Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
We are going to end the season of Epiphany with the last manifestation of the divinity of Jesus Christ before His death and resurrection. From Christmas until now we have reviewed these manifestations of the divine nature. After this Sunday we will prepare for Lent and Holy Week, when the Lord fulfilled His humiliation.
"Six days later." After what? Our Lord's first announcement of His death. Let's consider the background of our text. In Matthew 16: 13-20 we read of Simon Peter's confession.
“And when Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying: Who do men say that the Son of Man is? And they said: Some, John the Baptist; others, Elijah; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets. He said to them: "And who do you say that I am? And Simon Peter answered, he said: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered him," Blessed are you Simon son of Jonah; because flesh and blood did not reveal it to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I also tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. "
Simon Peter's confession of Jesus as the Christ, the Greek word for Messiah, also as the Son of God, was a key event in Jesus' ministry. Look at verse 15, And who do you say that I am? Jesus did not ask only Peter, but all the apostles, and Peter answered as their representative. Peter's confession was not the result of asking for a sign or of his own superior understanding. The faith given by the Holy Spirit in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is the sole foundation of the church of Christ. If the church rests on faith in Jesus as the Son of the living God, even the gates of hell will not prevail against it.
Jesus Christ is the only head of the church. This verse does not mean that Peter was the first Pope. As Martin Luther wrote in his "Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope", it is certain that the church is not built on the authority of one man, but on the ministry of confession that Peter made ... the ministry of the New Testament is not limited to places and people, as is the Levitical priesthood, but is scattered throughout the world and exists wherever God gives his gifts. In Luke 22: 24-27, Christ expressly forbids lordship among the apostles. The same is taught by a parable in Matthew 18: 1-4 and in John 20:21, when Christ sent his disciples as equals without any discrimination.
Now, well, after this confession, verse 21 reads like this: “From then on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that He had to go to Jerusalem and suffer much at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the scribes, and die , resurrect the third day. "
The transfiguration of Jesus confirms to the disciples that He truly is Messiah, the Son of the living God, as Peter confessed. The transfiguration is a foretaste of the glory to come: the resurrection of Christ and the exaltation of him after him. Many think that Mount Tabor, at the eastern end of the Jezreel Valley, 18 kilometers west of the Sea of Galilee, was the Mount of Transfiguration. Today there is a Church of the Transfiguration there. Others think of Mount Hermon, a group of mountains located in the southern part of the Anti-Lebanon range. These peaks serve as the border between Israel (Golan Heights), Lebanon and Syria. There is also a theory that the Mount of Transfiguration was Mount Horeb, which is another name for Mount Sinai, because this mount was known as “the holy mountain,” the phrase that Peter used in our epistle (2 Peter 1: 16- twenty). Moses saw the burning bush, he also received the tables of the Law on this holy mountain. The prophet Malachi mentioned Moses and Elijah together in his messianic prophecy, Malachi 4: 4-6. It was also a confirmation that Jesus is the One who came to fulfill the Law and the Old Testament prophecies.
God also revealed his presence on Mount Sinai in a cloud of light. Peter, John and James heard the same words from the almighty Father that He spoke about at Jesus' baptism. “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to him! " With the "Listen to him!" It is corroborated that Jesus is the Prophet prophesied by Moses in Deuteronomy 18: 15-19.
Well, if Jesus forbade lordship among the apostles, why were only Peter, John, and James present at the Transfiguration? Under Jewish law, a major event required two or three witnesses. Peter, James, and John were witnesses of Jesus on two other important occasions: the raising of Jairus' daughter, Mark 5:37; in the Passion of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, Matthew 26:37.
It's true, these three never forget what they saw. John wrote in his gospel, "The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us and we saw his glory, the glory that belongs to the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." And then, according to the book of Revelation, Jesus appeared to John in this same form. “I turned my gaze to see whose voice was speaking with me, and when I turned I saw seven golden candlesticks; in the middle of the seven candlesticks I saw someone, similar to the Son of Man, who wore a garment that reached down to his feet, and who wore a gold belt at the height of his chest. Her head and his hair were white as wool. They looked like snow. His eyes sparkled like a flame of fire. His feet were like polished bronze, and they shone as in a furnace; His voice resounded like the roar of a mighty stream of water, in his right hand he carried seven stars, and from his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword; his face was radiant, like the sun in all his splendor ”(Revelation 1: 12-16).
Also in our epistle, Peter writes, “For we have not made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, following contrived fables; but as having seen with our own eyes the majesty of him. Because He received honor and glory from God the Father, when a great voice was sent to Him from the magnificent glory that said: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And we heard this voice sent from heaven, when we were with Him on the holy mountain. "
Like us, all three were not chosen for their own holiness or their own merits. In Gethsemane Jesus commanded them, "Watch and pray," but they slept. After his confession six days before, when Jesus announced his death the first time, Peter said to Peter, “Lord, have mercy on you; in no way does this happen to you. Then He, turning, said to Peter: "Get behind me, Satan; you are a stumbling block to me; because you think not of the things of God, but of the things of men." And on the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter said to him, “Lord, it is good that we are here; If you want, let's make three tabernacles here; one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.
It would be much more pleasant to stay where the glory of heaven had descended, than to go to Jerusalem and let Jesus enter the path of suffering. At that moment, the Father's voice told them, "Listen to him!" And they fell on their faces, and were greatly afraid. Then Jesus came and touched them, and said, "Get up, and do not be afraid."
The Lord also tells us, “Watch and pray,” and like the disciples after the announcement of his death, “If anyone wants to come after me, deny himself, and take his cross, and follow me. " And above all, "Do not be afraid." Because He is with us to the end. Jesus walked with his disciples as a true man and showed them his divine nature at times. But he was always true man and true God. Now sometimes we have our experiences on top of the mountain when we feel the presence of God. But, as Saint Peter says, “We also have the most secure prophetic word, to which you do well to be attentive as to a lamp that shines in a dark place until the day clears, and the morning star rises in your hearts. "
God speaks in his Word, the Bible, whether we listen at any time or not. Faith is not of the earthly flesh and blood, which is our human reason, our five senses and the strength of our body, but of the spiritual body and blood in the Lord's Supper. The transfiguration of Jesus tells us the important things: The Lord who saves us by His Word now and promises to lead us to Him when we die. We cannot stay on top of the mountain. We still have to suffer in the valley but the crown of life awaits us. May the peace that passes all understanding be with you. Amen.
Send Pastor David Ernst an email.