See Your Savior (February 11, 2018)
See Your Savior
One of the things I’ve noticed with my early morning Sunday routine is that there are a lot of prescription medicine commercials on early in the morning. One of the commercials that sticks in my mind is for Psoriasis, a skin disease that causes raised, red, scaly patches on the skin. It’s not at all contagious, but it is immediately noticeable when someone has it. In fact, I think one of the struggles of people who have psoriasis is that those red patches are all others can focus on. Therefore, the slogan for a medicine called “Cosentyx” is “See me!” “See me for who I am – not simply for the disease I have.” “See me, and get to know me for more than just what’s on the surface.” I think during the commercial, they repeat that slogan, “See me,” about 20 times, so it’s definitely drummed into my memory.
“See me” could have been a good slogan for what Jesus was about to do on that high mountain. We heard last week that Jesus was already gaining a reputation for his authoritative teaching. People were already beginning to form opinions about who Jesus was, but were they forming the right opinions? Jesus asked his disciples how the people see him. “Who do the people say I am?” To which they replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” Ok, they were on the right track, but he had to inquire further, “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” Peter answered for the group, “You are the Christ” (Mk 8:27-38). A perfect answer! Good thing that after so much time spent with the disciples, they finally understood who Jesus was! Or did they…
As Jesus began to teach them what being the Messiah meant, it became clear that they only had a surface level understanding of who the Christ was. “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed” Jesus explained (Mk 8:31). But Peter interrupted him by taking him aside. “Jesus, why are you saying this? That’s not what these people need. The Christ is a glorious ruler who will restore Israel to its rightful place!” It’s clear that they just weren’t getting it yet. They weren’t quite there. They were only seeing Jesus for what he was on the surface – only seeing him for what they imagined that title of “the Christ” meant. And so, they weren’t really seeing him. It was time to reveal who he truly was. It was time for the disciples to really see their Savior.
Jesus took three of them, Peter, James, and John, with him and led them up a high mountain. They were alone. There Jesus was transfigured before them! “Transfigured,” what does that even mean? Each of the gospel writers describes it: “His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them” (Mk 9:3). “His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light” (Mt 17:2). “The appearance of his face was changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning” (Lk 9:29). They all describe something brighter and more brilliant than anything they had ever seen. On this occasion Jesus allowed his divine nature to shine through the human shell! At last, these three people could see Jesus for who he really was… but… words fail to describe the sight. Nevertheless, these three men, apostles who would be sent out as eyewitnesses of all that Jesus was and did, saw what they needed to see to convince them and help them truly see their Savior.
A voice also chimed in adding to the spectacle… because by now the sight was too terrifyingly awesome that they had to cover their eyes. But they still hear the proclamation, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” (Mk 9:7). Their minds must have flashed back, first to the baptism of Jesus when God declared much the same thing from heaven. Then back much farther to something Moses said long ago about the Messiah, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you… You must listen to him” (Deut 18:15). Surely this Jesus is more than just a man; more than just a great prophet. Surely Jesus is also heavenly in nature – God in the flesh!
Years later, Peter and John would both insist that this was no illusion or myth. “We were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” Peter insisted, “We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain” (1 Pt 1:16,18). John adds, “We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14). They saw Jesus in all his glorious power.
We think we know power. We think we understand it – can describe and portray it. That’s actually one of my favorite things about all the super hero movies that come out. Each one seems to portray an enemy stronger than the last. Each time you are wondering if your favorite hero is going to be strong enough to defeat the enemy. And each time, in some way, the cinematographers know just how to capture the hero’s superior power. Whether that be with slow motion punches, the enemy flying through 5 brick walls, or CGI displaying an explosion like you have never seen before! I think we are pretty good at capturing and depicting power! But, in reality, we can’t capture God’s power. We can’t see it with our eyes, can’t describe it on the page, can’t depict it on the screen. His power is so far beyond our understanding. We just have to trust! And up to this point, the disciples just had to trust that Jesus had all the power and authority that came with being the Messiah. But their trust would soon be tested. So Jesus revealed his power and authority, his heavenly nature, to them. Because he knew what was coming next would test them to their limits. Before this test, he wanted them to really see him. He wanted them to see his glorious power.
Peter wanted to freeze this moment in time – the transfiguration. “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” (Mk 9:5). He was anxious for the glorious Christ to be revealed – for him to put this indescribable majesty on display before all people. Earlier he was offended at the suggestion of a suffering Christ. But this, this was more like it. This was more in line with how Peter saw his Savior. If Jesus would only remain here on this mountain, with Moses and Elijah, then everyone would know the true majesty of Israel! Everyone would know that Jesus is the Christ. Many would believe and enemies would cower before Israel as Jesus leads them to prosperity, and superiority.
But little did Peter know, that although this was all God’s glory on display in Jesus, this would not be his most glorious act. This display of glory was meant to be seared into their minds so that even when it seemed that all glory was lost – when Jesus would be put on trial and mocked for his accurate claims of being God. When he would be beaten and spit upon. When he would be brutally nailed to a torturous device meant for an agonizing death – that even in this moment when they couldn’t bear the sight, they would still see their Savior. They would still see his glory. In fact, despite these two events – the transfiguration and the crucifixion – despite them seeming to be complete polar opposites, it’s these two events that really help us see our Savior. True God with all authority, glory, and power; yet also true man and greatest servant of all, setting aside his glory and using that power to eradicate the punishment of sin and render death inert for you!
Don’t you see? There are different kinds of glory, and different kinds of power. On the one hand, you get to see your Savior’s glory and power on display when he was transfigured; yet on the other hand, you get to see your Savior’s glory and power in action when he took onto himself the punishment for all sin and proved that death could not hold him. There’s glory and power in seeing his divine nature. And there’s glory and power in seeing him use his human nature to save all humanity. In both instances see your Savior.
And there’s one event in our Savior’s life that is probably a culmination of those two types of glory. “As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead” (Mk 9:9). To us, images of Easter, happiness, and joy all come to mind, but verse 10 reveals that the disciples didn’t know what to think of it. What did Jesus mean by “rising from the dead?” I think that gives us all we need to know about why Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone about what they saw. Although they had heard Jesus teach them about who the Messiah really was, and although they had now seen his glory, they still didn’t really see Jesus completely. They still didn’t completely understand what the Messiah came to do. That understanding wouldn’t fully come until after his death, resurrection, and ascent into heaven. He came to save sinner, so he had to die. He came to be the firstborn from the dead, so he rose. He came to establish a heavenly kingdom, so he ascended into heaven. But all this still seemed so foreign to the disciples who had not yet wrestled with the despair of the crucifixion. Who had not yet appreciated the sacrifice of Jesus.
Maybe that’s part of why God allows us to see dark and troubled times in our lives. There are many aspects to it – we talked about one last Sunday – but one aspect of having to bear our own cross of suffering is so that people who do not yet know Jesus can see you. They can see that you have a different way of going about life. They can see that your perspective on life is much more far reaching than just the here and now. Dark and sad times do not shake you like they do others because you have seen the one who’s on your side! You have seen his glory and power, seen how that glorious power sometimes shines brightest against the backdrop of the darkest hours. You have seen the glory that awaits you – life after death, and heaven! There’s nothing here on earth that can shake you. Nothing that can permanently rob you of your joy, because you have seen your Savior go to the lowest low and come out unscathed. Because of that permanent hope that you have, others will also see who you really as you shine against the backdrop of darkness.
It all started with Jesus inviting 3 of his disciples to “See me.” Transfiguration helps us see our Savior. It discloses his heavenly nature which made him able to what needed to be done. It anticipates his agonizing death which although hard for us to bear the thought, also means our salvation. It also foreshadows his glorious resurrection. A sign that his saving work was complete, and an anticipation of the glorious resurrection that awaits each one of you!
Yet, knowing this, we are still revolted at the thought of a suffering Savior. Have you gone through the progression of Holy Week and felt the gloom of your Savior mistreated, abused, and killed? Have you watched a depiction of these events, such as the movie “The Passion” and had to turn away in gut wrenching sadness? Have you read through and meditated upon those parts of the gospels like we will begin to do in the coming weeks? Why is the thought so revolting? Why can’t we bear the thought of what is supposed to be his most gracious act of dying on the cross?
I think there are many facets to it. First, I think it’s because we wouldn’t want anyone to have to endure such cruel injustice. Especially not our God and Savior. We, like Peter, want his glory on display, not his beaten and battered body. But yet, he had to endure it… because of our sinfulness. I think that’s the second reason we can’t bear the thought. The reason he had to suffer is because of our sinfulness. God loves you and doesn’t want you to have to suffer for your sinfulness. So he took the place that you and I deserved on the cross. We shudder to think of it, but yet, it’s all part of seeing our Savior. Just as the Savior revealed his glory to strengthen the disciples through the dark hours of his trial and crucifixion, so also the darkness of that hour ought not eclipse the brightness of his glory. Because although his agonizing death seems to be the darkest day in history, it is also one of the most glorious days for you who believe, because the immeasurable sacrifice of Jesus paid for the immense debt of your sin.