February 10, 2019

February 11, 2019

Summary

Transfiguration of Our Lord X Matthew 17:1-9

Alleluia! Praise God, you people! Give God all glory, laud and honor. Give Him thanks, praise, service and obedience. Alleluia! Praise God, you people! He alone is worthy of our fear, love and trust. Alleluia!

Jesus had told them that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the of the religious leaders, and be killed, and on the third day rise from the grave. Peter, one of Jesus’ twelve disciples, took Jesus aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “This shall never happen to You.” But Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are in opposition to Me. You are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Then Jesus said to all His disciples, “If anyone would come after Me, if anyone would be my disciples, if anyone would desire to participate in the kingdom of heaven, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.” Jesus continues by teaching His disciples, “Whoever saves his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world.” We must be willing to suffer and die with Jesus, that He can raise us up and give us new life and salvation.  

Jesus is telling Peter and James and John and the rest of His disciples, that He is going to suffer under Pontius Pilate, be crucified, die, and be buried, and on the Third Day rise again from the dead. Jesus is telling us that we must deny ourselves and our own desires and follow Him, and His holy will, His holy way. Jesus is telling us that to be His disciple, to follow Him, we must pick up our cross. Jesus is telling us that His way is filled with suffering and pain and tears and repentance. But Jesus is also telling us that His way is filled with healing and fullness and compassion and the forgiveness of sins. Jesus is telling us that He will come again to take the cross from us, to remove us from this vale of tears, to deliver us from this valley of the shadow of death, to be where He is in heaven, where He will wipe away our tears.

Alleluia! Praise God, you people! Give God all glory, laud and honor. Give Him thanks, praise, service and obedience. Alleluia! Praise God, you people! He alone is worthy of our fear, love and trust. Alleluia!

The holy will of God is to break and hinder every evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world and our own sinful nature, which do not want us to hallow God’s name or let His kingdom come; and this is only done by Jesus suffering on the cross and dying for the sins of the world.  

It is by believing this truth, which the Holy Word of God proclaims to us, that we are guarded and kept in the one true faith, so that the devil, the world and our own sinful flesh would not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair and other great shame and vice. And although these things tempt us and attack us, we know that in Jesus Christ we will finally overcome and win the victory. Just as Jesus defeated sin, death and the devil by His death and resurrection, so too will we. Just as Jesus is crowned King of kings, we will wear the crown of life, we will wear the Christ’s robe of righteousness, we will live in the mansions He has gone to prepare for us.    

It is in this context, with Jesus and Peter and James and John that we find ourselves on this Transfiguration Sunday. Jesus took them up on the mountain. When Jesus goes up on a mountain, He is doing so, that we would be taught concerning the kingdom of heaven, that we would be taught concerning the ways of God and His kingdom. It is the same with us, as we gather here this morning before the altar of God, Jesus is taking us up a high mountain. Even the architecture of the church shows us this. You see the steps which go up, leading us up to the altar, up upon a high mountain, into the presence of God, you see the steeple pointing us to heaven. This is what Jesus does with us in Baptism and in Communion, we are taken away, up on a high mountain, up into the heavens to be with Jesus.

And as they looked up, Jesus was transfigured before them, His face shown like the sun, and His clothes became white as light. There, on that mountain, the disciples see that Jesus is True God and True Man. He is God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God. He is the Light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of the people of Israel. In Jesus, we see God face to face. In Jesus, all the glory of heaven is revealed. The same is true when we come into this holy of holies, here in the presence of God, here at His altar; here we see God in all His glory. This is truly heaven on earth.

Peter, James and John saw Jesus talking to Moses and Elijah, who were already in heaven. And what are they talking about? They are talking about the way of the cross, the need for Jesus to pick up His cross and do the holy will of God, what God the Father sent Him down from heaven to do, delivering us from all evil. They are talking about Jesus taking the cup of suffering and drinking it. They are talking about enduring the cross and its shame. They are talking about dying for the sins of the world. They are talking about the same thing that Jesus had just scolded Peter for not believing. They are talking about the glory of God among us. But Peter doesn’t realize this and he encourages Jesus, that they would build three tents and stay on the mountain. Peter likes the glory of heaven. Peter doesn’t like the suffering and pain and hardship and tears, He wants to avoid all that. He wants to avoid the things of this earth and enjoy the things of heaven. Peter wants to avoid repentance and humility. He wants to avoid the consequences of His sins. But then a voice from heaven says, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.”

Again, Peter is being rebuked. Just like Jesus had rebuked him, calling him Satan, telling him to get behind Him, now God the Father in heaven rebukes Peter. The holy will of Jesus is the same as the holy will of God the Father, it is to save sinners from their sin, from death and from the power of hell and give them forgiveness, life and salvation. And this can only take place by Jesus innocent, bitter suffering and death on the cross. The holy will of God requires that blood be shed, that a payment for sin be made. That is why Jesus come to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, whose blood sets us free to be people of God. And this can only take place by going back down the mountain, going to Jerusalem, and enduring all the events of Holy Week, all the events of the cross, all the events of Jesus’ suffering and death. Without death there is no life. Without the cross there is no heaven.  

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we are like Peter, we want to avoid the earth and enjoy heaven, we want to listen to ourselves rather than to Jesus, but these are the ideas of men, not the ideas of God. Without picking up our cross and following Jesus, without humbling ourselves before God in repentance, without changing our ways to be the ways of God, which is what Jesus says we must do, there is no opportunity for Jesus to lift us up and exalt us. There is no opportunity for Jesus to change us and restore us to His image, glorious and perfect, without sin, unless we return to the Lord our God. But because we are here, humbling ourselves before God in repentance, Jesus lifts us up and sets us high upon a mountain. He exalts us, He changes us, we radiate with all His glory. This takes place every time we hear Jesus speak to us, “Go in peace, your sins are forgiven. You have received a right spirit. You have received a clean heart.” This takes place every time we hear Jesus speak to us, “Take and eat, take and drink, your sins are forgiven. Your eyes have seen your Salvation which has been prepared before the sight of all people.” In Christ, we are a holy people, a royal nation, a people belonging to God. And without Jesus’ suffering and death, none of this would be possible.                 

Alleluia! Praise God, you people! Give God all glory, laud and honor. Give Him thanks, praise, service and obedience. Alleluia! Praise God, you people! He alone is worthy of our fear, love and trust. Alleluia! Amen.