This sermon explores the idea of glory from Luke 9:28-45. This is the story of the transfiguration where the disciples see Jesus in his glory. What does glory mean, and how does Jesus call us to follow him? As with the rest of Luke’s Gospel, Jesus’ idea of glory is the reversal of what you might imagine.
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What do you think of when you hear the word glory?
Perhaps one of these images is close to something that you imagined.
- A beautiful sunset
- Winning an Oscar
- The movie Glory and the spoils of war
- The Glory days of your past
- Winning the Superbowl
- Winning the Nobel Peace Prize
The word glory, used in the Bible, is the Greek word doxa. It originally meant “what others think of me” or “being in good standing or reputation.”
It is to be famous, so that everyone can see you, now and forever. The more famous you are, the longer you live in history.
As followers of Jesus, how should we think about fame and glory? Is it something for which we should strive? After all, Jesus is probably the most famous guy to ever live.
What does Jesus say about fame and glory?
We’re talking about glory, because this weekend we come to a pivotal moment in Jesus’ life. This picture is a drawing I did several years ago that outlines Jesus’ life as a series of ups and downs.
The first half of his story is one in which Jesus became increasingly popular. He was healing the sick, raising the dead, feeding hungry people, and stirring things up with the establishment.
But then, here in our story today, everything changed. We just read in Luke 9:28-45, the story of Jesus’ transfiguration. This was the high point of his story. Everything changed after this. It went down hill until he was crucified.
So, let’ walk through the story and see what Jesus can teach us about fame and glory.
It all started on a mountain.
Jesus took his three closest friends—Peter, James, and John—up to the mountain to pray.
Suddenly his face changes and he glows like lightning.
Would you be freaking out at this point? I would.
I want to highlight an important point here. Do you remember, way back in the fall, when we talked about the prophet Daniel and his wrestling with the beasts? Daniel had a bunch of visions about world powers that would rise up, and how, ultimately one called the Son of Man and the Ancient of Days would overcome the beasts and bring peace.
It is very likely that this image connects to the image of the Son of Man and the Ancient of Days in Daniel 7:9. It is important to note that Jesus’ favorite way to refer to himself was not the Messiah, but the Son of Man.
Deuteronomy 18:15 said that a prophet like Moses would come to lead the people. The Jewish people were expecting Moses and Elijah to come before the Messiah. Well, here they are.
Here we see the term glory. Jesus appeared in glory and the disciples saw his glory.
So, what is his glory?
Notice what Moses and Elijah were discussing with Jesus. The text says they were discussing his departure. The Greek word there is exodus.
Think about that.
Moses led the people out of slavery in Egypt with the death of the first born, the sacrifice of the lamb, and the crossing of the Red Sea. Now, Jesus is going to Jerusalem to be crucified. He is the new Moses who will lead all people out of slavery and into new life through his death and resurrection.
Peter wants to camp out here. He is bewildered and doesn’t know what to say, but he thinks this is the end game and wants to stay.
Isn’t that what we want: to be famous and have all the glory?
We want the Hollywood ending. We want the bright lights and the mountain top experience.
The voice of God cuts Peter off. “Listen to what Jesus is saying. It isn’t about the mountain top.”
The disciples are baffled. So, what is Jesus talking about?
Just before this scene Jesus warns the disciples. The Son of Man must die. If you want to follow me, you must be willing to die as well. How’s that for glory?
Then, immediately following the transfiguration, this strange story happens. A desperate father begs Jesus to heal his son. The boy has been beaten up by an unclean spirit and the disciples couldn’t heal the boy.
Jesus gets frustrated, rebukes the spirit, the spirit leaves and the boy is healed.
Here’s a really interesting observation. The only person who is ACTUALLY LISTENING to Jesus at this point in the story is…wait for it…the unclean spirit. The spirit leaves when Jesus says, “Go!”
The disciples are still trying to heal in their own power, and it doesn’t work.
Then Jesus stops and says, “Now, listen to me very carefully. READ MY LIPS. I. AM. GOING. TO. DIE. That is my glory.”
Now, we’ve heard the story. What do you think glory is, and what is Jesus calling us to?
This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday. We begin the seven-week journey of Lent where Jesus travels to Jerusalem and invites us to follow. Pastor Mark will show us on Wednesday how Jesus tells us that there is no turning back, when it comes to following Jesus.
Every week that we have looked at Luke this year, there has been a recurring theme. Jesus takes everything that we think is right, and turns it upside down.
The same is true with the idea of glory. The kind of glory that Jesus wants is not power and recognition for himself, but to give up his own life for the sake of the world.
I have had the privilege of walking with two small groups over the past several weeks through a book called Renew Your Life. This last week that author of the book encouraged us to meditate on this famous prayer of St. Francis of Assisi. I think it captures well the secret to the glory of God.
I’d like to close by inviting you to soak in these words.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is injury, pardon,
Where there is doubt, faith,
Where there is despair, hope,
Where there is darkness, light,
Where there is sadness, joy.
Divine Master, grant that I may
Not so much seek to be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love,
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Glory be to God.