Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for this morning is the Gospel just read, the Transfiguration of our Lord from St. Matthew chapter seventeen.
God loves to hide things, so that He may reveal them at the proper time. King Solomon once wrote, “It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out.” (Proverbs 25:2 ESV) What this means for us is that God hides things because it is for our benefit, not because he’s trying to keep secrets. He hides Himself because He knows that if He were to reveal Himself to us in His full glory apart from Jesus, we could not bear it because of our sin.
That is why Peter, James and John fall to the ground when He is revealed. They realize that they are not worthy to be in God’s presence. Like Moses standing before the burning bush, they know that if everything is revealed, they would be consumed. They know, like the centurion from last week, that they are not worthy to be in the presence of God Almighty. They are afraid. And they are right to be afraid. Adam and Eve, after all, fled from the presence of God when they knew their sin (Genesis 3:8).
Oddly enough, we have forgotten our unworthiness in the presence of God. As a culture, perhaps more than any other description, I would say that we are a people without shame. We dress up our children like harlots. We steal and slander one another at every turn. We take God’s gift of life and turn it into a convenience to be aborted if other dreams seem more important. We have no shame as a people. And yet we somehow also have a profound lost of self-esteem and self-worth.
Now when Moses came down from Mt. Sinai, his face shone from being in the presence of God. The people were afraid to come near to him. The reason Moses went up Mt. Sinai here in Exodus is because of this little episode we call the Golden Calf. In a short period of time, the people of Israel had gone from rejocing in God delivering them from the hand of Pharaoh, to worshipping a calf made of melted jewelry. Moses actually crashed the tablets of stone on the ground, broke them, and many people died. So it should be no surprise when Moses comes back down a second time, that they are afraid. His glowing presenced reflected the glory of God, and it terrified them. They went from having no shame, to having so much shame and guilt that they could not bear it.
This is you, dearly beloved. We play games with our sins. We act as though we can pick and choose how these things work. We bite and manipulate one another, all in the name of fairness or justice or even just being right. But as the author to Hebrews puts it, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31)
So the fear of Peter, James and John is entirely understandable. They can handle the healing Jesus. They can handle Jesus the teacher. They can even handle Moses and Elijah (at least in their minds). In fact, that little picture or image is so good that they want to CLICK, hold on to that picture. But when the voice of God Himself speaks from the cloud, well, that is too much. They cannot bear to hear the voice of God apart from Jesus.
It is then that this beautiful picture emerges. The pictures is these three, as well as you and I, kneeling before the Transfigured Lord, and Jesus then reaches down and touches them and says, “Rise, and have no fear.” (Matthew 17:7) With these words, everything really does change. Jesus touches them, reaches out to them, speaks words of comfort to them, and they lift up their eyes and see Jesus only.
This, beloved, is how we enter into the presence of the almighty God. We enter through the blood of Jesus. We enter into His presence with the touch of our Lord. It is this touch, this hidden Word, that changes everything.
Does this comfort you? It can and it will. For you enter into the presence of God Almighty here, in this place, at His house. “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of Host!” God’s house is lovely because God’s house is here for you. It is your shelter from the stormy blast. God’s house is where you are fed and nourished. God’s house is where your sins are forgiven, God’s house is where you get a tiny little taste of this resurrection.
Some day, dearly beloved, some day we will change for good. Yes, you will change. It won’t be the cheap cosmetic changes of today. It won’t be changing an old habit or any of the other superficial things that we all try to solve or improve on the way.
And one day, O Christian, one day the morning star will rise in your heart, and 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.
On that day, beloved, you will face a final transfiguration, the great change, a last resurrection, a transformation unlike any other, a metamorphisis to eternal life that will never end. May it ever be so for Jesus sake. Amen.
“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 1:24–25)