Transfigured to Transform

This is the sermon I preached on Sunday, 2/11/24 at St. Timothy Lutheran Church. The text was Mark 9:2-9.

You probably thought I misspoke when I said “transformed” instead of “transfigured” in the reading of this morning’s gospel. However, in Greek, they are the same word. It is the same word used in Romans, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed…” and in 2 Cor. 3:18, “And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.” In these verses, I hear echoes of Jesus’ transfiguration/transformation. Let’s look more closely at these events.

Moses represents the law, while Elijah represents the prophets. Both ascended to God at their deaths, as will Jesus. Their appearance is beyond what most people think is possible.

In scripture, there are numerous signs of God’s presence. The cloud is one such mysterious sign. Additionally, the mountain, the light and the voice tell us God is there. The dazzling white clothing too signals the presence of God or God’s agent.  There are numerous additional connections to occurrences in the Hebrew Scriptures, which would be well-known to the followers. 

Transfiguration literally means to change figure or form. Jesus’ appearance was changed, but not that of Moses or Elijah. Here, the disciples, Mark’s audience and we are allowed a glimpse of the true glory of Jesus. His transfiguration anticipates his resurrection. 

Peter liked what was happening and wanted the mountain-top experience to continue. His attempt to capture the moment, reduces it to a mere photo opportunity. Peter is rejecting the suffering that lies ahead, but is eager to welcome the glory. 

We are also struggling with wanting the mountain-top experience to continue today. Many of us want glory without the cross, but they are inseparable. I will not name names, but there are those preachers who tell you that you can have everything now. You don’t have to suffer in this life because Jesus has already suffered for you. They claim it is your own fault if you are struggling. That is heresy! If that was true, many faithful followers of Christ throughout the centuries, including the disciples, would not have suffered so horribly for the faith. Do we think we are better and more learned than they? I have heard some preach that we have a greater revelation of God’s truth than even the Apostle Paul, which is why they say he suffered for the faith. 

After this great experience of the Transfiguration, with a conference between Moses, Elijah and Jesus, Jesus will walk the way of the cross to suffer and die. We, too, must follow the way of the cross and not the way of glory.

As Martin Luther wrote, “[one] deserves to be called a theologian…who comprehends the visible and manifest things of God seen through suffering and the cross. A theology of glory calls evil good and good evil. A theology of the cross calls the thing what it actually is” (Heidelberg Disputation). Isn’t this the epitome of truth telling?

The offer of a gospel of success is an invitation into what theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr, described as “a kingdom without judgment through a Christ without a cross.”

This is where the heavenly voice comes in. At Jesus’ baptism, the Father says Jesus is the Son, the Beloved. Then God said, “…with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11). Jesus was the One being addressed. In today’s gospel, it is the disciples who are being addressed and the heavenly Father’s voice ends with “…listen to him” (v. 7). The Greek word for “listen,” implies continuing action: “Keep on listening to him:” or “Continue to listen to him.”

Peter, James and John were not yet Jesus’ followers when he was baptized. These words of the Father were new for these disciples. This moment of glory accompanied by the voice allows us to remember Jesus’ baptism and anticipate the final triumph of Christ, the glorious king. 

Where do we hear the voice? We hear it in scripture. We hear it in music and preaching and our fellowship together. Likewise, we may have a spiritual dream. We may hear God’s voice as we are lifted out of depression by the words of a brother or sister. And God speaks to us in unexpected ways as well, as long as we are open to listening.

During fellowship, we will have the opportunity to hear God’s voice through Gale and Sarah, as they share about their time in Honduras. Let us hear what the Spirit is saying. 

We listen to Christ when we proclaim the gospel in word and deed by feeding the hungry, visiting the prisoners, clothing the naked, healing the sick, forgiving those who have offended us and seeking to be peacemakers in our communities. How can we be silent when we have seen the glory of Christ and are being transformed? (Rhonda Garrison Haynes).

Moses and Elijah have disappeared. Their appearance with Jesus says that he was the messiah and that the end times are fulfilled in him. The fact that they disappear, leaving Jesus alone, says that the old has ended and the new has come. Jesus incarnated the missions of Moses the lawgiver and Elijah, the first of the prophets.

Jesus does not escape with his heavenly visitors to glory, but remains to complete his journey to Jerusalem and the cross. He stays behind, so that he is with his disciples then and now. Jesus does not abandon them, expecting them or us to go it alone.

Throughout Mark, people are told to be quiet about what they’ve experienced. It’s the Markan secret. After the resurrection, the church is let in on the secret and becomes the dwelling that Peter thought to erect. The disciples were to wait until after Jesus was raised from the dead, when they could really understand what had happened. They were then prepared to share the good news.

As we listen to the beloved Son of God, he will direct our ways so that we too may share the good news. Just as Jesus was transfigured, we are transformed so that God may use us to transform the world. But we must know what aspect of the good news one needs to hear. For the hungry, a sandwich is good news. For the drowning, a rope or life-jacket is good news. For the cold and homeless, a place to go is good news.

Listen to God’s beloved Son. Jesus is transfigured and we are transformed because of what God in Christ has done for us. Be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit and go out from this place as those who are willing and enabled to transform our world.



Fred B. Craddock, Preaching Through the Christian Year B

Beverly Gaventa, Texts for Preaching: A Lectionary Commentary Based on the NRSV-Year B

Rhonda Garrison Haynes,

Barbara Kay Lundblad, -9-2-9-visions-on-the-mountain_b_html

Martin Luther, The Heidelberg Disputation

Brian Stoffregen,

Rob Myallis,



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