After Six Days
Rev. Kurt Lantz Transfiguration B Mark 9:2-9
February 14, 2021 Resurrection Lutheran Church St. Catharines, ON
Dear disciples of Jesus,
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Not immediately, but “after six days Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them” (Mark 9:2). In this short Epiphany Season we hadn’t even gotten out of the first chapter of the Gospel According to Mark. In years where the date of Easter comes later, we might have up to 8 Sundays after Epiphany and even then we would barely get into chapter 2 of Mark’s Gospel. But the season of Lent starts on Ash Wednesday, which falls on February 17 this year, and we have to get to the last grand Epiphany before then, the Transfiguration of Our Lord, when Peter, James, and John saw Him revealed in glory. Then we will be ready to start contemplating the path that took our Lord to the cross. So we make a bit of a skip over chapters 2-8, and find ourselves today hearing from chapter 9 of Mark’s Gospel.
Even so, as Mark recorded the events in chapter 1 with abundant use of the word “immediately,” the Transfiguration reading from his gospel begins, “after six days.” So, not immediately. In that first chapter Jesus was responding to the needs around Him “immediately” with acts of divine power and compassion that showed Him to be the Christ, the Son of God, God in man made manifest.
Immediately when He was baptized the heavens opened, the Spirit descended and a voice from heaven said, “You are My beloved Son” (Mark 1:10-11). When He called Simon and Andrew, James and John, “immediately they left their nets and followed Him” (1:16-20). “Immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and was teaching” and immediately there was a man with an unclean spirit whom Jesus released, and immediately His fame spread everywhere (1:21-28). “And immediately He left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew” where Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever “and immediately they told Him about her. And He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her” (1:29-31).
If we could squeeze in more Sundays after Epiphany into this year’s calendar we would hear more of Jesus “immediately” revealing who He is as the promised Saviour sent from God (1:40-42; 2:3-12). All of these manifestations of who He is and why He has come were done immediately.
Today we get to the most dramatic epiphany of them all and it is not “immediately” but “after six days.” Six days after what? Six days after Peter confessed “You are the Christ” and Jesus “began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again” (8:29-31). After Jesus taught them this with authority, then no more healings recorded, no more miracles displayed, no more dramatic episodes manifesting the divinity of Christ in the man Jesus of Nazareth, no more epiphanies for six days.
Peter had made the proper confession, “You are the Christ.” All of the epiphanies in signs and healings and teachings had the desired effect. Peter understood and confessed on behalf of all of the disciples who had witnessed the miracles of Jesus and heard His authoritative Word: “You are the Christ.” They got it. They understood. They knew who He truly was—God in man made manifest. Then Jesus told them what must happen to God in man. “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.” Mic drop. Nothing else for six days. Chew on that for a while.
In the life of the disciple of Jesus, then and now, there are times when we have immediate confirmation of what we believe, immediate answer to our prayers, immediate access to Christ’s means of grace. But at other times God seems to give us opportunity to chew on things for a while, to contemplate, to consider that although we understand, believe, teach, and confess a great deal, we don’t have it all figured out. There continue to be mysteries to the faith, not so much in the way of God hiding things from us, as in the way of needing time to experience the things of God so that we go away with a deeper understanding, a stronger faith, a fuller confession.
Our God does not always give us the complete and full epiphany immediately. He certainly gives us all that we need immediately, but perhaps not all that we would like. He rescues us and forgives us and strengthens us immediately when we cry out to Him, like Simon for his mother-in-law. All that we need for salvation is immediately given, but not necessarily all that will be ours in the fullness of time when our Lord comes again.
Rarely do we experience immediate healing for our physical ailments. God hears our prayers and immediately saves us from death, but His gift of healing usually comes gradually and gives us some time to ponder and contemplate the mysteries of the faith, such as how frail we truly are; the devastation that sin has wrought upon us physically, emotionally, and spiritually; our total dependence on God; His constant provision day by day by day; how glorious our life will be in the resurrection in contrast to the sufferings of this present life. Sometimes the mysteries unfold slowly over a period of six days, even six years, or six decades.
The quick fix isn’t always the best fix. Sometimes it is good if it takes a while to regain our health. It increases our appreciation and leads us to guard and protect it. It can be the same way with spiritual matters. The quick fix isn’t always appreciated. Things spiritual can be taken for granted, too. I visited one of our shut in members this week who has often asked and asked again why the Lord has not yet taken them home. I don’t know the answer, but I do know that the Lord is working some spiritual benefit through the passage of time and the opportunity to contemplate His goodness in suffering. It is a mystery that only He unfolds.
Peter had made the good and proper confession: “You are the Christ.” But to gain a fuller understanding of the mystery of Christ Jesus, he and the other disciples were given time to contemplate that “the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.” Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ and He had to die the humiliating and torturous death of crucifixion before rising again. Jesus let them chew on that for a while, for six days... and then came the glorious epiphany, the great reveal.
“And after six days Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them, and His clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus... And a cloud overshadowed them, and voice came out of the cloud, ‘This is My beloved Son; listen to Him’” (Mark 9:2-4, 7).
This was Jesus of Nazareth as they had never seen Him before. This was the Christ that Peter confessed. This was the Son of Man who would suffer many things and be rejected and be killed and rise again. This was God in man who would show forth His glory through suffering, death, and resurrection. This was the one who spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai in cloud and fire and smoke. This was the one who whisked up Elijah in a whirlwind with chariots of fire. This was the one who would be killed and rise again.
They had a long hard chew on the words of Jesus, then after six days this is presented before their very eyes: the radiant brightness of the glory of God; the living saints who had departed from this life and been taken to God; the visible fulfillment of all that God had forecast in the Law and the Prophets; the cloud of glory overshadowing them as it had filled the tabernacle and the temple over the ark of the covenant; the voice sounding from heaven as it did from Mount Sinai and at Jesus’ baptism. All of this in one great grand epiphany. It was all here in one package and that package is Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, who would be killed and after three days rise again.
You can contemplate this mystery of your salvation for six days, or as long as you find yourself given time by your gracious God to more fully understand the depths of His great mercy and grace for you. Peter, James, and John were told not to reveal this mystery to the others until Jesus had risen from the dead. They had to wait longer than the six days. But now the Transfiguration of Our Lord has been disclosed to you. What had been hidden from the foundation of the world has been made known to you in Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, the Son of the living God.
This epiphany is for you to hold tight when time is passing without any miracle. It is for you to cherish in wonder and awe when the answer to prayer doesn’t come immediately. It is to remind you that the same God whose almighty Word created man on the sixth day, also showed forth the glory of God in man after six days, and was killed on the cross on the sixth day, before rising to the glory of eternal life. It is given to you to chew on while you wait for all that the Lord has promised to do for you.
You have received the grand epiphany now, and it is your hope and strength while you wait six days, six years, six decades. You have something that will sustain you, provide meaning to your suffering, and uphold you in the hope of the resurrection to glory. “For I am convinced that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18).
This is your Christ. He is all glorious and yet He suffered and was killed for you, for your sins. He did this so that you would be rescued, redeemed, and delivered from every form of evil, sickness, and death. That rescue may not come immediately, but it comes in Jesus who has revealed the glory He had from before the creation of the world, the glory that was His even in suffering and the cross, and the glory that He shares with you.
This is what was sacrificed in order to redeem His fallen creation. This is what was sacrificed in order to save you from every form of suffering. And this is the glory to which you will be restored along with all who chew on the mystery that is Christ. For as we behold His glory revealed to us in the Scriptures, “we are being transformed from one degree of glory to another... the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 3:18; 4:6).
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.