Matthew 16:21-17:9
Transfiguration Sunday—25 January 2015
Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center
The Rev. Jason D. Lane


GRACE, MERCY, AND PEACE FROM GOD OUR HEAVENLY FATHER, AND FROM OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST. The text is the Transfiguration account according to Matthew chapters 16 and 17.


Before this miracle on the Mountain, Jesus told His disciples, “I’m leaving. Are you coming?” [16:21] He told them HE HAD TO GO TO JERUSALEM AND SUFFER AND BE KILLED, AND ON THE THIRD DAY, BE RAISED! “You coming?” Peter said, “NO!” Because Peter didn’t hear the resurrection part. He just heard the suffering part and that part didn’t make sense to him. Peter, who moments before confessed of the carpenter’s son, “YOU’RE THE CHRIST, THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD!” PETER, who knew the Scriptures and the prophecies about the Christ who would BEAR OUR SORROWS AND CARRY OUR SINS, and BY WHOSE WOUNDS WE WOULD BE HEALED…Peter TOOK JESUS ASIDE—to correct Him. “NEVER, LORD!” HE SAID, “THAT WON’T HAPPEN TO YOU!” As if to say, IF YOU’RE THE SON OF GOD, why should You suffer? IF YOU’RE THE SON OF GOD, why should You die? And why should You, Lord of the Universe and King of all creation have to go anywhere? IF YOU’RE THE SON OF GOD, command this world to become Your kingdom!”


You remember what Jesus said: [16:23] “OUT OF MY SIGHT, SATAN!” It means, “Would you tempt Me? Would you tempt Me with this world? Would you tempt Me to save Myself?” Jesus said, “That’s exactly WHAT HUMANS WANT—to save themselves.”

 

[16:24] “IF ANYONE WANTS TO COME WITH ME, HE HAS TO RENOUNCE HIMSELF AND PICK UP HIS CROSS AND FOLLOW ME! Are you coming?” It’s just that coming with Him means leaving your own life in His hands, live or die. It means renouncing things like the desire to be impressive to people with, say, a hundred foot leap from the pinnacle of the Temple, and renouncing the desire to turn clumps of earth into massive wealth. No. If I come with Him, and make money on the way that He’s leading, good. Then I’m making money, so that I’ve got something to give. If I have a career while following Christ, good. It’s a great way to bless the world on my way out to another country that I’ve never seen.

Matthew 16:21-17:9
Transfiguration Sunday—25 January 2015
Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center
The Rev. Jason D. Lane


GRACE, MERCY, AND PEACE FROM GOD OUR HEAVENLY FATHER, AND FROM OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST. The text is the Transfiguration account according to Matthew chapters 16 and 17.


Before this miracle on the Mountain, Jesus told His disciples, “I’m leaving. Are you coming?” [16:21] He told them HE HAD TO GO TO JERUSALEM AND SUFFER AND BE KILLED, AND ON THE THIRD DAY, BE RAISED! “You coming?” Peter said, “NO!” Because Peter didn’t hear the resurrection part. He just heard the suffering part and that part didn’t make sense to him. Peter, who moments before confessed of the carpenter’s son, “YOU’RE THE CHRIST, THE SON OF THE LIVING GOD!” PETER, who knew the Scriptures and the prophecies about the Christ who would BEAR OUR SORROWS AND CARRY OUR SINS, and BY WHOSE WOUNDS WE WOULD BE HEALED…Peter TOOK JESUS ASIDE—to correct Him. “NEVER, LORD!” HE SAID, “THAT WON’T HAPPEN TO YOU!” As if to say, IF YOU’RE THE SON OF GOD, why should You suffer? IF YOU’RE THE SON OF GOD, why should You die? And why should You, Lord of the Universe and King of all creation have to go anywhere? IF YOU’RE THE SON OF GOD, command this world to become Your kingdom!”


You remember what Jesus said: [16:23] “OUT OF MY SIGHT, SATAN!” It means, “Would you tempt Me? Would you tempt Me with this world? Would you tempt Me to save Myself?” Jesus said, “That’s exactly WHAT HUMANS WANT—to save themselves.”


[16:24] “IF ANYONE WANTS TO COME WITH ME, HE HAS TO RENOUNCE HIMSELF AND PICK UP HIS CROSS AND FOLLOW ME! Are you coming?” It’s just that coming with Him means leaving your own life in His hands, live or die. It means renouncing things like the desire to be impressive to people with, say, a hundred foot leap from the pinnacle of the Temple, and renouncing the desire to turn clumps of earth into massive wealth. No. If I come with Him, and make money on the way that He’s leading, good. Then I’m making money, so that I’ve got something to give. If I have a career while following Christ, good. It’s a great way to bless the world on my way out to another country that I’ve never seen.


A lot of people, especially young Christians, think that following Jesus is just incredible—and that’s sweet. They suppose: If I follow Him, then I’ll finally meet the love of my life, or get the job of my dreams, or make a bunch of cash, and never get cancer. But ask some of your brothers and sisters with real experience on this road out of here and they’ll tell you: it doesn’t always feel glorious, which is what the inexperienced Christians were really counting on. The logic goes: if I spend my money on you, I won’t have it anymore. If I offer myself to serve people, somebody’s going to take me up on it. If I give my time, it won’t be there anymore. If I PICK UP a CROSS, I’ll be carrying a cross—and where does that get you? Sure it won’t be like His CROSS, but it’ll be temptation and temptation and repenting and repenting every day that you live. It’ll be leaving sin in order to love instead. Maybe it’ll be people you’d like to have respect you looking at you instead as if you’re an ignorant fanatic; or people you witness to that still don’t care and people you’re praying for and still no answer. If you PICK UP a CROSS, sometimes it feels like dying. Are you coming? It’s not exactly encouraging.


But if you think about it, what’s our alternative? Jesus says, [16:25] WHOEVER WANTS TO SAVE HIS LIFE IS GOING TO LOSE IT. HUMANS WANT to save themselves and they cannot. Humans can either lose their lives or they can give their lives. But they can’t save their lives. Every day’s one day less while the walls close in and then the floor drops out below them and then the Outer Darkness. Jesus says, “This way out! Are you coming?” Suppose [26] A MAN GAINED THE WHOLE WORLD, what does he have other than a really big grave. And WHAT GOOD WOULD his really big grave BE TO HIM, IF HE LOST HIS SOUL? In other words, it’s our SOUL that’s at stake. Jesus says, WHAT CAN A HUMAN BEING GIVE IN EXCHANGE FOR HIS SOUL?


And how could I explain to Christ that I just couldn’t believe Him when He told me a.) This way out. There are no other options, and, b.) What I leave—including my whole life if it comes to that—is nothing compared to what’s ahead. How will people explain it to Christ that they liked what He had to say, but just couldn’t trust Him with their life? Jesus says, “Are you coming?”


It was SIX DAYS after Jesus had told His disciples FOLLOW ME, when He TOOK PETER, JAMES, AND JOHN WITH HIM on that steep hike. As if to say, “FOLLOW ME this far, anyway.” HE LED THEM UP A HIGH MOUNTAIN ALONE. He was somebody they knew and He climbed up on foot, just like them, and when they got to the top, you know how He looked: winded, standing there breathing hard in the dark, then PRAYING, like any man, and then, it says, He changed form. The Greek says, literally, HE METAMORPHOSED. Well, what did He turn into? Nothing that He wasn’t already. But then what did He do to Himself? And the answer is: Nothing. It’s just that at that moment, on that mountain, He stopped doing something, if only a little. Any more, and He might have broken them. 


For just a minute, Jesus let out, as through a veil, some of what He’d hidden all His earthly life. Because He was human and not human; He was 33 years old and ancient. He was THE LORD of Mt. Sinai, Terrible and incomprehensibly Tender in whom THE FULLNESS OF THE GODHEAD DWELT BODILY and came shining out of Him on that mountain, until [17:2-3] HIS FACE SHONE LIKE THE SUN—do you see Him?—LIKE THE SUN, and with light flooding out through His human skin till even HIS CLOTHES TURNED WHITE AS LIGHTNING. HOW LOVELY IS THY TABERNACLE, O LORD OF HOSTS! O GOD OF GOD, LIGHT OF LIGHT, VERY GOD OF VERY GOD, with His servants MOSES AND ELIJAH there in heavenly splendor: Moses and the Prophets and then the Voice from the Cloud all bearing witness.


What does it all mean? Actually in context it means: “Are you coming?” AND PETER, with squinting eyes, blinded by the MAJESTIC GLORY…PETER SAID…well, Peter said something silly. Mark and Luke tell us that he didn’t know what he was saying. But he certainly didn’t seem to know what he was seeing either.


What did he see? Peter was seeing what FOLLOW ME leads to, when that Living Glory on the Sacred Mountain goes TO JERUSALEM AND PICKS UP a CROSS. Peter was seeing how much Christ was willing to spend on Peter and you and me. Because nobody gets out of here unless that Glory suffers. Nobody can escape death row here and then the prison in the dark unless that Glory gets sentenced, and scourged, and crucified. Nobody can FOLLOW unless the Son of Mary bears that weight. Nobody can arrive unless the Son of God pays the toll of our sin.. My sin has to be paid for. And my sin-stained discipleship has to be paid for, too. Christ is the Cost of my Discipleship. You can’t put your life in His hands until there’s been nails there, first. But it’s those hands that will carry you all the way to Heaven. Are you coming? Everybody who believes Him, does.


Even Peter, finally. On that mountain with the Majestic Glory, he didn’t understand; he didn’t believe what the cost of arriving was. There, Peter said to God shining through the tabernacle of human flesh: [17:4] PETER SAID, “LORD! IT’S GOOD THAT WE’RE HERE! IF YOU LIKE, I’LL PUT UP TENTS!” What did it mean? As far as Peter was concerned, it meant, “Lord, this is high enough! What a great place for Your Kingdom and I’ll help, and nobody suffers and no crosses and nobody has to leave anything!” 


But, [17:5] WHILE HE WAS STILL TALKING—before he could take it back, before he could repent, before he could close his mouth—WHILE HE WAS STILL TALKING, A BRIGHT CLOUD OVERSHADOWED THEM. Notice it’s not a storm cloud; it’s not the cloud of fire and smoke to consume. It’s a BRIGHT CLOUD THAT OVERSHADOWED THEM. It’s the same word as when the virgin Mary was OVERSHADOWED, and it was tender and it was gracious and Peter was scared senseless. THE FATHER WHOM NO MAN HAS SEEN appeared in the BRIGHT CLOUD to OVERSHADOW all the little ones with no real shelter in this world, who have followed Jesus this far and didn’t realize that they had found THE SHELTER OF THE MOST HIGH in flesh. Jesus said, DON’T YOU BELIEVE THAT THE FATHER IS IN ME? And they saw what that meant on the mountain, through the veil.


His Transfiguration was grace upon grace for Peter and for us. It’s God’s love for the weak and mercy for the stupid and faith delivered for sinners like us. THE VOICE said, THIS IS MY SON, MY BELOVED, IN WHOM I AM WELL-PLEASED, which I’ll give IN EXCHANGE FOR YOUR SOUL. And then, and only then, you are going to PICK UP your cross and FOLLOW Him home to Me, where you’ll stand with Him on mountains that tower far above this little peak. Do you understand?”


[17:6-7] At that, THE DISCIPLES FELL ON THEIR FACES, TERRIFIED ON THE GROUND. BUT then JESUS CAME AND He TOUCHED THEM. And it felt like a real hand. And HE SAID, “GET UP. DON’T BE AFRAID.” And it sounded like a human voice. [17:8] AND WHEN THEY LOOKED UP, THEY SAW NO ONE BUT JESUS ONLY and He was somebody they knew. So they followed Him just a little further [17:9] DOWN THE MOUNTAIN. AND AS THEY WERE COMING DOWN THE MOUNTAIN, HE TOLD THEM: DON’T TELL ANYONE WHAT YOU SAW, UNTIL I’VE BEEN RAISED FROM THE DEAD.”

Well. Now He’s been raised from the dead, as Peter told us. And St. John, who was on that mountain, too, wrote: WE’VE SEEN HIM AND TOUCHED HIM WITH OUR HANDS. So are you coming? Can you trust Him? How can we not?


The way to the Father is in Him who is here now, OVERSHADOWING us who are scared and say stupid things with tender brightness. The Father’s VOICE SAID, and still says, LISTEN TO MY SON: RENOUNCE yourself, PICK UP your CROSS AND COME Home.


Beloved, we don’t yet understand how much we cost. We don’t yet grasp how much it was that God was willing to spend to bring us into His presence. But we’ve heard that VOICE FROM that BRIGHT CLOUD saying, THIS IS MY BELOVED, IN WHOM I AM WELL PLEASED, and everything about getting us safely home rests on Him.


Peter had to learn on that mountain that it’s not enough for the veil of His flesh to be stretched to SHINE LIKE THE SUN, but the entire Christ must be torn apart with nails and the KINGDOM opened in our world on a cross—not just light but blood poured out to cover all our sins, with the splendor of the ETERNAL LIFE poured out to rest on you and me, and make sinners on our way to death into saints headed for THE KINGDOM AND the wonder AND THE GLORY THROUGH THE LIVING WAY OPENED THROUGH THE VEIL WHICH IS HIS BODY.


THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN HAS COME UPON us, and [17:6] THE DISCIPLES FELL ON THEIR FACES, TERRIFIED. BUT [17:7-8] JESUS CAME AND TOUCHED THEM. AND WHEN THEY LOOKED UP, THEY SAW NO ONE BUT JESUS. And He looked human, veiled quietly in flesh again. And He was human and He is human. AND He CAME AND TOUCHED THEM, and Peter felt a hand on his shoulder, a hand as normal as bread and as plain as wine, and there was nothing to see, only THE KINGDOM so close you could touch it. You could touch Him. You can touch Him. TAKE AND EAT, TAKE AND DRINK, until this rock dissolves and the sky tears wide; JESUS CAME AND TOUCHED THEM AND SAID, “GET UP. DON’T BE AFRAID.” And COME WITH ME. Amen.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
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