Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ,
The space between. There’s a space between where you are and where you want to be. In all kinds of things in life. There’s the place where you are and the place where you want to be. If you’re going on a trip, there’s a space between. When you’re thinking about life- maybe you’re single and you want to be married and have a family, there’s a space between where you are at and where you want to be. If you’re working and want to have enough in your retirement to retire securely, there’s a space between where you’re at and where you want to be. When you get sick, there’s a space between the time when you’re sick and the time when you will recover. If you’re going to school, there’s a space between where you are at in school and the place where you want to be. But ultimately, as Christians, our whole life is really lived in this space between, a space between where we’re at now and the ultimate goal of where we finally want to be and that’s eternal life.
But it’s not very easy to live in this space between, is it? There’s a certain longing, a certain anticipation, a certain waiting that makes it difficult. And it happens every year but here we are again in the middle of the space between now and the beginning of Lent. Lent is the time when we focus on the sufferings that our sins caused our Savior. Lent is the time we focus on the path that our Savior went down that ended with His excruciating death on the cross. And Jesus knew exactly where He was headed, He knew exactly what was going to happen to him during this space between. But the disciples didn’t. So, what happens? Here on this Transfiguration Sunday we focus on something that Jesus showed His disciples and us to first of all help them through the space between all His sufferings and death and His glorious resurrection. But it also helps us through every space between that we are in right now.
This happened probably about 6 months before Jesus’ crucifixion and death. Jesus took with him three of his disciples, Peter, James, and John. They went up on a high mountain where they were all alone and we’re told that Jesus was transfigured before them. Then we’re told what that meant: “His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.” Then we’re told that Elijah and Moses are there talking with Jesus.
Peter is just so overwhelmed by this experience that he says, “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.” Then we’re told that they were so frightened, he didn’t know what to say. Then a cloud comes and envelops them and God the Father speaks, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” Suddenly everything was gone and there was only Jesus and Jesus went with them down the mountain.
How was this event going to help the disciples in the space between now and Jesus’ glorious resurrection? How does this event help us in our lives, in this space between where we’re at and where we want to be? What I want to focus on is four things that Jesus helps us with here by His transfiguration. In the space between we face all kinds of things, but today we’re going to focus on 4: good times, bad times, death, and sin. How does Jesus’ transfiguration help us with each of those things.
First, good times. Notice that the disciple Peter recognized that this was an awesome situation. Yes, frightening, but awesome! He had Jesus shining in divine splendor, he had Moses – that incredible OT leader and deliverer, and Elijah- the incredible prophet and preacher- they were there! And he wanted this moment to last. So he offered to build three shelters for them so that they’d stick around, he wanted this moment to last, he didn’t want this moment to end, he wanted a “heaven on earth” so to speak. But that’s not why Jesus came. Moses and Elijah disappear. Jesus’ incredible glory is once again hidden and they walk down the mountain. Why? Because that’s not why Jesus came. Jesus didn’t come in order to give us wonderful, happy life here on this earth. No, He came to give us something far greater. And not only are the good things of this world often fleeting and temporary, they can so easily distract us from what isn’t fleeting or temporary- God and His Word. So, in this space between, let’s not get caught up looking for a “heaven on earth.” Yes, we can enjoy good times, enjoy the gifts God gives us, but be ready to leave anything behind for the sake of following Jesus and His Word.
In this space between we also face bad times, don’t we? Jesus’ disciples were about to follow Jesus from the mount of Transfiguration into the valley of suffering and death. After this, Jesus would make his last and final journey to Jerusalem. And what would happen there? He would be betrayed, mocked, spit upon, beaten, suffer physically, but far worse- suffer God’s eternal wrath against the sins of all people. The disciples were going to see it all. It would be tempting for them to become discouraged, to doubt God, to become depressed. They would be tempted to fight back, to flee in fright, to fasten doors out of fear. But did they need to be? What do they see here? Jesus isn’t just some normal human being! Jesus is God’s very own Son! Jesus has all the power, glory, and majesty as God’s Son all the time! He’s shining dazzling white!
The truth is, we, like the disciples face all kinds of bad times in the space between, don’t we? As soon as something goes against us, as soon as something goes wrong, as soon as something doesn’t turn out the way that we planned, what thoughts enter our minds? Do we become discouraged and depressed? Doubt God and His control? Angry or afraid? But think about it, if the disciples had only taken to heart this scene on the mount of Transfiguration, instead, with trusting hearts they could have thought, “This is the very Son of God, who has all glory in heaven and on earth, this is God Himself, that means that whatever he does or allows to be done to Him will be for the best! This is God! Even if he dies, He’s able to rise from the dead!” And that’s true for you and me as well. Here we see without a doubt that Jesus is God Himself, shining with all the power as God. You know what that means? We’re about to head into Lent and see all of Jesus’ suffering and death. Lent would never be possible, unless Jesus chose to do it! What depth of love that God Himself would lower Himself to suffer and die for YOUR sins! Transfiguration shows that God must love you with a depth beyond tracing out. And if God Himself went through so much to rescue you eternally, will he not also take care of you every day, watch over you, protect you, work out all things for your good? Jesus’ transfiguration helps with the bad times in the space between.
Another grim reality that we face in the space between is death. Each of us here has somehow felt death’s bitter pain. But what do we see here? Moses and Elijah. They had been gone from this earth for hundreds of years, but they’re not dead, they’re alive, so much alive that they’re talking with Jesus. The fact that Moses and Elijah, both true believers in God, appeared with Jesus shows that they are alive and well and already for a long time enjoying the eternal glory of heaven! You see, our loved ones who die in the faith in Jesus are right now enjoying eternal glory and we will see them again!
And finally, the main thing we struggle with in this space between is our sin. How come we’re never fully satisfied in this life? How come we’re constantly longing for something more or better? The reason is sin. Sin created a separation between us and God. It’s a separation that Adam and Eve felt in the Garden when they hid from God and were banished from the Garden, a separation that Moses felt as he couldn’t look upon God’s glory and live, a separation that the disciples felt here as they were frightened at the sight of Jesus’ glory. It’s a separation that every human heart feels, a longing to be right with our Creator, a longing to be at one with God again.
Jesus came in order to bridge that gap. Jesus shines with all the glory of God Himself, Jesus comes to live as the perfect human in your place and mine, and then…he goes down the mountain. He went down the mountain to offer Himself as the once-for-all sacrifice of sin. He went down the mountain to go up on a cross to offer himself as the sacrifice of atonement, to make us at one with God again, to reconcile us to God forever.
And that means this: wherever you are in the space between, whatever you’re waiting for or longing for, you have this confidence, this boldness, this peace, to know that there is now no more separation between you and God. You are His own dear child. You stand right with him right now. Forgiven and loved. And knowing that gives calmness, peace, and rest wherever you are at in this space between. Amen.