29 January 2012 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA
Text: Matt 17:1-9
In the name of + Jesus. Amen.
Dear friends, it’s easy for us to get comfortable in our surroundings, to be so surrounded by sin and sickness and death, so as to start to see such things as “normal.” These things become “normal” only in the mathematical sense: they are the “norm” in that they are common.
But just because something is “normal” doesn’t mean that it is right. Just because something is “normal” doesn’t mean that it is supposed to be that way.
In fact, if we believe the Bible, we learn that many things that are “normal” are actually wrong. We consider it so “normal” to be sinful that the old saying is: “To err is human.” We excuse evil by making reference to “human nature.” When we fail at something we say “I’m only human.” But this is to miss out on what it means to be human. For nobody is more human, more completely human, more purely human, fulfilling the very goal of humanity itself, than our Lord Jesus Christ.
He did not sin in thought, word, or deed. He did not make an error in anything. And His human nature is perfect.
We poor miserable sinners are the ones who are not complete. There is a piece missing from our humanity – a missing piece that only Jesus can fill.
On the mountaintop, Peter, James, and John did not have a “normal” day. They did not see the “normal” manifestation of Jesus with their eyes. For he was “transfigured” – literally “metamorphosized” – changed in form – right before their faces. For “His face shone like the sun.” That is not “normal” to our fallen human nature. We are so darkened by sin, so distant from the light of God’s glory, that our faces are dull. Moses temporarily glowed in his face after seeing God. But Jesus – being fully God and fully man – glows with uncreated divine light. Normally, He hid such displays of His divine power, but on this most abnormal of days, He lets His light shine before His fellow men, that they might glorify their Father in Heaven.
And the Father glorified the Son from Heaven, saying in an abnormally audible voice: “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him.”
For us so-called “normal” people who are afflicted with sin, that voice would be anything but normal according to God’s creation. According to our fallen nature, it is not normal for God to declare that He is “well-pleased” with us.
And the reason for that is “sin.”
But what a remarkable event, dear brothers and sisters! What a glorious gift the Lord has given Peter, James, and John, and all of us here present who hear this declaration anew: “This [Jesus] is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased.”
For Jesus not only lacks sin, Jesus is the embodiment of love: Jesus is the perfect man; Jesus is God; Jesus has come from God to man, being God and man, to reconcile God and man. And in Christ, the “abnormal” is made “normal” as a Man is once again God-pleasing and worthy of being listened to. Once more, a Man walks in the cool of day in the presence of God. Once more the beams of divine light shone from a Man, and the glorious voice of God rings out triumphantly to the ears of men desperate for Good News.
And this is indeed Good News, dear friends, the good news that He has come to fulfill the Law and the Prophets, to bring to completion the broken humanity of Elijah and Moses, to metamorphosize himself so as to reveal His true divine nature, kept hidden so as to appear “normal” in a world where the “normal” is sinful and incomplete.
“When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified.”
Things that happen to us that take us out of our comfortable zone of “normal” are terrifying. We can’t predict the future, and so it scares us. We have not gone through death, so it torments us. We sometimes doubt the very things we know and believe – which horrifies us. But like Peter and James and John, we hear the Lord say it once more: “Rise, and have no fear.” “Rise, and have no fear,” dear friends!
“Rise!” He bids us: rise from sin, rise from shame, rise from fear, and yes, even rise from death. Rise up out of the sinful, fallen world that has the illusion of “normal.” Rise and lift up your eyes and see “Jesus only.” “Rise, and have no fear.”
We can live our lives with the comfortable words of Jesus “have no fear” ringing in our ears and governing our lives. In Christ we need not fear anything – be it “normal” or “abnormal.” For in Christ, what we have is “completeness.” We have Man elevated back to the image of God, even as we have God come down in mercy, metamorphosized into the form of a Man. For He truly is God and Man, truly mighty and merciful. He has come to die so that we might live, to be perfect so that we might have pardon.
That, dear brothers and sisters, is what it means to “Rise, and have no fear,” to lift up one’s eyes, and see “Jesus only.”
For when we see “Jesus only,” we see Him who is the Father’s beloved Son, and we can indeed “listen to Him.”
For as Peter also confessed, and as the Church confesses with Him, Jesus has the “words of eternal life.” There is no other person or place to go! And with Peter and James and John, we can come down from the mountain where we hear His Word, return to our lives where the “normal” seems “abnormal” and where the “abnormal” masquerades as “normal” – knowing the truth about who Jesus is and what Jesus has done for us. We know what is truly “normal.”
He has made us complete in forgiveness. He has restored us to the normalcy of life. He has fulfilled the Law and the Prophets. He has delivered to us Good News. He has risen from the dead to show that death is abnormal and life, eternal life, is normal, and eternal! And the living and forgiving Christ Himself invites us: “Rise, and have no fear.” Let us lift up our eyes and see “no one but Jesus only.” Amen.
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.