What A Blessing the Man Jesus Is - Transfiguration of Our Lord
Rev. Charles Westby, Pastor
Mark 9:2-9
February 14, 2021

Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain. There the form of Jesus’s appearance was changed. They saw this. Mark tells us that Jesus’s clothing become intensely white (Mark 9:3). Matthew tells us that His face was shining like the sun (Matthew 17:2).

Peter himself later told us about this, after Jesus had risen from the dead. Peter said: “[W]e did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,’ we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain” (2 Peter 1:16-18 ESV).

In what happened on the mount of transfiguration, we are shown the complexity of the person of Christ, and the glory and blessing of God the Son becoming flesh. Peter, James, and John saw Christ’s glory as God shining through His human nature, if only for a moment, as Peter testifies. So they knew, and we know from their testimony, that Jesus is true God.

And so we know who it was that went to the cross of calvary on Good Friday. And so we know who broke the bonds and power of death early in the morning on the Third Day. God has come and rescued us from sin and God’s own judgment of death against it. We need the mount of transfiguration to show us this. So Peter, James, and John saw with their eyes, if only briefly, and heard the Father’s testimony with their ears: “This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him” (Mark 9:7).

But then there is the other side of this. Jesus remains true Man. We see Jesus Christ’s glory as God on that mountain. We see it in terms of raw power. When we see this and its affect on the disciples, we also see what a blessing it is that Jesus is truly human. We see what a blessing the Man is.

We see this when we ask how the disciples reacted when Jesus was transformed and the cloud came with the voice? Did they say: “This is so totally cool. I think I’ll just sit back and relax and soak up the glory.” Such is what a proud and strong human being, thinking they are completely in control of all things, even when in the presence of God’s glory, might say.

No. the disciples became terrified (Mark 9:6). Peter was just babbling nonsense when he suggested to Jesus that they build three tents: one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. For the text says that he was saying this because he didn’t know what to say, because they were terrified (Mark 9:5-6). Apparently, Peter was the kind of guy that had to say something, anything, even though he was way out of his depth and didn’t have a clue what to say. But they were all out of their depth when they saw Jesus’s transformation such that they could see His majesty. When this happened, they became terrified.

Here we learn something about our human nature in relation to God. The glory of God is terrifying to us. This is sad; it is actually the greatest human tragedy, for God had made us for perfect fellowship with Himself. But now, the glory of God is a terror to human beings because we are fallen, sinful, guilty.

We may recall what happened with Adam and Eve when they ate from the tree that God had commanded them not to eat from. He gave the command so Adam and Eve could exercise faith. Faith in God happens at the point of God’s Word.

But they ate the fruit God told them not to eat (Genesis 3:6). They fell from faith in God. They disregarded His command. They put themselves and their own judgment above God. Then immediately their eyes were opened, and they knew that they were naked (Genesis 3:7).

Then God came seeking them, walking in the garden. “Adam, where are you?” (Genesis 3:8-9). But Adam and Eve were hiding from the Lord. They were afraid. They knew their guilt. The Lord is now a terror to them. What will the Lord do to us?

From then on, we encounter a reality over and over again in the Scriptures. We encounter this not with bad, faithfulness people, but with good people—by human estimation, people of faith. God’s glory, God as God is in Himself, in His own divine nature, is terror and death to us. This is the case unless God approaches us in a way that conceals His glory; and unless God provides a covering for our sin in an accomplished redemption.

We recall a conversation between Moses and God on Mt. Sinai. Moses wanted to see the Lord’s glory (Exodus 33:18). In response, the Lord said, “You cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live” (Exodus 33:20 ESV).

Then there is Isaiah, the great prophet. He had a vision of the Lord sitting on His throne, high and lifted up (Isaiah 6:1). And Isaiah saw the seraphim. They called to each other, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts” (Isaiah 6:3). And their voices shook the foundations of the temple. Then Isaiah said, “Woe is me! For I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5 NKJV). Isaiah could not stand upright in the Lord’s presence until his sin was taken away (Isaiah 6:7).

But fallen humans try to take hold of God raw, apart from God’s coming in the flesh. They try to take hold of God apart from the redemption He makes. They do this in ways of their own devising. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the situation, both of the depth of how sin has corrupted human nature, and the absolute purity and holiness of God.

And so Peter, James, and John are seeing the glory of the King, the Lord of hosts on the mountain, and they too are terrified. And then the voice of the Father comes and speaks. They fall on their faces.

This is actually a source for pain. Shouldn’t God as God is in Himself be pure joy for us? And wouldn’t God’s manifestation in raw power be great for human beings? That is how it should be, how it ought to be; that is how it is in the redemption provided in Christ Jesus, once our sinful flesh is put away. But that is not how it is for us naturally with God as God is according to God’s own nature. Flesh and blood, that is the fallen human nature, shall not inherit the kingdom of God, says the Apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 15:50). We need to be redeemed.

So in the midst of all this, what happened next is such a great blessing. As quickly as the glory was revealed, it became hidden again. Peter, James, and John looked up. They no longer saw anyone, but only Jesus. Moses and Elijah were no longer seen. There was no mysterious and ominous cloud. There was no booming voice. There was Jesus only.

And now when they looked up at Jesus, the brilliance of His divine glory, which is beyond description, was no longer shining through. His clothes looked like they did before. His face did not shine like the sun. They saw Jesus only, the Man, the human being. The glory was hidden once again behind the flesh. Now they can stand again. Now they can live. God hides His glory; God is accomplishing redemption, yet having shown us where He is for us to find Him.

So on the mount of transfiguration, we see Jesus’s divine glory, for sure. But we also see what a blessing the man Jesus is. We see God approaching us through the man. He can come to us and we can come to God through Him. It is as the Apostle Paul says, There is one mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5).

Yes, we need a mediator between us and God. For we have seen that God’s glory is a terror to human beings. Humans in their pride think that God can be approached and taken hold of unmediated. But this is pride talking. There must be a go-between that is qualified; who can do what is needed. This go-between is Jesus only.

We see how wonderfully He mediates. He can mediate from God’s side because He is the beloved Son. He can mediate from the human side, because He is true Man. And as true Man the glory of God is hidden beneath His flesh, so God can approach us in life and peace.

There is more. Our redemption requires that a price be paid, because God must punish sin. Only God can pay the price, but God could not pay that price being God alone, in God’s power and majesty, as the one who has life in Himself. So God the Son became Man. Now God can go to the cross for us. Now God can die for us and pay the price. Now there is a mediator, the Man Christ Jesus.

Jesus mediates as both God and Man. If He were lacking either, He could not mediate. Since He lacks neither, His mediation is complete. God cannot die, but in and with the Man Jesus, God dies for fallen humanity. The Man cannot atone for our sins, but God the Son can. God the Son cannot identify with sinners, but the Man can. In the Man, God does so identify. The Man cannot defeat death in taking life again, but the Son can, and did. God the Son died in human flesh so that the death our sins deserves is destroyed. God the Son rose in human flesh so the death we die is overcome. The Man, our King, identifies fully with us and takes all of our sins in His body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24). The Man, in unity with the Son, rises in glorious resurrection, so that we too will rise in Him.

Now we in the Man are covered from God’s wrath, hidden in Christ from God’s terrifying glory, until that day when God leads us through the valley of death in the putting off of the sinful corruption in the mediation of His Son. And in that day, because of the Son’s mediation, God’s glory, how God is in Himself, will not be a terror to us. We shall stand in Christ’s mediation, free from sin at last, standing in God’s presence, being with God face-to-face, as it were. And there will be everlasting life and peace and joy inexpressible with us and God. For in the transfiguration we see also a glimpse of our future in Christ, our hope and promise of eternal fellowship with God in His glory. In the meantime, in this now, we have fellowship with God, though mediated through the Son, being connected to Him by Word and Sacrament in the Spirit.

This is all possible because His face shone like the sun and the voice declared: “This is My beloved Son. Listen to Him.” But this is all just as much possible because the glory once made manifest was hidden again; and the disciples saw Jesus only.

So we too see Jesus only. And in Him, we have life and eternal peace with God. Amen.


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