Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our
Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.
There is a phrase in the evening prayer service that goes
like this…and for those who know it, please complete it for me. "In many
and various ways, God spoke to His people of old by the prophets. Now in these
last days, He has spoken to us by His Son." But now in these last days, He
has spoken to us by His Son.
In this morning's text, two great prophets, Moses and
Elijah, are mentioned, whom God spoke to and gave them revelations, and they in
turn spoke them to the people. But now in these last days that the Son has come
and have been affirmed as such, He speaks only through the Son. There are no
more special revelations. There is only the revelation of His Son.
This morning's is the text of the Transfiguration. It is the
great epiphany of this epiphany season. Remember, the epiphany season began
with the revelation that Christ was sent for the Gentiles, those who are not of
Jewish descent, those who traveled, the wise men from the east, to come and
visit and bow and worship the Lord. That was the first of all the epiphany
signs. And then, throughout this season, every Sunday, there was always
something about the reading of the Gospel that showed forth Christ as being the
Son of God in the flesh.
Well this morning is the climax and the end of the epiphany
season, and the only time in Scripture, the only time in Scripture other
than at His baptism, that God speaks to the people through a voice that is
recorded in the New Testament. In such a manner and in such a place ought we to
say, "Wow! This must be important." And rightly so. It is.
But why? Let's look at the text. Now, the very beginning
phrase of this reading from the Gospel of Luke begins with a very interesting
phrase. "Now about eight days after these sayings…" It's the only
place in the entire New Testament that that phrase "eight days"
occurs, other than the Gospel of John, when Christ reveals Himself to Thomas
the eighth day after the resurrection.
The eighth day always has throughout the Scriptures been
very symbolic and very eye-pointing us toward the new creation. All male
children, remember, eight days old, were to be circumcised, marking them as
coming from people who are not of God to be people chosen by God, God's people.
If you notice this baptismal font, the shape of this
baptismal font is in the shape of an octagon, an eight-sided shape. Is that
coincidence? Is that artistic? By no means! It is a part of this continuation
of what God has revealed that these eight days, the eighth day, the eighth of
new creation, is to be continued, for we who have been called out of darkness
have been called into light at our baptism. There we have been made alive who
were dead. There we heard the voice of our Good Shepherd. We who were deaf now
hear. We who were blind now see.
So it's very interesting that God through the Holy Spirit
would inspire Luke to write this about the transfiguration. But it's not just
about the transfiguration. Eight days prior to the transfiguration were
some profound statements of our Lord. The eight days prior to this
transfiguration moment, Jesus spoke to His disciples, these 12 apostles, very
clearly telling them He would be rejected, suffer, and die for them. Now, if
that did not click in their minds, He makes it very personal and exhorts them
to take up their cross and follow Him.
That is the very important prelude to this morning's
transfiguration. Those were the things about which Jesus spoke with the 12
before they went up on this mountain, which is no small thing either. God loves
to be revealed on a mountaintop, when you consider all the things of the Old
Testament, God speaking especially to the prophet Moses on a mountaintop. And
then, not only that, but we'll see in the text then God uses His great
theophany of a cloud to envelop them, just as He led the people of Israel out
of the wilderness and through the wilderness by a pillar of cloud by day. Not
needed, nor necessary, but God chooses to do so that we may find therein God
being shown forth and believed for the sake of our faith!
So Jesus takes up to the mount of transfiguration the three
apostles, Peter and the two brothers James and John…Peter, who denies Christ,
James and John who argue and get their mother to ask Jesus that one of them can
sit at Jesus' right hand and one at His left when He comes into glory. Three
very proud men, and He takes them up on the mount with Him to pray.
But just like in the garden when Jesus said, "Come and
pray with Me," and they kept falling asleep, so they fall asleep here.
When Jesus was praying, it says in the text, His appearance was changed. That
which looked as only flesh and of this world appeared heavenly and glory
filled. It would be the great prelude to your and my glory that awaits us in
heaven. It would be a prelude to the glory of Christ when He reveals Himself to
His apostles and disciples following His resurrection in His glorified body. It
is Him showing Himself, and you, this is what awaits us.
But first, it's the cross that is our life. Now, that
doesn't stick anywhere in our craw that brings pleasure. It's bitter, and it
bites! Disappointing. Why does it have to be this way? Why can't it be glory
here all along and then glory in heaven all along? Because you and I are still
damned sinners living in a sinful world among other sinners, and sin is
painful, very painful as only you and I know in our own lives.
Moses and Elijah are speaking with Him in this glorified
state, and they're talking about His departure which He was about to accomplish
at Jerusalem. His departure meaning His death. His death meaning His sacrifice
for you…about the suffering of damnation, of abandonment on the cross. How
interesting we would read this three days before we begin this season of Lent,
as we make our way to Good Friday and the cross, and the great glory of Easter
morn, to sing that this is a feast again, and to sing alleluias again. How interesting
Peter and those who were with him, Luke reports, were heavy
with sleep, as if a cloud of doom and gloom was upon them. And then, they
became fully awake, seeing things as those who were once blind now see. And
Peter, being the brash Peter: "Let's set up shop here. Let's stay on this
mountaintop. Let's enjoy this glory. You've changed, and that means if we hang
out with You, we're going to change. This is all good. Let's not leave here and
go down to the plain where there could be difficult times awaiting us, about
which You just spoke eight days earlier. Let's just keep it here and not rock
And is that not how you and I speak whenever something comes
upon us that we don't like, whether brought upon us by our own sinful flesh, whether
brought upon us by someone whom we don't like, whether brought upon us by God
sifting us which we know not which of which of those are? How it makes us
uncomfortable to be put out. We don't like that. We want things smooth,
swimmingly, going wonderfully, and not difficultly.
We may think we don't expect anything from God. We may think
we don't expect anything from life or other people, but let us be wronged and
we know we did expect something other than that wrong. We know we should
not deserve that which is happening to us, or else we wouldn't be offended, we
wouldn't be hurt, and we wouldn't be sad. That says we're very self-centered.
We're very desirous of ease, and it's very hard and sometimes downright scary
to bear the cross which eight days prior to this did Christ remind them to take
up their cross and follow Him.
The cloud came and enveloped them. They were afraid because
they knew the cloud meant God. Though they had been in the presence of God in
Christ Jesus, this theophany is a little bit different. For whatever reason,
they are fearful. They know this is the Holy One of Israel. And this Holy One
of Israel speaks to them and affirms this One, the Son, as the chosen One, just
as He did at His baptism when He began His ministry…that is Jesus. And having
affirmed Him, He says something very profound. "Listen to Him."
But the listening to Him doesn't come just once when it's
easy for you and me to do. It doesn't just come when life is going difficultly
and we clamor back to God and say, "Lord, help me!" What He says that
is lost in the English translation is "Continually keep hearing Him. Don't
stop hearing Him. Be ever hearing of Him who speaks to you."
But do not look for Him to speak to you as He did to Moses
and Elijah here on this mount as He did to them in the past. He speaks to you
through the means He has chosen. He speaks to you through two sinful men whose
wives and family know how sinful we are. He speaks to us reading words to you
to hear. He spoke to you and began this whole journey of yours, bearing the
Cross of Christ at your baptism where you hearkened unto the voice of your
Shepherd. And He speaks to you in a very transfiguration-like manner when He
brings to you His flesh and blood in and with the bread and wine…the same flesh
and blood that was transfigured on the mountain, the same flesh and blood that
was crucified for us. Here He has said, "Listen to Me. Ever always keep on
listening to Me."
When you consider the things in our life that we say aren't
important, or we wish not to admit that they're important, those are the very
things when they are changed for us, removed from us, that we squeal the
loudest. Not necessarily outwardly, for we wish not to look as if we're pagan
sinners, but we scream it inwardly because we are still sinners. And if we
didn't scream those thoughts or feelings, we wouldn't care. We would be in
heaven, and it would not matter. But we're sinners, and we live among sinners
whose actions and words aren't always what we desire to receive, be they said
in love or be they said otherwise. And living among such sinful people do we
need to keep hearing the One who has been proclaimed as the Son.
Now in three days, we enter into the season of Lent…our
journey to the Cross of Calvary and to the empty tomb outside the city of
Jerusalem, where there is life. And it's a practice. It is a practice of your
and my life in this world, living out this faith that we had had called alive
by our baptism. It's an ever hearing and waiting for the Master to give us His words
of affirmation as His children, of confidence in His forgiveness.
It is a hearing of the Master who proclaims us His sons and
His daughters and does not turn His back on us, preparing us to see Him turn
His back on the only One He meant to turn His back on, His own Son, the chosen
One, the One unto whom we are to listen, that we may never have to ever face
the back of God, but always His face whose countenance, as is proclaimed from
there, rests upon you in joy and in peace.
How interesting indeed that we bring our season of epiphany
to a close, and we begin our road to Calvary's Cross with these words,
"Listen to Him. Keep on listening to Him."
In His name, who speaks to us now in these last days through
these means, and these means alone, Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your
hearts and your minds on Christ Jesus to life everlasting, Amen.