Category Archives: Transfiguration

Transfiguration of Our Lord – Matthew 17:1-9

Like Saint Peter, we should say it is good that we are here. Yet unlike Saint Peter, we say it for a different reason. Peter is ready to pitch tents for all involved. He’d love the moment to last for a while. It cannot last forever. Jesus must be about His Father’s business, not about Peter’s wishes.

It is good for us to say it is good that we are here because of what we hear today. Remember what you hear. You’re going to need it as Lent draws near. Remember that you, like Peter, James, John, and countless Christians before you, are eyewitness of His majesty. You are not direct eyewitnesses of His majesty, yet you have heard what happened on that mountain. Through Peter you have heard this very voice borne from heaven. This very voice from heaven, for you, is now borne through the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place.

Like Peter at that moment, it is easy to get caught up in the experience. Now you see where the phrase “mountaintop experience” comes from. A “mountaintop experience” is one where you are a changed person after seeing and hearing something so exhilarating. The experience changes you, but you aren’t so changed after the experience. The buzz starts to fade. The memories become a twinkle in your eye. You’ll remember your feelings perhaps more than what you heard and saw.

Feelings are good things; a gift from God. Feelings, however, are not the most important gift from God. That is why Saint Peter calls the prophetic word something more sure. What is more sure about what you hear today is the voice that calls from heaven: This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him. Those last three words say it all. Listen to Him. Listen to Jesus.

Keep your eyes and ears focused and tuned on the Savior. Hear what He says to you these next few weeks. He speaks words of Spirit and truth. We know His words are from the Holy Spirit because Jesus is the Word incarnate. Peter reminds us no prophecy was ever produced from the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. Matthew wrote what He saw Jesus say and do as a witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Living Word laid down His life and picked it up again, just as His Father promised through the prophets of old. Their word, inspired by the Holy Spirit, was true.

Keep your ears focused on what Jesus says to you today: rise, and have no fear. The mountaintop experience shook Peter, James, and John to their core. When the disciples heard the voice of God the Father speak, they fell on their faces and were terrified. When we deal with God outside of Jesus Christ, we too must fall on our face and be terrified. He is holy. We are not holy. He is majestic. We are mere mortals. Yet Jesus does not leave them alone to soak in their fear and trembling. Jesus comes to them and touches them, saying rise, and have no fear.

Have no fear. Jesus is born for this moment. From now on He sets His face to Jerusalem in order to suffer and die for the sins of the world. After three days’ darkness in the tomb, Jesus rises from the dead triumphant over Satan and death. The grave cannot hold Him. The grave cannot hold you either. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is not a cleverly devised myth, to quote Saint Peter. They saw Him. The Holy Spirit guided their thoughts when they wrote their Gospels and Epistles. Their words are our lamp shining in a dark place. They draw us close to Christ, our hope for eternity.

Have no fear. You are baptized into Christ. Satan cannot have you. Deceiver that he is, he will use every trick necessary to get you to doubt your sonship in Christ. He lies. He tells you what you want to hear; especially that Jesus wouldn’t shed His blood for the likes of you. Jesus only dies for the pure in heart. Jesus only cares about people who are able to keep all the commandments. He lies. Jesus sheds His blood for you. Jesus makes your heart pure in His blood and innocent life imputed to you. Jesus keeps all the commandments and gives you His perfect obedience.

Have no fear. The Lord sets a table before you in the presence of your enemies. His Supper is before you, bestowing forgiveness of sins and strengthening your faith. Have no fear. Though your sins stain you, they are white as snow because of the blood of Jesus Christ. That’s the Good News of absolution declared to you each week in His house. The veil of the Law is lifted. No longer are you blinded by the pure light of holiness that is the presence of the Lord. You are worthy to stand in front of the light because of Jesus Christ. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Remember what you hear today inside the cloud on the mountaintop. This same Jesus, Whom you hear transfigured before you, standing with Moses and Elijah, will die. He will rise from the dead. He will ascend into heaven to prepare a place for you with Him. Don’t believe because of the experience. Believe it because you have eyewitnesses of His majesty; men who wrote the prophetic word, carried along in their writing by the Holy Spirit. Pay attention to that Word, for the Truth is there. The Truth of God is that you are free from sin and death in Christ. You are set free to love and serve your neighbor. You are set free to rejoice in your freedom. You are set free to die, and yet you live. Remember what you hear, for Jesus remembers you when He comes into His kingdom upon the cross.

Transfiguration of Our Lord – Matthew 17:1-9

Listen to him. In order to learn something in school, you had to listen to your teacher. He or she was there to teach you. When you serve jury duty, you have to listen to your instructions carefully. You have duties at work or at home. You must listen to your employer or your spouse to know what you are to do today. When you don’t pay attention as a student, on jury duty, as an employee or as a spouse, you are in trouble.

Listen to him. When you come to church, you’re here to listen to the pastor. He opens up God’s Word and applies Jesus for you. Your faith in Jesus Christ is fed. You might even learn something along the way, but that’s beside the point of receiving the gifts of Jesus. When you lose focus even for a blink of an eye, you may not grasp what is said. What is more, if you don’t listen to anything concerning Jesus and His forgiveness for any number of reasons, then you don’t receive what your soul desires: eternal life.

Listen to him. Peter, James, and John were brought to a mountain top to see Jesus in His glory with Moses and Elijah on either side of Him. Saint Luke’s account of the Gospel says that they were speaking about Jesus’ exodus which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Peter evidently did not hear the conversation. Or Peter heard what he wanted to hear. Whatever he heard, his response to what he sees and hears is the incorrect response.

Listen to him. 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. Peter doesn’t get it right now. He gets it later, when Jesus opens his minds, and the minds of the disciples, to the Scriptures. He writes about it much later when he reflects on what he saw and heard that day when Christ was transfigured before his eyes. Peter was an eyewitness. But Peter doesn’t seem to cling to his claim of being an eyewitness. He instead points his hearers to something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place.

Listen to him. Pay attention to the lamp, for the lamp is the light of Christ, the Living Word. Jesus shines in a dark place, this world, your life. Peter calls it something more sure. So many people look for evidence so they could believe. If only I could see this or experience that. Yes, I know I have the Scriptures. Yes, I know they are inspired by the Holy Spirit. Yes, I know they are, as the hymn describes them, the golden casket where gems of truth are stored. But what good does that do me when there has to be something else, something more that Jesus left behind in order that I won’t have to doubt?

Listen to him. Be still. Be at peace. Stop your searching. Stop trying to hinder Jesus from doing what He has come to do for you. God gives you two ears and one mouth for a reason. Listen to him. Jesus shows Himself to be the very Son of God, Divinity wrapped up in humanity, and the content of the preaching of Moses and Elijah. That is why both men stand there alongside Jesus. Moses prepared the Israelites for the coming of their King as they walked to the Promised Land. Moses heard the voice from a bush that burned yet was never consumed. Moses taught the Israelites about Passover to remember not only their exodus from Egypt, but also the exodus of their coming Savior, the One Who walked with them by a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire.

Listen to him. Elijah bore the burden of the Lord to call God’s people away from idolatry. Elijah performed miraculous signs as well, just as Moses did. All of Elijah’s preaching and signs pointed toward the One Who comes to save His people from their sins. Elijah feared he was the only one left. God strengthened him to keep preaching.

Listen to him today declare His only-begotten Son as His own. The voice from heaven, as it sounded at Christ’s baptism, also sounds today to remind you to fix your eyes on Jesus. Jesus comes to bear your sin, every one of them, upon Himself to make satisfaction for them. There is no sin too small or too large for Him to bear for you. He bears them willingly, for your sake, in order to give you His righteousness, His innocence, and His blessings.

Listen to him. Just as soon as we welcome the Savior according to the flesh, He prepares to do what He came to do. It’s easy to get lost in the preparation and focus on the end while missing all of what happens in the middle. Now is the time to rejoice in the grace of God, given even to those who heed His call to labor in the vineyard at the eleventh hour. Now is the time to rejoice in the Word of Christ that is the seed sown on many types of soils. Many seeds will not bear fruit, but those that do abundantly bear fruit. Now is the time to have your eyes opened to see Jesus only, setting His face to Jerusalem for His Passion.

Listen to him. Everything leads to Golgotha, where Jesus suffers all, even being forsaken by His Father, to bleed and die for your sin. Everything also leads to that empty tomb, where God’s chosen One exits the grave triumphant over death. No longer do you fear death, for Jesus goes before you trampling down the enemy and winning the battle for life for you.

It all begins with a simple request: Listen to him. Listen to Jesus. Watch what He does, for He does all things necessary for your salvation.

 

 

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Transfiguration of Our Lord – Matthew 17:1-9

It is good to be with Jesus, no matter where it is. Psalm 84 bursts with praise of being in the dwelling place of the Lord. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.

It’s also not too far a stretch to call Peter’s idea about three tents the tents of wickedness. Like a dutiful disciple, Peter wants to bottle up the moment and hang on to it for a while. It’s a sensible thing. It’s also the wrong thing. Jesus cannot remain on the mountaintop, His face shining like the sun and His clothes as white as light. Moses and Elijah cannot remain with Him. They have had their say. What they have said points to what is about to happen in Jerusalem.

You would say the same thing as Peter if you knew that from this moment on, Jesus would be walking to His death and resurrection. Let’s put up three tents, one for each of those seen in the beatific vision, and hang out for a while. There’s no need to get in a hurry to go to Jerusalem. You know Jesus has set His face to go there, but it’s good to rest awhile before the hard part comes. Maybe that rest will last a long time; long enough so that Jesus might miss His appointment at Golgotha.

Tents of wickedness indeed. It is good to be there to see that Jesus is Who He says He is: true God and true man. He reveals His glory to Peter, James, and John in order that they file this moment away in their memory banks for future reference. The Holy Spirit will call this moment, among many other moments like this one, albeit not as grand as this one, to their memories as they preach the death and resurrection of Jesus for Jewish and Gentile sinners.

Peter would recall this moment many years later in his second epistle. We were eyewitnesses of His majesty, Peter says. 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.

This is not an LSD flashback or a mere remembrance of things past. Peter is an eyewitness of His majesty. He knows you were not there with him on that mountain. You have heard about that epiphany in the Gospels many times, but you were not an eyewitness. How can you be sure Peter is not pulling your leg?

Peter has the answer. We have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, 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, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

What Peter saw with his own eyes, he tells you to believe because it is the prophetic word more fully confirmed. “More fully” is a comparative, comparing the fullness of something to something else. It is one thing for Jesus to say He is the Christ, the Son of God. It is another thing for Him to take three of His most intimate followers on a mountain and transfigure Himself before their eyes. This moment was so important that three of the four Gospel writers mention the transfiguration. Peter didn’t write a Gospel, but he does mention his being an eyewitness to what was written in today’s Epistle. This is why Peter says the prophetic word is more fully confirmed. Jesus backed up the confession that Peter made, You are the Christ, with action.

The action today is an amazing transfiguration, a glimpse into the divinity of Christ while He remains a human being. Instead of seeing the backside of God, we see a little hint, as if looking through a keyhole, of Whom Jesus is. We have this glimpse more fully confirmed in the prophetic Word proclaimed and read in this holy house. We have this prophetic Word splashed over us in Baptism. Jesus’ transfiguration is our transfiguration, for we are now hidden in His glory as we wait for His coming again in the flesh to begin the new heavens and new earth. We have this prophetic Word, This is My Body…This is My Blood, as we eat and drink the Lord’s Supper for the forgiveness of sins. We have this prophetic Word more fully confirmed as we enter into His dwelling place, this building at Second and Pine Streets, where Jesus meets us as we are to bestow favor and honor.

No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly. You walk uprightly because you walk in Jesus’ perfect righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. The veil of Moses is lifted. The One greater than Elijah is here. Lift up your eyes and see no one but Jesus only, for He Who is slain for sinners has come to give you all you need for everlasting life.

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