Sermon for the Transfiguration of Our Lord, AD 2022

Matthew 17:1-9

Jesus is made manifest in His Transfiguration. The Transfiguration is the final Epiphany on the final Sunday of the Epiphany season. Peter, James, and John, led to the top of the high mountain, see Jesus in His glory as the Son of God. His face shines like the sun and his clothes become as white as the light. Though Jesus is often portrayed in paintings with a sort of angelic look, there would have been a great contrast. Jesus, scripture says, was not a man who was much to look at. The vision the three disciples receive at the Transfiguration would have been really something to see.

For what the disciples saw was the vision of heaven. All divine glory and everything illumined by the radiance of Jesus Christ, the Son of God himself. He lights the world as had not been seen from the first days of creation, a light brighter and more wholesome than the light of the sun. In this vision of heaven, you would expect the old saints to all be here, and there they are. Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus! Moses, who went up on the mountain and saw the glory of God, who spoke to God in the tabernacle face-to-face. Elijah, who heard God on the mountain and after many great works was taken bodily to heaven in a chariot of fire. There they were, recognizable to the disciples, in their resurrected bodies.

Imagine how wondrous this vision was to the three disciples. It was not only wondrous because of what they saw, but because of what it meant. Everything was true. They saw it with their own eyes. Jesus is divine. There is a resurrection of the dead, Moses and Elijah live. They knew this, they heard it, but now they saw it. The Sadducees were wrong to say there was no resurrection. The Pharisees were wrong to say Jesus did His works by the prince of demons. Here was no demon. As Peter had just confessed a week before, here was the “Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Matthew 16:16).

Jesus allowed them to see this revelation knowing what the disciples would soon suffer, because of what He would suffer. Not only did Peter confess who Jesus was six days before, but Peter also denied what Jesus must must do. Jesus said to them he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things, and be delivered to the chief priests and Pharisees and be crucified, and in three days he would rise. Peter rebuked him. Peter would never let such a thing happen. Jesus would never suffer as far as he was concerned! At this, Jesus said to him, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man” (Matthew 16:23). It was revealed to Peter and the disciples by the Holy Spirit who Jesus was, but Peter could not accept what Jesus had to do.

Peter had the faith given by the Holy Spirit to see who Jesus was. He trusted that Jesus was truly the Messiah and the Son of God. Yet in his weakness he fell back to sight. He saw in his mind’s eye the image of Jesus suffering and being crucified and could not accept that this was fitting and right for the Son of God whom he loved. Even though Jesus said “I must do this,” Peter preferred his own standard.

Even though a Christian may have faith in Christ’s words, in the next moment there is always the threat of doubt. If it is true for Peter it is also true for you. Faith in Christ is not a one-time event but is continually needed throughout the life of a Christian. Faith comes by the Holy Spirit through the Word of God. God works through His law and gospel to convict of sin and create faith in Him. When Peter denied that Christ should suffer, he received the rebuke of the law, but Christ would not let him sit in rebuke. Six days later, Peter with James and John would see the glorious vision of Christ transfigured for their benefit and consolation.

Everything in life is not always suffering and hardship. These things come, but God does answer prayer, Christ does show himself working in your life. He knows your weakness and does not only ask you to hold to faith without any kind of evidence. By the Holy Spirit, you can see where God is working, where he has provided for you and comforted you throughout your life. That is different for different people – maybe he provided good parents and loving home, friends when you needed it, your food and clothing and daily provision, the blessing of children, good weather at the right time, comfort in depression and loneliness, or many other things. The Lord gives out blessings to all, and even though He gives and takes as He decides, all Christians can see that God has blessed them in various ways.

This is what the three disciples received at the transfiguration. And you see, like with your blessings, that not even all the disciples received it. Christ knew that these three would need it. They would need it as Christ headed to Jerusalem to suffer, be delivered over, and be crucified for their sins. He knew in their weakness their faith needed a little strengthening by sight.

Peter’s mistake was to dwell on the vision. He says, it is good to be here, let me set up shelters and we can stay in the glorious vision forever. He did not know what he was saying, but he was essentially repeating his denial from before. He was saying, in effect, “Lord, see how glorious you are, you don’t need to suffer and die at all. We can stay here in your glory without that death and suffering.” He did not allow the vision to reinforce and strengthen the word of Christ he had already heard, but let it overtake that word.

Jesus cannot be Christ and Savior if He does not suffer and die and rise from the dead. There would be not eternal benefit if Jesus, Moses and Elijah, Peter, James and John remained on that mountain peak. Therefore the cloud of the glory of the Lord overshadowed the disciples and they heard “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased. Listen to him!” The voice of the Father overwhelms them and they fall down in fear. For without Jesus who is crucified and rises, God is extremely terrifying to sinful man. The people of Israel could not even bear to see the shining face of Moses after he spoken to God, much less to see God themselves.

The vision of glory is helpful for the disciples as Jesus, and they are about to travel the way of the cross. But there is no glory without the cross. You cannot stay on the mountain in Jesus’ presence if He hasn’t died for your sins. Outside of Jesus, you can never overcome the weight of God’s law, which says to “do this perfectly and live.”

The good news is that Jesus has died and risen for you. He gives you his word to strengthen you. Peter would say later in his second letter that the more sure revelation is the Word of God given by the Holy Spirit, the Holy Scriptures. There you hear the true word of Christ for you. That word is the one the Father says to listen to. There Jesus says to you, as to the disciples, “rise, and have no fear.”

Though the power of God and the weight of the law is fearful, though you are often bombarded by doubts, have no fear. For God has shown how He feels for you by sending His Son to die for you. Better than any sign of goodness in this life, even if you had seen the transfiguration yourself, is the word which he promises that you have nothing to fear. For Christ has paid for all your sins, and you are righteous before God. Therefore, trusting in Christ, when you die it is not the end. Death is not the ultimate fear. For when the sinful world fades away, like the disciples you will lift up your eyes and see Jesus only. And He will say to you, “rise, and have no fear.” Amen.






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