Sunday, February 9, 2014

Transfiguration Sermon

In the Name of Christ Jesus, the Light of the World +
            And after six days. . . six days after what?  Before we get into our text this morning, let’s back track a little bit to six days before hand.  Six days before our Gospel, we get Peter’s confession – You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  We get Jesus telling the disciples that He will be crucified, and Peter telling Jesus not to go to the cross.  “Get behind me Satan!”  We have Jesus telling the disciples that if they are to follow Him they must take up their own cross and follow Him.  This is what we see in chapter 16.  The disciples see, but they don’t see.  They need to understand more – and so, a week later, Jesus takes Peter, James, and John with Him to one of the mountains in Judea, and there those three disciples witness the transfiguration.

          And He was transfigured before them, and His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became white as light.  One of the things we can do as Christians, and I know it sounds silly, but bear with me, one of things we can forget about Jesus is that Jesus is God.  That this Man Jesus is God Almighty with a capital G, capital A.  That He is God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God.  We see that this morning – that’s what the transfiguration is at its heart.  For this short time on a mountaintop Jesus lets His Divine Nature shine forth unhindered – the Light of Light reveals who He is.  Sometimes when we think about Jesus, we can sort of separate the Man from God – we almost think of Jesus as though His time on earth was just a change of pace from His time in heaven – He took a break from being God but now is back up in heaven doing His God things.  But the transfiguration shows and teaches us otherwise.  This Man Jesus is God.  When we see Jesus, we learn that God has taken up flesh and become Man.  The incarnation is not temporary.  When He was made Man, He remained God, and right now God is a Man.  How much does God want to share in your life?  That He becomes Human Himself.  And when Jesus came down, when He was born of the Virgin Mary – He didn’t give up being God – He wasn’t watered down God, He wasn’t God Lite – He is still true God.  But before His resurrection, He didn’t always let it show.  Why?  Because Jesus doesn’t need to brag about who He is.  Jesus didn’t come to earth to show off how wonderful He is.  He didn’t come to hob-nob or socialize – He came to win salvation – and to do that, He needed to suffer, He needed to let Himself be dragged to death, even death upon a Cross.  But this morning Jesus gives these three disciples and us an Epiphany, a revelation of the truth that He is indeed both God and Man.

          And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with Him.  This shouldn’t surprise us.  Remember what the Old Testament is often called in Scripture – the Law and the Prophets.  And what do we see here – Moses, the Law-giver, and Elijah, the greatest of the prophets – talking to Jesus.  Of course they would be talking to Jesus – all of the Old Testament points forward to Jesus.  Moses looked forward to Christ – for Jesus is the true Tabernacle of God, He is the true and once and for all sacrifice, the true deliverance from slavery, not merely to Egypt, slavery to sin and death.  Elijah looked forward to Jesus – He is the ultimate defeat of Baal and all false Gods, Jesus is the redemption that Elijah preached and prophesized about.  Again, here we see something spelled out that should be obvious.  All of God’s Word points to Christ Jesus and what He does.  The point of the Bible, its main job, is to show forth Christ our Redeemer.

          And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here.  If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.”  Now, Peter isn’t being silly here – rather he is being quite polite.  The Israelites celebrated the feast of booths, the feast of tabernacles – where they would gather around Jerusalem and set up tents to remember how God preserved them during their wandering in the desert.  It was a religious holiday – and Peter basically asks Jesus if Moses and Elijah are coming to celebrate.  Peter will get things ready – it’s okay Jesus, if they are staying, I’ll get everything ready, you just keep on talking.  But even though he is being very polite and proper, he misses the point.  Jesus didn’t bring you up on the Mountain to have you run errands, Peter.  He brought you here to teach you.  Here Peter has Jesus there before him with this wondrous opportunity and gift, and Peter’s thoughts are elsewhere.  On the holiday that they are celebrating.  On hotels for the guests.  On what Peter could be doing instead.  Just the way we get sometimes, so over busy and worried about what *he* is doing..  Peter gets excited, and his focus shifts, his mind races, and suddenly, just like us, he starts looking at all the things he has to do.  Here is Jesus before Him, transfigured and shining, and Peter wants to head on off and be busy.

Of course, maybe Peter thought this would last a while – that there would be days and days of having Moses and Elijah around – but Peter was mistaken.  This was only to be a brief glimpse of heaven here on earth – heaven doesn’t stick around on earth.  Even before Peter finishes his sentence we hear: He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.”  When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified.  But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise and have no fear.”  And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.  The climax of heaven comes, the Father speaks, and Peter and the rest of the disciples cower in fear and then, gone.  The moment has passed, and it’s just them and Jesus on the mountain.

          You see, Jesus understands.  Jesus gets the point – He knows what He is to be about.  Moses and the Prophets – they pointed forward to Him.  They pointed forward to the spotless Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world.  That’s what Jesus is about, that’s what He is going to do – and in order for Him to do this – He has to come down off the mountain.  It’s not yet time for Jesus to eternally shine forth His glory – Jesus still has work to do.  Sin, your sin, Peter, James, and John’s sin, the sin of the world must be dealt with.  Christ must go to the Cross and suffer and die.  This is what Moses and the Prophets pointed to, this is what they proclaimed.  And so, Jesus steps away from the Mount of Transfiguration.  Jesus isn’t about glory.  His main concern isn’t acquiring praise.  He doesn’t want to show off or “live the dream”.  He revealed Himself to the three disciples as He wanted to, and now it is time to head towards the cross.  And Jesus explains why He must head to the cross.

          But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.”  Because His eyes are set upon the Cross, because that is where Jesus is going, Jesus can touch the disciples, can tell them to have no fear.  Remember, they were just in the presence of God – sinners before God Almighty.  You know what that does to sinners?  It terrifies them.  Think on Adam in the garden after he sinned.  What does Adam tell God?  I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid.”  That’s what sin does.  It makes us afraid of God, and rightly so, for God is just, and does not tolerate sin.  God is just and punishes sin – punishes our sin.  And yet Jesus tells them to have no fear.  How can He do this – how can He tell these sinful men to have no fear when they’ve heard the voice from heaven, when God Himself has just touched them, God Almighty and pure and righteous?  Because Jesus goes to the Cross – because His eyes are set upon Calvary.  Because Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world – He takes it away from us, Jesus claims our sin, and holding on to our sin, He takes our punishment upon the Cross.  “My God, My God, why hast Thou Forsaken Me?”  That’s not play acting, that’s not just a dramatic line in some book – that is Jesus taking your punishment.  You see, when Jesus says, “have no fear” – He’s not just speaking soothing words.  He’s not telling a little lie to calm you down.  When Jesus says “have no fear” He is telling the disciples that their sin, their reason for having fear, is being taken away by Him.  Christ’s comfort is true comfort, true forgiveness.  Because of what Jesus does upon the Cross, His Word has power and authority to forgive sin, even to this very day, even to us sinners here at Trinity/Zion Lutheran Church.

          This is why the Father says that He is well pleased with Jesus – because Jesus does precisely what the Father wishes.  God is our Creator – He created us to be with Him.  Sin messed that up.  God is not content to let sin mess up His creation.  So, Christ Jesus comes, becomes part of that creation, and fixes it Himself.  Creation will be good again, Man will be good again, and it happens in Christ. This is why the Father is well-pleased with Jesus.  And this is why the Father is well-pleased with you.  When God looks at you, He sees Jesus.  Why?  Because when God looks at you, it’s not rose tinted glasses He uses, but blood stained glasses.  You have been washed in the blood of the Lamb, and are now spotless.  You have been Baptized into Christ – His life is now your life.  That’s what Baptism means – that your life is Christ’s – not merely in the sense that “Jesus owns my life” – God has that with or without Baptism.  He’s the Creator of all, and all things belong to Him.  But at Baptism Jesus gives you His own life, covers You with Himself, with His righteousness, and now the Father is well-pleased with you, His forgiven and redeemed Creation.  Your life *is* Christ, it is no longer merely you who lives, but Christ who lives in you.

           And when they looked up, they saw no one but Jesus only.  Of course they saw only Jesus.  Jesus is all they needed.  And Jesus is all we need.  Christ Jesus our Lord gives us life and salvation – which is why in this place we see no other.  We don’t chase after false gods.  We don’t try to work our way up to the Father by our works.  We don’t wait to just get zapped by the Holy Spirit.  Rather, we see Jesus – we see Jesus as He comes to us in His Word, revealing Himself to us – giving us His forgiveness.  We see Jesus as He comes to us in His Supper.  We always see Jesus coming to us, touching us when we are lost in sin, and giving us His forgiveness.  Have no fear, Jesus has come to you, and He is all that you see.  In the Name of Christ Jesus, the Light of the World + Amen.


Steve Martin said...

Great sermon!


(But…some just feel the need to hang onto the hem of Moses' robe - believer's must have a third use - you know)

But, I digress.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

The Holy Spirit will use the Law as He wills... I hang on none of them. I see Christ.

Steve Martin said...

Amen, Rev.

The law is not for us to use. He can handle it.

Keep up the good work!