that the next time those words would be spoken would be on Easter Sunday by the angel, “Don’t be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here!” For now, the vision fades away, the cloud disappears, Moses and Elijah are gone, and Jesus’ disciples are left with an indelible mark on their hearts that will aid them throughout the Savior’s passion: Yes, Jesus is the One, the Son of God, filled with splendor and glory. As he descends the holy mountain, they know he has terrible work to do, and until the resurrection there will be no more glory. Until then, they are to listen to Jesus and follow him in faith until the cycle of glory to suffering to glory is complete. That is exactly what the Spirit calls us to do today – listen to Jesus and follow him in steadfast faith until that time in his providence when he will extend to us the glory that he came into the world to give to us. Like Paul, may our confession be that: “18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Don’t be afraid. Yes, suffering precedes glory, and the suffering that we now bear as a consequence of sin and by our allegiance to Jesus by faith, that suffering and pain and grief has been overwhelmed by the power and love of the one who suffered to atone for our sins. And there will come a day, dear disciples, when the suffering will end and the glorious vision of the mountain will be your reality, when you will stand in absolute glory with all the saints who have gone before in faith and join in their glorious song of triumph in heaven – when your divinely appointed cycle of suffering to glory will be brought to a majestic conclusion. Until then, the glory of the mountain will fade a bit in our memories, just as it did with the disciples. The cloud has lifted and the vision is over, and we descend the mountain, but the mark that Jesus has left on our hearts is deeply impressed and leaves no room for doubt or fear: From suffering to glory - He is the One! This one is the Son of God, our Savior. Listen to him, watch his terrible work for you and your salvation and believe that the glory he shows on the holy mountain will one day be yours! Amen.

Matthew continues: “6 When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. 7

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