In this ordinary time we have taken close attention to milestones and firsts in the life and ministry of Jesus. These events that play a pivotal role in how Jesus is portrayed in the Gospels overall, and the Gospel of Luke in particular. Within this series we have taken a look first at baptism. When Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist it marked the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry. However, it also marked a recognition, by those present, of the Holy Spirit’s place and role in their lives. For us Baptism is our acknowledgement of the Holy Spirit and the beginning of our ministry. It is that first step that we take in the Kingdom of God. It is walking through the doorway into the house.
Once we established how our journey begins we began that journey, and our first recognition is that there are unexpected situations in which we are called to act. Jesus provides wine from water to those at a wedding in Cana, and we see that in that act Jesus cares for those who need his help. We too carry on that tradition of being on our toes and ready to act when we are out in the world. When we least expect someone may need our help and as followers of Christ it is our call to help them.
This concept is taken one step further in last weeks message. Jesus enlightens us to his true purpose on this earth. When we consider the words Jesus preaches in his sermon to his fellow Nazarites we see that it is not about us. It is about the other. It is about those who cannot help themselves. Whether it is through various systems of oppression or systemic injustices Jesus helps those who are in need no matter who they are. We are called to carry this great news as well as we do ministry in the world. Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah and in that we continue that fulfillment through our care and helping of those who have become “the other.”
This last event we examine is more milestone than first and both a milestone and first in our experience of Jesus. This Sunday in the church we examine what is called Transfiguration Sunday. This Sunday plays a pivotal role in the lead-up to Lent and ultimately the lead-up to Easter. The Transfiguration is the story that was read in our time of scripture reading this morning, and it is a time where Jesus was physically transformed in something heavenly. The act is considered a testament to the nature in which Jesus heavenly divinity is portrayed while he was here on earth, but more it is also a sign of hope in times of suffering.
This event was built out of the verses that come immediately before this one, and it’s importance shines when we consider those verses. If we look at verses 21 and 22,
“He sternly ordered and commanded them not to tell anyone, saying, ‘The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.’” (Luke 9:21-22)
Jesus is foretelling his death on the cross. He is sharing this information with his disciples and wants them to know that everything will be ok. However it may seem tough solace for a group of men who would literally follow this man to the ends of the earth.
When we encounter Jesus, Peter, James, and John in this text we acknowledge that hearts of the disciples are heavy knowing what is to happen to Jesus in his last days on earth, but this event seeks to restore the heavenly work that will be done through God. The Transfiguration is set in this context to acknowledge that Jesus’ physical death means so much in terms of our salvation. A commentary I read by John Petty says,
“The transfiguration was a mystical experience for the disciples. It prepared them for the inevitable sufferings which they would soon encounter on the way to Jerusalem. They are assured, however, that suffering and death will not be the final word. They have been given a vision of Christ’s ultimate victory to sustain them.” (progressiveinvolvement.com)
In this scripture we have a look at the final glory that is Christ’s saving grace. This story and the foretelling we have in the verses before this begin a journey, a journey that is discussed by Jesus, Moses, and Elijah in their transfigured states. The word used in verse 31 here is they “were speaking of his departure” (Luke 4:31a) It is that word departure that identifies to us what is happening. The greek word used is exodos. It is where we get the word Exodus in our contemporary language. Exodus is about journey (greattreasures.org). Think of the Book of Exodus we have in the Old Testament. It is about a journey taken by the Israelites through the wilderness. Now here in the Gospel of Luke we have the exodus of Jesus to the cross.
Jesus’ journey that is perceived to end with pain and suffering, but actually ends with glory and salvation. Continued on from that commentary I read earlier Petty writes, “For Luke, the mission of Jesus is a type of exodus. As Moses led the people from slavery into freedom, so Jesus would do likewise.” (progressiveinvolvement.com) Our recognition of this action in the transfiguration transports our thinking to the understand of resurrection and salvation proclaimed on Easter Sunday.
It is a reminder that as we go through life we cannot allow the pain and sorrow of life to affect us. Imagine you are one of those disciples on the mountain with Jesus. They know what is going to happen, and yet in this moment they are reminded of who Jesus is and the promise that God makes through him.
The salvation of Christ is such a huge message in the grand scheme of life and when considered in this context it is a reminder that along the journey, along that exodus Jesus’ true presence should never be forgotten.
We have covered all of the bases in this sermon series. We looked at that first step. We examined helping in unexpected ways. We looked at help those in need and especially those disenfranchised by society. And here Jesus notes the toll that this life takes on those who are part of the Kingdom of God and so he gives us a glimpse of the final glory that will be fulfilled in his death and resurrection and will be lived out by those who follow him.
Petty wraps up his commentary saying,
“The transfiguration, then, is a sign of God’s grace and compassion. When times are difficult, as when the disciples head toward Jerusalem with Jesus, the memory of their encounter with God, and God’s own witness to Jesus, will help them follow on the way. It does the same for us.” (progressiveinvolvement.com)
That is the nature of Jesus message to us. We attach ourselves to that message and use it to drive us along in our life. When we are out doing our ministry. When we are helping those in need. When we are seeking out to aid the other. When we are in uncomfortable situation. When we are in times of suffering. It doesn’t matter, because we know how the story ends.
Transfiguration Sunday is a reminder as we get ready to begin this journey of Lent. This Wednesday we will celebrate Ash Wednesday, and I hope you all will join me as we celebrate this holy day on Wednesday at 6:30. In this service we are reminded of the fragility of life, and begins a journey of Jesus towards Jerusalem and his impending death. We follow along that journey with our own feats of depravity and longing, but we can rest assured with this message of the Transfiguration that Christ lives in eternal glory even in the deepest and darkest moments of faith.
3.) Scripture used is from New Revised Standard Version