Transfiguration of Our Lord
The Transfiguration of our Lord [c] March 3, 2019
28 Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. 30 And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33 And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. 34 As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” 36 And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.
In the Name of Jesus.
Jesus is on his way to the cross.
In short order, he will be handed over to the chief priest for trial. The teachers of the Law will finally have their way.
They’ve been listening to him forgiving the sins of the worst sinners possible. They’ve had to sit by and watch as he’s made himself a friend to the undesirables and the unclean. They’ve had to listen to him say such things as, “Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”[Luke 6:37]
And these Pharisees, these teachers of the Law, they knew what Jesus was doing when he said “Judge not and you shall not be judged.” They knew he was emptying them out of their ability to accuse others. They knew he was robbing them of the intimidation and control they had over their neighbors. They knew that at the end of the day, if Jesus had his way, the judging, the secret conversations to accuse, the coercion, it would all be cancelled by the Gospel.
So these Pharisees and teachers of the Law, they will make sure that Jesus ends up in the hands of the chief priest, and at the judgment seat of Pontius Pilate. They will make sure that the Law will have its way, and it will be death for Jesus.
But as he’s on his way to the cross, Jesus takes Peter and John and James with him to the top of a mountain.
And on top of the mountain, it is a picture of life. Not of judgement and accusation and death, but of life. Jesus is transfigured, so that Peter and John and James see his face altered and his clothing as dazzling white.
Next to Jesus, it’s Moses. But Moses had died some 1,500 years before, his body buried by the hand of God. Yet he now stands alongside Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. Moses has a body—a living, breathing, flesh and blood body. For he is speaking with Jesus, and you can’t speak unless you have a mouth and a tongue, and you have lungs to exhale air and vocal cords to form the air into sound waves.
It is a testimony to life. Moses, who died some 1,500 years ago, is not dead, but is living at the face of God.
And standing there is also Elijah. Elijah whom the Lord had bodily taken up from this Earth in a whirlwind some 900 years before, but now he’s in a conversation with Jesus and Moses. And to converse means a living body—it means words are being formed up in a brain and spoken from a live mouth and tongue.
It is all a testimony to life. Elijah is not dead, but is living at the face of God.
And witnessing the whole scene are Peter and John and James. They hear the words, they see the bodily faces, they see life.
Peter and John and James are living in their bodies, and living in a world given over to sickness and death, yet they are now included in this picture of life.
For, all those whom Jesus gathers to himself are living. Even as he is on his way to the cross, on his way to his own death, the Mount of Transfiguration is a picture of life.
For the death Jesus dies on the cross is the death to put to death our death. It is the death to atone for our sin. To suffer the judgment for our guilt. To take the full sting of the Law, so that the Law has no more sting for those who belong to Christ Jesus.
The Mount of Transfiguration testifies that for those whom Jesus gathers to himself, the whole Church, including those such as Moses and Elijah from before the cross, and those such as Peter and John and James at the time of the cross, and all those who follow, including you and me and our families, for all those Jesus gathers to himself, there is no death, only life.
And the Mount of Transfiguration testifies the honor that Jesus has for our bodies.
He is no spirit-god who despises the physicality of our bodies and the materiality of our lives.
He created our bodies, with his own blood he redeemed our bodies, in the water of baptism he washed and sanctified our bodies, and his promise of Heaven is not some gauzy promise of a spiritual afterlife, but it is the promise guaranteed by his own bodily resurrection that our bodies belong to the resurrection, and we will stand at his face in the fulness of who we were created to be, with everything of our bodies and souls sanctified and made whole and brought into eternal life.
So now, even as we live in these bodies which are given over to death, our bodies of sin and affliction, and we live in a world of sickness and death, we belong at the same time to the Lord of life.
We live not by sight, but by faith. Our sight sees the sin around us, sees the sin of our own lives, sees the death awaiting our bodies, but our faith sees nothing but Jesus. And hears only his voice of life. Luke 9:35:
And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; hear him!”
We hear the voice of Jesus.
It is the same voice which spoke forgiveness to the woman at the well, which spoke healing for the deaf and blind, which struck down the teachers of the Law by saying, “Judge not and you will not be judged, condemn not and you will not be condemned”; it is the same voice which conversed with Moses and Elijah and Peter and John and James on the Mount of Transfiguration; the same voice which gave us the holy Name in Baptism, and which, continuing to gather sinners into the Church, says, Take and eat, take and drink, this is my Body and Blood for the forgiveness of your sins; it is the voice by which Jesus daily forgives our sins and takes our lives up into his use, setting us as servants to his Church and to our families and to our neighbor.
It is the voice of Jesus. We hear it in his Gospel. He speaks it in his sacraments. It is the voice by which he gives us life. Not just the biological life of a beating heart and pulsing brainwaves, but true life at the face of God the Father who created us, God the Son who redeemed us with his own blood, and God the Holy Spirit who cleanses and sanctifies us in Baptism.
In the Name of Jesus.