A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church,
West Melbourne, FL on March 6, 2011 by Pastor Dale
Jesusí Transfiguration Teaches Us to Listen
Several weeks ago I moved one of our daughters to the
Minneapolis. Parts of the trip were very enjoyable Ė the open road, talking
about all kinds of stuff with your daughter Ė priceless. However, parts of the
trip were not fun. Making lane changes with an underpowered truck, pulling a
car trailer, while chugging through hills of Atlanta, is well interesting. With
Godís help we made safely to Minnesota, and the Lord even gave us 40 degree
temps for unloading the truck.
Life is like that. Itís a journey. Parts are very
enjoyable; other parts, not as much. And then there are the parts we dread and
canít wait till weíre through them. In our text this morning Jesus and His
disciples were heading into a part they dreaded. Just before this, Jesus began
explaining that He was going to Jerusalem where He would suffer many things, be
killed and on the third day be raised to life. The disciples did NOT want to
hear about this, and so Jesus told them, ďIf anyone would come after me, he
must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. Ė Matthew 16:24Ē
Are any of you bearing a heavy cross? If not, is there a
cross youíre dreading? And now think about what could make you more sure God
loves you and that everything will be alright. This picture is an artistís
rendition of the glory of the Lord at Mt Sinai. Being there and hearing
Godís voice would certainly reaffirm to us that Heís real. And so also the
Children of Israel, as they journeyed toward the Promised Land and faced various
temptations, remembering this sight had to help them.
The next picture is an artistís rendition of Jesusí
Transfiguration. With Jesus are Moses, whom God had already raised from the
dead, and Elijah, who was taken up into heaven without ever dying. If you had
been there too, how would seeing this make you feel about those crosses your
bearing? Perhaps even in the worst of times your attitude could be, ďThis too
This third picture is not an artistís rendition.
Itís the real deal. Itís a picture a Forward in Christ, a Meditations,
and a Bible. These are all things we can hold in our hands and see with our own
eyes. Now, of these three, seeing the glory of the Lord at Mt Sinai, seeing
Jesusí Transfiguration, or Godís written Word, which can give the greatest
comfort and strength? Peter, who WAS there at Transfiguration, says itís Godís
Word. In fact Jesusí Transfiguration Teaches Us to Listen. 1. By
listening to the Word, Jesus was strengthened to go to the cross. 2. By
listening to the Word we are strengthened to follow Him.
We read, ďAfter six days Jesus took with him Peter,
James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by
themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun,
and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before
them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. Ė Matthew 17:1-3Ē From Lukeís
account of this we learn that while all this was going on, Peter, James and John
were sleeping. In other words, Jesusí Transfiguration and the appearing of
Moses and Elijah, and their talking about what would soon happen in Jerusalem,
wasnít just for the disciplesí sake. It was for Jesusí sake too.
You see, as true man, Jesus had set aside all of His divine
power and majesty and lived here as an ordinary man with ordinary feeling,
except without sin. As an ordinary man, how do you think he felt about His
upcoming appointment to be tortured and have nailed driven into His hands and
feet? Actually He had mixed feelings. He dreaded it, but at the same time He
was determined, because thatís how much He loves us, and this was the only way
He could save you and me; but He still dreaded it, and so He prayed.
His being transfigured was an answer to His prayers,
because it reminded Him the glory that would be His when His suffering was
over. The Father sending Moses and Elijah was also an answer to Jesusí prayer.
They repeated to Him from the Old Testament WHY He had to go to the cross. For
example, we donít know the exact verses Moses and Elijah used, but here are some
possibilities. Isaiah 53 Ė But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was
crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and
by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us
has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Jesus was dreading this next part of His journey, and as it got closer, He
would dread it even more, especially in the Garden of Gethsemane. But the Word
reaffirmed to Him that there was no other way so that all sinners could have the
right to join Moses and Elijah in seeing Him face to face and living with Him
body and soul on the new earth He would create.
Or hereís another passage Moses and Elijah may have used, Jesusí own words in
prophesy in Psalm 16. I have set the LORD always before me. Because he is
at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my
tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me
to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. It sometimes
bothers us to think about what age or sickness is doing our body or the bodies
of our loved ones. This bothered Jesus too. But here was a special promise for
Him that His body would not stay in the grave, in fact it wouldnít even begin to
decay. Anyway by listening to Godís Word and promises, Jesus was strengthened
to keep going to Jerusalem.
Can Godís Word and promises do the same for us? We read in
our text, ďPeter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you
wish, I will put up three shelters-- one for you, one for Moses and one for
Elijah. Ė Matthew 17:4" According to Lukeís account, the disciples woke up
just as Moses, Elijah and Jesus were finishing their conversation, and Moses and
Elijah were about to return to heaven. Peter wanted them to stick around. In
fact Peter wanted to stay in this moment forever. This could not be. We read
on in our text, ďWhile he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them,
and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am
well pleased. Listen to him!" When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown
to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. "Get up," he said.
"Don't be afraid." When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus. Ė Matthew
17:5-8Ē Our comfort and strength is not in what we can see. Our comfort
and strength is to be in Jesus, Jesus, only Jesus. Unfortunately sometimes we
donít agree with that.
Now, the disciples were living through a very difficult
time in history. In fact a rabbi from the Sanhedrin at that time said that
drunkenness and immorality were increasing, youths werenít respecting their
parents, the pious or the elderly, family ties were loosed and poverty was the
portion of many. Sound familiar? And so, like the disciples, when we see
things falling apart in our health, our finances or in our nation, we may want
more than just keeping our focus on Jesus and His Word. We may want Jesus to
fix everything NOW! However, just as Jesus first had to go to the cross and
then the glory, so the Father tells us: keep listening to Jesus, keep your
sights focused on Him, and wait! But how can we have the strength to do that?
Peter answered in our epistle lesson. He said, ďAnd we
have the words of the prophet made more certain (that is more certain or
faith building than what Peter had seen at Jesusí transfiguration), and you
do well to pay attention to it as to a light shining in a dark place, until the
day dawns and the Morning Star rises in your hearts.Ē The dark place is our
heart. There are still shadowy corners in our heart, so that we canít see all
the sin thatís hiding there. On the other hand, as we keep listening to the
Word, we do see into those corners a little better, and if weíre really seeing,
it will terrify us, just the like the disciples were terrified when that bright
cloud of the Father came over them. However, Jesus doesnít want us to stay
terrified. But He touches us with His Word, and He touches us with His true
body and blood in the Lordís Supper, and says, ďDonít be afraid, you are
forgiven!Ē Now continue in this until there is only peace and joy in your
heart, which wonít fully happen, till Judgment Day dawns and we see the Morning
Star or Jesus face to face. In other words, keep listening to the Word for as
long as you are on this journey called life.
Our text reads, ďAs they were coming down the mountain,
Jesus instructed them, ďDonít tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of
Man has been raised from the dead.Ē Jesus did not want Peter, James, and
John telling what they had seen, because it would have fed some wrong ideas
people had. Most wanted a heaven on earth, now, and did not see the need for
any crosses Ė Jesus or theirs. However, after Jesus had completed His mission,
then these three witnesses could make Jesusí Transfiguration a part of the Word
and an encouragement for all people to keep listening to it.
So, then, will you listen? This Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. is
the start of our special midweek Lenten services. On Sunday morning, a big part
of our service is proclaiming back to God what He has done for us. You do that
through our hymns and liturgy. You also do that through me as I speak in your
behalf the readings and the sermon. Lent services are different. Their purpose
is not proclamation. Their purpose is meditation as we reflect on Jesusí
passion and whatís going on with our own heart. I canít emphasize this enough.
If our destination is heaven, Lent is an important part of our journey.
Therefore as Jesus went up to the mountain to pray and to listen before going to
Jerusalem, for the next six Wednesday nights, letís take time out from our busy
schedules and come to this mountain to pray and to listen! And then just as the
disciples would have great joy on Easter, so that they had to tell everyone,
ďJesus lives!Ē, may God make us ready for Easter joy and Easter strength to go
wherever life takes us, even if itís to Minnesota! Amen.