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Transfiguration – Matthew 17:1-9

by pastorjuhl ~ January 23rd, 2010

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

It’s not as if Jesus had no idea He was the Son of God until He was transfigured. Jesus, according to the flesh, is at all times both fully God and fully man. Nevertheless, there seems to be two Jesuses on the mountain. One is transfigured before Peter, James, and John’s eyes, appearing with Moses and Elijah. The other Jesus stands before the three men alone, comforting them from their fear at seeing this awesome event and hearing the voice of God Almighty proclaiming Jesus to be His beloved Son.

Looking back to what he saw on the mountain peak thirty-odd years before, Saint Peter writes in today’s Epistle: [Jesus] received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place. It was Peter who meant well when we said, Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles, one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. Though Peter meant well, his words make him a heretic.

Peter sees the glorious Christ with Moses and Elijah and wants them to stick around for a while. Worse yet, Peter’s comment puts Jesus on the same plane with Moses and Elijah. They are three great men who do great things with the help of the Lord. Peter’s comment is a subtle denial of Christ’s divine nature. You would think seeing Jesus transfigured would be enough evidence for Peter to believe that Jesus is not merely a man. Guess again.

Like Peter, you often are caught up in focusing too much on the glorified Christ and leave behind the Christ with skin and bones. Unlike Peter, this is a denial that Jesus Christ was born a man. Jesus with skin and bones do not sell Christian books. Jesus with skin and bones makes for a boring church service. You love the awesome God but when He comes looking not so awesome it’s a letdown. Jesus doesn’t have a shine as He does in Matthew chapter 17. His glory doesn’t light up your life as you think it should. Jesus on the mountain peak in all His splendor and glory is right where you want Him.

It is good to be with the Lord, but it is even better to be with Him as He is instead of the way you want Him. For all the talk of splendor and honor, when a Christian sees Jesus in all His pomp it’s a different story. Every time the pre-incarnate Christ appears in the Old Testament one of two things happen. Those who despise the Lord fall backward in fear. Those who believe in the promise of the Seed of the woman who will stomp the head of the serpent fall forward in worshipful awe. They hide their face before the presence of the Light of the world.

This is why the Christian Church keeps the laudable custom of bowing the head when the name of Jesus is spoken. Another custom is to bow the head at the name of the Holy Trinity. You bow when you come forward to receive the Lord’s Supper. You bow when you enter the chancel to pay due reverence to God almighty in His holy habitation. These customs confess something. They confess that God is present and you honor His presence accordingly.

Jesus does not come in order to give you respect. He does not come to revere you. He comes to die for your sins and rise from the dead for your justification. He comes to bring joy to the world. Jesus is no pious wordsmith, saying one thing and doing another. Jesus is the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place.

Shoeless Moses stood before the presence of the Lord in a burning bush that was not consumed. The Lord God sent him to Pharaoh to bring the Israelites out of Egypt. As Moses did what his name means, namely “drew out” the Israelites from Egypt to the Promised Land, so Jesus does the same thing. Jesus draws you out of slavery to sin and death and into the Promised Land of forgiveness and life. Jesus saves you through water in Baptism as He saved the Israelites by leading them through the Red Sea on dry land. Jesus provides you food for the journey Home with His True Body and Blood just as He provided manna and quail for the Israelites and gave them water from the rock…and that Rock was Christ.

Elijah bowed low before the Lord ashamed to say he seemed to be the only one still zealous for the Lord. The Lord told Elijah to get up and do what was given him to do. Before Elijah did as He was commanded, He was privileged to see the backside of God and live. Though it seemed like Elijah was against the world, the Lord God used Elijah to proclaim His name above the false god Baal. The prophets of Baal were slaughtered after God consumed the wet sacrifice with thunder and fire. Elijah spoke God’s Word with great boldness and was given his reward when the Lord took him to Heaven in a fiery chariot. Elijah’s witness prepared the way of the Lord in a way that would not be seen again until John the Baptizer, the last of the prophets and one greater than Elijah, was born.

The acts of Moses, Elijah, and Jesus confirm God’s Hand at work among us. You know God worked through them because His Word reveals His work as a light that shines in a dark place. There is only one Jesus on the mountain peak. He is both God and man. His glory is shown where mortal men never think to look. Jesus’ glory will soon be shown in a way no man can understand unless the Light from above shines on Him. Jesus will be glorified in His Passion, naked, bloody, and bruised before the world. You will see this spectacle and marvel with joy that God would stoop so low and do such a thing to save you from eternal death. Since He bids you leave the mount, come with Him to the plain. Come with Him to Jerusalem and see Him suffer and die for you. Do not be afraid. His glory, your glory, shall never end.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

1 Response to Transfiguration – Matthew 17:1-9

  1. Chuck Hartman

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