The Transfiguration of Our Lord Trinity Lutheran Church
7 February 2016 Murdock, NE
+Jesu Juva +
Today, once again, you see Jesus like you’ve never seen Him before. In a new light. Transfiguration light. The brilliant light of the transfigured Jesus on the mountain. Today is the grand epiphany before His Good Friday suffering and death on the cross. Today is the biggest and brightest epiphany revelation of who Jesus is as God’s Son because the light of His divine glory shines through His humanity. Yes, Jesus’ divinity is showing on the mountain. And more. Transfiguration Sunday is a sneak preview of the glory that you, His baptized, will share when Jesus reveals Himself in glory on the Last Day to raise all the dead and give to you a share in His glory.
What happens to Jesus on the mountain is shocking. Incredible. The apostles heard His preaching and teaching. They witnessed His power over disease and demons. But never had they seen Jesus in this way.
What did Peter, James and John see? Jesus’ appearance was changed. His face changed. His clothing became bright with a heavenly brilliance. As bright as a flash of lightning.
What does this vision of the transfigured Jesus mean?
It means that there is more to Jesus than meets the eye. More than you’d ever imagine or guess. After all, apart from the Mount of Transfiguration you see Jesus only as the lowly carpenter from Nazareth. Nothing special. Not much out of the ordinary. But here, on this mountain His divinity leaks out all over the place! His divinity shows! His divine nature shines through His humanity. In Jesus all the “fullness of God dwells in bodily form,” (Colossians 2:9). Here on the mountain Jesus gives the apostles proof that He is indeed God reigning on the earth.
And they’ll need that. Why? Because everything is going to go south once they come down off the mountain. Things will happen to God in the flesh Jesus that will rock their apostolic world. Terrible things are going to happen to God in the flesh Jesus. Things that will shake their confidence in Him. Cause them to doubt and even deny Him.
What things? Utter rejection. Bitter suffering. Crucified on the cross.
So His transfiguration is Jesus way of confirming to the apostles that He truly is no ordinary man, but that He truly is God. And not just God in general – but GOD FOR THEM! God come TO SAVE THEM. So with the transfiguration Jesus is saying: “You will see me hang graveyard dead on a cross, but do not fear. I AM THE LORD! I shine with divine glory. Look at me now and remember, on that dark Good Friday afternoon, I am who I say I AM.”
Let’s not forget that Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus on the mountain and they have a conversation with Him. Moses, you remember is the author of the first five books of the Old Testament and he spoke with God on Mount Sinai. Elijah, you remember, is the father of the Old Testament prophets who called down fire from heaven at Mount Carmel against the false prophets of Baal. Both Moses and Elijah also died in unique ways. Moses died after seeing a vision of the Promised Land on Mount Nebo and God buried him in a place that has not been found. Elijah was whisked off to heaven in flaming chariot.
Moses and Elijah were both forerunners of Jesus. Types of Jesus. In other words, they foreshadowed Jesus in their person and work. Moses was the mediator of the old covenant, the one that stood between God and His people Israel. When Moses died this is what was written about him: “No one has ever shown the might power or performed the awesome deed that Moses did in the sight of Israel” (Deuteronomy 34:12). No one, that is, … until Jesus was born in Bethlehem!
Elijah was the greatest of Israel’s prophets. He preached God’s Word with extraordinary power. He raised the dead and worked many miracles. He defeated the numerous and mighty false prophets of Baal and was taken up bodily to heaven. His glorious ascension was a preview of Jesus ascension and your own when Jesus raises you bodily on the Last Day.
Well, I’d better get back to the text. Time’s slipping away again and I’m getting long winded. Both prophets talk with Jesus about His “departure” that would come to fulfillment in Jerusalem. “Departure.” The Greek word that Luke uses is literally: “exodus.” Moses and Elijah were talking with Jesus about His EXODUS! I.E. His impending suffering, death and resurrection.
Jesus will do an EXODUS that Moses and Elijah could never do. Jesus leads His Israel out of the slavery to sin and devil through His Holy Week Passion, Death and Resurrection to the Promised Land of resurrection and eternal life with God.
Transfiguration Mountain is a bit of heaven on earth. Glorified Jesus. Moses and Elijah. Heaven and earth came together that day.
And what is the apostolic reaction? Drowsy! Sleep! That’s really very odd. Here they are eyewitnesses of Jesus in His divine glory and in the company of Moses and Elijah and they are dozy and soon snoozing. Now you know why I don’t get too worried when you folks start dozing off in church. If a transfigured Jesus, shining on a mountain with Moses and Elijah can’t keep apostles awake, there is not much I can cook up in the way of excitement in church to keep you awake.
Heaven is revealed on earth that day on Mount Transfiguration and the apostles snooze. It happens here every Sunday too. Every Sunday the Lord Jesus appears to you. In the power and glory of His death and resurrection. Yes, the very God that conquered your sin and death is here. He preaches to you in His Word. He forgives you in the Absolution. He feeds you with His Body and Blood. But you, like His apostles, grow drowsy, sleepy, bored – in the presence of God-in-the-flesh-who-has-saved-you-Jesus.
Heaven is revealed and given to you every Sunday in the divine service and you can’t wait for the service to end!
Why? Because you have a sleepiness of the sinful nature. Because you have the drowsiness of your old Adam and old Eve. I find this in me too, especially when I sit down to read the Bible or pray. I get heavy eyes. My eyelids feel like they weigh a ton and I can’t stay awake no matter how hard I try.
I remember my days before I was a preacher and sat in the pews where you’re at. My mind would wander during the readings and especially during the sermon. If you asked me after the service what the readings or the sermon was about, most of the time I wouldn’t have been able to tell you. And it still happens when I’m on vacation or visit another congregation. My mind wanders. My eyes grow heavy. I do not hear God’s Word.
Why do we all have this happen to us? It’s really quite simple. It’s this. It is the old Adam and old Eve’s way of avoiding being put to death through God’s Word. It’s our sinful nature’s way of avoiding what is holy. And if we’re not asleep, then we’re too busy building something. Like Peter! “Lord, let’s build three shelters.” He didn’t know what he was talking about!
Well, brothers and sisters, whether in drowsiness or busy-ness, are all bent on avoiding this vision, this heaven revealed and bestowed in the divine service. That’s why we find every excuse under the sun to not go to church on Sunday on a regular basis. We will travel mile after mile, spend dollar after dollar, sit for hour after hour in gyms with our children but can’t seem to sit still for about 60-75 minutes to be rescued from sin, death, devil and the eternal damnation of hell.
That is our sinful nature, our old Adams and old Eves at work – refusing to be put to death – driving us to drowsiness or busyness. It is our darkened hearts and deafened ears. It is spiritual lethargy at work in us that makes us apathetic or indifferent to God’s Word.
So what does God do with such people? He remains gracious. He surrounds the apostles with a cloud where they see nothing but can hear His Word. He speaks the same word He spoke at Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan. “This is My Son, my chosen One, my elect Servant-Son. Listen to Him!” Yes, hear Jesus! His words are Spirit and life. Hear His words for He alone has the words of eternal life.
God is gracious to you too. He has called you out of the darkness and into His marvelous light. He has made His light shine in your hearts to give you the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus. He has enlightened you with the gift of Holy Baptism and given you a share of Jesus’ glory – the glory of His death and resurrection.
Now, of course, you don’t see Jesus like the apostles did on Transfiguration Mountain. In fact, you don’t see Jesus with your eyes at all. But He does come to you. Humbly. Hidden. In the Word of absolution, the Word of forgiveness preached and the Word of Supper, “given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” Hidden, but no less glorious. The same Jesus that shone on the mountain now shines in your hearts by the Word He speaks to you every Sunday. So that on the Last Day you too will shine in the visible radiance of Jesus together with Moses, Elijah, Peter, James, John, with the angels, the archangels, and all the company of heaven.
This is the glory of the church. This is your glory as baptized believers in Jesus. It is the glory of Jesus, the Light of the world, the light no darkness can overcome.
In the Name of Jesus.