Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! AMEN! Our text for this morning’s sermon is taken from St. Mark’s gospel account the 9th chapter. (Mark 9:2-9)
Beloved in the Lord,
Who Wouldn’t want to Go Up?
It’s been six days, just a bit less than a week. It was then that Peter got it right. “You are the Christ!” But when Jesus set before them the work of the Christ, that He would be a rejected Christ, a suffering Christ, one who dies, Peter would have none of that. “This shall never happen to you!” It was then that Peter got it wrong. “Get behind me Satan. For you are not mindful of the things of God but of the things of men!”
Peter’s error is man’s curse. Peter loves Jesus. But Peter loves Glory more than Jesus. So, its been six days and Jesus takes with Him, Peter, James and John up unto a high mountain. Jesus takes Peter and the sons of thunder high above the world, high above the political problems of ancient Judea, high above the frailty of sinful mortals and demonic activity that has plagued their ministry. As they climb, they step away from the perils of sin, away from the curse of Adam. They depart the fallen world and go up on the mountain where there is no sin, no death, no suffering, no sorrow, no Romans, no Pilate, no Herod, no crowds, no stress, no poverty, no orphans, no nagging mother-in-laws, no bills, no responsibilities, and no neighbors. It’s just the gang and Jesus.
Who among us wouldn’t want to go? Who wouldn’t want to get away from it all, to rest, to relax, to not have to suffer down below, to escape? Who doesn’t want to escape this fallen world every now and then? We’re no different than Peter, or James or John.
And who wouldn’t want to see what they saw? While on the mountain Jesus is transfigured before them. He’s metamorphasized! Though bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh, He shows His glory! He reveals His divinity! He shines like the brightness of the sun. His face glows with glory, His feet like burning bronze, His clothing like lightning, white as none could whiten. Joel Osteen pales in comparison! Tony Robbinscovets such a countenance! The men of this world fade into the shadows as Jesus manifests His brilliance on the mountain. And Peter, well Peter loves every minute of it. So much so, He wants to stay.
Wanting to Stay, Wanting to Do
“Lord, it’s good for us to be here. Let us make three tabernacles, one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Peter wants to stay. Peter is wrong – again! He’s so wrong that Jesus doesn’t even answer him.
You see beloved, Peter is wrong because Peter is all mixed up. Peter wants to stay and Peter wants to do for God and for Jesus. And while Peter wants to busy himself staying and doing for God and Jesus, he’s neglecting his neighbors down below. That’s what love for glory does to men’s hearts. It mixes them up, and turns them around. Actually, it turns them inward when they should be looking outward.
Peter was happy escaping the world down below. How often do we fall into the same trappings? We’re no different than Peter. We don’t want to suffer. We don’t want to get our hands and lives dirty by taking care of our neighbors, or our wife or husband, our children or whoever crosses our path. That’s tough work, stressful work, and expensive work. So we’d much rather escape, get away, climb up some high mountain and get above it all. And then, we’d like to stay there, retire, take care of ourselves and let someone else worry about everyone down below.
Some escape to Florida, buy a nice little condo set about to golf their years away. Younger folk go to the movies or immerse themselves in video games! Others dive into a good book. The trap has been set. Retirement, movies and books and multi-media, face-book, twitter, i-pads, i-phones, apps, and fav fives, though innocent in and of themselves, often become our way to escape the muck and mire of the world below and connect all at the same time. We talk and we share and we communicate, but we’re distant, far away, nowhere near to get dirty lending a hand, offering a hug, stretching out our arms, embracing our neighbors, nowhere near to love our neighbors with the love God has given us. We there in “spirit”, but we don’t have to suffer with them.
And so, we buy into the illusion that we’re still connected to people, even though it’s virtual, even though it’s digital. So while we’re texting here, or face-booking there, or emailing people around the world, our wife sits in the other room, lonely and longing for affection, our children bounce around the house acting up to get our attention, the person sitting across from us at lunch has no one to talk to. The passerby on the street is ignored because you’re updating your status. No one smiles at anyone. No one says “hi!”. No one helps. No one sees. It’s like we’re all stuck in some sort of Seinfeld episode. Life is just a show about nothing, nothing important to me anyway, nothing outside of my own existence. And so everyone suffers all the more. Sure, we’ve escaped the world, but in reality, we’ve only escaped to hell. We’ve become so busy listening to our own hearts that we don’t listen to Jesus. We’ve go up our own little mountains above the fray of life and found no one there to embrace us or anyone there for us to love. We’ve escaped the muck and mire of our world but now our world is empty. We’ve escaped to hell. At least Peter was on the mountain with Jesus. We’ve escaped the world and our neighbors so much so that we are content without Jesus or we wonder why we can’t find Jesus in our lives.
Listen to HIM!
Peter was not created to remain on the mountain, nor are you. Times of solitude, times away in prayer, are indeed good things. “It is good to be here” where Jesus is. But the place, up on the mountain or down below, is not what’s important. Escaping the world is not your calling. Abandoning your neighbor is sinful. Peter wanted to stay on the mountain. He got it wrong – again. And he was ignored by Jesus.
Instead the Father answers Peter. The Father answers us. “This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him.” Peter wanted to do for God and ignore his neighbor. That’s what the love of glory begets. This, however, is neither loving nor glorious. The Father sets Peter straight. “Listen to Him.” In other words, don’t do for Jesus. Listen to Jesus. Jesus doesn’t need your works. Jesus doesn’t need you to escape your neighbor and devote your time, treasures and talents to building up His glory. That’s mixed up! That’s messed up! That’s what Peter was all about and Peter got it wrong!
Jesus, Himself, will work the necessary work for you. You, listen to Him. Jesus, glorious and brilliant and full of the deity in bodily form, will not stay on the mountain. Jesus is not like Peter. Jesus is not like you or me. He actually is obedient to His Father. He actually wants to be connected to people, even sinners. He joins with sinners in the mud and muck and mire of this sinful, dead and demonically oppressed world. He goes down the mountain. That’s what love for God and love for neighbor does. Love goes down the mountain to save, to suffer, to die and to rise again. Jesus is the Christ and the Christ will not abandon His beloved to the realm of sin, the curse of the grave, nor the power of the devil. The God/Man who shines with all the brilliance of heaven itself is not ashamed to embrace the pains of the cross, not if it means saving you and me and the world.
So Jesus will go down that mountain. Jesus will walk to Jerusalem. He will be rejected. He will be crucified. He will bleed. He will suffer. He will die for the sins of the world. He who knew no sin will become the chief of sinners, even sin itself. And in His death, sin dies, death is vanquished and the devil is crushed under the righteousness of one begotten of God and born of Mary.
And on the third day He will rise. He will walk out of the tomb. He will die on Friday but He will live again on Sunday. He will suffer and then enter into glory. He will win! He will triumph! He will conquer! That’s what love does for you and for the world. That’s what Jesus does for you and for the world.
Thus His Word and His Work are your salvation! Listen to Him! Believe Him and you will live forever!
Wanting to Hear, Wanting to Serve
Because Jesus goes down the mountain to serve and to suffer, to love and to show compassion, so do we. If we stay on the mountain will be all by ourselves. There’s no glory in that, nor any love, only loneliness. Jesus goes down the mountain. Hearing Him, our hearts are changed. Hearing Him we learn to know Him, what works He does for us and for the world. Hearing Him we grow in our love for God and our love for one another. He forgives our sins. He encourages us in our vocations. He urges us to move out and beyond ourselves and toward our wife, toward our husband, our children, the passerby on the street, the person behind the counter, the lonely, the poor, the orphaned, the abused, the hurting, the sick and infirm, the bruised reeds and smoldering wicks, those with buckling knees and broken hearts, people who need to see our face, feel our touch, and hear our voice.
Love became flesh and blood to save us from hell. Jesus died to redeem us from our isolation. He rose that we might be united to Him forever, and if united to Him then also united to one another.
Thus, in the Holy Supper He joins Himself to us and us to one another. He forgives our sins just as His Word says. Those who listen to Him and believe Him receive what He gives. Receiving the body and the blood of the resurrection we also are resurrected unto newness of life. We are changed. We are converted. We are redeemed but not unto ourselves, not for ourselves, but unto God for our neighbor, for each other, for love’s sake.
Who wouldn’t Want to Go Down
Beloved in the Lord, it’s been six days since Peter’s confession and Peter is still struggling to get it right. He wants to stay rather than follow. He wants to do instead of listen. He’s all mixed up, all messed up. And Jesus still loves him. Jesus still walks down the mountain with Peter and James and John. Jesus doesn’t abandon Peter. He will not abandon you.
Therefore if Jesus goes up the mountain who wouldn’t want to go and stay as long as Jesus stays? It is good to be in the presence of the Lord, to hear His Word and receive His gifts. That’s why we have the Divine Service, to go up the mountain, get away for a time, escape from our sins and rest in His Word.
If Jesus goes down the mountain, who wouldn’t want to go down? It’s good to be where Jesus is. And Jesus goes down the mountain into the midst of the people, His beloved creation. He goes and invites us to go with Him, to serve with Him, to suffer with Him, to die with Him and to rise with Him. It’s all about being where Jesus is, even if Jesus is in the middle of death, even if Jesus is crucified, dead and buried. Wherever Jesus is, He is undoing death, rolling back the devil’s work, opening graves, raising the dead, forgiving sins, embracing people, not virtually, but really and truly. This is what it means to be Christ and this is what it means to be His Christians. This is what Love does. And that is glorious! AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!
Pastor Tony Sikora
Hope Lutheran Church
De Witt, MI