IN NOMINE JESU
It is good for us to be here today. It is good for us to be here, celebrating the Transfiguration of Our Lord. It is good for us to be here and behold our Lord as He manifests Himself to us in His Word. Through the Word we are witnesses to this mountaintop experience. We, obviously, were not there when the Lord revealed His full glory and majesty, as were Peter, John, and James. Yet we are the blessed recipients of what they themselves saw. Peter writes, "For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: 'This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.' And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain" (2 Pet. 1:16-18). The beloved disciple, St. John, testifies: "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life—the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us—that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full" (1 Jn. 1:1-4). And we today state in the Creed, "I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son our Lord...."
It was good for Peter, John, and James to physically be there with the Lord on the holy mountain, for they would bear witness to what they would see, and each disciple's testimony would be corroborated by two witnesses, which was crucial in first-century Jewish thought. It was not good for them to fall asleep, as this would not be the last time they would fall asleep while the Lord prayed. But they awoke in time to behold the Lord in all His majesty and glory. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes were bright as light, "exceedingly white," says St. Mark, "such as no launderer on earth can whiten them" (Mk. 9:3). The Lord was transfigured before their very eyes, from His hidden human form to His holy, heavenly being and later back again. Peter, John, and James saw Him on the mountain as He is now in heaven, true God and true Man—not hidden but manifest. It was good for them to be with the Lord on the mountain, for they saw the Lord in all His glory and were not destroyed. They saw His radiant face and lived to tell about it.
These three disciples also saw Moses and Elijah with the Lord. Moses, the great lawgiver whom the Lord Himself buried, and Elijah, the greatest of the prophets whom the Lord took up into heaven, were with the Lord, the Fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. They discussed with the Lord His "decease," as the New King James Version translates the Greek word exodos. Moses and Elijah, in their glory, spoke with the Lord of His exodus from this world, His death which would take place at the city limits of Jerusalem. The Lord's exodus would be accomplished there.
It was not good for Peter to speak as he did. He who confessed Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God, betrayed his own ignorance. He was right in telling the Lord it was good to be there. But he had no business telling the Lord he wanted to build three tabernacles for the Lord, Moses, and Elijah. Instead of beholding what was happening to the Lord for Peter's sake and for the sake of future believers, Peter was all about what he thought he had to do for the Lord. The life of the Christian is lived in response to what the Lord does for us and to what He bids His people to do. It took another revelation from God to correct Peter, a word from God the Father. It was not good for Peter to speak out of turn.
Even as God came down to Moses on Mount Sinai in a cloud, He came down to the disciples upon the Mount of Transfiguration in a cloud. The disciples were entering the holy presence of God the Father and God the Son. The disciples were afraid as the Voice boomed from the cloud, "This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!" (v. 35). What Peter was to do, and what we are to do, is to hear the Word of the Lord, for "blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it" (11:28).
It is not good for us to be here and yet refuse to not hear the Son. "God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son…" (Heb. 1:1-2a). And on this last Sunday in the Epiphany Season, this last Sunday in the Time of Christmas, the Son of God who manifested Himself in the flesh on this earth now manifests Himself in the Scriptures, and through these Scriptures He speaks to you this very day through lectionary readings and at this very moment through the preaching of His Word. It is good for us to be here, but it is not good for us to be here and shun His Word.
It is not good for us to ignore His Word and do our own thing. Peter sought to erect three tabernacles for the Lord, Moses, and Elijah. He sought to create a place for the Lord where He would not remain, for the Lord would descend this mountain and later ascend another to be crucified, and He descends to us, coming to us in Word and Sacraments. Yet we look for the Lord where He has not bound Himself, where He has not promised to be found. We look for Him in places other than where He gives His gifts—here in His holy tabernacle and in the Liturgy of the Church. We do this because, like Peter, we think we know better than God where He ought to be. Like Peter, we act out of arrogance and ignorance. For this reason, we, like Peter, John, and James, should be afraid—very afraid—when God the Father Almighty speaks to us, coming with words of Law, of judgment, of condemnation. He tells us what He told those three disciples, "This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!"
It is good for us to be here and to hear our Lord. Yes, He calls us to contrition and repentance. But He also comes to us with words of forgiveness. He who ascended from the River at His Baptism and heard His heavenly Father's public anointing of Him, "You are My beloved Son. With You I am well pleased," has come down from heaven and comes to us in the Word, in Holy Communion, and in Baptism that we are forgiven through His blood, forgiven for His sake. It is good for us to be here, for the Lord who was in His full glory at His Transfiguration emptied Himself of it at His crucifixion by being obedient to death, even death on the cross. He who came with all glory, laud, and honor into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday would leave stricken, smitten, and afflicted outside the walls of the Holy City on Good Friday.
It is good for us to be here because we get to hear the Son of God, who accomplished his decease, His exodus, at Jerusalem on Good Friday. We hear God's beloved Son: "Father, forgive them"; "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"; "It is finished!" Yes, fellow redeemed, our Savior finished His work for our salvation, accomplishing His decease, His exodus, atop Mount Calvary. But the Lord is no longer on the cross. It is good for us that He in not there. Death cannot hold Him; so we need not cling to the old rugged cross. It is good for us that the Lord's body no longer lies in the tomb. He is not there; He is risen! He is risen so that it indeed would be good for us to be here. He is risen, and His words that we hear give us eternal life. The Lord is risen and ascended. Yet He comes down to us. He has given us a mountaintop experience by His coming down to us in His Word and Sacraments. We can enjoy no closer communion with the Lord than when He comes to us in His body and blood and when He speaks to us His words of forgiveness here and eternal life in heaven, where we will have the greatest mountaintop experience of all, where our mortal bodies will be transfigured to be like His glorious body. By His Word are being transfigured, even as we were first transfigured at the font, and from there the Old Adam in us is drowned daily and the new man daily emerges and arises as we live lives of repentance and faith. We will be transfigured yet again today as the Lord makes His face shine upon us and is gracious unto us. Indeed, it is good for us to be here, in Jesus' Name. Amen.
SOLI DEO GLORIA
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