Matthew 17:1-9 Series A
Transfiguration is a glimpse of glory.
Just before the beginning of Lent, the Christian Church goes mountain climbing every year. We go, like Peter and James and John did, following Jesus. At the mountain height, we see him as he is, for by him and with him, and in him, the glory of God shines.
The season of Epiphany ends as it begins with a brilliant light, a shining star guiding people to him. Jesus the Day Star, the bright and morning star, shines here on the mount of Transfiguration as the light from heaven shone above his cradle in Bethlehem thirty or so years earlier.
But why you might ask do we take the climb to see this light? Why do we take valuable time away from our busy lives and devote ourselves to climbing the mountain where God's glory is revealed? We might even think, in all honesty, God should be glad that I am here this morning, or for those watching on YouTube and Facebook that they are watching.
We climb the mountain of Transfiguration each year before we begin our journey in Lent, just as Moses climbed Mount Pisgah before he died to get a glimpse of the Promised Land to see where we are headed.
We are told in our Gospel reading that when Jesus arrived at the mountaintop, his figure changed, and the outside of him, which had been ordinary and like us, shone as if he was not like one of us. Jesus shone with the glory that caused Moses to shine that day on the Mountain of Sinai when the holy Law from heaven came down.
Jesus shone with the glory that carried Elijah up to heaven's height -gone from this world - but alive in the next. Jesus shone with the glory of his baptismal day when his Father's voice from above was heard to say: "This is my Son, the beloved, in whom I am well pleased" - and indeed those words first uttered at the Jordan River that day are repeated on the Mountain Top, except this time God the Father added, "Listen to him." A holy command that we, too, are to obey by listening, truly listening to him as he speaks in his love letter to us, the Bible.
What can mere mortals say when faced with such glory? "Let all mortal flesh keep silence," says the old hymn. But not Peter. When in doubt, shouts it out. First, he says the obvious, "Lord, it is good for us to be here." How about we prolong this camp-out on the mountain, Lord? We can rig up a tent for you and Elijah and even one for Moses.
But that, of course, was not the point. As Elijah and Moses disappeared with Jesus only remaining, God was pointing out that the Law, as signified by Elijah and Moses, had been replaced by God's Son, Jesus. Jesus faced the long journey to another mountain, where he would be lifted higher on a cross. Jesus knew the long walk to the cross was ahead, with all its problems.
Jesus knew that he could walk away from the will of the Holy One. Jesus knew that he had a way out of this, but Jesus also knew that because he is so madly in love with us, he would not take a way out. He knew what needed to be done to make peace between us and God's righteous wrath.
As unlikely as it seems, the scripture tells us in many places that to be like Jesus is our destiny, that the intention of God in his calling of us is to make us like him. Because of Jesus, we are destined for glory like his - a glory that will make us shine as he did that day.
But first - as with Jesus - there is a cross we need to bear. And so - each year, we climb the mountain of Transfiguration with him and his beloved disciples. We climb it to share the vision that Peter, James, and John beheld that day and to be strengthened by it, for there is a rough road ahead of us between now and seeing Jesus in person
The wonderful news of God's Sacred romance with us, a love that exceeds anything we can imagine, is that he gives us the vision and the strength we need to face the fears and shortcomings of our lives, to respond to the call of God to live beyond ourselves, to live lives of sacrifice and courage till the glory we see in Christ today settles on us, not just for a day, but forever.
In the coming weeks, as we walk with Jesus, we will be reminded over and over again that the Lord did not go straight from his baptism to heaven. He went out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil, and walked the path of suffering for us, prayed for us, and fought the spiritual fight for us, that he bled and died for us. We will remember and ponder his love for us.
In the greatest love story ever told we are to remember during Lent that God has made the cross the way of life and peace, which is a good thing for our destiny is joined to Christ's destiny. We remember during Lent as the hymn "Amazing Grace" tells us, don't worry, I will not sing it.
"Amazing grace, How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now I am found,
Was blind, but now I see."
We remember during Lent that as the last verse of "Amazing Grace" tells us,
"When we've been there ten thousand years,
bright shining as the sun,
we've no less days to sing God's praise
than when we first begun."
The glimpse that we are granted of Christ's glory on the holy mountain today is a foretaste of heaven, the image of humanity as God intended us to be in creation. As we prepare to bring ourselves into the disciplined walk of faith and devotion during Lent, we remember this glory of God that calls to us. We remember that we will be bright, shining as the sun.
Everything we do in Lent brings us a step closer to the joys of Easter. On the holy mountain of Transfiguration, we taste those sweet eternal joys. We take strength from them, Christ's strength, as we prepare to walk our Lenten journey together.
I urge you to attend the Wednesday evening services. For as wonderful as Easter Sunday, or as I like to say, "Resurrection Sunday" since bunnies and Easter eggs have pretty much taken it over, is with the music, choir, and glorious message of Jesus' Resurrection, I don't believe that you can feel the true joy of Easter without walking with him on his journey to the cross. Blessed be his name, now and forever more. Amen.
Leave a Reply.
Rev. Dennis Rhoads
Vacancy pastor. LCMS