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" 'Tis Good, Lord, to Be Here": A sermon for Transfiguration Sunday, Luke 9:28-36.

The Transfiguration of Christ gives us a bright glimpse of his divine glory and helps us when we go through the dark velleys of this life.

“ ‘Tis Good, Lord, to Be Here”

A Sermon for Tranfiguration Sunday, Luke 9:28-36

 

‘Tis Good, Lord, to be here! Thy glory fills the night;

Thy face and garments like the sun, shine with unborrowed light.

 

Imagine seeing the shining glory of the Lord at his Transfiguration! Luke tells us, “Jesus took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray.” Imagine what that must have been like. Imagine being alone with Jesus on the mountaintop. Wouldn’t that have been great?

 

I think that sometimes we need to get away from the hectic pace of our life. We need to get away from all the troubles and heartaches we have face. We need a break from this world of pressure and stress, this world of sorrow and pain, this world of darkness and fear. We just need to be alone with the Lord on the mountaintop. We need to get away, at least for a while, from the valley of trouble and sorrow down below.

 

You know what it’s like to be in that valley, don’t you? Do you ever feel depressed? Do you ever feel like each day is slow journey through a dark valley? You’re down and depressed, and it seems like you’re stuck there.

 

But today, our Lord would lift us up and lead us up his mountain. There we can be alone with him, even if it’s only for a little while. That’s what Jesus did for Peter, John and James, and that’s what he does for us.

 

Luke says that while Jesus was praying, “the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white.” The Lord is transfigured before his disciples – his glory shines forth as bright as a flash of lightning. In the Bible, the “glory of God” basically means “the presence of God.” The glory of God is his shining presence.

 

So here, we catch a brief glimpse of the true divinity of Christ. This is a unique, one-time revelation of his Godhood. He reveals the glory he has as the Son of God. He peels back his humanity, so to speak, and we see for ourselves that Jesus is “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God

 

 Peter, John and James see how Jesus is glorified, and suddenly, there appears Elijah and Moses. These two great Old Testament heroes appear and begin to talk with the Lord. The disciples are overwhelmed. Peter’s initial response is to grab the glory of God and hang on to it. He says, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

 

Peter wants to capture the glory of God and bottle it up. He wants to preserve this wonderful experience and stay on the mountaintop forever. “Let’s stay here,” Peter says, “and never go back down into the valley.” Luke rightly tells us that Peter didn’t know what he was talking about.

 

In the flow of Luke’s Gospel, Jesus has just revealed the necessity of the cross. Jesus told his disciples, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected. He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”

 

Then, Jesus said to the entire crowd, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?”

 

Here, Jesus reveals that following him means that we take up our cross daily and we follow him through the valley of the cross. We accept the pain and suffering that comes into our life. We lose our life as we walk in the footsteps of the One who suffered many things.

 

In other words, you have to go through the valley before you reach the mountaintop. You have to go through suffering before you experience glory. The cross comes before the resurrection. Death comes before life. There are no short-cuts in the Kingdom of God. The glory of Christ will not come to us except through his suffering and death. There is no glory without the cross of Jesus entering our life.

 

Now to be honest, we don’t like hearing this. Like Peter, we would prefer to bask in the glory of God on the mountaintop. We don’t like all of this talk about suffering and rejection. We don’t want to take up our cross and go back down into that valley.

 

Instead, we say, “Why me, Lord? Why do I have go this valley? Why is my life so hard? It all seems so unfair! Why do I have to deal with so much sadness and grief? Why do I have all this pain and hurt in my life?” And so, we question the way of the cross.

 

This reminds me of a cartoon I once saw. It was a picture of one of those big, old-time radios with a message coming out of the speaker. The message said, “This life is a test. It is only a test. Had it been an actual life, you would have received instructions as to what to do and where to go.”

 

Often we feel that way. We say, “What kind of life is this anyway? What kind of life have you given to me, Lord?” And so, we question God and his wisdom and his ways.

 

But Jesus would have the same answer for us that he gave to the disciples: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.”

 

These words of Christ are eye opening. We are looking at our life in the wrong way. We need to change our attitude and humble ourselves before God. We need to repent of our wrongheaded ideas and simply confess, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner!”

 

In other words, what we need is a little more faith. We need to trust and believe that God knows what he is doing. We need to fix our eyes upon Jesus and focus upon his cross. Ultimately, it is that cross of Jesus that lifts us up out of the valley. Our Lord lifts us up through his cross, through his suffering and death, through his resurrection.

 

On the cross, Jesus says, “I am the Son of God, and even though I am true God, I share your humanity. I share your suffering. I enter into your pain. I go through the deepest valley for you.”

 

Our Lord repeatedly told his disciples that it is necessary for him to suffer and die. This is the only way that our sins could be forgiven. God himself bears the cross for us. He dies in our place. He bears our punishment. He is forsaken in the valley of hell and eternal damnation.

 

But realize this - the One who dies also rises from the dead. After the valley comes the mountaintop. After the cross, comes the resurrection. After suffering, comes glory.

 

And so today, God the Father comes into our life and he says, “You looking at everything the wrong way. Look instead to my Son. Look to Jesus!”

 

That’s what happened on the Mount of Transfiguration. When Peter suggested that they put up three tents to stay on the mountain, a cloud came and overshadowed them. A voice then came out of the cloud and said, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!”

 

“Listen to my Son!” That’s what God the Father says to us. “Listen to my Son and trust in his Word. Listen to him when he tells you about the way of his cross. Listen to him when he says, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ Listen to him when he promises that eternal glory awaits you.”

 

Yes, the glory of heaven awaits us if we trust in Christ during this earthly life. And if you look with the eyes of faith, you can see that glory of the Lord even now. You can realize that you belong to the Son of God. He loves you and cares for you. He will not ever let you go because he is your Lord and Savior. He goes before you now and leads the way.

 

Such a glimpse of the glory of Lord strengthens us for the tough times we have to go through. We know that in this earthly life the valleys will surely come. We all have the low points and the dark days we have to deal with. We all go through the valley.

 

But if Christ goes with us, we know that we can make it. We are always safe in his love. The Lord goes before us and he leads the way. We follow him through the valley all the way to eternal life and the glory of God that awaits us.

 

‘Tis Good, Lord, to be here! Thy glory fills the night;

Thy face and garments like the sun, shine with unborrowed light.

 

‘Tis Good, Lord, to be here! Yet we may not remain;

But since thou bidst us leave the mount, Come with us to the plain.

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