S-1296 Transfiguration S/3B 2/19/12 Hymns: (O) #590; (S) #682; (C) #414 LSB
Text: 2 Kings 2:1-12; 2 Corinthians 3:12-13; 4:1-6; Mark 9:2-945
Theme: “Passing the Baton” (2 Kings 2:1, 9-12)
Question: “Are you in a race now?” Armour, SD.
Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for the Transfiguration Sunday is from the O. T. Lesson: “Now when the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal… When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Ask what I shall do for you, before I am taken from you.’ And Elisha said, ‘Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me.’ And he said, ‘You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it shall be so for you, but if you do not see me, it shall not be so.’ And as they still went on and talked, behold, chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it and he cried, ‘My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!’ And he saw him no more.” (2 Kings 2:1, 9-12).
You, who are Loved by God the Father, Served by Christ the Savior and Sanctified by the working of the Holy Spirit, know that you are precious in His sight; adored, wanted and cherished. Every good writer and author, almost always keeps the hearer on the edge of their seat, or holds them captive till the end, before they reveal the point of the story. But not in today’s text! The narrator reveals the main point of the story right off the bat: “Now when the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind…” (v. 1) we are told exactly what God is going to do—take Elijah up to heaven. There are no surprises. There are no secrets. No hidden agenda.
When I was in Israel, there was primarily one sport that I and many others participated in—soccer. However, when I became a father, my sons participated in many sports. One athletic event that I enjoyed watching is the relay race; that is where several men or women run stages of a race but where the baton always has to be correctly passed on to the next runner in order for the next phase of the race to continue.
But I’m sure we have all seen some relay races where one of the teams has dropped the baton - disaster! Maybe that team even had a good lead but everything is lost because a baton was fumbled or dropped on one of the changeovers. That meant that all the running skills of that team were rendered useless! And as a spectator, you feel badly for the person who dropped the baton as well as the team.
Did you ever think that the life of the Christian is like an athlete in a relay race?
In today’s text, the Holy Spirit reveals to us the events about Elijah’s last moments on earth before the Lord took him to heaven by a Chariot and horses of fire. PAUSE.
As the tale unfolds, everywhere Elijah goes there are people who already know what is going to happen. First, he goes to Bethel where he finds a company of prophets. These prophets take Elisha aside and say to him, “Do you know that today the LORD will take your master away from you?” In the second scene, they go to Jericho and the same thing happens. The prophets take Elisha aside and say, “Do you know that today the LORD will take your master away from you?” and in the third scene, they go to the Jordan and this time 50 seminarians repeat the same words. Each time, Elisha responds by saying, “Yes, I know; don’t rub it in. Hush be silent!”
But what do these places visited by Elijah and Elisha mentioned in our text mean and how do they affect us personally?
Gilgal: is the place where the Israelites crossed the Jordan over to the Promised Land and Joshua asked them to place 12 stones, for a remembrance at God’s leading. Joshua 4:14-24.
Bethel: is the name the Patriarch Jacob gave this location as he was running away from his brother to his uncle Laban. “Surely, God is in this place and I didn’t know it” Genesis 28:10-19. Jericho: the site of the great battle that God fought on behalf of the Israelites as they walked by faith and not by sight. Joshua 6.
These places are used by the Holy Spirit to teach us a mighty lesson—that God didn’t come to be on our side or help us fight the battles of life, but to take over and be our Lord and God. So Gilgal speaks of being separate… Bethel speaks of the presence of God… Jericho teaches about the walk of faith. And the Jordan: Is where the Israelites crossed; and Elijah and Elisha did too. The Jordan, like the Israelite’s Red Sea experience, speaks to us of baptism – death and resurrection. The practical outworking of this is how God takes us from one place to the next. He puts us to death to lift us up.
We saw the mighty work of drowning in the Jordan today and rising to new life of Molly Krull. The Lord, God Almighty permitted Dana and Jen to bring Molly to receive the blessings of the baptismal grace and to ground her in her walk of faith—this too, is passing on the baton of faith. PAUSE.
This story is about the passing of authority from one prophet to another. Elijah has been a mighty prophet performing miracles while Elisha has been the apprentice. Here we have the transition from Elijah to Elisha. In the verse after the text, we see Elisha picking up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him… and splitting the Jordan. Scripture is clear that Elisha did mighty miracles after he became the prophet in Israel.
Throughout all of Holy Scriptures we see the passing of the baton from one person to the next. Moses passed it on to Joshua, Elijah passed it on to Elisha, Jesus passed it on the disciples, Paul passed it on Timothy and Titus; and Peter, passed it on to Mark.
The baton of faith has been passed on throughout the Christians’ history. And it is important for us to pass it on; because it is the power that changes lives and brings healing to broken and bruised hearts. That is why we have seminaries to train pastors. That is why we have churches that teach the truth of what Christ has come to do—win our salvation. That is why we teach Bible studies, VBS, Confirmation and the likes.
Passing the baton is the privilege you and I have to freely share our spiritual wealth with others. Any time, anyway, and in any form the thing God has taught you, encouraged you, or allowed you to learn from others—share it with people for their spiritual growth—living the life of faith—you are baton passing. You pass on the baton that makes a difference in the lives of others—one life at a time.
We do this, because God calls us to point others to Jesus “You Can Make An Impact, One Life At A Time”). We’re not the answer, But Jesus IS! Jesus is the One who came down from heaven and passed on to us the love of the Father. Jesus is the One who went to the cross and taught us to forgive as He forgave us our sins. Jesus is the One who died our death and rose on the third day to guarantee that we will rise with Him.
On this Transfiguration day, we remember that just as Elijah at the end of his ministry, was taken up into heaven with Elisha watching, so Jesus, at the end of His earthly ministry, ascends to heaven while His disciples watch. As we await Christ’s return, we take the mantle (Jesus Christ) and His Gospel and proclaim the glorious Good News of our salvation.
Therefore, today, we thank God for those who have gone before us—every son of Adam and every daughter of Eve who have picked up the Mantle and shared it with us. And we, too, in like measure pick up the Mantle of Jesus Christ and wear it as our baptismal garment as Molly did today and leave here to share it with others; so that they too, may know the Savior of the world who comes to us now and always. Amen.
Now the peace…
SOLI DEO GLORIA