Transfiguration of our Lord – C LSB #414
Text – Luke 9:32
Now Peter & those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw His glory & the two men who stood with Him.
HEAVY WITH SLEEP
Have you had one of those moments where you wake up with a start! You go from being unconscious to totally conscious in an instant. You go from sensing nothing to being aware of absolutely everything. Now, imagine finding yourself realizing that Jesus is standing right in front of you & He’s speaking with Moses & Elijah.
You’ve never in your life met Elijah or Moses but you know instantaneously who they are. What would you do? Where would your mind take you? We know where Peter goes: “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you & one for Moses & one for Elijah.” The Gospel of Luke comments that Peter didn’t know what he was saying.
Heavy sleep will do that to you, especially when you awake from it with a start. Would you or I know any different? Would our response be just as off the wall?
Here’s the message of the Transfiguration. The OT is passing away & the NT is arriving. Jesus is the ultimate prophet to whom Moses & Elijah pointed as His forerunners. Jesus is the fulfillment of the OT & all of its teaching. In the Transfiguration, Moses & Elijah disappear because the task of all the OT prophets is now finished. Jesus has arrived.
When the Son of God comes down from the Mt. of Transfiguration, He sets His face toward Jerusalem to suffer & to die. For us, the season of Lent is ready to begin! It is a reminder to you & to me of Jesus’ determination to complete His somber & frightful mission. Yet most of the time, even during the season of Lent, we are heavy with sleep.
Your heart & mind are slumbering away. Your soul is asleep at the switch. Life &
salvation are all around. The power & majesty of God’s Holy Spirit is at work delivering human beings from death to life, & we haven’t a clue to the miracles that are taking place. We, like Peter, John & James are heavy with sleep. We spend most of our days stumbling through the darkness without the light of our Heavenly Father’s Word.
As we considered in last Sunday’s sermon, “It is a dangerous Word to have, as it is a two-edged sword. It discerns not just the heart of those to whom we speak the Word of God. It discerns also the heart of those speaking that Word.” That should be us. Yahweh has placed His Word into my mouth & into yours. What have we done with it?
Given all of our blessings, has the Word of God lost its precious character in the heart of those hearing this today? Do we take it for granted? Does all the activity of our busy days qualify as nothing more than heavy with sleep, relative to the Word of God? Is our faith in Jesus as Savior barely conscious? “Now Peter & those who were with him were heavy with sleep…”
If you recall, this won’t be the last time Jesus finds these same three disciples sleeping. Do you remember on what other occasion the Word of God specifically highlights that? Before I answer, I’m going to ask another question. There are two separate times Jesus finds His disciples sound asleep. What do those occurrences have in common? It’s something Jesus did.
(Could I have the Gospel reading put back up on the wall) Let’s read that 1st sentence together: “Now about 8 days after these sayings [Jesus] took with Him Peter & John & James & went up on the mountain to pray.”
The Gospel of Mark tells us, “And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And [Jesus] said to His disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’ And He took with him Peter & James & John, & began to be greatly distressed & troubled. …And He said, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.’ And He came & found them sleeping, & He said to Peter, ‘Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour?’” On both occasions that the Bible tells us Peter, James & John are sound asleep, Jesus has been praying. After He finds them asleep in Gethsemane, Jesus warns them, “Watch & pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
You & I deal with the same struggles, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. When it comes to our spiritual lives, we too are heavy with sleep. So we look for church services that are exciting & fun to keep us awake, but the problem is NOT with the service. It is our own flesh that is weak & unwilling to resist the temptations of Lucifer. When Jesus prays, we sleep!
What will it take for us to wake up? We may think our lives are a struggle, our economy is down, terrorists are threatening & our government seems totally clueless. People are drifting away from the church & falling into all manner of self-destructive activity. Still, we don’t see people thirsting to hear about the life Jesus offers. Here’s a very different story.
As his eyes well up with tears, a young man who goes by the name Puya recalls how mujahedeen militants in Afghanistan murdered his parents when he was a child, forcing him to flee to Iraq where he was placed in an orphanage. He says while in the orphanage, he met someone who discreetly introduced him to Christianity.
“I had all these questions about Islam that the Koran & the [local] imam could not answer,” Puya says. “I knew something was not right.” He says the more he learned about Christ, the more things made sense to him. The Gospel helped him cope with his parents’ deaths & the anxiety stemming from that trauma.
“I saw the Bible as truth by learning about Jesus’ love & His death on the cross,” Puya says. However, when he began to share what he was learning about Jesus with others, Puya says one of his friends reported him to the local imam who instructed the orphanage to deny Puya any food. Some people had falsely accused him of being paid by outsiders to evangelize. When the imam & others observed Puya was no longer praying at the local mosque, Puya says he was driven from the Iraqi orphanage due to death threats originating from the imam.
He fled for his life to Germany. Today, Puya is a refugee in Berlin, where he attends Trinity Lutheran Church in Berlin, a congregation of the SELK. The Rev. Dr. Gottfried Martens, pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, has been receiving refugees & catechizing them for decades.
In the 1990s, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, he ministered to East Germans who previously lived under atheist communist rule with no pastoral care, while also caring for refugees coming to Germany from Russia. In 2011, he baptized his 1st former Muslim, a refugee from Iran. That same year, Martens would go on to baptize a 2nd.
Since then, he has baptized hundreds of refugees, the majority of whom come from Iran & some from Afghanistan. Now, as more than a million Middle Eastern asylum-seekers are flooding into Europe, many are knocking on Martens’ door. He said so many are coming to his church that he averages only four hours of sleep a night.
In a November 15th service, Martens baptized 10 more refugees who had completed rigorous catechesis & an examination of their faith & who also demonstrated consistent church attendance. As they renounced Satan in the baptismal rite, each catechumen also openly renounced Islam. More than 300 fellow refugees attended the service.
With the pews & balcony so full, extra chairs were brought into the aisles to seat more, while others stood in the stairwells. Puya, whom Martens had catechized & baptized some time ago, was one of the communion assistants during the service. Hundreds of former Muslims are waking up from their heavy sleep & turning their hearts to Jesus. For them to do so is to risk their very lives, & because they are willing to take that risk, the power of our heavenly Father’s love is being put on display. Does God’s love show through our lives that clearly? Is our faith in Jesus as Savior ‘heavy with sleep?’ That is the natural, sinful reaction to all the blessings we’ve received from God.
Jesus’ transfiguration woke up Peter, John & James. That glimpse of His heavenly glory was meant for the saintly nature of His disciples. It’s meant for our saintly nature as well, & it’s also meant to wake us from our spiritual slumber. There’s a battle raging between heaven & hell. Your eternity is in danger if you remain asleep.
So the heavenly Father speaks, because He knows we need guidance. For that reason He tells us: “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to Him!” Jesus is the Way to eternal life. In Christ we have life now & forever. Apart from Christ we have death now & forever. The purpose of the Bible’s OT was to point ahead to Messiah. The NT points back to Him.
Israel was rescued from Egypt at the Red Sea. That rescue pointed ahead to the rescue Jesus would accomplish in leading us to the other side, not through the Red Sea, but through the barrier of death. There’s no way we could overcome death on our own. So Jesus gives this brief lesson in encouragement to His disciples so that later they’d understand what’s happening.
Then Jesus sets His face toward Jerusalem to accomplish His mission. He will pay for the sins of the whole world. We can’t even remain awake while Jesus prays. That’s how completely sin has corrupted everything about us. Learning those lessons in humility is a constant need for us, just as it was for the 12 sons of Jacob, & for the 12 disciples of Jesus.
There is a tremendous need among the people of the world today, to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. Many will reject it. Others will fall asleep, & remain so, on the way. The events of our lives, the sufferings & the joys, are meant to wake us up, to turn our hearts back to Jesus. Like Peter, we will say & do foolish things. Much of the time our actions will reveal just how heavy with sleep we are. Yet Moses & Elijah appeared with Jesus & spoke with Him of His upcoming death on the cross because it is the central event of all of world history. Billions of lives have come & gone yet each of them is totally dependent upon Jesus to be saved.
Life & salvation are all around. The power & majesty of God’s Holy Spirit is at work delivering human beings from death to life, & we haven’t a clue to the miracles that are taking place. Our glory is coming in the next life. For now, Jesus’ suffering is the pathway to glory, & so is our suffering. Sin has forced on us a detour, yet the Son of God is leading the way.
In fact, Jesus is the Way, & the Truth & the Life. No one comes to Father except through Him. Compared to the refugees in Germany, who are renouncing the devil & renouncing Islam, even those of us here are heavy with sleep when it comes to spiritual things. Given the mercy & grace of God, a little more suffering in our lives would likely be a good thing. Amen.
Fulfiller of the past & hope of things to be, we hail Thy body glorified & our redemption see. ’Tis good, Lord, to be here! Yet we may not remain; but since Thou bidst us leave the mount, come with us to the plain. Amen. (LSB #414 v. 3, 5)
 Mark 14:32-33, 36-37 ESV
 Mark 14:38 ESV
 Drinnon, R., Lutherans Engage the World, Volume 4, Number 3, 2016, p. 13.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet