Sunday, August 08, 2010

Guest blogger, Stan Nussbaum, takes us on a journey through the messianic year calendar.

Welcome to the journey of our Messiah through the year with Dr. Nussbaum.

Aug. 8 – Transfiguration and Disfiguration

Verse: Many were amazed when they saw him—beaten and bloodied, so disfigured one would scarcely know he was a person. Is. 52:14 (NLT)

The Season of Power ended with the most intense of all the paradoxes about the Messiah— how could the awesome person on the Mount of Transfiguration ever become the person disfigured beyond belief on the Mount of Calvary? Why would he not reveal his glory and true identity to the whole world or at least allow Peter, James, and John to report what they had seen? Why would anyone violently reject him, and why would God allow it?

The pat answer, of course, is that it had to happen so Jesus could die on the cross and pay the penalty for our sins. We quote Mark 10:45, “He came to give his life as a ransom for many,” and that settles it. The cross, which made no sense to Peter beforehand, makes perfect sense to us with hindsight. We are completely ready to enter the Season of Forgiveness, which begins this week and culminates on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

We would, however, appreciate the forgiveness and the Messiah a lot more if we saw the Transfiguration more clearly as the backdrop for the cross. This will be a recurring theme during the Season of Forgiveness—seeing forgiveness in perspective as one of the seven main blessings the Messiah brought, not in isolation from them. May we begin by imagining ourselves back in Peter’s shoes watching the story unfold instead of reflecting on it after it is over?

Peter expected what the Jews all expected about the Messiah’s arrival—it would come with sudden, irresistible force, wiping evil and evildoers from the face of the earth. (See Jan. 17.) Jesus countered this idea with his parables about the gentle, gradual arrival of the reign of God. According to Jesus, the real Messiah would not destroy his enemies the day he took power. He was going to allow a grace or amnesty period, when everyone would be allowed to decide whether to welcome him as Messiah or not. Even his enemies would be given time to lay down their weapons, renounce their mistaken rejection of him, and be welcomed into his kingdom as forgiven people.

Even more amazingly, the Messiah himself would go to incredible lengths to persuade everyone to welcome him. The amnesty would not just be a write-off of the consequences of people’s past mistakes. It would be him, the Messiah, bearing the brunt of those consequences on their behalf! He would set aside his power, lay down his life as a sacrifice for them, and offer them forgiveness through his blood.

Imposing his messianic power on people would have been easy, but everyone would have had to acquiesce, never having a choice, never knowing whether he had genuinely won their hearts or not. Paying the price of forgiveness was hard, disfiguringly hard, but one thing was sure. Once the price was paid in the way the Messiah paid it on the cross, no one anywhere who heard the story could ever miss the point. He absolutely wanted them to say “Yes” to him.

That is why Jesus told Peter, James, and John not to tell about the Transfiguration until he had risen from the dead. If they had, it would have been misinterpreted as a fulfillment of people’s misconceptions about the Messiah. Those misconceptions died when Jesus did. In their place came the recognition of a forgiving Messiah. During the grace period he is establishing his kingdom using only the power of a suitor winning his bride’s heart not the power of a dictator intimidating a nation. This is an open secret to be shouted from the housetops. What a gift this groom has brought!

Welcome: Jesus, God-sent Messiah, we get it. We are stunned at the way you won us over with only the power of your sacrificial love. Welcome to the throne of our lives.

Affirmation: My sin crushed Jesus and his disfigurement and death crushed my sin. My heart has no defense against such a Messiah. I am his.



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