"But Only Jesus"
This sermon was delivered at Cobleskill United Methodist Church on February 12, 2021.
It’s my privilege to worship with you all and to be a part of the current sermon series called, ‘Follow Me.’ Thank you, Pastor Anna, for inviting me to preach the last part of this study today. I believe that you have been on your journey with this current sermon series from baptism of Jesus to his ministries to learn how to follow Jesus and his way- especially in this time of uncertainty, fear, and difficulty. So, today, I am excited to talk to you about what it means to follow the way of Jesus, his life, and his ministries through the transfiguration on Mount Sinai.
In the passage, Jesus brought his disciples, Peter, James, and John to a high mountain. After they arrived on the top of the mountain, all of sudden, the Bible says that Jesus was transfigured, and his transfiguration dazzled the senses with images of unearthly white clothing, and Moses and Elijah, two grand, giant figures of the Israelites, the number one leaders of the Law and Prophet, stood on each side of Jesus. I am sure that Peter, James, and John could not believe what they saw in front of them – Jesus was not himself anymore, but more like God’s dazzling, shiny light. In Mark 9:6, the Bible says, “…, they were so frightened.” As soon as they saw Jesus like God, they panicked and were scared to death. This is because in ancient times, the Israelite people believed that if they saw God with their own eyes, they would die. That’s why when Moses encountered God on Mount Sinai, he covered his eyes. Why was Jesus transfigured before Peter, James, and John? What does the transfiguration of Jesus mean for us related to the life of discipleship today?
Throughout his life, Jesus began his earthly ministry through his baptism, he called his disciples to his ministry, and through his miracles, healing, teaching, and even exorcism, Jesus reminded his disciples of who he is and how his disciples can follow him. However, when his disciples faced an unexpected circumstance in fear and anxiety, they forgot who Jesus was and what they were called to do as his disciples. In fact, his disciples identified who Jesus was and what it meant to follow him even six days ago. But, they forgot it again. In Mark 9:2, it says, “After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him and led them up a high mountain, …” What happened six days ago?
In Mark 8, Jesus called over his disciples in Caesarea Philippi, which was the central territory to worship the Roman Emperor and asked them, “Who do people say I am?” And, then his disciples said, “Somebody says you are John the Baptist, Elijah, or great prophet, or teacher.” Then, Jesus asked, “Who do you think I am?” Peter came front and said, “I don’t think you are just a great teacher or prophet. You are the Messiah, my Savior.” Peter’s confession was so powerful and beautiful before Jesus Christ. But, right after his public declaration, Jesus disappointed his disciples. Jesus didn’t say, “Yes, I am the Messiah and your Savior. I will show my sovereign power and strength to all people so that they may bow down before me and worship me. And, you will be the number two of the world.” Unlike their expectation, Jesus said, “I am the Son of God and the Messiah, but the Son of God will suffer, be rejected, and humiliated by people, and he will be dead on the cross.” Jesus challenged his disciples to follow the way of the cross he had taken – the way of suffering, shame, and pain, but the way of eternal life.
I can imagine that his disciples didn’t understand what he was talking about – He is the Messiah, but he will suffer and be killed. And, being his disciple and following him is not to desire a comfortable, easy life, but to lose themselves in order to save their life. Jesus claimed the way of salvation, healing, and eternal life as the divine Son, but they didn’t understand the heavenly mystery at all. So, when his disciples saw the transfiguration of Jesus – an unexpected moment in faith – they were confused and terrified. And, Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. …” Peter confessed Jesus as the Messiah even six days ago, but now he called him Rabbi, teacher. Even though Peter saw what Jesus had done as the Messiah and believed in him as his Savior, when he was confused and terrified, he went back to the past. Sometimes, we also say, “I believe in Jesus. I want to follow him. I want to be used to tell Jesus to others.” However, when we face any trouble, fear, anxiety, or unknown future, we would forget who Jesus is and who we are called to be in Christ. Especially, in this season of darkness and fear, somebody may be in the midst of physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual depression, or financial struggle. Or many people might be frustrated not knowing when a better future may come or when we may be able to come to church in an ordinary way of fellowship. Then, when we become enveloped by fear, we may forget who God is and who we say Jesus is.
Here is Good News: no matter who you are or what you do, God is goodness and faithfulness. And, God is with you and God is working for you. God enters your life story to uncover Godself and the heavenly mystery. In Mark 9:7, the Bible says, “Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” God, who revealed Godself in Jesus’ baptism and spoke to people that “This is my Son, whom I love,” came again and confirmed that Jesus is not only Christ, but also God’s own Beloved Son, and said, “Listen to him!”
I don’t know about you, but I always try to be a good pastor of course, and I do my best to be a good daddy to my kids. My son, Doha, is now a six-month-old, and I am still in the learning process of how to take care of the baby. It is never easy to care for him, but one day, I was panicking when I held him and gave a formula. All of sudden, he cried, and I tried to stop him crying, but the more I tried, the more he cried. Then, I forgot what my wife told me about when my baby cries, and I thought he was very hungry. So, I put the bottle to his mouth. His cry was louder, and I didn’t know what to do. Then, my wife came and after she saw him, told me that he seemed to need a burp. Surprisingly, as soon as I held him and patted him on his back, he made a loud sound with a burp. Even though my wife reminds me of how to take care of my baby boy, I very often forget when I face an unusual situation. And, my wife always tells me, “Listen to me!”
Through the transfiguration of Jesus, God showed up to the disciples and reminded them of the true identity of Jesus as the Messiah as well as the Son of God. Not only that, but God also reminded the disciples of the way that they were called to follow. Today, God also reminds each of us of who Jesus is and what we are called to do as his followers in the midst of our difficult season. Don’t be confused, distracted, and terrified even when you are weary, exhausted, wounded, or fearful in your life. God speaks to you, “listen to him.” Listen to what? Listen to who Jesus is and how you follow Jesus. Who is Jesus? Listen to him. He is the Lord, the Savior, and the Messiah who came from heaven to forgive us and save us from our sins. He knew his destiny in his earthly ministry – to suffer, be humiliated, and tortured by people, and to die on the cross because of our sins. But, three days later, there was an empty tomb because he rose again from death and through his resurrection, he showed hope that our pain and suffering is not the end of our life, but we will live the eternal life with our Heavenly Father.
And, listen to him. Jesus doesn’t call you his disciples not to live a comfortable life. He doesn’t say, “If you believe in me and you follow me, you will have no difficulty, but a cozy, easy life. You’re going be rich. You’re going to buy a new car or new house. You would have no trouble at all in your life” Rather, he says, “If you want to follow me, you have to take your cross, sometimes you would be in trouble, people would make fun of you, or you would feel lonely, or sometimes you would miss your kid’s sports games because being my disciple and following my way is not to meet your expectation or make you feel good in this life. The way of the Cross is for your higher calling in heaven. The way of discipleship is to follow me as your Lord and do something eternal, lasting, and meaningful. So, listen to me and follow my way.” I am afraid, but I have to say that believing in Jesus and following him as his disciples is never easy-cozy or comfortable. If you want to decide to follow him, you would be invited to a different life from your past – love and forgive those who hurt you, serve those in need, give more and share, spend your time with God through Scripture reading, prayers, or worship, and deny yourself but dedicate your life to Christ. Never easy. But, I believe that today, you are here with God in spirit or body no matter where you are because you know how Jesus has forgiven you by his blood on the cross. Because of his grace, you became no longer a sinner, but you were called to be a beloved child of God. By his sacrificial love, you received a new life. Now you are not a better one in Christ. You are the new creation in him. That’s why we don’t come to church to meet our expectations. But, we come to church, and even we are the church because Jesus was crucified for our sins and raised again to illuminate our eternal life in God. What do we see through the transfiguration of Jesus today? God is very active in our life to remind us of who Jesus is and who we are in him even in this difficult time. And, God speaks to each of us – don’t be anxious, don’t be freaked out, don’t be afraid, but listen to him! Listen to who Jesus Christ is, who he says we are – his followers, and what it means to follow him – a way out of comfort, complacency, or a self-centered life, but to focus on only Jesus and move forward in faith. Especially, as we enter into the Lenten season, I want to invite you to listen to him through various spiritual practices and find a moment that you can have an intimate relationship with God. Then, I have no idea how God might empower you to live the way of discipleship. It’s never easy to live the life of discipleship, but by only Jesus, it is possible.
Love and Peace,
Pastor Jong-deok Park