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.