“Terrified on Top”

The Transfiguration of Our Lord (B)
“Terrified on Top”
February 11, 2018

Sermon Text: Mark 9:2-9

Peace be unto you from our glorified Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus. Amen.

Dearly Beloved of the Lord,

They followed the Master, their Master as He took them up what St. Mark describes as “a high mountain.” Not all of the Twelve, mind you. Just Peter, James and John who no doubt wondered “What are we doing? Where are we going?” And this, as they went higher and higher with Jesus leading the way.

St. Mark keeps it succinct…to the point regarding what happened to our Lord on that mountain. “He was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them.” (Mark 9:2-3)

It is safe to say that Peter, James and John did not see that coming. And that is saying a lot because these three along with the rest of the disciples had certainly seen a lot already… a lot of amazing things… miraculous and truly extraordinary things involving our Lord.

And now, their Master, Christ Jesus, standing before them transfigured in radiant white. Christ Jesus before them in all of His divine and truly majestic glory, the likes of which we can only imagine and even then, fall woefully short of getting the true picture. Why? Because there is nothing in our experiences… nothing here on earth that comes close to simulating the same. There is no past reference to put this view, Christ’s transfiguration, into perfect perspective.

The word in Greek is μεταμορφόω (me-ta-mor-PHA-oh) from which we get the English word, metamorphosis. And what a change, what a transition, what a revealing, it was.

Our Lord looked completely different and yet was the same… true God and true Man. He who has always been God, begotten of the Father from eternity… without beginning and without… the Alpha and the Omega. He who in time took on human flesh, becoming true Man and now always… forevermore… continuing to be one of us… one with us.

My friends, the glory and divine majesty… always there! The divine power … always there… always our Lord’s.

But this, all this, was laid aside. This, all this, hidden in His humanity… hidden in His state of humiliation which He willingly took on from the moment of His conception to His death on the cross and His burial in the tomb.

The glory and divine majesty always there. The divine power always there and from time-to-time used by our Lord to heal the sick, to cast out demons and raise the dead… to calm storms and feed thousands.

The glory and divine majesty always there, but this day, this hour in this place, there and then, is the first time that Peter, James and John see it, witness it, take it all in… and they were ἔκφοβοι (ek-pho-boy)… terrified, stricken with fear, exceedingly frightened as the word is translated into English.

Interestingly enough, the same Greek word is also used in the New Testament by the writer to the Hebrews in describing, of all people, Moses standing at another mountain, looking at another mountain, considering another mountain… one that you and I know well… Sinai!

We read, Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said,I tremble (ἔκφοβός) with fear.’” (Hebrews 12:21)

He trembled in fear at the sight of Mt. Sinai with the lightning, the thunder, the thick clouds that engulfed its summit. It is the very mount where Moses comes face-to-face with the Lord God Almighty. It was on top of Mt. Sinai that Moses was handed the Law of God… the Law which terrifies because it lays bare our sins and the ugliness of the same.

But now, Moses is on another mountain… the Mount of Transfiguration… and the focus is not the Law of God, but the glorious Gospel… the Good News… and this in Jesus Christ, the one there in all His glory who will soon leave this mount to go to yet another… not in exaltation, but in all humiliation. Another mount you and I know well. They call it “Calvary.”

No one can blame Peter, James and John for being terrified there on the mountain… seeing their Lord in His full majesty and glory… seeing their Lord standing there and conversing with Moses and Elijah who they miraculously know, perfectly know, to be them and no other.

Then the cloud that comes and covers them and the voice… the very voice of the Father, God the Father, as He speaks directly to Peter, James and John and in all actuality, all the world say, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” (Mark 9:7)

Truly, what an amazing epiphany this was for these disciples. And truly, what an amazing epiphany this IS for us and all the Lord’s disciples throughout time.

How we can certainly relate to Peter, James and John as we likewise follow our Lord, many times not exactly sure where He is leading us, taking us, but nevertheless trusting the Master, our Master, as He lovingly guides us up the holy mountain where glory most certainly awaits us… the glory of the Lord… that which will be our glory… glory that will never end or fade for us and all the faithful.

Peter, James and John were “terrified on top.” And rightly so. Terrified as anyone would be and should be regarding what was revealed. It was nothing of this earth, like nothing on this earth because it was all purely divine, holy and sacred… that which, as with Peter, James and John, should bring us to our knees as well, if not our lying completely prostrate on the ground. For like them… like these three… we are on holy ground!

We are on holy ground right now… in this place… as we behold the glory, the majesty, the power of our Lord as He comes to us in His Holy Word and yes, in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar.

It is right to come trembling into this sanctuary because here we are most certainly in the presence of the Lord God Almighty.

It is right that we come to the communion rail trembling as we take into our mouths the very Body and Blood of our Savior, Christ Jesus.

Trembling… but at the same time at peace… having incredible peace… peace that surpasses all understanding.

Trembling… but at the same time comforted… as were Peter, James and John. Peter so much wanted to stay on that mountaintop that he declared, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (Mark 9:5)

They were comforted in what was revealed. Comforted in Who was revealed. Comforted in Who was with them… as He is with us… always with us.

There is, however, one difference… that which can make a world of a difference for many of our family members and friends… for many with whom the Lord will have us come into contact and cross paths.

You see, on the way down the mountain, Jesus told the three not to tell anyone what they had seen, until the Son of Man has risen from the dead. Guess what? He is risen!

So, let us go forth and tell everyone what we have seen, heard and come to know. Let us tell everyone about their Savior who loves them so! And what a wonderful time for them to join us as we now begin our Lenten journey. Amen.

May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting. Amen.

“Terrified on Top” 2/11/18  The Rev. Mark H. Hein, St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Ch