Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
Messiah Lutheran Church
Transfiguration (February 1, 2009)
For an audio MP3 of this sermon, CLICK HERE
TITLE: “View from the Top”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Transfiguration of our Lord from St. Matthew chapter seventeen, as well as from the Second Epistle of St. Peter.
Dearly beloved. We don’t follow myths or fables when it comes to telling you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ for your salvation. So often when it comes to the life of the Church, we can get the feeling or the sense that these are all just so many stories, one piled upon another. The stories of Jesus’ life can start to feel like fairy tales, with their miracles, parables, morals, great big events, and the like. It’s almost like you’re watching a movie or reading a book. But we can forget that these events took place. Jesus did come into the flesh, sent by God the Father out of love for His fallen children, you. Jesus was born of a virgin girl from Nazareth. He was born, and lived an unassuming life. No one realized who He was as they walked in their midst, even though Jesus didn’t deny His identity as the Son of God.
But St. Peter the apostle reminds us that he and two other disciples were eye-witnesses of His majesty. What does that mean? It means that there was a time when they went with our Lord up to the top of a mountain, probably Mount Tabor, also called Mount Carmel, where Elijah did battle with the prophets of Baal long before. They went up this mountain, and while they were up there, they were given a glimpse, a little taste of his great glory.
Now if you’ve ever sat on top of a mountain, you know what kind of perspective it can give you. Sometimes it’s called the “God’s eye view of the world.” So they see him not clothed in flesh and blood, but they see Him with His divine majesty revealed. They get a little God’s eye view of things, including Jesus Himself, and they let us in on the picture.
So imagine this scene. From this mountain they have a God’s eye view of everything. They can see Mount Arrarat and Noah. They can see back to the angel of God on the mountain, staying the hand of Abraham from killing his son, Isaac. They can see Moses upon another mountain, where God revealed Himself in the burning bush. And again they can see Moses, coming down from Mount Sinai, where his face shown like the sun from being in the presence of God, just like Jesus. They can see Elijah doing battle with the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel, probably the exact same mountain they are standing on right then. They can see Jesus preaching the Sermon on the Mount. They can see The Mount of Olives. And they can see Mount Calvary, where our Lord would die for us and for our salvation. There are a lot of mountains to be seen from their view. God has been very busy indeed.
Yet when it comes to our view of God, we forget the big picture. We get so wrapped up in our lives, our problems and trials, that we forget to look up and see Jesus. But Peter, James and John see him. They don’t totally understand it all, as we’ll get to, but they see Him.
In fact, they not only see Him, they hear a voice. Well, not just a voice, it is really the voice. They hear the voice from heaven at the parting of the clouds. This voice utters the words that all of heaven and earth had been waiting to hear. “This is my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” All creation groans to hear these words. It is as if everything that had happened in the history of the world until that moment was coming to a point. It’s almost too much for us to fathom. Our heavenly Father first uttered those words all the way back in the Psalms, when He said, “This is my Son. Today I have begotten you.” (Psalm 2:7) He said these words again at our Lord’s Baptism, and then again today, at the Transfiguration. He really said those words to you as well, when you were Baptized into His name. When you were baptized, that life of God, that eternal Sonship, became yours forever.
You are on the mountain with Him. And you are changed as well. I know, it doesn’t seem like it all the time. Like Peter, James and John, we can get caught up in a moment. It’s hard to be too critical of Peter saying to Jesus, “Hey, let’s camp out here with you, Moses and Elijah forever! What else could we possibly need?” But Jesus remembers the holy conversation He is having with Moses and Elijah. He is on the mountain now, but He will go into the valley of sin and death for you and me, and come out alive on the other side. That journey must be taken. Otherwise it is all for naught.
There are some very real parallels here for our own lives in the journey of Christ. In Baptism, we are adopted by grace into the holy family. God makes you His own. The Scriptures attest to the fact that we don’t need a mountain top experience to know this great truth. St. Peter writes again, “we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts…” (2 Peter 1:19 ESV) What this means for you and I is this. In Christ by holy baptism, you now take the same journey which our Lord took in His life and death and life again. There are hills and valleys, high points and low points in your life. Like our Lord, we need time to rest, be refreshed, and to remember what the point of all of this really is. We see this many times in the life of Jesus, where he goes apart by himself for prayer and meditation. Or, we are given a little glimpse of the future glory at this Transfiguration this morning.
This is what the divine service of Word and Sacrament is for you. Your life is one of love for God and service to your neighbor. Yes, I know, sin seems to get in the way of this great life in God all the time. It’s hard to look up and see Jesus. But God, in His mercy and love for you, continues to draw you into Himself, forgive your sins, pick you up, and walk with you on this journey. Sometimes the journey is light and easy. Other times this journey may seem harder than imaginable. But no matter where you are on this pilgrimage to heaven, Christ is here, carrying you all the way. He not only carries you in the hard times, but in the easy times as well. Why? Because you are all his, completely and without exception.
And one day, O Christian, one day the dawn will come. One day you will go home to be with Him forever. And on that day, the vision, the picture we have in the Transfiguration will be complete. For you, too, will shine like the stars. You, too, will converse with Moses and Elijah and all the company of heaven. You, too, will be with Jesus face to face forever.
But until that day, O Christian, rejoice that you are in Christ! Come to His holy table, be fed and refreshed, and trust that His glory which shines forth from the cross is for you, both now and forever. Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.