Hope Lutheran Church
February 11, 2024
Most of the time, listening is one of those things I don’t really give a whole lot of thought to. Because it’s something I do pretty much constantly. I’m almost always listening to something.
But then there are times when I choose what I listen to. I’ll listen to a podcast while I’m driving around town instead of listening to the rattling sound in my car. Or sometimes I’ll listen to a playlist on YouTube when I want to get into a workflow. I’m always listening to something, but I choose what I want to listen to.
The thing is, I think occasionally that makes its way over to my conversations with people. I try to listen to people when they tell me something. But it’s not always so easy or natural. I’d rather hear the things I want to hear and block out the things I disagree with or make me uncomfortable.
Or instead of really listening to what a person is telling me and trying to really understand what they’re saying or where they’re coming from, I’ll be thinking about how I’m going to answer them. I miss out on part of the conversation because I’m too busy thinking about myself and what I want out of the conversation.
And so I have to learn how to listen to what other people tell me. Both the things I like and the things I don’t like so much.
Jesus’ disciples seemed to have trouble listening to everything he was telling them during his ministry. If you go back a chapter from the Gospel reading today, you see an example from the disciples of this kind of thing.
Read the end of Mark 8 and you find Jesus asking his disciples the question “Who do you say I am?” And Peter answered for the disciples. “You are the Messiah.” That’s a great answer. Jesus even said it was. Peter believed that Jesus was the long-promised Savior of the world who was going to deliver mankind from its problem of sin.
But keep reading Mark 8 and you find something entirely different. Jesus was explaining to his disciples what was going to happen to him when he went to Jerusalem. He told them that he was going to be handed over to the leaders of Jerusalem and suffer. He told them that he was going to die.
Peter didn’t like hearing what Jesus was saying, and he let Jesus know it. And to Peter’s response, Jesus gave an answer that must have shocked Peter. Jesus said, “Get behind me, Satan! You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
What Jesus was saying didn’t line up with Peter’s ideas about Jesus and what he’d come to do. He was only listening to and hearing what he wanted to hear. When it came to the future glory Jesus spoke of, Peter was all in. But when it came to talk of suffering and death, Peter didn’t want to hear it.
And it’s with that message of suffering and death fresh on the mind of his disciples that Jesus takes three of them, Peter, James, and John, up to the top of a mountain. And when they arrived there, they saw something they could never have been prepared for.
There, standing in front of them, was Jesus. But not the way they normally saw Jesus. He was radiating and giving off light. This wasn’t the Jesus the disciples were used to seeing. Right in front of the disciples was the eternal Son of God in all his power and glory. The creator and ruler of the universe was standing just a few feet away from them, and they knew it.
And while they’re still trying to wrap their minds around it and adjusting their eyes to the view, two other men appear. And not just any two men. Moses and Elijah.
Do you remember who those two men were? Moses was the man God had chosen in the Old Testament to lead the people of Israel out of captivity when they were slaves in Egypt. He was the one who went up the mountain to bring the Ten Commandments from God down to the people, and who would often serve as a go-between for the people of Israel and God.
And the other man, Elijah, was one of the greatest prophets Israel had ever seen. Like Moses, God had used him to bring God’s Word to the people of Israel when they were straying off into sin. Together, Moses and Elijah represented the entire Old Testament. But both of them had been dead and gone for centuries.
So what were they doing here, standing there talking with Jesus? Well, they had come from heaven to talk with Jesus. And we know what they were talking about. In his account of the transfiguration, the Gospel writer Luke tells us, “They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem.”
Here, displaying all of his power and glory and talking with two of the greatest heroes of the Old Testament, Jesus was talking about how he would fulfill everything Moses and Elijah and so many others had said about him. They talked about the pain, suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension that was going to take place very soon.
With all of this going on in front of him, Peter is so true to his character, isn’t he? In the presence of this amazing miracle, Peter couldn’t sit back to take in what was going on in front of him. He couldn’t get himself to just listen to this conversation Jesus was having with Moses and Elijah. He had to say something. So he did.
“Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” And before Peter can say anything else, God the Father interjects from heaven, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”
And you know what? I don’t think I can really blame Peter for what he said. Because I think I would have had the same reaction. I mean, here Peter is, looking at Jesus with all his power and glory and talking with these two men Peter would have heard stories about since the time he was a child. Who wouldn’t want to stay in that kind of place for as long as possible?
And, really, Peter wasn’t wrong. It was good for him, James, John to be there. Because what was about to happen in a few months in Jerusalem and throughout the rest of those disciples’ lives was going to be a struggle.
The Transfiguration of Jesus was a chance to prepare them for what was coming. And when God the Father said, “Listen to Him” he was telling the disciples to listen to Jesus’ message that the cross certainly was coming. That would come first. For Jesus himself, and for them. Then, and only then, would there be glory.
For Jesus, that cross was clear. That’s what we’re going to be looking at the next several weeks here at Hope during the time of the church year we call Lent. We’re going to follow Jesus as he makes his journey to Jerusalem.
Jerusalem, where he faced ridicule and punishment he didn’t deserve. Where he was bullied and beaten, bloodied and bruised. Where he was led outside the city and went to the top of another hill. Not in glory, but in humiliation. None of it happening because the Son of God was powerless. No, we see his power in the Transfiguration. But at the cross we see that he gave up that power and glory so that he could be the willing sacrifice for sins each and every one of us needs.
And as Jesus goes down the Mount of Transfiguration to carry his cross to Calvary, we think of our own troubles and trials that we carry throughout this life.
The sins we know are wrong but can’t seem to shake entirely. The loss of someone we love. The sickness or disease that looked like it was gone, but has come back. The difficulties and struggles that come up in relationships. The financial burdens. The crosses that we carry, the burdens that we bear can weigh us down.
And when those things are happening, it can be hard to listen to what Jesus says about all of it. We know what Jesus has said. We know that the troubles are part of life. But we want to know why it has to be that way. We ask and think to ourselves, “What is this? I deserve better! Why is this happening to me? This is outrageous. It’s unfair. Why can’t Jesus just give me the glory now so I can skip the bad stuff?”
At the Transfiguration, we get a chance to see the glory that’s waiting. Glory that’s hidden beneath humility and suffering. The Transfiguration prepares us for what’s coming. It’s a promise and reminder to us that no matter how hard life is, no matter what difficulties we go through, there is glory waiting for us. It gives us a peak into a time and place where pain and suffering and trial will end. A promise that no matter how hard our life is, those hard times can’t take away the glory that is waiting for us. A promise of soon…but not yet.
You see, Jesus knew that his time of glory was coming soon. Just not yet. And so he set aside the glory he had just shown to his disciples so he could keep going on his humble path down the mountain and to Jerusalem. To the time that had been appointed for him to lay down his life and suffer and die.
And when his body was placed in the tomb, for three days, to everyone watching, it looked like all Jesus had done was for nothing. But then, on Easter morning Christ walked out of the grave, risen from death. He had defeated sin, death, and the devil. He had carried the cross for you and me. And now glory awaited.
And because Jesus has been raised, we know that we will be raised. Even if we suffer for a little while now, we have the promise of what is coming. The promise of eternal life at our Savior’s side. A promise of heaven where there will be no more crosses to carry. Where we will be free from the sins that lead us astray. A promise that when we get to heaven we will be reunited with those loved ones we lost. There won’t be strife and conflict in relationships. There won’t be sickness and disease. We won’t feel the weight of financial trouble.
Listen to what Jesus has so to tell you at the Transfiguration. And listen to all of it, not just the parts you want to hear. Listen so that you can be prepared. Because the low points in life are going to come. But we can be ready for them.
And then we can keep on listening. Listen to him so you can hear the promise that glory is coming. Listen to him to know that the trials won’t last forever. They didn’t for Jesus. They won’t for you. Listen to him, and then when the day comes and you are standing face-to-face with your Savior, you can say to him, “Lord, it is good for us to be here.” Amen.