Monday, February 20, 2012

Sermon on Mark 9:2-9, for Transfiguration Sunday, "Jesus Only"

Sermon Outline:
1.      Encountering the miraculous—foreign to our everyday experience. Skeptical. Miracles strewn through Jesus’ life. Public miracles…private: only the inner circle of disciples. Miracles bound up with His identity. Followers were eager to proclaim it—enemies grudgingly admitted it. Enemies gave unflattering explanations, but had to admit the miracles. To take Jesus’ identity seriously, we must take account His miracles. What do they tell or prove about His identity?
2.      Jesus’ puzzling command after this particular miracle. Why not rake in the glory and attention from this miracle? Why tell them in the verses that follow this story, that He would first have to suffer, die, and be raised from the dead before they could talk about it? Why put this glorious experience beneath the cross?
3.      Even after all the cross and resurrection when Peter wrote about it, he was reluctant to make too much of this glorious personal experience, instead pointing us to the more certain truth of God’s prophetic Word. Surprisingly, Jesus often seemed intent on not drawing attention to His miracles. Not all about the glory. Miracles told the amazing truth about Jesus’ identity, but they were not the “big deal.” The big deal was the suffering on the cross and the resurrection: miracle of miracles. If this did not convince people of His identity as the Son of God, none of His lesser miracles would. Only looking back after the cross did the transfiguration make sense.
4.      Overwhelming experience of awe and fear—Peter dumbfounded and utters only words that comes to his mouth. Wants to prolong the experience. Stay in the glory. While their minds were still reeling, trying to process what had happened, Jesus tells them don’t tell anyone till He suffers, dies, and rises from the dead. Even this they couldn’t grasp—what or why He had to die. Couldn’t make complete sense until the full light of later events—the cross and the empty tomb, made everything clear in retrospect.
5.      So what was the point of it all? Why this experience? Show the disciples Jesus was the Father’s beloved Son. So they would believe in Him and listen to Him. Almost same words from baptism (my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased). Fleeting moment, the covering of humility peeled back, Jesus’ glory is glimpsed—radiant, blindingly white, intense. All about who He really was. Amazing that He was covered by the ordinary every day. That you wouldn’t recognize Jesus in a crowd by something remarkable in His appearance. No halo, special glow. Dusty, sandaled feet and a traveler’s cloak.
6.      Image forever emblazoned on their minds. From then on they could never forget that He really was somebody. In the words of another pastor, “He was not only somebody, He was the only somebody who really mattered. He was the only one.” When Jesus finally did die on the cross for our sins, rise from His grave, defeating death, all the last puzzle pieces fell into place to understand who this somebody was. This ordinary-looking man from a little hillside village called Nazareth, was actually the Savior, the Son of God. The glory they had seen on the Mount was just a sneak peek of the real identity of Jesus—God’s only Son.
7.      How amazing that He chose to hide Himself in humility, and not parade His glory instead! Wouldn’t that have made it easier for people to believe who He was? Convince them He was the Son of God? However appealing an idea, Jesus tells us why not: “even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk 10:45). God in His wisdom knows all the reasons why, but here Jesus simply tells that His purpose was not to be served, but to serve us by His death and rising.
8.      This is why all the other miracles fell into the shadow of the cross. That was the real eye-opener, the clinching event. What a radically undeserved gift for us, that He came not in raw power and fearsome glory, but in humility, in suffering, in oneness with our human nature, in love and in undeserved service for us. That God, in Jesus, served us and gave His life as a ransom. Ransoming us from the penalty of our sins. Apart from this truth, none of the rest of Jesus’ life and miracles could make sense. Jesus came not to seek glory for Himself, but to glorify God, His Father by the ultimate sacrifice, the ultimate act of ransoming love.
9.      So likewise the transfiguration was not a self-serving event for Jesus’ benefit, but for the disciples and us to be reaffirmed in the knowledge of who He is. And it was this knowledge that would sustain them through the ordinariness and hardship of life. When the glorious miracle was over as suddenly as it began, they were left with Jesus only. He was all they needed as they returned to their ordinary life. And only 3 of them had even seen this miracle. So for all the rest and for us as well, no mountain glory is needed. God’s voice from heaven directs us to Jesus, His beloved Son—that we listen to Him. We need Jesus, and Jesus only. Not the miraculous, not the mountaintop spiritual experience, but the sure Word of God and Jesus alone.
10.  Life will come at us with all its hardships, trials, and difficulties. Being a Christian does not mean that all our life problems will magically disappear when we go home. For Peter, James, and John, the transfiguration was an eye-opening glimpse into Jesus’ full majesty as the Son of God. A ray of brilliance and encouragement for the difficult and challenging road ahead. Showed them who they put their trust in. Jesus’ betrayal, unjust trial, and death lay ahead. Later opposition for the disciples, as they spread the good message about Jesus Christ and what He had done. But we can look forward to the day when all the humility and suffering is finally peeled back, and we’ll see our Jesus face to face.
11.  This is to strengthen and sustain us through life. We are given one more blessed promise in connection with this transfiguration, and that is the transfiguration that believers in Jesus Christ will one day undergo. Bible tells that a new creation is begun in us as well. By faith in Christ a transformation is already at work inside us, being transformed into the image of the Lord’s glory, and that one day in heaven the new creation that is now hidden inside us will also be fully revealed. Glorified and immortal bodies like Jesus. So it remains true for us, that in whatever we face in life, we need Jesus only—and that whenever life is overwhelming, to be still and know that He is God. Knowing this, you can trust your life in His hands. Amen.

Sermon Talking Points
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  1. The word “transfigured” is a translation of the Greek “metamorphosis.” It describes a change in form or outward appearance. In what way was Jesus transfigured? How was His identity nevertheless unchanged?

  1. Jesus told His three disciples that this particular miracle was to remain hidden until when? Why? Mark 9:9-13; 2 Cor. 4:3-6 What is surprising about the fact that Jesus chose to keep His glory hidden? What does the Bible tell us about why this is? Mark 10:42-45; John 8:54; 13:31-35; Philippians 2:5-11; 1 Corinthians 1:21-25

  1. When Peter later reflected on this Mountaintop Experience, instead of boasting of that experience, what did he point to as far more sure, certain, and reliable basis for faith? 2 Peter 1:19. How does this give us light in the midst of darkness? Psalm 119:105.

  1. Although neither Peter nor we can stay with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, we can and should remain with Jesus at His cross. Why was that the central act in Jesus’ life for us? What comfort does it bring in the midst of life’s difficulties? When, like Peter, do we need to just be silent and listen to Jesus, our Teacher? Psalm 37:7-8; 46:10; James 1:19

  1. In what way does the Bible tell believers that they too will participate in a “transfiguration” or metamorphosis? Romans 12:2; 2 Cor. 3:18. What hidden reality is already at work now in those who believe? 2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15. When will this change finally be visible in us? 1Cor. 15:35ff.

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