As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.”
((5. Oops!: Transfiguration Jesus is a Jesus completely outside our experience.))
Transfiguration Sunday. Talk about a Sunday that’s completely outside of how we actually experience Jesus. We know the story. Jesus up on a mountain. He shines with glory. His face, His body, His skin shine like the sun. His clothes were whiter than light itself, “whiter than any washing could bleach it,” Mark tells us. Bright shining cloud, too, and a loud thunderous voice.
We long to experience that kind of Jesus. We think that’s what Jesus is all about. Power. Glory. I mean: He has those things, “by [Him] the heavens were made.” But we don’t see it. We don’t see that sort of Jesus. The Scriptures talk about it, and since that’s not our experience, it’s why we shrug Jesus off. It’s why we chase after other things that do give us some sort of glorious feeling or experience.
As sinful human beings, we look at Jesus’ transfiguration and when we compare that to our daily lives, well, there’s more than a just little disconnect there, isn’t there? So often the explanation that we cook up for this is that there’s either something wrong with Jesus or something wrong with us.
((4. Ugh!: Our experience often matches the Israelites.))
Now, our Old Testament reading is a lot closer to our experience, isn’t it? Oh, not Moses and the burning bush! There’s just more disconnect there. More of a God that’s completely different from what we daily experience.
But what is closer to our experience is the people of Israel. Their story is your story, isn’t it? It’s not just the suffering—bad things happening. It’s not just life being difficult. It’s not just being enslaved to all sorts of things—to the daily grind, to our own fears, to our own wants and desires. No, the worst part of their story, and this is the part we often experience, is that God’s apparently ignoring their problem!
There they are barely hanging on. They’re suffering. They’re hurting. They’re dying. They’re slaves! But they’ve also got worry and doubt and unbelief. They’re stuck in their sins! They know they should trust in the Lord, but everything they experience flies in the face of God’s supposed caring for them. “Doesn’t He hear? Doesn’t He see? Why won’t He answer us? Doesn’t He care? Why doesn’t He do something!? Maybe He just won’t help us for some reason. Maybe He can’t help us! Maybe He’s not there at all…”
The suffering of Israel, their pain and worries and fears, are just the same as yours and mine. People some 5,000 years ago were people just like you and me. And when we’re bombarded by our daily lives and when we’re confronted at the same time with a Jesus of glory and power and might, well, what else are we to think?
((3. Aha!: Jesus is the Lord who comes down the mountain for us.))
But the Jesus of this text isn’t just some Jesus of power and glory who expects you to climb up the mountain to find Him. He’s not waiting for you to pray the right prayer, do the right thing, believe enough, do enough good, stop sinning enough before He’ll do something for you. No, Jesus comes down the mountain.
That’s the sort of Lord He is for you. He comes down from heaven itself. No climbing to Him. He comes down into the valley of the shadow of death, your death. He comes into the muck and mire of your sins. He comes into the suffering of His people. He endures His people’s pain. Moses into Egypt. Jesus to Calvary and death.
That’s what Moses and Elijah were talking to Him about! Luke tells us that. Jesus was talking about His own Exodus, His own departure. He goes into death for His people to bring them out of their sins, their death, to rescue them from the power and Kingdom of the Devil. His garments won’t shine that day. They’ll be stained with His blood. He won’t shine. He’ll be gray in death. For you!
((2. Whee!: Transfiguration is just an Easter Sunday preview.))
Your sins—His. Your cries—His cries: “My God, My God why have you forsaken Me?” Your death—His. Your burial and grave—that’s His, too. But that’s not all because His resurrection is yours! You see, He’s the Jesus who will “suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed.” But He’s also the Jesus that will be raised on third day.
And that’s what Transfiguration is really all about! Transfiguration is just a preview of what will happen on Easter Sunday. Jesus comes down this mountain of Transfiguration to ascend calvary’s hill for you, and He will rise from the dead. Your sins, your death all left behind in His empty tomb. Transfiguration is also a preview of Jesus’ ascension and His “sitting at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.” Transfiguration previews Jesus in heaven.
((1. Yeah!: Transfiguration is also a preview of your eternal life.))
But it’s not just a preview of Jesus’ resurrection or Jesus’ eternal life. As much as He died and rose for you, so also He was transfigured for you. His glory will be your glory. “We know that we will be like Him” when He comes again. As Daniel prophesies about the resurrection of those who trust Christ, “those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”
We don’t experience that now. Our experience is that of the Israelites, but Jesus came down that high mountain. He knows your needs. He not only hears your prayers. He not only brings your prayers to your heavenly Father. He hears and knows your cries, your sighs, your tears. He went through all that, too. For you. He will carry you through. He’s united Himself to you, and you to Him. He will carry you up to Himself. His promises will hold true: His Baptism and His body and blood that were crucified and raised for you.
Whether we’re on the mountain, coming down, or in the pit we “Listen to Him,” listen to Jesus, just as His Father said. “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.” And so, your resurrected Jesus promises you:
“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.” “I know My own, and My own know Me, and I will resurrect them on the Last Day.” “No one can snatch My sheep from My hand.” “This is My body, given for you. This is My blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins.” “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will resurrect Him on the Last Day.” “Where two or three are gathered, there I am.” “Behold, I am with you always even till the end of the age.” “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” “Lazarus, come forth.” “Well done good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Master.”