Preaching to the saints of the Lutheran Church at Christ-Elkhart and Faith-Hugoton in Kansas since February 8, 2015. All sermons prior to that date were preached either at Trinity Lutheran Church-Layton or First Lutheran Church-Tooele, Utah.
TEXT: When they had lifted up their eyes, [the disciples] saw no one but Jesus only. Matthew 17:8
This is the way it should be for every disciple, every believer, every baptized child of God. When we lift up our eyes, when we are examining spirituality, when we are looking at heaven and heavenly things, we are to see nothing but Jesus only. All else is of this world and misleading.
Seeing Jesus is what the Faith is all about
Heb 12:1-2 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (NKJ)
Can we look to and honor such as Moses and Elijah; Peter, James, and John; Martin Luther and C.F.W. Walther? Certainly, but only insofar as they show us, preach us, give us - Jesus.
I Jn 4:1-3 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. (NKJ)
And this is how we should test every spirit, that is every pastor, evangelist, teacher, anyone who would present himself/herself to us as speaking of things spiritual, things eternal, things of God. Do they lead you to and give you no one but Jesus only as did Moses and Elijah; Peter, James and John; Luther and Walther -- and that by the means that Jesus Himself in the flesh authorized and instituted to do so?
Here is how our Lutheran Confessions speak of testing the spirits:
" We must firmly hold that God grants His Spirit or grace to no one except through or with the preceding outward Word (Galatians 3:2,5). This protects us from the enthusiasts (who boast that they have the Spirit without the Word).
" Enthusiasm dwells in Adam and his children. Its venom has been implanted into them by the old serpent. It is the origin, power, and strength of all heresy, especially of that of the papacy and Muhammad. We must maintain this point: God does not want to deal with us in any other way than through the spoken Word and the Sacraments. Whatever is praised as from the Spirit- without the Word and Sacraments - is the devil himself. God wanted to appear even to Moses through the burning bush and spoken Word (Exodus 3:2-15). No prophet, neither Elijah nor Elisha, received the Spirit without the Ten Commandments or the spoken Word. John the Baptist was not conceived without the word of Gabriel coming first, nor did he leap in his mother's womb without Mary's voice (Luke 1:11-20,41). Peter says, "For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21). Without the outward Word, however, they were not holy. Much less would the Holy Spirit have moved them to speak when they were still unholy. They were holy, says he, since the Holy Spirit spoke through them." (SMALCALD ARTICLES, PART III, ARTICLE VIII: CONFESSION paragraphs 3, 9-13)
For us that seeing "no one but Jesus only" is with the ears:
Rom 10:13-17 For "whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved." How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!" But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, "Lord, who has believed our report?" So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (NKJ)
And yet, we are always tempted to want more than the hearing, more than the Word of God. As Paul puts it,
2 Cor 5:4-7 For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. (NKJ)
And this is the lesson for the disciples and for us as we celebrate the Transfiguration of our Lord:
Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.
Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."
This is the reaction of every person since Adam & Eve, to turn the things about God and what He has done and is doing for you, into the things that you can do for God.
While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!"
In other words, "What's all this fuss about Moses and Elijah, and making tents? You are in the very presence of God!" We sinners, as were Peter, James, and John, do all this messing around to please God and God must set us straight. Let us remember who is whom here, and who does what for whom.
"And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid."
The Law, the realization that "all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags" [Isaiah 64:6] knocks us flat, takes the wind (the breath, the spirit) right out of us, even kills us dead. And only then are we ready to really see, and hear, and receive Jesus as He is, as He gives Himself to us, as we need Him - hidden now in rather less than glorious looking things.
"But Jesus came and touched them and said, 'Arise, and do not be afraid.'"
And so too He does with us - in Baptism where we are united with Him in His death and resurrection and made beloved sons of God; in the hearing of His Word preached into the ears of congregations great and small, as well as to the ears of individuals who confess their sins and faith privately to their pastor; in the eating of His body and drinking of His blood at His holy Supper.
"When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only."
That is the definition of saving faith - seeing no one but Jesus only, and trusting that He is enough and all the rest - even who is or isn't there with Him will not matter anymore. For if they saw no one, but Jesus only, as did Moses & Elijah, as did Peter, James and John, as do you they will be, in fact already are, in heaven with Jesus too.
And you seeing no one, but Jesus only means you too have been delivered into the kingdom of heaven, for that is where Jesus lives and reigns to all eternity at the right hand of God, from where He sends the Holy Spirit to gather you in His church to keep you with Him and forgive you all your sins - in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Insofar as this sermon is a true proclamation of the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ, it belongs to Him and His Church. Therefore its use is free to all who deem it worthy and beneficial.
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