Transfiguration of our Lord
February 23, 2020
“The Path to Glory”
Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you all in the name of our Good Shepherd Jesus. The text that engages us for the celebration of the Transfiguration of our Lord is the Gospel lesson as read from Matthew 17.
My dear friends in Christ Jesus,
You’re going to have to forgive me if I come off as a little giddy or excited, but I cannot help it! I saw the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Edmonton Oilers last week up in Amalie Arena, and this coming week I’m going back to watch the Lightning play the Chicago Blackhawks. I can’t wait! Any hockey fan knows how Tampa Bay completely fell apart last year in the playoffs, but this year the Lightning are playing their best hockey of the season – they are playing amazing and incredible – and at the right time too. The path to Stanley Cup championship glory awaits! Go Bolts!
The path to glory that our Lord Jesus chose was also amazing and incredible, and He never shot a puck into a net (not that we know of; there is no Greek word for “slapshot”). I say that Jesus’ path to glory was incredible for a couple of reasons. First of all, we have to remember that Jesus’ disciples had already seen our Lord do incredible things. They had seen with their own eyes Jesus walk on water, used their own hands to feed thousands of people, and they heard with their ears Jesus take on the Pharisees in theological debate and never once losing. The disciples had already seen some amazing and incredible things during Jesus’ ministry to this point, and it was about to step up even another notch.
Now, on that mountain, the inner circle of the disciples – Peter, James, and John – were given a glimpse into Jesus’ divine nature. They saw Him in the presence of Moses and Elijah; the 2 men who epitomize the Law and the Prophets. They were covered by the cloud. They heard the voice of God in His proclamation about Jesus. And all these glimpses into Jesus’ divine nature scared the wits right out of those poor disciples! They “feared a very great fear,” the Greek text says.
What would you have done if you were there? Would you too have been terrified and fallen face down to the ground? Probably so, but what would you do afterwards? This is another reason why Jesus’ path to glory is so amazing. This tremendous glimpse into the glory of Jesus was kept silent. Can you imagine if you were the only person to watch the Stanley Cup finals or the March Madness basketball games and you knew the outcome, but you were given strict instructions not to tell anyone what happened? Sounds crazy, right? But it had to be that way for an amazing and incredible reason. Why? Because the disciples had to be shown that suffering must come before glory. In order to save us, Jesus will choose the path to glory that leads through the cross that awaits Him in Jerusalem.
But why? Why didn’t Jesus just skip all that suffering stuff? Why not just come down from that mountain, tell everyone who He is, ascend into heaven, and not have to deal with the taunting and the torture and the nails? Why not? Because there was no way around them. The price for the forgiveness of sins is blood. It always had been, and it remained that way until Calvary. Blood had to be shed to achieve God’s forgiveness and that forgiveness has been needed ever since Adam and Eve fell into sin. The ultimate crime of humanity necessitated the perfect sacrifice. In order to save all of us from sin and damnation, Jesus – the perfect Lamb of God – chooses the path to glory that HAS to go through the cross, for there is no other way to pay the price for the forgiveness of sin. It is a path we could never travel.
Yet, there is a path that we all must take…the path of daily life. The first step on our own path to glory is that we, as the very voice of God tells us, listen to Jesus. That doesn’t mean just listen to what Jesus has to say, but listen to what Jesus says and why He said it; to know and understand that the cross is not an option. First comes humble service and self-sacrifice, then the suffering of the cross, then the glory. Being a disciple doesn’t mean you can skip the humble service or suffering and devotion and go right to the glory…it doesn’t work that way. For example, according to FOX, more than 2 million people tuned in to the Super Bowl for just the halftime show; they couldn’t care less about the whole first half of the game; those folks would love to skip the first half and go right to half-time. So also, many modern-day followers of Jesus want to do just that; skip the first half too – not necessarily follow His example of love and service and sacrifice and suffering , and get right to the glory of the risen Christ. It doesn’t work that way.
To be sure there are crosses aplenty that bring suffering for you just waiting out there: health problems, financial and employment woes, struggles in families and relationships, uncertainty, loneliness, grief, and so on. These are our crosses, and we bear them…and bear them we must for that is what Jesus calls us to do. We bear our crosses, all the while being strengthened by the Word of Christ and the promise that He provides that even if we suffer along the path of life, we are still forgiven and loved sinners, and we will ultimately experience the glory that lies waiting for us at the end.
What kind of path lies ahead for you? I have no way of knowing. But for those of us who have already taken tens of thousands of steps along the path and have the scars to show it, we know that there is only one way down the path to true glory and it doesn’t involve going through any arena. The true path of glory leads to and through the cross, and as faithful disciples of Jesus we follow Him every step of the way, as we walk our own life path leading to eternal glory.
Oh, and did I mention…Go Bolts!