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Posted: February 14, 2013 10:47 p.m.

Jesus shows love after Valentine's Day

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day. Did you remember? Did you do something big?

Now, I know my wife loves me, and I am pretty sure she knows I love her. But there is something to this encouragement we’ve had this week to show it, isn’t there? Proclaim that love for all to hear. When someone shows us his or her love in an obvious way, in those over-the-top displays — it’s awesome to see.

When two people get engaged, what’s the first question the friends ask? “How did he do it?” They want to hear the story of his blatant display of affection. Was it on the jumbotron at the game so everyone could witness it? Did he have a float in the Christmas parade to pop the question? How did he show you love?

Why do we care? We want to celebrate with them, right, to celebrate that love? Isn’t that what’s behind every good romance movie from “The Sound of Music” to “When Harry Met Sally,” from “Say Anything” to the “Twilight” stories? On the surface, you wouldn’t understand their love. But then you see the story and it makes sense.

That’s what’s going on this week in the church year, too. Of course, every week, we get to see the story of God’s love for us, but this week, we have the jumbotron version. In this account of Jesus’ transfiguration, we see God showing his love to his Son and through his Son in a very literally spectacular way. In Luke 9:28-36, Jesus is described with words like: “Bright as a flash of lightning”... Moses and Elijah are there, there’s “glorious splendor,” then “a voice from the cloud.. This is my Son!”

It’s clear, the Father loves his Son. But what I want us to focus on today, I want us to focus on how God shows us love by showing us Jesus.

Think about why Jesus took them up on a mountain and showed them his glory. Peter had just confessed the truth that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, and in the previous verses, Jesus had told them about the cost of being his disciples. Now, this is one week later, and God decides to give them a little proof of what they had just talked about.

The shining light proved Jesus really was God. The Father’s voice verified what they were seeing.

But recognize this: this transfiguration is recorded — for us — to give us another proof that Jesus is God. We don’t just see God’s love in the shining and the power, we see his love even more clearly in our Savior’s unspoken answer to Peter’s suggestion. Peter wanted to stay there where everything was beautiful. Faith was so easy that day. He wanted to stay on that mountaintop, to see faith’s fulfillment. But that’s not how life works. God has something even better planned. But to get there, we’ve got to deal with this life of death. Just like the engaged couple can’t stay on the jumbotron for more than a few seconds after she says yes — after the mountains come the valleys.

So see God’s love. Jesus didn’t stay there in that heavenly glory. He went down the mountain first. He went to face his death, to complete his mission, the purpose for which he came. He went down to show us God’s love.
Love is useless unless expressed — and love is expressed in the tough times. As great as the day I asked my wife to marry me was, that’s not where our love is the strongest. When I celebrate my love for my wife, I think of when I’ve seen her love in the tough times, when it’s been pushed to the limits by the tragedies of life, or even worse, by my weaknesses. I think of the forgiveness and support, the sacrifice and struggle. While it is important to see love shine on the mountaintop from time to time, so that we have the visible image of the internal reality — love is truly seen here in the valley, in the trenches. I’m sure you can each testify that it was in the toughest times that your love grew the strongest.

So Jesus went back down the mountain so he could endure the toughest time, so he could show us real love. And he made his way to another mountain, named Calvary, and at that hill of the skull, God’s love shone.
The one who shone brighter than lightning at his transfiguration turned off the sun for those three hours as he hung dying. His clothes stopped gleaming so that the soldiers could cast lots for them. The God-man who brightened the sky on the Mount of Transfiguration let his light be snuffed out, because that was the price for our failures.

And so from this mountaintop high of transfiguration, we now enter into the season of Lent, where we’ll celebrate the struggles Jesus endured, and again and again, we’ll see God’s love.

Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Worship every Sunday is at 10:30 a.m. Full sermons and more information can be found at abidinggrace.com.

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