Summary: A sermon for the Transfiguration of our Lord, Series A.
Transfiguration of our Lord February 3, 2008 “Series A”
Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, you revealed your glory, and the glory of your Son through his transfiguration. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, enable us to gain a glimpse of Christ’s glory, hidden in his death and resurrection. May its splendor sustain us in our times of suffering. May its love compel us to minister in Christ’s name to those around us. May we find true life in Christ’s gift of himself for our redemption. In his name we pray. Amen.
It is interesting that the lesson sheet that I had in my folder of past sermons on the transfiguration, [as they do this morning], omitted the first three words of our Gospel lesson from Matthew. According to my Bible, the first verse of our text for this morning begins with the words, “Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain by themselves.”
Now these three words may not seem like much, but they are important as we seek to understand our text. “Six days later,” is not simply Matthew’s way of marking time, in the chronological sequence of the life of Christ, it also tells us that something significant happened earlier, that is related to what is about to unfold. And the event to which these words link our Lord’s Transfiguration occurred at a place called Caesarea Philippi, where Jesus asks his disciples who they believed him to be.
This was an important juncture in our Lord’s relationship with his disciples that marked a turning point in their understanding of his identity and his ministry. You may recall the story. Jesus first asks the disciples what the people, the masses to whom he had been preaching, believe him to be. The disciples reported, “Some say John the Baptist, but other Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
But then Jesus got personal. He asked his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” I can imagine that there was a little pause, until finally Peter blurted out “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus responded to Peter, “Blessed are you!… For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And on this rock… I will build my church.” And I have long believed that what Jesus meant by this statement was that the rock on which Christ would build his church was the confession of Peter, that “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.”
It was then, according to Matthew, that Jesus began to teach his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem, suffer and be killed, and on the third day be raised from the dead. Peter then took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him, saying that he must never let that happen. But Jesus rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind me Satan! You are a stumbling block to me, for you are setting your mind, not on divine things, but on human things.”
Thus, it appears to me that to confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God is only a portion of the “rock” on which the church is built. We also need to place our faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God. We need to trust him. We need to deny our self and our human understanding of what we consider to be salvation in terms of our earthly life, and trust that Jesus, as God’s Son, truly reveals God’s saving grace for our lives.
This is not an easy thing to do. After all, we do live in this world, and as a result, we often need to struggle to make ends meet, and plan for our retirement. None of us really want to deny ourselves, to fully embrace the love and will of God, that we take up a cross, and follow Jesus. It may well be that even Jesus, in his own humanity, struggled in his submission to God’s will for his own life, for he did refer to Peter’s rebuke as a “stumbling block.”
An understanding of these six days that transpired before Jesus took with him his three closest disciples up that mountain are important. They truly help us understand our Lord’s Transfiguration in a different light. So let us now turn to our text, with this background in mind.
Matthew tells us that when Jesus and his three disciples reached the top of the mountain, Jesus was transfigured before them. Matthew tells us that his face became so bright that it shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. And then suddenly, there appeared Moses and Elijah, two figures so prominent in expressing God’s will for life, that their identity was somehow recognized by the disciples. And although Matthew only records that these two prominent figures were just talking to Jesus, Luke tells us that they were actually discussing how our Lord might fulfill his ministry and departure from earth. In other words, reassuring Jesus that God would see him through the agony of the cross, and raise him victorious over sin and death.