The Transfiguration of our Lord [c] February 27, 2022
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.
The sinner is never quite ready for Jesus to show up, it seems.
What would it take, if we knew Jesus was going to show up right now—what would it take for us to be ready?
The question seems easy. He’s the Savior, we’re the sinners who need saving. He’s the forgiver of sins, we’re the ones who have sins to be forgiven, we’re ready right now. But we know it doesn’t end up being like that. There always seems more to do.
So how do we ready ourselves for Jesus to show up? He shows up in the Sacrament, we know that. This is my body, my blood, for the forgiveness of your sins. Take and eat, take and drink. We hear his voice. We believe his Word. It really is him in his Body and Blood.
What do we do to make ourselves ready for that? Are we worthily coming to the table? We don’t want to approach unworthily.
Repentance. That’s the key, we know that. Come repentantly. Deep repentance. Authentic repentance. That should make us feel more safe in the presence of Jesus.
So we try to repent. We feel sorry for our sin. We contemplate God’s Law, which we should, and we construct ways we will follow it better; we’ll try to clean up our lives, even our thoughts and desires. We give a prayer to God promising to do better, to try harder.
But that’s not repentance. None of it is repentance. It’s using God’s Law to clean ourselves up. Using the Law to get out of our guilt under the Law. It’s using God’s Law to make a deal with God.
It’s not repentance.
Standing at the face of God, that’s the sinner’s first recourse: use the Law. The Law made us guilty. We’ll turn around and use the same Law to make ourselves righteous. That’s the sinful flesh fighting, scheming to justify self.
Peter, James, and John are on the mountain. Jesus brought them. Luke 9:29:
And as [Jesus] was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory.
Peter, James, and John—are they prepared for this? There’s always more for the sinner to do, the preparation is never quite over, it seems. What should they do? Luke 9:33:
And as the men were parting from [Jesus], 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.
Jesus standing in glory. Elijah and Moses in glory. Heaven has opened up on Earth it seems. What’s a sinner to do, standing in front of this? Peter doesn’t know what to say. What sinner would? So he says, Let us make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, one for Elijah.
But they don’t need tents. What’s that about?
A tent is a tabernacle. In the Greek, it’s the same word: tent, tabernacle. Back in the day of Moses, long before he was in Heaven, the tabernacle was the tent the Lord had Moses construct. The tabernacle held the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark of the Covenant held the Law, the Ten Commandments. The tabernacle was where the glory of the Lord dwelt.
What is the Lord’s glory? It is the Lord giving the gift of sacrifice to atone for the sins of the sinner. It is the Lord coming down to Earth in his Name to speak forgiveness to the sinner, to cleanse the sinner, to justify the sinner.
So Peter, not knowing what to say, says, Let us make three tabernacles.
Well, at least that gives the sinner something to do. It was Peter’s idea, it would be accomplished by the three sinners, Peter, James, and John. It is, from start to finish, the work of the sinner who’s trying to make himself worthy to stand in God’s glory.
But Peter did not know what he was saying.
It is never the sinner’s work to make himself worthy. Never will the sinner make himself one bit righteous. Make three tabernacles, make thirty tabernacles, and, for that matter, repent of not making enough tabernacles before. It won’t matter. The sinner will never make himself righteous. And if we’re waiting until we prepare ourselves to step into the presence of the Lord, we will never be able to step into the presence of the Lord.
Then how? How is the sinner to prepare himself for Jesus to show up? The Transfiguration, the Lord in glory along with Moses and Elijah from Heaven, gives us how the sinner is to have repentance. Luke 9:31:
And behold, two men were talking with [Jesus], Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.
The prophets spoke with Jesus about his departure. The Greek word Luke uses for departure is exodon. As in exodus. As in exit. Jesus spoke with Moses and Elijah about his exit in Jerusalem. That is, about his death. His cross.
That’s what makes the sinner righteous. That blood he will shed on the cross in Jerusalem, that is the blood to cleanse Peter, James, and John of their sin. It’s the blood which is the glory of God on Earth. For while we are thinking that God’s glory is him showing up in majesty with Moses and Elijah from Heaven, that does not save the sinner. While we are thinking that glory is, maybe, a shaking mountain and a booming voice, is, perhaps, smoke and brimstone, fire out of the sky, none of that saves the sinner.
God’s glory is the one thing the world could never call glory. It’s the one thing a sinner could never accept as God’s glory. Every manmade religion in the world knows how to have a god who shows his glory by acts of power, by miraculous healings or actions, by people becoming more and more spiritual, but when we finally open our eyes to see God’s true glory, it is the most unacceptable sight of all to our sinful flesh: It is the innocent man bleeding to death on the cross. It is a man showing no strength, no power, but only bearing the sin of the world, and pleading with his own blood to his Father in Heaven, Father, forgive them, for they don’t even know what they do.
That’s what Jesus was talking about with Moses and Elijah. About the glory of God. About his departure in Jerusalem, his exodus, his death on the cross. About making the sinner righteous.
Peter didn’t know what to say. What sinner does? So God spoke. Luke 9:35:
And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone.
The Father leaves us with the Word of Jesus alone. Hear him, says the Father.
We will keep on speaking our own words, that’s our sinful flesh trying to find a way to righteousness, trying to do some work under the Law to prepare ourselves for God’s presence, trying to be spiritual, trying to justify self.
We will keep speaking our own words, but they make no one righteous, and of that, we are given repentance.
We hear Jesus. His Word accomplishes what our works under the Law never could: Repentance.
For, in the Lord’s way, repentance is not some work we do under the Law, not something we accomplish by feeling it deep down or whatever, rather, repentance has two parts. Repentance is for the old Man of sin to daily be drowned and put to death by God striking us with his Law. That’s God’s work, his gift. The sinful flesh does not put the sinful flesh to death daily; God does that with the accusation of his Law.
The second part of repentance, is God cleansing our heart, creating in us a new heart, bestowing upon us the heart of faith. That, too, is God’s work. He does that. By speaking to us the forgiveness of our sins, by preaching to us the atoning blood of the cross, by bringing to us his Word of Gospel.
So, what would it take, if we knew Jesus was going to show up right now in his glory—what would it take for us to be ready?
His glory is his Blood shed on the cross. Are we prepared to come into the presence of his Body and Blood? What do we do to make ourselves worthy?
As long as we live in the daily weaknesses of our flesh and blood,
says the Large Catechism,
[we] must learn that it is the highest art to know that the Sacrament does not depend upon our worthiness. We are not baptized because we are worthy and holy. Nor do we go to Confession because we are pure and without sin. On the contrary, we go because we are poor miserable people. We go exactly because we are unworthy. This is true unless we are talking about someone who desires no grace and Absolution nor intends to change.
But whoever would gladly receive grace and comfort should drive himself and allow no one to frighten him away [from the Sacrament]. Say [to yourself], ‘I, indeed, would like to be worthy. But I come, not upon my worthiness, but upon your Word, [O Lord,] because you have commanded it. I come as one who would gladly be your disciple, no matter what becomes of my worthiness.
The Father says, This is my Son, hear him!
Only Jesus can make the sinner worthy and righteous. We listen for the Word of Jesus—it is his Word that your sin is forgiven.
In the Name of Jesus.