TEXT: MATTHEW 17:1-9 (Ex. 24:8-18; 2 Pt. 1:16-21)
JESUS ONLY – WITH THE FATHER AND THE HOLY SPIRIT!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

To those at Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center, who have obtained a faith of equal standing with the apostles by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord (see 2 Peter 1: 1-2).

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.  And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.

Dear Hearers of the Word made flesh: when properly understood, the Transfiguration of our Lord is not so much a new miracle, as the temporary halting of a 33 year miracle.  The one whom the inner circle of disciples saw shining like the sun had done so since the beginning of time.  He is the light of the world!  At creation He said, “let there be light” and there was light.  The real and astounding miracle is that His sun-like glory was veiled from His cradle to His grave - excepting for this day. 

TEXT: MATTHEW 17:1-9 (Ex. 24:8-18; 2 Pt. 1:16-21)
JESUS ONLY – WITH THE FATHER AND THE HOLY SPIRIT!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

To those at Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center, who have obtained a faith of equal standing with the apostles by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord (see 2 Peter 1: 1-2).

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.  And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.

Dear Hearers of the Word made flesh: when properly understood, the Transfiguration of our Lord is not so much a new miracle, as the temporary halting of a 33 year miracle.  The one whom the inner circle of disciples saw shining like the sun had done so since the beginning of time.  He is the light of the world!  At creation He said, “let there be light” and there was light.  The real and astounding miracle is that His sun-like glory was veiled from His cradle to His grave - excepting for this day. 

On this mountain He pulled back the veil- just a little!  God in the flesh is seen beaming like the sun – light bursting forth – dispelling darkness – stabbing eyes!  He is seen in the presence of Moses – who died 1500 years before on Mount Nebo.  He is seen in the presence of Elijah whose fiery departure from earth had occurred 900 years prior. 

Their earthly end was not their final end – however - nor will yours be.  You and I and all people are going to live forever, like it or not!  Death is not the natural evolutionary end to some imaginary circle of life.  That is pseudo-science!  That is a fairy tale for adults taught to our children as if it is true.  Death is God’s curse – the wages of sin!  After death all human beings will face God’s judgment, you and I included.  Our eternal existence will either be separated from God in punishment or united with God in blessing.

The presence of these two men of old anticipates that eternal blessing!  They had had their own mountain-top experiences – Moses receiving God’s law on Mount Sinai – Elijah defeating the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel.  They had served as prophets of Yahweh – speaking from and for the pre-incarnate Messiah!  They pointed to Christ - for all the Law and the Prophets testify of Jesus and God’s gifts to the world through Him.  Jesus’ Transfiguration now trumpets those beautiful but bloody gifts!  As Moses had thrown blood on the people of old to atone for their sin before they went up and beheld God and ate and drank, so Jesus’ blood surrounds His Glorious Transfiguration!

It is key to know that immediately preceding and immediately following this event Jesus predicts His suffering and His death and His resurrection (Matthew 16:21 and 17:12, 22-23).  As Luke makes clear in His account of the Transfiguration, that was also the topic of conversation between Jesus and Moses and Elijah on the mountain (Luke 9:31).  They weren’t talking about the lovely view or the splendor of the valleys and fields below.  They were talking specifically about Jesus’ exodus soon to be accomplished at Jerusalem.  That is, they were talking about His sacrificial death!  Dear Christians – let this truth sink in!  Just before His Transfiguration, Christ puts in plain words His approaching death and resurrection!  During His Transfiguration the one topic of conversation between heaven and earth is His approaching sacrifice in Jerusalem.  Immediately after His Transfiguration Jesus again makes clear that He was about to be delivered up to death and that He would rise again.    

The man Jesus, so focused on what lie just ahead for Him would have been breathing hard and sweating just like the disciples for it was a high mountain they climbed!  His blood would have been coursing through His veins!  It is the blood that cleanses us from all sin because it is the blood of God the Son in human flesh.  Truly a light goes on in understanding our salvation as His face shines like the sun! 

Truly that same light is seen this morning for little Ezra!  Out of darkness – out of the devil’s kingdom God called and claimed Ezra as His own!  Christ whose clothes became white as light on the mountain, covered Ezra with clothes as white as light in the waters of his baptism – clothing Ezra with Himself (Galatians 3:27).  Oh, he looks the same on the outside – just like you look since you were baptized.  But your external appearance does not change the white-as-light clothing in which Christ enfolds you. 

And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here.  If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.”  Peter’s request gives Jesus equality with Moses and Elijah – offering to ambitiously build three equal tents to prolong this experience.  Peter’s desired course of action would seem to blow away the other option – heading down the mountain to face impending betrayal and death. 

But Moses and Elijah need no earthly shelter.  Nor are they the equal of Jesus!  He needs no tent because He is God’s tent among us sinful human beings.  He is the meeting place – between God and us – in the flesh!  He didn’t come among us to shine in glory here – He came among us to bear our sin so that we can share His glory there.

Like Peter’s impulsive plan, however, we also prefer glory to suffering right now.  By nature we look for God in mountaintop experiences such as – a breath taking view – a position of power - pleasing, positive feelings - exhilarating times – nature’s marvels.  Some of these gifts (the beauty of nature) do bear testimony that there is a God.  But none of them has God’s promise to bring Him to us – the promised means by which He is present with us!  Jesus and His words do have that promise!

We are all by nature addicted to a theology of glory – going from one fix to the next - judging by what we feel and see and prefer – rather than by what God says and does.  Good morning – my name is Ken and I’m an addict.  It’s hasn’t been that long since my last hit of positive vibes and encouraging praise and successful feelings and I’m looking for the next hit.  My default setting is to judge things that way – by my feelings - as a theologian of glory.  (Do you know what I mean?)

That’s why God the Father uses the unveiling of the glory of His Son to give it to us straight once again! This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”  Peter, James and John, - listen to this one momentarily shining like the sun but mightily focused on His sacrificial death!  Beloved at Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center – listen to Him ­– for He has the words of eternal life! 

“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased.”  God the Father is well-pleased with Him and His seemingly depressing, death-centered talk.  God is well-pleased because it was His will to crush Him (Isaiah 53:10) for us.  Jesus went down from this mountain into the valley of the shadow of death!  See whose sacrifice was in the scale of justice for you on Calvary!  He shines like the sun!  He has converse with heaven!  He is God and Man in one person!  Yet He endured the torments in the damned in hell for you!  That’s why “It is finished!” – your redemption – your salvation!  God the Father is well-pleased because “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life!  God is well-pleased because His Son now deals with our sin so completely that we are reconciled to God.   

When the disciples heard this (the Father’s voice), they fell on their faces and were terrified.  But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.”  And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. 

God’s Word still brings us Jesus only!  God’s Word - veiled in the voice of a pastor says, I baptize you in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit – and Christ is put on!  Of course - where Christ is – there also is the Father and the Holy Spirit!  The Word made flesh veils His very body under bread and His very blood under wine and we receive Jesus only!  Behold the blood of the New Covenant God has made with you – not to be thrown on you but for you to drink.  Of Course, where Jesus is present according to His words there also is the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation and there is also the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Jesus only- can turn your heart from judging things according to the theology of glory to receiving gifts according to the theology of the cross.  Jesus only can sustain you week by week as you go down from the mountain of His presence into the struggles of daily life in your place and station.  Jesus only – His touch – His presence – makes you and keeps you the salt of the earth and the light of the world in the present darkness of this valley of sorrow.  Jesus only enables you to love your enemies and to pray for those who persecute you and to turn the other cheek.  Jesus only gives you certainty of hope in spite of your failings and doubts.

Consider the Apostle Peter who professed his toughness until the going got tough!  Then he cursed and swore and denied that he knew the one Transfigured in glory before him on this day.  But Jesus never denied or deserted Him.  Risen from the dead He spoke peace to Peter and reinstated Him as His apostle!  He continued to forgive and restore Peter as He continues to forgive and restore you and me.

That’s why years later Peter could write, we were eyewitnesses of his majesty…for we were with him on the holy mountain.  And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place.  Tradition tells us that Peter wrote this letter from Mamertine prison in Rome in which prison he was later crucified.  Acknowledging that his death is imminent (2 Peter 1:13-14; John 21:18-19), surrounded by the damp and dirty darkness of a dungeon – Peter wrote an epistle that is full of hope and light and the promise of Christ’s return.

Jesus (had) commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.” Peter’s epistles trumpet the outdating of that command.  For Christ is risen to shine like the sun for eternity!  Like Ezra, you have been born again into a living hope through His resurrection from the dead.  You are now free to tell of Him who clothes you as children of the light – free to invite others into His marvelous light.  In the name of Jesus, Amen.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a