More Than Meets the Eye!
Transfiguration of Our Lord Trinity Lutheran Church
26 February 2017 Murdock, NE
+ Jesu Juva +
There’s much more to Jesus than meets the eye. Peter, James, and John saw with their own eyes what we confess by faith. Carpenter Preacher Jesus from Nazareth, is “God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God.” They saw His glory, at least as much of it as they could handle, which isn’t very much.
John wrote about it: “We beheld His glory, the glory of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Peter wrote about Transfiguration Mountain in his second letter, “For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,’ we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain” (2 Peter 1:17).
On the mountain a TRANSFIGURATION. A METAMORPHOSIS. A change in Christ’s outward appearance. It’s the same Jesus the three apostles had always seen. But now His appearance changes. HE GLOWS WITH THE GLORY OF GOD! HIS DIVINITY IS SHOWING! SHINING ALL OVER THE PLACE!
Jesus is indeed the light. Light of Light. When Jesus’ divinity flashes on the mountain, the light was not coming from outside but from the inside. His divinity hidden in, with, and under His humanity glitters forth. The radiance of Jesus was the glow of His glory as the only Son of the Father.
This is the divine hidden glory of His incarnation – His enfleshment. Jesus, the eternal Son of God, in all His glory is hidden beneath His humble humanity. If you bumped into Jesus on the street, you would not have seen anything unusual about Him. He would blend into a crowd. No one would shout out: “Hey! Look at Him! He’s God!”
Yet the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily in Jesus. The finite contains the Infinite. The Creator comes as the creature. However, for this fleeting moment on the mountain, Peter, James and John catch a glimpse of Jesus’ shining divine glory. Not full blast! That would have blinded and destroyed them. No one can bear the full blast sight of God in this life. Nonetheless, it was enough of a look to let them know that there was more to Jesus than meets the eye.
Jesus is preparing the disciples for the sorrowful road ahead. When He will travel to another mountain: Mount Calvary. That would not be glorious. Instead of light, there would be deep darkness. Instead of life, there would be a graveyard death. Instead of glory, there would be defeat. Instead of the Father’s voice from heaven, there would be silence. Instead of the Father’s gracious presence, there would only be abandonment. Only John would be there to watch. Peter would deny Jesus three times and skulk off looking for a hole to crawl in. James, probably like the rest, didn’t dare to be seen or associated with Suffering-and-Dying-on-the-Good-Friday-Cross-Jesus.
Well, as soon as they climb down the mountain, Jesus emphatically and categorically teaches that He will … suffer bitterly, die crucifixion-ly and rise again gloriously after three days. The revealed glory of the transfiguration pointed to the hidden glory of the cross — the hidden glory of Christ’s victory over sin by becoming sin — His conquering death by dying — His fulfilling the law by being accused and cursed by the law.
Well, that’s precisely why Moses and Elijah are there. They’re chatting with Jesus, as Luke puts it, about His “departure,” or “exodus.” That’s the word that preaches His death and resurrection. Good Friday and Easter Sunday are the true Exodus whereby Jesus delivers you, His people, the new Israel, from the slavery of sin and the darkness of death. Moses and Elijah preached this glory to the people of Israel. Now Moses and Elijah bear witness to Peter, James and John that Jesus is the fulfillment of their preaching.
In addition, Transfiguration Mountain is also a little glimpse of the resurrection of the body. Moses and Elijah had died a long, long time ago. However, now they are alive in the presence of Jesus. He’s the Lord of the living and all believers are alive to Him. This is a little sneak preview of the glory of the resurrection when Christ will appear to raise the dead and give His believers eternal life. Moses and Elijah are part of that. And so are you and all your loved ones who have died in the faith.
Well, Peter wants to keep Jesus on the mountain. Can you blame him? He wants to maintain the momentous mountain top moment. Enshrine it with three tents or tabernacles. It is what everyone would do. You too. Preserve the vision. Make a shrine to it. Pilgrims would flock to it. In truth, we don’t even know on which mountain this happened. There are some guesses but little in the way of hard evidence. The point is, you can’t enshrine a vision like this. Faith isn’t made or sustained by these sorts of things, which is why only three disciples even saw it. It’s why the cloud descended on the mountain so there was nothing more to see. It’s why the voice of the Father spoke as He did at Jesus’ Baptism and said, “This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him.” And when the cloud lifted, they saw only Jesus.
Shining, Transfigured, Glowing Jesus is wonderful, glorious, amazing, awesome. But that’s not the way Jesus saves you. He doesn’t save you with displays of power and glory. He saves you by scandalously becoming your sin and humiliating-ly dying on the Good Friday cross. Your old Adam, your sinful nature, loves the glory. The old Adam is a glory junkie who seeks a shining Jesus, a glorious Jesus, a power Jesus.
However, the faith that saves and justifies before God is built on nothing less than Jesus Christ and Him Good Friday-ly crucified.
When the cloud lifts, they see no one except Jesus. Moses and Elijah are gone. Why? It’s a no brainer. They can’t save you. The commandments and the prophecies cannot save you. They can only point you to Jesus and deliver you dead at His Good Friday feet. Only Jesus bears your sin and endures its damnation. Only Jesus conquers your death. Only Jesus justifies you before the Father.
So it’s salvationly important – salvationly necessary to listen to Jesus and to Him alone. He alone has the words of eternal life. He alone has a Baptism that saves you. He alone has a Lord’s Supper body and blood that bring you forgiveness, life, and salvation. He alone will raise you from the dead on the Last Day. Moses and Elijah needed Christ to live. They trusted in Christ. They bore witness to Christ. Together with the Father’s voice they also say to you, “This is the beloved Son of God, listen to Him!”
With the hearing of Christ’s Word comes your own transfiguration too. The Scripture says that you too are being transfigured, changed “from glory to glory” by the Spirit, being renewed by the transforming of our minds in Christ Jesus. Just as the divinity of Jesus was hidden beneath the weakness of His humanity, so the new man in Christ, your new nature, spelled F-A-I-T-H is hidden under the weakness of your old man in Adam. Your “mount of transfiguration” comes on the Last Day, and not one day sooner, when the Lord will raise you and you will appear in bodies as glorious as His, perfectly reflecting the light of His glory without the stain of sin.
In the meantime, as you live your lives on this earth, you are given let your light so shine before men so that they will see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. What does that look like? Shockingly but freeingly it is the daily life of repentance, of baptismally dying to your sin every day and rising to live the new life of faith in Jesus., Yes, living in and from your baptism in Christ, you are being transformed from the inside out as the old Adam with all its sins and evil desires dies and the new you in Christ rises and lives by faith.
What joy! I’m delighted that I’ve had the opportunity to tell you of Jesus divinity shining through His humanity as the Incarnate Son of the Father. In addition, I proclaimed to you the glory of the resurrection in which Moses and Elijah together with all the saints of all time will be gathered together with Christ on the Last Day. And I also proclaimed the mystery of your own transformation from glory to glory, as day by day you die to sin and live to righteousness in Christ. Your future is glorious, dear baptized believers of Trinity. It is as glorious as Jesus shining on the mountain which He does FOR YOU on His way to do a Mount Calvary to win your salvation!
Happy Transfiguration Day!
In the name of Jesus. Amen.