+ In Nomine Jesu +
Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
A lot of things in life are all about sequence. I’ve got a fishing reel here in my hand. The thing about these reels is they don’t get along too well with saltwater. Every so often you have to take them apart, clean them and put them back together again. There’s probably 20, or so, parts inside. There’s a sequence to dismantle one of these and a sequence to put it back together again. If you follow the sequence everything goes OK, but if you don’t follow the sequence you’ll have a mess on your hands.
Again, there many things in life that are all about sequence. In Luke’s Gospel, for instance, there is an important sequence of events that lead up to the reading we have before us this morning. The sequence begins all the back in verse 18 of chapter 9. It may seem a bit tedious to go through it, but bear with me this morning because I think the sequence will bear some fruit as we come to our reading for this morning, which is the account of Jesus’ Transfiguration in verse 28.
In verse 18 and following, Simon Peter makes a bold and clear confession of who Jesus is. In doing so, he rejects all of the opinions floating around about Jesus. “You are the Christ of God (Peter said).”
Right after Peter made his confession, Jesus told him and the other disciples that, “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.” And then, a just a little bit later, He said, “if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”
Finally, Luke tells us, “on the eighth day he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray.” It was there that the three disciples got a glimpse of heaven in the Transfiguration of Jesus, which we celebrate this morning.
Now, we’ll get back to the significance of the sequence of events in just a moment and we’ll make some application of the passage to our lives, but first there are a couple of things in the Transfiguration event itself we dare not miss. First, it is important to note that it took place on the eighth day. The eighth day has historically been recognized in the Christian faith as the Day of the New Creation. The heavens and earth were created in six days and on the seventh day God rested. On the eighth day God created everything anew in the Redemption of His Son, Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament, male children were circumcised on the eighth day. Infants were traditionally baptized on the eighth day, a tradition that is still recognized today in the eight-sided shape of the baptismal fount.
Since the eighth day is the day of the New Creation, it carries with it images of God’s completion of all things on the Last Day. God promises us that Jesus will come again at the end of time. “Surely (He says) I am coming soon.” The faithful, therefore respond, saying, “Amen, come, Lord Jesus.”
The Transfiguration happened on the eighth day, the Day of the New Creation. Along with important point, woven through the text there are also images and phrases that are incredibly similar to Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Luke tells us that “the appearance of (Jesus’) face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were talking with him.” And then, recording the events at the empty tomb, Luke writes, “while they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground.”
So, how does all this tie together, all this talk about the eighth day and the importance of seqeunce? Well, consider what happens in the broader picture. Peter confesses his faith in Jesus. Jesus calls him to take up his cross daily and follow Him. And then finally, on the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter gets a little glimpse of glory. But, here’s the thing, Peter, like the rest of us, doesn’t really like the sequence of those events. I mean, confessing the name of Jesus is fine! Getting a glimpse of glory is fine! But, cross bearing and suffering isn’t fine!
In verse 34 of this morning’s reading, Peter says, “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.” Peter liked what he saw on the Mountain, so much so that he wanted to set up camp and stay there. It seems a reasonable thing to request. But, Luke tells us it was anything but reasonable. In fact, in making such a request, “(Peter) didn’t know what he was saying.”
Like Peter, if the sequence of events in our lives were left up to us, suffering and cross bearing wouldn’t be a part of our journey to glory! I hear it all the time. Why does God let this or that happen? Why doesn’t He just take us all to heaven right now and get it over with? Why do we confess His name and then suffer for it?
The answer to those questions may well lie in the hiddenness of God, that is, they may not be for us to answer this side of heaven. Still, as we make our way from this vale of tears, to the glory of heaven, God’s voice resounds in our ears, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” “I am with you always, (He says) to the very end of the age.” “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
The Father says, “this is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to Him!” That is really one of the central things to take away from the Transfiguration event. It isn’t, however, the only thing. In a strange twist, Peter’s delirium on the Mountain becomes a source of hope and comfort to us as we wait for the eighth day, the final Day of the New Creation. Peter was so captured by the sight of Jesus’ Transfiguration; He was so engrossed in the moment, he literally didn’t know what he was saying. Can you even imagine that kind of bliss, that kind of contentment and peace that you speak without even knowing what you’re saying?
Like Peter, we get a little glimpse of glory week after week as we kneel and receive the body and blood of Jesus. Our eyes don’t see it, but we believe it nonetheless. Surrounding us is a great cloud of witnesses, Moses and Elijah, Peter, James and John. And “with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify God’s glorious name.” The eighth day, the day of the New Creation, is both a future hope, but also a present reality.
“Fulfiller of the past
And hope of things to be!
We hail your body glorified
And our redemption see."
“How good Lord, to be here!
Yet we may not remain;
But since you bid us leave the mount
Come with us to the plain.”
In Jesus’ name. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.
+ Soli Deo Gloria +
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