Sunday, February 09, 2014

Sermon: Transfiguration of our Lord – 2014

9 February 2014

Text: Matt 17:1-9 (Ex 29-35, 2 Pet 1:16-21)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

As we move along from the Christmas season to the Easter Season, we track along from our Lord’s entrance into our world as a helpless baby in His mother’s arms, through His visit from the magi and His teaching in the temple, through His young adulthood and preparation for the ministry, His baptism and preaching and gathering the apostles unto Himself.

Our Lord has grown in stature and in wisdom, and He is revealing Himself to the world, which He came to save, by various signs, revealing who He is and proving what His mission is.  All the while, He forgives sins and rolls back the effects of sickness and death.  He speaks not as one of the scribes or Pharisees, but as one who has authority, one bearing the authority of God Himself.

And on this extraordinary day, Jesus brings His inner circle of Peter, James, and John with Him on a “high mountain by themselves.”  They know Jesus is like no-one else.  Is He a prophet?  Is He the Messiah?  Is He the Son of the living God?  And who testifies and verifies His claims?  Jesus is about to unmask Himself, to lift the veil, to let the three in on the fullness of the mystery.

And Jesus also takes off the gloves in His battle with Satan.

In His holy transfiguration, in His metamorphosis, to use the Greek term, Jesus shows what is normally hidden; Jesus manifests what is normally held in reserve.  Jesus opens the throttle for just a few seconds.  Jesus gives the three a few moments of the dazzling power and glory that beams from His divine nature, in the form of His face shining “like the sun” and His clothes becoming “white as light.”  For a short while, the dazzling, brilliant beams of light radiate from the divine face of Jesus, that same glow that reflected off of Moses’s face, the glory of God that so attracts us and appalls us at the same time, drawing in the new man and repelling the old Adam.  And as Moses’s face shone with the reflected glory of God, our Lord’s face shines eternally with uncreated light, for He “is the light of the world, the light no darkness can overcome.”

And what’s more, Jesus reveals something else.  Jesus makes a point to show that He is in communication, which is to say, in communion, with Moses and Elijah, with the Law and the Prophets.  He who is the Word speaks through the Law and the Prophets, who in turn speak to testify of Him.  And furthermore, lest anyone doubt the veracity of this vision, God the Father Himself speaks intelligently and miraculously to the bewildered disciples, testifying and claiming His Son, and instructing the Church what we are to do with Jesus: “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him.”

“Listen to Him,” commands the Father, or more accurately, invites the Father.  Our loving almighty God and Father invites us into the heavenly realms with Peter, James, and John, inviting us to see Jesus as He is, inviting us to be saved and transformed in our own right, by the forgiveness of sins, through the blood of our Lord shed on the cross, through the good news that He speaks to us.  And this is why our God and Father invites the apostles and all Christians to “listen to Him.”

This is a gracious invitation, dear friends!  For Jesus has not come into the world to condemn, but to save.  “Listen to Him.”  Hear His Word!  Pay close attention to His absolution.  Partake of His gifts!  Be cleansed through living in your baptism in daily repentance.  And listen to what has been inspired and written in the Word of God.  “Listen to Him,” for your forgiveness, life, and salvation.  “Listen to Him” to receive God’s mercy and grace.  “Listen to Him” to learn who He is and what He has done for us poor miserable sinners.

Peter, James, and John listened and watched.  It was more than they could handle.  “They fell on their faces and were terrified.”  For no mortal man living in the sinful flesh can handle very much of this.  They are not only looking at God in the flesh, they are seeing God’s face in its unveiled glory.

And even in the midst of this wonderful and yet terrifying manifestation of the power and might of God the Son, our Lord shows His mercy.  “Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Rise, and have no fear.’  And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.”

At this point, Moses and Elijah have vanished from sight.  The Father’s booming voice is again silent.  The blinding glow of the Lord’s face and clothing have returned to their previous normalcy.  Everything returns to its prior state, except for Peter, James, and John.  They have been changed.  They have been transfigured.  They have been metamorphosized, even as Moses, centuries earlier, continued to reflect the Lord’s light upon coming down the mountain.

Peter, James, and John have been changed as they come down the mountain with Jesus.  They have seen and experienced the Lord in His full majesty, in His infinite power, in His unbridled divine magnificence.  They now know just who Jesus is.  And what they saw and heard will help them when their faith will be severely and sorely tested after the coming crucifixion of the Transfigured One.

For on the cross, they will see a different figure, a different form.  Instead of a glowing face they will see a dark and battered and bruised countenance.  Instead of beaming white clothing they will see bloodied skin.  Instead of the conversation with the Law and the Prophets, they will see the condemnation of the Law and the Prophets, a condemnation earned by us and yet borne by Him.  Instead of the approving voice of the Father they will hear the suffering Son cry out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?”

God was merciful to allow the three leaders of the holy apostles to witness this transfiguration, and to cause the Holy Spirit to record its account for us to read and hear.  “Listen to Him,” the Spirit bids us today.  Listen to this testimony and manifestation of Jesus, who is almighty God, who lays aside His glory for the shame of the cross, who receives death so that we might be transfigured and metamorphosized from sinners into saints, from the dead into the living, from those bound by time to those dwelling in eternity!

And we can listen to Him in His Word, for as one of those witnesses, St. Peter, teaches us: “We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty.”  Indeed, Peter was one who heard the voice “borne to Him by the Majestic Glory,” saying, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”  Peter testifies, “We ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with Him on the holy mountain.”

And like St. Peter, we too “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.”

We have the Word of the Law and the Prophets, the Word of the Gospel and the forgiveness of sins.  We have the Word of God, for Jesus is the very Word Himself, revealed on the mountain to Peter, James, John, and to us.

“Listen to Him!”  Amen.


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