Transfiguration 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
February 23, 2020
Exodus 24:8-18, 2 Peter 1:16-21, Matthew 17:1-9

 

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Today is Transfiguration Sunday.  It is the last Sunday of the season of Epiphany.  It is the last Sunday before the beginning of the season of Lent, the 40 days, not including Sundays, leading up to Holy Week and Easter. Today we say farewell to alleluias during Lent as Jesus is heading to the cross.  Lent is a somber season on the road to the cross.  It is a time to reflect on Jesus’ suffering and death and how he did it because of your sin and because of His love for you.  Lent is not an easy season.  It is a hard thing to ponder the cross.  The cross is a horrid instrument of execution that we would rather not have to consider in its full awfulness.  The words, “Jesus died on the cross for me”, just roll off your tongue, but it is so profound.  “Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God, suffered and died on the cross for me, a poor, miserable sinner.”  Jesus died for me on the horrifying cross.

Jesus tells the disciples about his looming death and resurrection just before taking Peter, James and John up on the Mount of Transfiguration. Matthew 16:21 (ESV) 21 … Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.[1]

The disciples reject the message.  The disciples don’t want a suffering, dying Jesus; they want a glorious, powerful Jesus who does miracles.  Peter, the disciple who is never at a loss for words, reprimands Jesus, Matthew 16:22 (ESV) 22 …Peter took [Jesus] aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.”[2] Peter thinks he knows what’s what, and this rough, tough fisherman is not going to let anyone hurt Jesus.  But Peter does not know what’s what and Jesus rebukes Peter.  Matthew 16:23 (ESV) 23 … “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”[3]

Six days later, in order to strengthen the disciples in knowing Jesus’ true identity, Jesus takes Peter, along with James and John up on a mountain Matthew 17:2-3 (ESV) 2 And [Jesus] was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. 3 And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.[4]

This is an incredible scene.  Jesus is confirming to Peter, James and John that He is indeed God in flesh.  He is the Messiah.  He is the Savior of the world.  Jesus is shining like the sun and talking to Moses and Elijah.  In the midst of all this Peter feels the need to interrupt.  Peter thinks he has something to add.  Peter again thinks he knows what’s what.  He thinks Jesus is an equal to Moses and Elijah.  He thinks Jesus is the new Moses; Jesus is the new Elijah.  Peter offers to build tents for each of them.  Peter thinks he knows what’s what but he does not.  Matthew 17:5 (ESV) 5 [Peter] is still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”[5]

            Contrast the awesome, bright scene from the Mount of Transfiguration with the gloomy darkness and awfulness of the scene on Mount Calvary.  The glory of God is revealed on the first mountain.  The glory of God is also revealed on the second mountain for this is where Jesus accomplishes what He came to do.

The disciples are terrified at this voice from heaven and they fall on their faces trying to hide from the overwhelming glory of God.  Now they have figured it out.  They have seen Jesus’ majesty.  They have seen’ Jesus honor and glory from God the Father.  They have heard God the Father’s voice.  They are overcome by all of this and lay face down on the ground afraid to look. Jesus walks over to the three men and touches them and says, “Rise, and have no fear.”  They look up and it is only Jesus there.  Everything is back to normal.

Everything is back to normal, except they have seen Jesus’ glory.  They have heard the voice of God.  In all the horror to come they have this memory to help sustain them.  Everything is back to normal, but they know that Jesus is God in flesh.  Even as Jesus is arrested and beaten He is God in flesh.  Even as Jesus is crowned with thorns He is God in flesh.  Even as Jesus is flogged He is God in flesh.  Even as Jesus is stripped and nailed to a cross He is God in flesh.  The cross shows Jesus’ glory.  Jesus shows His true identity on the Mount of Transfiguration shining like the sun, and He shows His true identity by being nailed to a cross as the sacrifice for the sins of the world.

Contrast the awesome, bright scene from the Mount of Transfiguration with the gloomy darkness and awfulness of the scene on Mount Calvary.  The glory of God is revealed on the first mountain.  The glory of God is also revealed on the second mountain for this is where Jesus accomplishes what He came to do.

We are a lot like the disciples.  We want to reject Jesus’ glory on the second mountain.  We want God’s glory to be shown in our lives by everything going great.  We want God’s glory to be seen in being healthy, wealthy and wise.  We want a religious experience to which we can appeal as proof of God’s existence.  We want Mount of Transfiguration glory and not Mount Calvary glory.

But very often we get Mount Calvary glory.  We bear crosses of pain and suffering and trouble.  We experience the evil in the world and the evil in ourselves.  We endure injury, illness, disability and death.  And God’s glory is there with you in the pain and the suffering.  Jesus enters fully into the ugliness of sin and evil and hardship and is there with you. Jesus has a moment of shining like the sun but the rest of His time on earth He looks like a normal person.  The glory of God is hidden in human flesh.

God’s glory is still present with us in hidden ways.  Baptism is done with plain water from the tap, but it is not just plain water it is water included in God’s command and combined with God’s word. God’s glory is hidden in simple words on a page and words spoken into the ear but these words work faith and the forgiveness of sins.  God’s glory is hidden in wafers of bread and sips of wine which are, in a mysterious way, the very Body and Blood of Christ.  Jesus’ glory is so often a hidden glory.

You have Jesus’ hidden glory in you; God’s glory hidden in human flesh.  You have been born again by water and the Spirit. Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.  You are by nature sinful and unclean and yet through baptism, through the Word, through the Body and Blood of Jesus you have been made righteous, innocent and blessed.  You are a holy child of God.  That is Jesus’ hidden glory; Jesus’ glory hidden in your human flesh.

Jesus’ glory will not be hidden forever.  Today we celebrate the glimpse at Jesus’ full glory shared with us by the eyewitnesses Peter, James and John.  This is the full glory of Jesus we look forward to having on the last day as the light of the city of God.  In the Heavenly City of New Jerusalem Jesus’ glory will be the light.  Revelation 21:23 (ESV) 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.[6]

Today we celebrate Jesus’ visible glory at the Transfiguration.  Every day you live with Jesus’ glory hidden in you as you live as salt and light in the world.  Amen.

 


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[3]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[4]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[5]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[6]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

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