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Jesus is True God and True Man

February 23, 2020

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The Transfiguration of Our Lord                           Trinity Lutheran Church

23 February 2020                                                    Murdock, NE


+ Jesu Juva +


Matthew 17:1-9


On the mountain three eyewitnesses, Peter, James and John, see  Jesus’ appearance change. Metamorphosized! Transfigured! His face shines like the sun; His clothes gleam white as pure light. No wonder the Nicene says of Jesus:  God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God!  Jesus is true God and true Man all in the same Person.  And on the mountain His Body shines with the glory of God.

The divine glory of the Lord once concealed is now revealed. The glory that once filled the Tent of Meeting and Solomon’s temple, the glory that departed from Israel is now seen in the body of Jesus. Let there be no doubt!  It is true!  God is with us. Jesus is Immanuel. To be God FOR US AND FOR OUR SALVATION! The Bible isn’t about how humans become divinities.  The Bible is about how the Second Person of the Trinity, the Son, becomes man and yet still retains the fulness of His divine glory. Nothing compromised. Jesus is full blast divinity, the one God, in human flesh. And the sight is glorious!

Old Testament Moses and Elijah are there too. Moses gave us the Torah (the first five books of the OT). Elijah is the foremost of the OT prophets. Mr. Torah Moses and Mr. Prophesy Elijah, stand with transfigured Jesus.  They  talk with Him the way one speaks to an old friend. On a side note:  here we are shown a foretaste of the resurrection when all believers will stand in the glory of Jesus – raised bodily from death and the grave. In other words, if you’re picking up what I’m throwing down, this is a sneak preview of what is in store for Peter, James, John and for you, the baptized believer on the Last Day’s resurrection.

Now, on another note, the Savior Jesus does not to abolish Moses and the Prophets. He fulfils them! He brings them to their conclusion and purpose. That’s why Moses and Elijah surround Jesus.  They do what they always do best: point or give witness to Jesus as the Savior of the world! In St. Luke’s account he tells us they were conversing about Jesus’ “exodus,” His departure, that is, His coming death and resurrection by which Moses and the prophets are fulfilled.

Peter sincerely offers to build three shrines, one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. Can you blame him?  It’s what religious people do.  They always want to enshrine “spiritual” events.  Contain them. Box them up. Tame them. There are “shrines” all over the world. Shrines to alleged appearances of the Virgin Mary in Lourdes, France and Guadeloupe, Mexico. There’s the Holy Family Shrine outside of Gretna by the interstate.  An Orthodox monastery built on Mt. Tabor, the alleged site of the Transfiguration. Whether it’s true or not, I don’t know.  If you want to take a trip to Israel and visit certain sites like where Jesus was born, lived, died and rose, transfigured, you’re free to do so.   I might even want to do that someday.

However, I’m here to tell you that the power of God to save you does not reside in visiting places where Jesus was transfigured or crucified or rose. The point I’m making is this.  You don’t go to God. Instead, God comes to you!  You don’t need to go on some pilgrimage to the Middle East to be closer to God. God has drawn closest to you in Jesus, who manifests Himself for you personally in the water of your Baptism, in the bread and wine of the Supper, in the spoken Word of forgiveness, the gathering of even as few as two or three gathered in His name. That’s your mountain. That’s the place where Jesus meets you.  It’s called the Divine Service held every Sunday here at Trinity.

In his second epistle Peter, one of the honored three eyewitnesses to Jesus’ Transfiguration wrote this: we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts….” (2 Peter 1)!

Did you hear that?  Isn’t that incredible?  Peter, who saw this vision with his own eyes and testified to it, points you to the Word, the Bible, as something “more sure” than this great vision. More sure. In other words, it is more sure to hear the divine WORD of forgiveness given in the Bible and spoken by your pastor or a fellow Christian than to see shining Jesus on a mountaintop. It is more sure to remember Jesus’ WORD of promise that “whoever believes and is baptized will be saved,” (Mark 16:16) than to see Moses and Elijah standing next to Jesus in His glory. It is more sure you hear Christ’s unthwartable Lord’s Supper’s PROMISSORY WORD of “given and shed FOR YOU for the forgiveness of your sins” than to see His face shining like the sun and His clothes beam brighter than anything on earth. It is more sure to read and hear of Christ in the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures than to stand on the mountain where the Transfiguration happened.

Before Peter could enshrine the event, a thick cloud covers the mountain. It is the same cloud that covered Sinai and filled the tabernacle and temple. Same pillar of cloud that guided Israel. And from the cloud comes the voice of the Father, echoing Jesus’ baptism. “This is my Son, with whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him.”

Hear His words. Exactly!  Because His are the WORDS of eternal life. Moses and Elijah can’t save you.  But they both point you to the One who does! Only Jesus saves you! Only Jesus bears your sin, your death, the punishments and curse of the law. Only Jesus mediates between God and man because He is both God and Man. Moses and Elijah reflected the glory of God, but only Jesus shines WITH the glory of God. Moses and Elijah were like the moon reflecting the sun. But only Jesus shines like the sun with His own light. Moses and Elijah reflected the light; only Jesus is the Light of the world.

And in the end that’s what the three disciples saw. Only Jesus. He came and picked them up off the ground, raised them up out of their fear. They saw no one but Jesus. He’s all they need. He’s all you need too.

And then one of the most curious things I’ve ever read in the New Testament. Weren’t you stunned to hear it too?  As they hiked down  the mountain, Jesus commanded them:  “Do not to tell anyone about this vision until I’ve been raised from the dead.” Not even to the other nine disciples?  Nope!  Tell no one!   How do you refrain from telling anyone that you’ve seen the Transfigured Jesus?

Here is how.  Shining Mount of Transfiguration Jesus without crucified Mount Calvary Dead On The Cross Jesus leaves all the wrong impressions. Here is what I mean. Which Jesus would you rather have witnessed? His glorious transfiguration or His brutal and bestial crucifixion? Which would you want to see with your own eyes – shining Jesus or dead Jesus? I don’t think I need to take a poll. Shining Transfigured Jesus wins hands down. Doesn’t He?  Of course!

We prefer the glory to the cross. We prefer the stories of miraculous healings to the stories of incredible suffering. We prefer the power and the majesty of a Jesus who shines with unearthly glory than a beaten and bloodied Jesus who hangs dead and defeated. But here’s the rub: only Good Friday dead on the cross Jesus saves you. Only crucified Jesus bears your sin. You see, brothers and sisters, If all we have is the Transfigured Jesus without the cross you’d still be condemned by the Law, dead in your sins, and the final result would be, as the Bible clearly states: hellacious!

Well, I better wrap up this sermon.  It’s getting quite long.  How you put up with such a Wyoming windbag like me is beyond me.  But here goes. The Transfiguration tells you who Jesus is.  He is true God and true Man. Divinity in human flesh.  But His death and resurrection tell you who He is FOR YOU – your Good Friday Lord, your  Good Friday Redeemer, your Good Friday Savior, God’s Lamb of God one and only sacrifice who takes away the sin of the world.

On the Last Day you will see the shining Jesus when He comes to judge the living and the dead. He has promised to appear again in full blown glory in order to raise you from the dead and give you eternal life. In addition, you will see Moses and Elijah, all the saints, and all your loved ones who have died in the Christian faith. And there won’t be any need to build a shrine to preserve the moment, because the moment will be everlasting — eternal. The sight of Last Day Judge Savior Jesus will be absolutely glorious!

But for now, the mountain of a glorious transfiguration gives way to the mountain of the torture and grisliness of the cross. Shining Jesus gives way to the suffering and crucified Jesus. The Sunday of Transfiguration gives way to Ash Wednesday and the somber season of a repentant Lent in which you learn even more to die to your sin so that the new man F-A-I-T-H may with great joy rise to live in Jesus’ forgiveness. It’s always the same Jesus – shining, dead, risen, reigning. It’s always the same Jesus – true God and true Man – who comes to save you.  And He has!  Thanks be to God!

Have a happy Transfiguration Sunday, Ash Wednesday and Lent.

In the name of Jesus. Amen


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