Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Transfiguration of Our Lord



The Transfiguration of Our Lord (B)

February 19, 2012
Text: Mark 9:2-9

The lesson we learn from the Transfiguration of Our Lord is that Jesus is God. He is a man, to be sure, but not just any man. He is a man who is God, God in human flesh, which is the lesson not only of the Transfiguration, but of the whole season of Epiphany which we conclude this morning. In the Transfiguration, Jesus is epiphanied (revealed) as God in human flesh. Transfiguration is a change in appearance. The Greek word used here is μετεμορφώθη. Jesus underwent a metamorphosis before the eyes of the Apostles, Peter, James, and John. His appearance changed. His divinity shone through His flesh so that even His clothing became intensely white. Now there could be no doubt who this is. This is no mere man. This is God. And just to make sure the Apostles get it, Moses and Elijah appear on the scene, the Law and the Prophets testifying that the fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures has arrived. We know from the Gospel according to St. Luke that they were speaking to Jesus about His “exodus” (Luke 9:31), His death and resurrection by which He will accomplish the salvation of the whole world. The LORD has come to save His people. Here stands Messiah, the Anointed One, come to save His people from their sins. A cloud overshadowed them all, a sign of God’s presence, and the Father spoke from the cloud, just as He did at Jesus’ Baptism: “This is my beloved Son; listen to him” (Mark 9:7; ESV). And then, all at once, it’s over. The Apostles no longer see anyone but Jesus only, no longer radiantly shining, but once again hidden in flesh and blood. And that’s the point. If you seek God, your Savior, you are to look to no one else, save Jesus only. You are not to look for glorious visions and mountaintop experiences. Here in flesh and blood is the Lord of heaven and earth, your Redeemer.

Peter did not understand this. In the midst of the grand event, he was missing the very point. “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents” (v. 5). Let us stay on the mountain with Moses and Elijah and bask in Your heavenly glory. Peter did not know what he was saying. He was terrified. But he was also eager to remain with Jesus in His majesty. Nothing particularly wrong about that eagerness. That is what we will experience in heaven. But in the meantime, Peter, there’s work to be done, and it must be done through suffering and the cross. The point of the Transfiguration is not that Peter, James, and John get to have a glorious emotional experience with Jesus. The point of the Transfiguration is to show them just who this is who is about to suffer and die. This should have reassured them about the resurrection. Surely death cannot hold this One who is shining radiantly with the glory of God. The purpose of the Transfiguration is to strengthen the disciples for the road that lay ahead, the road through Holy Week, through Jesus’ suffering and death on Good Friday, through His burial and rest in the tomb on Holy Saturday. Peter, James, and John were the three witnesses required to establish a matter according to God’s Law. They witnessed Jesus’ glory, and the heard the very voice of the Father directing their faith to Jesus, the Son of God, and commanding them, and through them, the whole Church of God, to listen to Jesus, to every word that proceeds from His mouth, and so to live and be saved. “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” Listen, as He opens His fleshly lips. Ordinary words made extraordinary because they are not simply the words of a man, but the Word of God. Listen very carefully, believe what He says, do what He says. Trust Him. Believe in Him.

We’re a lot like Peter, you and I. We’re always looking for the glorious emotional experience with Jesus. What we do not want to do is come down from the mountain toward suffering and the cross. And so the Transfiguration of our Lord is for us, as well, to strengthen us for the road that lay ahead, the road upon which we will embark this Wednesday, Ash Wednesday, as we receive the ashes of repentance in the sign of the holy cross upon our foreheads, and hear once again that we are dust, and to dust we shall return. It is the Lenten road, which this year will take us through the seven penitential Psalms as we meditate upon God’s gift of forgiveness in Christ. It is the road through Holy Week, the shouts of “Hosanna,” “Save now!” on Palm Sunday, the institution of the Lord’s Supper and the command to love one another on Maundy Thursday, our Lord’s crucifixion for our sins on Good Friday, the Vigil on Holy Saturday, all culminating in the joyous celebration of His bodily resurrection from the dead on Easter Sunday. Lent is a 40-day journey. It can be taxing, at times. That is why we need this strength Jesus gives us in this glimpse of His glory. Lent is a time for deep reflection on our sin and our inability to save ourselves or make ourselves righteous. It is a time for deep meditation on the gift of our Savior, God in human flesh who became one of us and shed His precious blood for our forgiveness, life, and salvation, who died the death that we deserve on account of our sins so that we could be restored to the Father and have eternal life. It is a time of receiving God’s gifts in His Word and the blessed Sacrament of His body and blood. It is a time to discipline the flesh, to crucify the sinful nature. Some may fast. Some may give up something for Lent. Some may not give up anything, which is perfectly fine. This is a free thing. Some may add a discipline for Lent. Hopefully you will all come to our midweek services as part of your Lenten discipline, and enjoy the devotion books that are in your mailboxes. Lent is a time for coming down the mountain and being immersed in the theology of the cross. The Transfiguration reminds us of the glory Jesus possesses as true God with the Father and the Holy Spirit, but which He gave up for our sakes, taking on the form of a servant and humbling Himself, even to the point of death on the cross. The Transfiguration reminds us that because of His suffering and death, God has highly exalted Jesus in His resurrection and ascension, and bestowed on Him the Name that is above every name, so that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:5-11).

In fact, the great glory of Jesus Christ is this: Though He is very God of very God, which is amply demonstrated in the Transfiguration, He willingly gives Himself into death. For you. For you and for all people. Jesus’ glory is the cross upon which He is lifted up, the King of glory who purchases His people for Himself with His own blood, that they might live under Him in His Kingdom and serve Him in righteousness and purity forever. The mission of God, the salvation of the world, cannot be accomplished if Jesus stays up on the mountain in His divine radiance. The salvation of the world, your salvation, beloved, can only be accomplished by Jesus descending the mountain and going to Jerusalem where He will accomplish His exodus, being handed over to His enemies by the Apostle Judas to suffer at the hands of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish high council, and be put to death by the Roman governor Pontius Pilate, to be crucified, to die, and be placed in a tomb. And then on the third day to rise again. That’s when the glory will shine again. At His resurrection. At Easter. First must come the cross. First must come suffering. First must come death. That is how God accomplishes His mission, your salvation. This glory is not just a spectacular show. It is the hard-won glory of suffering, death, and resurrection. For you.

So listen to Jesus, the Father’s beloved Son. Because in listening to Him you receive all the benefits of His life, death, and resurrection. In listening to Him, by His precious Word, you have life. And that life is eternal and abundant. Do not listen to other voices. Do not listen to the devil and his temptations. Do not listen to the world and its mockery. Do not listen to your sad sack of flesh as it pines after glorious and emotional mountaintop experiences. Do not look for grandiose visions. Look to Jesus only. Listen to Jesus only. Listen to Him in His inspired and inerrant Word, the Holy Scriptures. Listen to Him in preaching and Absolution. Behold Him in His Sacraments. Here God’s Son, clothed in human flesh, comes to you with salvation. Behold His pierced hands and feet and side, His crown of thorns. These are the wounds of God, by which God has made you His own. You will see Him in glory in heaven. Until then, behold the wounds, take up your cross, and follow Him on His Lenten journey. Listen to Him. His Word will sustain you. In the midst of death, His Word gives you life. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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