Sunday, January 21, 2018

Sermon: Transfiguration - 2018

21 January 2018

Text: Matt 17:1-9

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

The Transfiguration of our Lord is a dramatic event.  It was, of course, something the three apostles Peter, James, and John would never forget.  And it is something that we don’t forget either, as the church remembers this remarkable revelation of who Jesus is each year as we make our way to Lent, to Good Friday, and to Easter.

Our Lord takes the three of them up a mountain.  His face and clothes glow with a blast of radiant light.  Jesus is seen talking with Moses and Elijah.  Peter says something about building tents for the three of them.  Then there is a cloud and the voice of God the Father announcing approval of His Son Jesus.  The three disciples are “terrified” and they fall to the ground.  And then it is all over, that quick.  Everything goes back to normal, and all they see is Jesus: “Jesus only.”  And then Jesus tells them to keep quiet about all of this, “until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.”

I gave you a quick rundown of this incident as recorded in our Gospel reading, but I left out a detail.  Maybe you missed it.  It goes by so quickly, and it doesn’t seem important, so you might not have caught it.  But it is a detail that was so important that the Evangelist made sure that it was included in his account right at the beginning, and the Holy Spirit has made sure that you heard it today.

The three words at the beginning of this reading are: “After six days.”

“After six days.”

So why is this important?  Well, six days prior, Peter, the leader of the apostles and of our Lord’s inner circle of Peter, James, and John, confessed Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of God.”  And Jesus told Peter that this confession was revealed to him by the Father. 

This is a crucial turning point for our Lord and for the church.  For the revelation of who Jesus is hasn’t been completed – even after Peter’s confession.  Our Lord is going to take Peter with two witnesses and really make it clear who He is, why He is here, and what is going to happen in the future. 

And once again, this entire revelation is set off by the words “after six days.”

What happens after six days, dear friends?  After six days, comes the seventh day, the Sabbath, the weekly Day of Rest that we Christians keep as “The Lord’s Day,” that is “Sunday.”  While the pagan world chose to honor the sun, the brightest star in our sky that blazes with light, we Christians honor a different kind of Son: the Son of God and Son of Man, whose light is uncreated and divine.  Their sun is created, whereas our Son is the Creator.

“After six days” reminds us that the universe was created in six days, and “after six days,” God rested.  He rested from His labors, and He called creation “very good.”  “In the beginning, God created,” says the first verse of the first book of the Bible.  “In the beginning was the Word,” says the first verse of the last Gospel in the Bible.  In the beginning was God, and in the beginning was the Word by whom all things were made.  “After six days,” after the creation, after the Word declared, “Let the be light, and there was light,” after the universe was created and after the man Adam, who was to become the earthly ancestor of Jesus, after the six days of creation, Jesus comes into our world to fix it, to rescue us, to shine light into the dark places of our sinful world and our sinful flesh, to enlighten us with the Gospel and the revelation that He is God in the flesh, that the Father is well-pleased, and that the “Son of Man” will indeed be “raised from the dead.”

“After six days,” Jesus speaks to Moses and Elijah, conversing with the Law and the Prophets, as the One who fulfills both the law and the prophets.  He reveals who He is to the disciples, and He blazes with glorious and frightening light.  This is the unvarnished and unveiled glory and might of God.  “After six days” He has come into the world to be the world’s Sabbath rest, to spend the sixth day on the cross and in the tomb, to die for us and in our place, to defeat Satan himself by atoning for us and rescuing us from the devil’s clutches.  “After six days,” He announces, “It is finished,” and the Father’s words, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased” are brought to their fulfillment upon the cross, as the Son flawlessly and faithfully obeys the Father’s will, and creation is redeemed, all “after six days.”

“After six days” comes the Sabbath, His rest in the tomb, and at the end of that Sabbath, comes the Eighth Day, the First Day of the new creation. “After six days” Jesus will come again to restore creation to its glory with a New Heaven and a New Earth!

Dear friends, we don’t see the Lord in His full transfigured glory “after six days,” but we do see a revelation of Jesus as He has revealed Himself to us.  For “after six days” comes our own mountaintop experience, the revelation of Jesus Christ, as we too hear the voice of God in the Scriptures, and we too see Jesus change form before our eyes.  We see bread and wine, but we know that by His Word and mighty power, by His promise, and by His fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, we hear the voice of God proclaim: “This is My body.  This is My blood.”  We fall to our knees, and we too pray, “Lord, it is good that we are here.” 

For we too experience the cross and the resurrection, the creation and the condummation of time, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the “after six days” of the Lord Jesus Christ coming among us, revealing Himself to us, and shining the light of His grace and His countenance upon us.  And “after six days” we too lift up our eyes and see “Jesus only” as our weekly Divine Service is all about His Word and His presence, His faithfulness to us in the forgiveness of our sins, in His perfect obedience to the Father, and with His invitation to us to “rise and have no fear” having eaten His body and having drunk His blood unto eternal life. 

We too come down the mountain, and we too leave this holy ground to go back to our own ordinary lives.  But “after six days,” we have the privilege to return.

But unlike Peter, James, and John, we are not under a restriction.  For the Son of Man has indeed been raised from the dead.  We confess His resurrection, and we confess His coming among us in the flesh.  And “after six days” we will confess yet again that He comes to us in the Sacrament of the Altar, that He appeared to Peter, James, and John, that He was indeed crucified, died, and was buried, and on the third day, He rose again.  “After six days” we will again remember our baptism, confess our sins, hear the good news, and meet with Him anew in the miracle of His presence in the Holy Communion, week in and week out, on the Lord’s Day and wherever and whenever the Church gathers in His name by His grace. 

And when our last hour on this side of the grave comes, we can die in the faith “after six days,” knowing that we will have our own Sabbath rest, assured of lifting up our eyes and seeing “Jesus only” when He raises us to eternal life, “after six days.”  Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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