Transfiguration Sunday February 22, 2004
2 Kings 2:1-12
2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2
359, 367, 135, 341
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up on a high mountain apart by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His clothes became shining, exceedingly white, like snow, such as no launderer on earth can whiten them. And Elijah appeared to them with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles; one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—because he did not know what to say, for they were greatly afraid. And a cloud came and overshadowed them; and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” Suddenly, when they had looked around, they saw no one anymore, but only Jesus with themselves. Now as they came down from the mountain, He commanded them that they should tell no one the things they had seen, till the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
In Christ Jesus, our glorious Savior, who humbled Himself that we might share in His glory, dear fellow Christians:
Think of the people closest to you: your spouse, children, brothers and sisters, best friends, and fellow believers. How well do you know them? You know their birthdays, favorite foods, and where they live and work. But how well do you really know them? Do you know what they are thinking? Do you know what their greatest grief has been or their happiest moment? Do you know what they would most like you to do for them? Maybe not. We can live around someone for a long time, and yet not really know the person. For that reason it can be a healthy thing to sit down and talk with people to get to know them better, rather than rely on assumptions.
How well do you know Jesus? Again, we would probably say that we know Him very well. We have known Him from little on. We can recite the Bible stories from memory. But how well do we really know Him? As the disciples discovered, there is always more to learn about Him, and great blessings to be received in doing so.
The general consensus among many is that Jesus was nothing more than a mere man, and that claims of His being the Son of God are just the exaggerations of over-enthusiastic disciples. When we look at Jesus’ life there is certainly no doubt that He was a human being. He was born of a human mother. He grew up and learned just as we do. His hands became callused from working with Joseph. His feet got dusty in walking from town to town, and He became just as tired and hungry after a long day as we do. That is all the further some look.
But there is more! When Jesus led Peter, James, and John up that high mountain, they saw Him in a way they had never seen before. He underwent a complete transformation. “He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.” [vv.2-3]
The sun is the most powerful and most brilliant light we have in our world. We can’t even look directly at it without harming our eyes. That is the kind of awesome light which was streaming from Jesus. Is that a description of a mere man? This light was the same glory which covered the top of Mount Sinai when God descended upon it. It was the same light which led Israel through the wilderness and which centuries later shone down on the fields of Bethlehem. This light was the glory of God!
Yes, Jesus is a man and spent His time here on earth in great humility, but take another look and also see His glory as God. This is the glory He now has in heaven. In Revelation He is pictured as “dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes like blazing fire” (Revelation 1:13-14 NIV). Peter said later, “We were eyewitnesses of his majesty,” (2 Peter 1:16) and John, too, must have had this in mind when he wrote, “We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). See Jesus for who He truly is: “In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9 NIV).
At times the disciples forgot that Jesus is fully God. In the middle of a raging storm on the Sea of Galilee, they panicked because they forgot that the Son of God was right there with them in the boat. They threw their hands up in despair at the prospect of finding food for 5,000 men out in the middle of nowhere, because they did not look to Jesus as God-made-man.
We do the same when we spend sleepless nights tossing and turning, wondering how we are ever going to accomplish everything we need to get done tomorrow, or when we worry about illness striking, or fret over how to make ends meet on a limited budget.
When that happens, take a fresh look at Jesus. Look past His humility and see also His glory, the glory of God which He had with the Father and the Spirit before time began. Call on Him and count on His all-powerful help.
But why did the God-Man come here? Many believe that Jesus came to show us how to live a life of love and commitment toward God and our neighbor, and in that way please God and make this world a better place in which to live. They see His life as nothing more than a moral model for mankind and the cross as an unplanned, premature end.
But on the mountain we see much more. Suddenly Moses and Elijah are there talking with Jesus about the work which He would soon bring to completion in Jerusalem. Both men were heroes of the Old Testament. Moses had stood toe-to-toe with Pharaoh and refused to back down in his demand that God’s people be let go. Then he led the nation of Israel through one crisis after another as they journeyed to the Promised Land.
Elijah, likewise, defied wicked Queen Jezebel and the 450 prophets of Baal, and proclaimed that the Lord was the only true God. Yet neither man was the ultimate answer to the people’s needs. Neither one could stand up to death and overcome it. Moses and Elijah both looked forward in faith to the One promised by God who would stand up to Satan and win the complete victory over all evil.
Jesus was the One! He told the disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, suffer many things, be killed, and then rise again. He came to do more than set a good example. He came to take our place and do for us what we could never do for ourselves. There is no question about it, for the Father put His seal of approval on all Jesus did. From the cloud of His glory He announced, “This is my Son, whom I love, with Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him!” [v.7] Everything Jesus did was perfectly right in God’s sight. Jesus faced all of the same temptations we do, yet never gave in to a single one (cf. Hebrews 4:15). He faced far greater hardships than we ever will, and yet He never resented God nor questioned His will for His life. He kept the whole Law in every detail as our representative.
When Jesus faced death on the cross He did not die as the helpless victim of circumstances beyond His control. He is God, remember. Rather, He willingly laid down His life as the payment for all sin. “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life-only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again” (John 10:17-18 NIV). Even death would not be able to hold Him.
This Lenten season we will once again see Jesus suffer and die for our sins. Don’t let the opinions of others or your own reason cloud your vision. Listen to Him. The essence of His message is not: “Do this, don’t do that, and God will be happy with you;” but instead, “I did everything for you, so that now through me you are already perfect in God’s eyes.”
Listen to Him. The Lenten season begins this Wednesday, and many congregations will be having midweek services. Maybe you haven’t decided whether or not you will attend. You might have told yourself, “I’ve heard it dozens of times already. I know what’s coming. I know what Scripture will be read. I can predict what hymns will be sung. There is really nothing to be gained.”
Take another look! Those same familiar words are just as fresh and relevant as ever, whether you are hearing them for the first or hundredth time. With them Jesus speaks to your world, to your life, to your present and immediate needs. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Let’s listen to Him.
Jesus’ words are filled with precious comfort for terrified souls. At the Father’s voice, the three disciples collapsed in fear. We would have done the same, I’m sure. Imagine being so close to the God who is so powerful that even with all our scientific knowledge we have no idea how vast the universe is which He created. He is so holy that even one sin makes us deserving of eternal damnation in hell. We can understand why Isaiah blurted out, “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty” (Isaiah 6:5 NIV).
But then Jesus comes, touches the disciples, and tells them, “Don’t be afraid.” Jesus takes away fear. With Him at their side, the disciples need not fear God’s punishment, because Jesus would take it on Himself. They did not have to fear any enemy, no matter how powerful, for Jesus is greater. They did not have to worry about what life was all about, because Jesus would lead them into all truth.
What are your fears? Whatever they may be, let Jesus take them away. Are you afraid of a guilty conscience which never gives you any peace? Jesus takes away fear by giving you His own righteousness and the peace He earned on the cross. Afraid of all the troubles which come to us on earth? Jesus takes away fear by solemnly promising that He will make all things work together for your good. Afraid of dying or of losing a loved one to death? Take a fresh look at Jesus. He even has power over death. He woke the little daughter of Jairus from death. He called Lazarus out of his tomb even after his body had begun decaying. Moses died, and yet there he was, alive with Jesus on the mountain. Best of all, Jesus Himself rose from the grave and tells us, “Because I live, you also will live.” (John 14:19). We don’t ever have to be afraid because Jesus is with us on the job, at school, in our home, at play-wherever we are and whatever we’re doing.
Who is the real Jesus? What is He really like? What was His purpose in coming? We don’t have to wait for the latest bestseller or the most recent studies for the answers. We already have the genuine words of Jesus Himself and the testimony of eyewitnesses. This coming week meet Jesus in His holy Word. See His glory as God’s Son, listen to Him from the heart, and find new comfort in Him. It is good, Lord, to be here with you! Amen.
O Father, with the eternal Son
And Holy Spirit ever One
We pray You, bring us by Your grace
To see Your glory face to face.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.