daily biblical sermons


Jesus' suffering and death on the cross will lead him and his disciples to the glory foreshadowed in his transfiguration
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Sunday, the Second Sunday of Lent, February 28, 2021
Genesis 22:1-2, 9, 10-13, 15-18, Psalm 115, Romans 8:31-34, Mark 9:2-10


Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted

 

 

 

“And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves; and he was transfigured before them, and his garments became glistening, intensely white, as no fuller on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses; and they were talking to Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is well that we are here; let us make three booths, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ For he did not know what to say, for they were exceedingly afraid. And the cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, ‘This is my beloved Son; listen to him.’ And suddenly looking around they no longer saw any one with them but Jesus only. And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of man should have risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what the rising from the dead meant” (Mark 9:2-10).

 

 

After Peter’s confession that Jesus was the Messiah and the Son of God, Jesus had very strong and disturbing words to say, as he explained to them what kind of a Messiah he would be and how he would save his people, namely by being put to death and on the third day rising again. Then he told them that they too would suffer and would have to carry a cross. So now to lighten up a bit so that they not become overly discouraged, he lets them see his true glory that had been hidden from them, but would finally be revealed, when he comes again on the last day.

 

 

But first he says to all his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power” (Mark 9:1). The next verse tells us that after six days Jesus took some of them, namely Peter, James and James’ brother John (Matthew 17:1) and went up a high mountain apart, “and he was transfigured before them, and his garments became glistening, intensely white, as no fuller on earth could bleach them” (Mark 9:2-3).

 

 

It seems that his transfiguration was what Jesus was referring to, when he said, “There are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power” (Mark 9:1), because only three out of his twelve apostles would see it. The transfiguration was a preview of Jesus in his true divine glory as he would appear at his second coming (William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary (Thomas Nelson, 1989), page 1342, 1269). The transfiguration was a preview of his second coming in glory on the clouds of heaven with all his holy ones in great light on the last day.

 

 

When Jesus appeared in his glory to these three disciples, Moses and Elijah also appeared in glory (Luke 9:31) talking with him about his coming departure (Luke 9:31). So, this glorious transfiguration was to prepare these three key disciples for Jesus’ departure, “which he was to accomplish in Jerusalem” (Luke 9:31).

 

 

The purpose of this experience was to strengthen their faith in Jesus so that they could endure his passion and death on the cross without losing their faith in him. It was also to show them what their own future would be like as Jesus’ followers, for they too would share in his glory, as they see Moses and Elijah alive and appearing in glory (Luke 9:31). Since Moses and Elijah, who died centuries before, appeared to them alive and in glory, this would strengthen their faith in Jesus’ teaching about the afterlife.

 

 

This experience was “to arm them [the apostles] for, and encourage them under, their own sufferings, by a demonstration of a future state, and a display of the felicity of that state. Here they see Moses, who had died in the land of Moab, and was buried in a valley in that land alive in a state of glory. This then was a demonstration to them of the immortality of the soul, for Moses, it is certain, had not been raised from the dead with regard to his body, Christ being the first-fruits from the grave, or the first whose body rose to immortal life” (Joseph Benson, 1749-1821).

 

 

Then, “Lo, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him’” (Matthew 17:5). This is an allusion to Isaiah 42:1: “Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights.” This was the first of Isaiah’s four suffering servant songs that celebrate in a prophetic way what Jesus would do in dying vicariously for our sins to save all that put their faith in him.

 

 

But why was God the Father so well pleased with him? “This regards, not so much the well pleasedness of God with the person of Christ, which is expressed in the former clause [“This is my beloved Son”]; but signifies that he [God the Father] was in him [Christ] as Mediator, well pleased with all his people; he was well pleased with his righteousness [that] he was working out, whereby the law was magnified, and made honorable; and with the sacrifice he was about to offer up, which would be of a sweet smelling savor to him, his justice being entirely satisfied with it; and with all he did and suffered in human nature; which were things that always please the Father, being according to his will, his counsel and covenant: and so he graciously accepted of, and was infinitely well pleased with all his elect, as considered in him [Christ], and represented by him, on account of his righteousness, sacrifice, and satisfaction” (John Gill, 1697-1771, emphasis added).

 

 

There is a lot to unpack in the above paragraph about why God was so well pleased with his beloved Son. What was Jesus talking about with Moses and Elijah but his upcoming death on the cross and his departure from this world, whereby he would save the world. This whole transfiguration experience was to prepare his chosen three disciples to experience his death that would save the world, so appropriately that is what Moses and Elijah were discussing with Jesus as they appeared to these three disciples in glory.

 

 

God was working through Jesus as the mediator by whom those that put their faith in him would be saved. God was well pleased with all the people that were to be saved by his atoning death on the cross in reparation for their sins. He was well pleased with the righteousness that his beloved Son was working out for his people by being their substitute in suffering their death sentence for their sins for them and instead of them so that all that put their faith in him might be justified, that is, declared and thereby made righteous by God, since their sins have been fully atoned for and full reparation has been made for them by Christ, their substitute, on the cross.

 

 

This death magnified the law and made it honorable, because it showed how important the law is and that it had to be fulfilled, so much so that the only Son of God himself suffered as our substitute the punishment that the law prescribes for all that break it. The Son of God himself agrees to be crucified to fulfill the demand of the law that all sins be justly punished, for it is the law of an all-just God. How more honorably could the law possibly be treated?

 

 

So, God was well pleased with his Son, because of the sacrifice that he was now about to offer, which would entirely satisfy justice, for this sacrifice made just reparation for all our sins, paying our debt of suffering that we have with God in punishment for our sins. So, God was well pleased “with all he did and suffered in human nature” (John Gill).

 

 

These are the things that pleased the Father about his Son, because they were in accord with his will and plan for the salvation of the world. God was ultimately well pleased with all his elect that would be saved by Christ’s work on the cross. God “was infinitely well pleased with all his elect, as considered in him [Christ], and represented by him, on account of his righteousness, sacrifice, and satisfaction” (John Gill), which Moses and Elijah were discussing with Jesus as they appeared in glory to his three disciples.

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