INI + AMEN.
Jesus is God hidden in plain sight. Now, that might sound like an odd thing to say on the day we remember when our Lord Jesus was transfigured, but actually this is made even more clear by His Transfiguration. It’s like this: Jesus just looked like a normal guy before this. Sure, He did miracles like healing the sick, raising the dead. That’s not that special. Prophets did that. After His Transfiguration, Jesus looked like a normal guy again. So normal, in fact, He died! That’s pretty run of the mill. Ah, but the Transfiguration, Jesus’ Transfiguration lets you peek behind the curtain. Now “Peter, John, and James”—you too!—get to see that Jesus is who He really says He is. Well, you really know that Easter Sunday, but here’s a little foreshadowing and preview for Easter. But it’s not really about the glory. He hides it. His clothing flashes lightning white. He shines in glory, and then…nothing. Not until His resurrection does He do things never seen before: passing through doors, disappearing, ascending into heaven, appearing in glory to Paul. Anyway, Jesus being transfigured contrasts, in a very vivid way, that Jesus actually hides His glory. He hides it for you.
JESUS HIDES HIS GLORY TO SAVE YOU.
(I. Jesus ascended the mountain.)
Now, you might be thinking, if Jesus wants to hide His glory, why, then, is He transfigured at all. Well, Jesus ascended the mountain with Peter, John, and James for a very specific purpose. He went up that mountain to show, once again, that He’s God. Now, I say, “once again,” because Epiphany ends the way it began: with the voice of the Father. When Jesus was baptized by John the Baptizer, the heavens were opened, the Holy Spirit showed up looking like a dove, and the Father spoke from heaven. He said, as we heard a few weeks ago, “You are My beloved Son; in you I am well pleased.” And here we are a few weeks later, and we end the same way: “This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!” The Father speaks when Jesus starts His public ministry and when Jesus winds down His public ministry because a little after our text today Luke tells us: “Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem.”
Now, the Father’s Word also clues us in on something else about Jesus’ Transfiguration, that it’s not really about the glory. Let’s listen to the Father’s Word again: “This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!” “Listen to Him!” Not “look at Him!” Not “look for His glory.” “Listen to Him!” Hear His Word. According to God the Father, that’s where it’s at. But also, besides calling Jesus “My Son,” He also calls Him, “My Chosen One.” Chosen for what? Chosen to pay for your sins. Chosen to die. Chosen to rise. This also tells us that Jesus wasn’t supposed to stay on that mountain. That’s abundantly clear. Once the Father spoke His piece, the cloud’s gone, and “Jesus is found alone.” Peter wanted to stick around, building three tents, but he didn’t know what he was talking about. Finally, or rather, first of all, Moses and Elijah talk to Jesus about His “departure,” literally His “Exodus,” “that He was about to fulfill in Jerusalem.”
(II. Jesus came for a different mountain.)
This conversation between Jesus and the Law and the Prophets, that is, between Him and Moses and Elijah, shows us that Jesus didn’t come for the mountain of Transfiguration at all. He came for the mountain called Calvary, Golgotha, the place of the skull. He didn’t come to show “glory” as we like to think of it. We really like that. Power. Glory. Strength. Those are all things we want for ourselves. Who really wants to be a loser? We want to be king of the hill. To be all we can be—better even! We want to be successful—it doesn’t matter in what part of our lives—for our own sake, our pride, our name. So, it’s natural for us to want that from Jesus too. To expect Jesus to display that. Some Christians even expect glory, power, success in their lives because of Jesus. We need to repent of all such notions of power and glory. Old Adam wants to be king of the hill. He’s in it for himself, which usually means throwing others under the bus along the way. Not Jesus though. He comes “to fulfill His Exodus in Jerusalem.” He was “Chosen” to do it. He’s the Christ. He must do it. He’s King of Calvary’s hill. His glory is there. His throne is the cross. His crown thorns. He doesn’t throw others under the bus, in fact, He allows sinners to do far worse to Him. They crucify Him there. That’s His Exodus, not saving Himself, not manifesting “a mighty hand and an outstretched arm” like He did in the Egyptian plagues when He rescued the Israelites in the first Exodus. Instead, His hands are pierced and His arms stretched out on the cross. His divine nature is hidden from view, but nonetheless, there He is: God, dead for you. Pretty plain. Pretty ordinary. Just looks like a normal guy. But He’s the Son of the Father. The Chosen One! It’s good for Jesus to be there, well…it’s good for you—Good Friday for you. “Listen to Him!” “It is finished.” He saves you.
Jesus was God in plain sight on Calvary’s hill. He not only rose to prove it, but He’d “died for your transgressions and was raised for your justification.” It was never about His own glory at all. It wasn’t like: well, that Jesus hid His glory so He could really show how glorious He is after it was all said and done. In fact, even in heaven He’s still “the Lamb who looks as if He’d been slain.” He’s still the Crucified One. It wasn’t for Himself. It was for you. He hides His glory, His salvation for you. He still hides it for you. He hides it in plain sight. “How can water do such great things?” Water itself can’t, but Jesus’ Water, where He ties His Word, is a washing that wipes away sin, gives the Holy Spirit, faith, and all the blessings of eternal life. “How can a man forgive sins before God?” Well, as a man, he can’t, but he’s Jesus’ man, he’s a pastor sent to forgive sins. To him Jesus has said, “As the Father sent Me, I send you…If you forgive anyone, they are forgiven.” That man stands there in Jesus’ place, for Jesus, to speak the Word Jesus told him to say: “I forgive you.” He is the Lord’s ears and mouth, not because he’s so special but because Jesus put him there. “How can bodily eating bread and drinking wine do such great things?” Well, run of the mill bread and wine don’t. But when Jesus’ Word is spoken, Jesus delivers what His Word says. The bread and wine are then Jesus’ body and blood given you to eat and drink, and His body and blood given you on and from this altar give you forgiveness of sins, new life, and eternal salvation.
Jesus is God hidden in plain sight. Jesus your God HIDES HIS GLORY TO SAVE YOU. He died. His un-glory to pay for your Old Adam false glories. He rose. Winning your salvation. He still hides His glory, His salvation, to save you by delivering it. It’s all wrapped up in what the Father says, “Listen to Him!” He delivers His forgiveness to you, wiping out, taking away our false glories. He does it just as He said. Water, Absolution, Word, Sermon, Body and blood. It’s plain. It’s ordinary. But that’s how Jesus rolls. He’s God hidden in plain sight. It’s only natural for Him to have His salvation hidden in plain sight too. But it’s in no way weak, or less in delivering His salvation to you.
INI + AMEN.