2/18/2018 – Luke 9:28-36

by admin on February 18, 2018

2/18/2018 Audio Message

Jesus in Luke

Luke 9:28-36- Transfiguration

18 February 2018                     


The Other Side of Glory

In late July of 1864 the 56th Massachusetts—an all black brigade led by an idealistic white captain—made a desperate charge up a confederate embankment in a last ditch effort to secure position.  They were underpaid and ill qualified and they were all killed.  Yet their courage and sacrifice became an inspiration, paving the way for ultimate Union victory.  This is one of history’s transfiguring moments.

Sometime in the early 1990s Hollywood produced a movie about the formation and destruction of the 56th Mass.  Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman starred.  They called the movie “Glory”  Glory?  The story of human sacrifice for a principle?  How odd—glory.

“Glory” is a word that’s bantered about in the afterglow of the Olympics.  A 15-year-old basking in it as the gold hangs from her petite neck.  Glory is what weddings and high society balls and victorious football teams enjoy.

But the story of human sacrifice for a principle?  How odd—glory.

Today I just read the Bible story of Jesus’ transfiguration.  These four words stuck in my mind: “They saw his glory.”

With few exceptions the Bible story about Jesus’ transfiguration defies description.  Here he stands dazzling beyond understanding.  And what a cast of characters—a virtual celebrity row:  Jesus, Peter, James, John; then Moses and Elijah, and one more—the lead: God himself.

They saw his glory, it says.  What’s that about?  Three scenes unfold.

  1. In a way unlike any other account of this story Luke reports that Jesus, Moses and Elijah are talking about more than the weather. They are conversing about Jesus’ departure.  About his upcoming death and resurrection in Jerusalem.  But this is no mere prediction; it is a clue into what Jesus is really up to.  He’s more than a nice guy, an admirable hero or a miracle man.


“Departure” is Exodus.  The same kind when God through Moses led the Hebrew people out of slavery in Egypt to the freedom of the Promised Land.

Jesus’ exodus is deliverance from the power of sin, death and the Devil to use a ML phrase. It is freedom from the limiting worries of anxiety and fear and freedom for accepting our rightful place in creation.


  1. Peter responds to this visionary moment with the very religious desire to keep this memory alive by building some shrines. Hey, let’s build a church, he says.  We hear it as “three dwellings.”


This is not a dumb comment on his part. He didn’t misunderstand at all; he just didn’t get it.  And in his ignorance he says something quite profound.

Ancient Israel had—and still does—a religious festival called the “Feast of Booths”  little houses in the back yard—a liturgical observance of the memory of Exodus.   Peter wasn’t so dumb afterall, and maybe we’re not either.

Many people tell me, “Pastor Bill, I don’t know a lot about Bible, God, Jesus…..” and then when they talk a bit, the depth of perception is deep.

All of us are profoundly religious, searching for ways to understand the significance of our lives and callings.  Even when we don’t fully realize or acknowledge it, God is still there—working in us the freedom of Jesus’ deliverance.  On more than one occasion Elijah was humbled by this truth.


  1. A cloud comes, overshadows everyone, and a voice is heard: “This is my Son, the Chosen One, listen to him.” Here we have the purpose of this story in the NT.  Jesus is revealed as My Chosen.

If we read what the Bible says about God’s choosing process we know that it spells suffering servanthood.  Instead of being the best QB in the NFL, chosen by God shows itself in the eyes of the poor, the dying, society’s rejects.  Both Moses and Elijah knew this stuff firsthand.  Transforming leadership costs lots—like life itself.

The story says, “they saw his glory.”  Gk_______ = doxology.  More than a song at the money time, doxology means a bringing together of all of life and sacrificing that to God’s glory.

Sometimes it all fits together.  But more often times we don’t get it at all.  Then what?

A then what happened last week in a Florida school.  Everyone still staggers at the immensity of the evil—one more time.  Yes, evil is seen in the vacant eyes of the kid who did the killing, but evil is front and center in the defensive posturing afterwards by politicians, national organizations, citizens afraid that “the govment is going to take our guns.” 

And evil is also seen in the deeper ideology and belief system that places personal rights above the welfare of the common good.  Evil is seen is how easily faith is distorted in to moralistic mottoes and political slogans.  My views with a dash of religion.   It’s unnerving and unsettling that the major players in America’s religious life have been quiet all this past week.  Oh, yes, there is the occasional blurb about how God is punishing us for any number of atrocities.  But proposing a way out of this thick moral and religious dilemma?  Nary a word.


Evil is seen in the nihilistic ideology that permeates our society—life is basically a waste of time.  Kill ‘em all.  That, by the way, was the common command of rebel general Thomas Stonewall Jackson.   And so in the intervening years since the American Civil War we are still fighting with hatred for one another.  The primary face of evil we must confront is looking back at us in the mirror.   Every one of us here is capable of unutterable evil. 


We are in a spiritual crisis.  But we mostly use the word “spiritual” to refer to ourselves and our ideas, and only incidentally to the way of God.  The first step toward resolving this spiritual crisis is a spiritual intervention. 

Transfiguration is a spiritual intervention.  The disciples had a spiritual experience for sure.  Transfiguration about a God given principle for living.  It’s not intended to provide guaranteed results like success, money, and abs of steel, or even a winning tally of votes.

The principle Jesus reveals here is given to guide us to reflect on his character, not to comfortably organize our lives.  Our highest ambition is not to manage life but to know God.

Know God?  Yes.  Jesus Christ.  In him alone is freedom from fear and freedom for living—right now.  And in him alone do we discover that:

      —-giving isn’t weak

     —–forgiving isn’t foolish

     —–learning how to be forgiven is the transfiguring moment of life.


This, brothers and sisters, is the other side of glory.


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