The Transfiguration of our Lord [b] February 14, 2021
2 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. 4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. 5 And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7 And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” 8 And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only. 9 And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
In the Name of Jesus.
Looking at the Mount of Transfiguration, we are hit with a danger.
We are tempted to say that it is some impressive event of God in Heaven breaking into life here on Earth. That leaves it as if God, all-powerful, infinite, and all knowing, has made a way for himself to open up a little window from Heaven to finite Earth, so that he can enter into our miserable little finite world, giving us a little glimpse of the infinite power and glory and divinity of Heaven. And seeing that, we will be impressed.
Jesus, God the Son come down from Heaven, standing on a mountain in radiant, intensely white clothing like we’ve never seen before. We should be impressed and comforted—this is our Lord, after all.
Moses and Elijah—Moses who lived on Earth some 1,500 years before the Transfiguration, he’s standing there with Jesus. Elijah who lived on Earth some 900 years before the Transfiguration, he too stands there with Jesus.
Moses and Elijah are not dead. They are living at the face of God. Moses and Elijah breathing and talking—we should be impressed and comforted, there is no death for those who have faith in the promise.
But looking at the Mount of Transfiguration, we’re hit with a danger: The God of all power and might, all holiness and glory, in the flesh. Moses and Elijah at his face in human conversation. Are we impressed and comforted?
Peter’s not. Peter’s confused. Mark 9:6:
And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” For [Peter] did not know what to say, for they were terrified.
Not just confused. Terrified! And not just Peter, but also James and John—they are all terrified.
Why? Jesus transfigured in radiant white clothing, Moses and Elijah alive and breathing. And they’re terrified? Is it not good to see that Jesus has all power, even over death?
Peter and James and John, they see what’s happening. Nothing confusing about that. But they see it for terror. They see no comfort, no mercy, no Gospel. They see God for his power and might and holiness. But they miss something. We would miss it too, were we standing alongside them.
For we, like Peter and James and John, stand in sinful flesh. We stand with consciences unclean. We stand as those who look to justify ourselves by the Law, yet know we cannot.
In our sinful flesh, we, like Peter, James, and John, look at Jesus with a veil over our eyes. The veil is the Law. The veil is the guilt we live in, knowing the Law accuses us at every step. The veil is the shame covering us, not only for our own sin, but also for the sin of the world around us, the sin we suffer having been done to us. The veil is the unclean conscience reading everything according to the Law and finding no way out.
With the veil over our eyes, we will look at Jesus and be terrified.
We will see the holiness, and in our unholiness will try to keep ourselves as far away from him as possible. We will see the Righteous One, and will want to hide. We will see his power, even power over death, and will know that his power crushes anything belonging to sin and death.
With the veil over our eyes, we, like Peter and James and John, will be terrified. The veil is the Law. The veil is Holy Scripture, when we read the Bible and see holiness and power and divinity, but not God’s grace. 2 Corinthians 3:15:
For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts.
This is why one can read the Bible, and find there only rules and regulations and more Law of how to live. Read the Bible and find there only the demand to live a clean life, and then, in seeing one’s sin, find only fear and despair. Because, the way the sinful flesh will every time read the Scriptures and will use the Bible is in the way of the Law.
But the veil is lifted! 1 Corinthians 3:16:
For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.
The veil is lifted when we hear the voice of Jesus. “This is my beloved Son, hear him,” said the Father on the Mount Transfiguration.
At the voice of Jesus, the veil is removed. The voice of Jesus says, I forgive you your sins, says, you are already clean because of the Word I have spoken to you, says, Take and drink, this is my blood for the forgiveness of your sins, and in those words, Jesus removes the veil from our eyes.
This is my Son, says the Father, Hear him. So we hear him; we hear Jesus say, I forgive you. And now we look at him standing on the Mount of Transfiguration, and we see not a sight bringing terror to the sinner, but our Savior who is on his way to the cross where he will shed his blood to atone for us. And it is not fear for us, but faith.
And we look at Moses and Elijah standing next to him, and we see these two servants who spoke the Gospel to Israel and cleansed them of their sins by speaking to them the promise, and it is not fear for us to see Moses and Elijah standing there, but confidence and joy. For they belong to life as they belong to Jesus. And we know, as we belong to Jesus, we too belong to life.
We turn to Jesus, and the veil is removed. As Paul says,
But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
[1 Corinthians 3:17]
Freedom for us. Freedom from all which enslaves. Freedom from the Law, for we live no longer as slaves to the Law, but as children of the Father. Freedom from the devil. For where sins are forgiven, the devil has no charge to bring against us in our consciences. Freedom from death. For Jesus is Lord not of the dead, but of the living, and all those belonging to him—Moses and Elijah, Peter and James and John, you and me—all those belonging to him belong to life.