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Luke 9:28–36

James T. Batchelor

Transfiguration, series C
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church  
Hoopeston, IL

view DOC file

Sun, Feb 7, 2016 

This morning we have come to the Feast of the Transfiguration of our Lord.  This day in the church year acts as a gateway.  It is not only a fairly spectacular epiphany, but it also points us to the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.  It really fits in well with both the season of Epiphany which comes to and end this week and the season of Lent which begins this coming Wednesday.

Last weeks Gospel ended with these words: [Jesus] said to them, I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose. And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea. (Luke 4:4344, ESV) These words are a reasonable description of the first part of Jesus ministry as it is recorded in the four Gospel accounts.  At first, Jesus revealed Himself to the people.  That is what epiphany is all about, the Lord revealing Himself to the people.  This was a time of teaching and a time of signs.  As Jesus taught and performed these signs, more and more people came to see Him as the promised Messiah or Christ.  As we see in the account of the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus drew thousands to His message.

The Hebrew word Messiah and the Greek word Christ both mean The Anointed One. The culture of the day expressed many different ideas about what it meant the Jesus was The Anointed One.  Most of them were wrong.  As more and more people began to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One, He began to teach more and more about what that really means.  He began to say, The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. (Luke 9:22, ESV) Jesus taught that the vocation of the Messiah was to suffer, die, and rise from the dead.

This prediction of His suffering, death, and resurrection, confused and frightened the disciples.  They simply could not understand the idea that the Anointed One would conquer sin, death, and the power of the devil by suffering and dying.  Their total inability to comprehend this led to bewilderment, frustration, and fear.

Not only did Jesus speak of His own cross, but He also said to all, If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23, ESV) Jesus not only taught that He had a cross in His future, but that the life of His followers would be one of daily cross bearing.  That is, the same faith that gives you an eternal connection with Jesus, will also add daily trials to your life.  This is also a confusing teaching.  Our natural instinct is that doing things right should improve our daily lives.

So it is that as we start todays reading from the account of Luke, we learn that Jesus led a very confused and bewildered Peter, John, and James up on the mountain to pray.  Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. (Luke 9:2829, ESV) Here is the experience that gives the phrase mountain top experience its meaning.  This was a small peek into the glory that Jesus always has, but that He kept hidden in His state of humiliation.  Once again, here is a sign that shows Jesus as true God, the Son of God the Father.

Jesus was not the only one who was shining in glory on the mountaintop.  Behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, 31who appeared in glory. (Luke 9:30-31) This conversation was pretty amazing because Moses and Elijah had been dead for centuries.  In fact, we have an account of Moses death and burial in todays Old Testament lesson.  Their appearance indicates that Moses and Elijah enjoy close fellowship with God in heaven.  Peter, James, and John not only get an epiphany of Jesus in His glory, but they also get a glimpse of two very important people from Israels history.

The appearance of Moses and Elijah also give an opportunity to learn about the main topic of conversation in heaven.  Moses and Elijah appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. (Luke 9:3031) This was Lukes gentle way of telling us that they were talking about Jesus upcoming death in Jerusalem.  The disciples were bewildered by Jesus upcoming death, but Moses and Elijah spoke of it openly.  It was the topic of their conversation with Jesus.  It was the topic of conversation in heaven.  Peter, John, and James heard Jesus talking with Moses and Elijah about His upcoming death in Jerusalem a conversation about what it means to be the anointed one of God the Christ the Messiah.

Peter, John, and James had done what they usually do when they were alone with Jesus while He prayed.  They went to sleep.  When they woke up, they saw Jesus lighting up the mountain top and talking with Moses and Elijah.  Peter did what he usually did when he was in a confusing situation he began talking before he began thinking.  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. (Luke 9:33) Luke then added that Peter did not know what he said.

God the Father interrupted Peter as he uttered this foolishness.  A cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him! (Luke 9:3435) It is almost as if God the Father is saying, Peter, I gave you two ears and one mouth.  You should listen twice as much as you talk.  You should especially listen to My Son.  When He says, The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised, pay attention!

Peter, the rest of the disciples, and all the people who listened to Jesus teach had a similar problem.  They were not looking for a savior who would die for them.  The savior who lit up the mountaintop fit right into their plans.  A savior on His way to die in Jerusalem did not.

It is part of our fallen human nature to want a savior who is spectacular.  We like this show of glory that lights up the mountaintop.  We like fireworks.  We like light shows.  We like fancy, showy displays that grab our attention.  They are fun.  They are entertaining.  They make us feel good.  This is the savior that we think we want.

Here is the problem.  We would be in big trouble if the spectacular display that lit up the mountaintop was the only god we knew.  If the spectacular display that lit up the mountaintop was the only god we knew, then our relationship with God would be a relationship of punishment.  God is holy and just.  He must punish sin.  We are wretched sinners.  Therefore, God must punish us.  That is, He must punish us if the spectacular display that lit up the mountaintop was the only god we knew.

The transfiguration is a mountaintop epiphany that reveals Jesus as the Holy Son of God from heaven.  He is indeed the Christ, the Son of the Living God and that means He is the Christ who will go to another mountain near Jerusalem and die to take away all our sins.  God must punish sin, but will not punish us.  Instead this very Christ will take our sin onto Himself and the punishment for sin will rain down on Him.  In this way, He will stand in our place and satisfy the justice of holy God.  This is the savior that we see on the mountaintop as He talks with Moses and Elijah.  God the Father identifies this savior and tells us to listen to Him.

Jesus taught that He would suffer and die.  He also taught that He would rise on the third day.  He kept these promises.  He battled sin, death, and the devil as He suffered on the cross.  He followed death into death and with His death He conquered death.  Jesus is our true savior.

We know that Jesus conquered death because death could not hold Him.  Jesus returned to life.  He promised us that even though we die, He will raise us as well.  When that day comes, those who rejected Him will have to deal with the full glory of the justice of God and they will try to flee from Him.  The Jesus who lit up the mountaintop will terrify them.  Those who trust the savior who went to the other mountain and died for them will rejoice in the presence of Gods love.  They will live forever with their savior who loves them.

The Transfiguration prepares us for Lent.  As it fulfills its role as a true epiphany of Jesus, it also identifies Jesus as the one who must journey to the cross and sacrifice Himself for the sins of the world.  It also identifies Him as the savior who will conquer sin, death, and the power of the devil and rise from the dead.  The Transfiguration informs us of the journey to the cross the great theme of Lent.

In the Transfiguration we learn that Jesus is indeed the reign of heaven on earth.  He is the answer to the prayer, Thy Kingdom come. We also learn that He is the one who journeyed to Jerusalem so that He could suffer, die, and rise so that we could enjoy the presence of the reign of heaven forever.  Amen

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