The Way of the Cross – Lenten Season 2018
“After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus” (Mark 9: 2-4 NIV).
I´m looking forward to my transfiguration, aren’t you? It will be great! What you see here today is not the real me. Yes, I have been changed and I am a new creation since I now have the Holy Spirit in me and that has fundamentally changed my nature. But I still have a transfiguration coming, don’t you? Jesus certainly did and it scared the disciples half to death.
A note has been circulating the internet recently (in Spanish). It’s the eulogy of Emilio Miró Paniello who died at the age of 77 in Barcelona on the 8th of February, 2018.
“Son of Pilar and Emilio. He has left this world without leaving anything behind of interest. He was a believer in a God he hopes exists. His cousins and the rest of his family would like his friends and acquaintances to remember him in their prayers. The funeral service will be help tomorrow morning, the 9th of February, 2018 at 3:30pm.”
Tanatori Sancho de Ávila
Why did this simple note go viral around the internet? Apparently because of the words “he has left this world without leaving anything behind of interest.” That’s enough to depress anyone. Then to add insult to injury, it says that “he was a believer in a God he hopes exists.” I don’t think that makes him a Christian but perhaps a churchgoer at the very least. How disappointing. And it seems to have struck a chord with a lot of people who found it to be a bit too honest an eulogy, too blunt a summary of someone’s life.
What will people say about you, once you are gone? Will they put a classified ad in the paper to let everyone know that you have passed on? What will their summary of your life say about you? Will you leave anything behind of interest? Children? Family? Houses, businesses, assets? Books? Paintings? Art? Will the people that you have lived with, influenced with your life (one way or the other), come away with the impression that you “hope” that God exists?
It’s a good practice to write out your own eulogy before you die as a way of getting a bird’s eye view of what your life is all about and whether or not you are having an impact for the gospel. Here, let me try my hand at it. Perhaps this is more a combination of a tombstone (the first couple of lines) together with a eulogy (all the rest):
Here lies Bert Alexander Amsing
Husband, Father, Child of God
Created For His Pleasure
“My grace is sufficient for you…”
His one desire in life was to please God.
He failed miserably.
His efforts were feeble and half-hearted.
He was unable to bear the weight of glory.
His greatest successes in this life were an utter failure.
He had nothing to show for his life of any worth, except Christ.
And he knew it.
But in full surrender, in faith and in the power of the Holy Spirit
his greatest failures in this life
confessed, repented, forgiven and reconciled
brought a smile to the face of God
That was the gift of significance that love bestows
bearing the weight of glory together
And he knew it.
The Desert Warrior
Did you notice that the sum of my life is really all about my relationship with God. My wife and kids would have no problem with that. They know that they are the love of my life but they also know who my first love is. And the same is true for them. It also isn’t about my accomplishments, even as a Christian, in this life. That is also not the point. It is the quality of our relationship together, God and I, as we walked this dark vale we call life, “bearing the weight of glory together.”
Another day we will talk about what that means: “the weight of glory,” but for now, the question is whether or not your life was significant to God and useful for his purpose of bringing the gospel to everyone you meet, influencing them toward Christ and the power of the cross or tripping them up, becoming a reason for them to never consider God if it means becoming anything like you. Write your own eulogy and see what you come up with. Even more interesting is to ask your wife or husband (or your Pastor or small group leader) to write an eulogy and to be honest about it (or find a way to make it anonymous). Your eyes may be opened in a surprising way.
The transfiguration of Jesus is a bit like an eulogy as well. It is a statement about Jesus. Who he is and what his life is really all about. Remember this comes only a few days after Peter gave his confession of faith that Jesus was not only the Messiah but also the Son of the Living God. Jesus claimed that it was a direct revelation from God and that this confession was what he would build his church on, not Peter himself, but rather his confession of faith is the foundation of the church.
So what’s going on at this transfiguration? What exactly is a “transfiguration” anyway? The easiest way to explain it is to say that it is a “glimpse of glory.” Another way to say it is to say that it is a “glimpse into heaven,” or, better yet, seeing someone as they will be (or are) from God’s point of view. Jesus is transfigured and his true nature as the Son of the Living God is revealed in a physical way through a “brightness” that is only a small indication of his glory and that, therefore, he is something more than merely human. Let’s break it down a bit more.
Peter, James and John are invited by Jesus to go up on a high mountain alone to pray (Luke 9:28). These three are the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples, the leaders to whom more is given and more is expected. Peter has just given his confession of faith and now, apparently, Jesus wants to confirm that confession by giving them a “glimpse of his glory” as the Son of the Living God. Remember that there is confusion among the people about who Jesus is. Is he Moses? Is he Jeremiah? Is he Elijah? Is he John the Baptist? Peter made the claim that he is different from all of those people. He is the Messiah but he is also Divine.
Now Jesus intends to confirm that confession of faith by giving his three key leaders a glimpse of who he really is. His clothes begin to shine brightly (which is strange enough in a culture without electricity) but then two other people appear out of nowhere one on each side of Jesus. Somehow they know that they are looking at Moses and Elijah. Moses representing the law and Elijah, the prophets. Jewish teaching held that Elijah would appear before the coming of the Messiah (based on Malachi 4:5-6). Moses foretold of a prophet like himself that would be raised up by God “from among your own brothers” (Deuteronomy 18:18 NIV) and that they should listen to him. He would be “like Moses” in the sense of inaugurating a new era in their relationship with God. This prophecy was always interpreted as talking about the Messiah.
The message is clear. Jesus is neither Moses nor Elijah, but the very fact that those two are there means that Jesus must be the Messiah, the one “like Moses” who would be heralded by Elijah. But that is only half the message. Jesus is not only the Messiah, he is something more. Many of the followers who later fell away, believed that he was the Messiah (just not the kind of Messiah that they wanted). So far, only half of the confession of Peter has been confirmed. The second half is even more important. God, the Father, the Almighty El-Shaddai, the Yahweh of the Old Testament shows up and gives His seal of approval as well.
“Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” (vs. 7). Just in case you had any doubt, God makes it clear. This is my Son. Not “these are my sons,” in the way you would expect if God was only talking about his children who were part of Israel. In the OT, the nation of Israel and especially the leaders, the kings, the prophets, the priests were called the sons of God. But that is not the sense here. This is singular. Moses and Elijah of all people represented the nation of Israel. If God had meant his human sons (and daughters) of the nation of Israel, he would have used the plural. No. There is no doubt, but just in case some doubt lingers, God adds the words “whom I love.” There is a special relationship here. This is God’s beloved Son, his only begotten son. There is no question that God is declaring Jesus’ divinity as the Son of the Living God (as strange as it may seem to a Jewish ear). Then comes a command. “Listen to him!” In other words, he speaks on my behalf. He speaks truth. He has my authority to command and you must obey him.. Not Moses. Not Elijah. The Son of the Living God.
Yes, something similar was spoken over Jesus at his baptism. This was not the first time but it is a reaffirmation of what God spoke in public and now speaks in private to only three of the disciples. Peter, James and John. To top it all off, Jesus warns them afterward not to reveal any of this until after he had risen from the dead. Not that they understood what he was talking about at that point but they got the warning clear enough. Keep this confirmation of your confession quiet for now. It will come out when it needs to. Don’t forget that the High Priest at Jesus trial before the Sanhedrin asked him this very same question, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One” (Mark 14: 61b NIV). When Jesus admitted the truth, he was accused of blasphemy and his trial was all but over at that point. He was guilty. The rest was paperwork.
Here God confirms the identity of Jesus in a spectacular, but private, way so that the three key disciples would know who Jesus really was. Yes, they still had questions. If you are the Messiah, then where is Elijah? That wouldn’t have been my question. I would have asked, if you are the Son of the Living God, how in the world can you let these idiots in Jerusalem crucify you? Of course they didn’t have our post-resurrection perspective (and the writings of Paul to help us make sense of the spiritual realities behind what happened to Jesus on Calvary).
Jesus answers the question about Elijah indirectly but, in another place, he makes it clear that John the Baptist fulfilled the role of Elijah is heralding the coming of the king (Matthew 11:14). And he makes it clear that “in the same way” that John the Baptist was not recognized for who he truly was (in the role of Elijah) and was killed, so Jesus would also not be recognized for who he truly is (i.e. the transfiguration) and he would also be rejected and killed. John the Baptist heralded Jesus not only with his life but with the manner of his death.
So, there you have it. Jesus is transfigured. The disciples get a glimpse of his glory as the Son of the Living God. He is confirmed as the Messiah by the presence of Moses and Elijah. God speaks and makes it clear. Listen to him. He speaks for me. Given the drama of what was coming, Jesus no doubt thought it was necessary to confirm for his key disciples what God has already revealed to them. Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
So, are you ready for your transfiguration? What?? We also get to be transfigured? Of course. This old, withered body that needs glasses and is increasingly tired and sore is not the real me. Didn’t you know? I will be changed. Yes, yes. I am already changed within and that is the important one but I will also be physically changed. I will be clothed with glory and my old self will fall away completely and I will be changed in “a twinkling of an eye” (I Corinthians 15:52 NIV). Paul says it like this: “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed…..then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory,” (I Corinthians 15: 51-54 NIV).
The Desert Warrior
P.S. Tell God how much you are looking forward to your Transfiguration…
Lord, thank you for confirming that you are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. You remind me, too, that no matter what suffering, or pain, or even death that I must face, it is temporary and not even remotely to be compared to the glory, the transfiguration, the transformation that is coming. You will heal every disease, straighten every limb, take away every bruise, every cut, every imperfection and you will reveal the true me in all my glory. Still human but now perfect physically as well as made perfect spiritually. You will reveal me as I would have been created in the Garden of Eden, without sin, without blemish, without mistakes. Thank you, Lord. Thank you for starting my transfiguration now by giving me the Holy Spirit. In your name I pray. Amen.
Read more (from the Temptations of the Cross)
This authority over demons and sickness was temporary, external, specific to a certain task, like much of the work of the Holy Presence in the ancient world before now. But Jesus desired to give them the fullness of the Spirit, Gabriel knew, so that their authority would be permanent, so that the Holy Presence would live within them, so that they could do even greater things than Jesus, himself, had done. (Read more….)