Immanuel Lutheran Church

Sermon

Sunday of the Transfiguration

You won't believe what we saw!

Matthew 17:1-8

February 26, 2017

We live in a visual world. People are glued to their computer screens, TV's, phones, Kindles, and video games. Life experiences whether good or bad are now paraded before the world on twitter, face book and you tube. Peter, James and John would have loved to capture the events on the mountain of transfiguration on their phones. But, of course, they didn't have them so all they could do was tell the others what they saw.

Matthew 17:1-9. And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah." He was 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." When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But 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.

Our Lord has taken these three disciples to the top of one of the mountains in Galilee. It was a long hike up. It was also very late. Between being exhausted from the long walk and the late hour, the disciples were really sleepy. We are told Jesus had gone there to pray. Just when the three could barely keep their eyes open, the most amazing thing happened. Jesus was transfigured.

What does that mean? One of the challenges people had in believing that Jesus was the Son of God was His appearance. During His earthly ministry, He looked like a guy. His divine nature was hidden beneath His human nature. He looked like us. There was no halo like you see in some pictures. His divine nature was seen in His miracles and in the wonderful wisdom of His teaching. Now, the fullness of His divine glory shines through the His cloak of humanity. For a brief moment, the disciples see Him as He truly is.

If that weren't enough to marvel at, suddenly Jesus is joined by Moses and Elijah. Why these two? Moses is the great representative of the Law. It was he to whom the Lord God gave the 10 commandments on Mt. Sinai. Moses wrote down the law in the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. He has been revered as the great Law-giver of Israel.

Elijah represents the prophets. The prophets call the people back to the Lord God. They called them to repent and return. Along with their admonition to repentance, they also prepared the people for the coming of the promised Messiah. They were pointing to Jesus. Don't listen to the conventional wisdom of the age----listen to the Son!

When our Lord was challenged by the Pharisees, he reminded them that He had not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill all of the Law and the prophets. So it was that these two great representatives of the Law and prophets now stood with Jesus. They were there to give Him encouragement.

Peter is both awestruck and amazed. In typical fashion, he blurts out the first thing on his mind. Wow! What a moment. We need to make this last as long as possible. Let's build three shelters. You guys can share all those words of wisdom and we'll sit here and soak it all in.

Before he can get his sentence finished, the cloud of the Presence envelopes all of them. The three disciples are rightly terrified. They try to bury themselves like ostriches in the ground.Suddenly, the voice of the Father speaks. He affirms His Son.

The Father speaks for the sake of Jesus. The Father's affirmation gives the Son both strength and comfort to face His final journey to Jerusalem and the cross. This transfiguration was a sign and token of the glory that Jesus would once again experience with the Father after his passion and death on the cross.

The voice of the Father also spoke to the three disciples. This is important. Like Jesus, they must leave the glory of this moment and come down from the mountain top. They, too, will follow Jesus to His passion and death. They will also see and experience His great humiliation. These men had pinned all their Messianic hopes on Jesus. Although they had traveled with Him for three years, they were still held captive by the popular cultural idea that the Messiah was supposed to be a political figure. Over the course of time, most of the Jewish people had come to look for a Messiah who would bring them national deliverance from Rome along with a restoration of the glorious kingdom of David and Solomon.

The disciples still harbored some of these dreams. Their grand imaginations of this glory would be shattered when they saw Jesus arrested, tortured and crucified. His death would take them into the very pits of devastation and disappointment. Of course, they would be revived after they saw the resurrected Lord. Yet, in the time of their despair, these words of the Father would point them to the joy of the foretaste of the glory to come. Don't listen to cultural visionaries----listen to the Son!

When the Father speaks out of the cloud, He doesn't admonish the disciples to remember and cherish this moment always. No, He directs them to Jesus. "This is My beloved Son . . . listen to Him!" Here's the key. What are we to take away from this lesson? Listen to Jesus! We don't have a videotape of the glory of the Transfiguration but we do have the testimony recorded for us in the Word.

Paul reminds us that "Faith comes by hearing," not by sight. Why is this important to understand? You see something only for the moment. In the next moment what you saw or thought you saw is gone. As we look back on what we've seen, there are times when we wonder if it was real or imagined. The danger for the disciples is that they may not have remembered this exactly as the Lord intended. How were they to explain this to the others who were not on the mountain with them? Why should the others believe this fantastic story?

Perhaps this is why Jesus tells them NOT to tell the others about this until after His resurrection. There are too many human emotions that can distort the memory. The others could have chosen not to believe them out of skepticism, jealousy or pride. It's a typically human thing for us to doubt our own experiences. Why should we believe those told to us by others? What's very real to you may not be for someone else.

The Son speaks the words of the Father to the world. The Holy Spirit brings the words of Jesus to us in their fullness. The Holy Spirit works through the word to bring us to faith. What the three disciples witnessed on that mountain was not videotaped for all posterity. Unlike old movies now being sold on DVD's, we cannot see what happened on the mountain of transfiguration again and again. There is no visual record but there is an oral record. The story has been told from one generation to the next. Only the Holy Spirit can bring the words of the Bible to life in our hearts.

Like the disciples, we come down from the mountain top to live in the real world. This why the Lord comes to comfort and strengthen us today in the Word and in the supper. He comes to assure us of our forgiveness and restoration as beloved children to their Father. He comes to live our faith boldly in a world going nuts. In the mean time, we hold to the promise that we will behold Him in His glory in life eternal. Thanks be to our Transfigured and Risen Lord now and forever. Amen.


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01/31/2016
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11/22/2015
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10/25/2015
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08/30/2015
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06/28/2015
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12/28/2014
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12/07/2014
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10/12/2014
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09/28/2014
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August
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06/29/2014
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05/11/2014
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03/30/2014
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January
01/26/2014
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