Sermons

Transfiguration of Our Lord (Mt 17:1–9)

Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO
Bethlehem Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO

INI + AMEN.

On the sixth day after Jesus talked about His death, He went up a mountain like many other times, but this time He didn’t travel alone. There were always people, crowds, mobs pressing in, just trying to get a glimpse, a snippet, a brush of Him or His garments. On this sixth day, no crowds were with Him, just Peter, James, and John.

They knew what to expect. These mountaintop excursions were nothing to worry about, nothing to fear. Jesus did this all the time to pray alone. This time He brought Peter, James, and John. Time set aside for Himself to pray. Time should be set aside for them, too. (For all His disciples and followers, really.)

Then, the unexpected: “He was transformed before them and His face shone like the sun and His garments became white like its light.” That wasn’t all. Suddenly, it wasn’t just Jesus and Peter and James and John. It was Jesus, and Peter, James, and John, and Moses and Elijah. But not just them either: A voice thundered from the pillar of cloud: “This is My beloved Son with whom I am well pleased! Listen to Him.”

What do you do especially when the Lord God Almighty thrusts Himself all around you and in front of you, too? Fear. Fear of death. When God unexpectedly expects you to see Him, death is all that can be expected.

We’ve got all sorts of fears: despair, debt, death. And it’d be nice to think we wouldn’t also be afraid of God like Peter, James, and John. But we are. We flee from Him. Afraid of what He’ll do if He really knew our thoughts, words, and deeds. Too bad—He does! Afraid of praying wrong—just avoid it then. Afraid of our doing, thinking, and desiring wrong.

What to do? Do more! Build a box! That’s Peter’s answer. Box Jesus up. Box Moses and Elijah, too. Tabernacle. That’s what you do with the glory of God. He must be contained otherwise we’re doomed. Not just Peter—it’s our solution, too. Box Him up. Separate Him. Keep Him around like a lucky rabbit’s foot for the bad times, but not much more than that. When we make Him small, control Him, we lose Him. Now, that’s something to be afraid of, and He would let Himself be rejected by you.

That should be our fear: that we’d pull a Peter, and box Jesus up in a way that He doesn’t want to be boxed up, packaged, and presented to the world and to those around us. But He refuses to be boxed up. He breaks out. Thunderous voice! Bright shining face! You can’t escape that. You’ll see that one way or the other. Can’t be avoided. The Last Day will come.

Not there yet, though. Our text points us to the sixth day. It was the sixth day when Jesus went up a mountain. He wasn’t alone that day. Two others were with Him. Not disciples, though. They’d all fled—except John. And the mob was there that day. The leaders wanted this trip up the mountain for a long time. His once bright white garments were then bright with the blood He was shedding. The soldiers fought over who’d get their hands on them. But beside the crowd, He was alone, truly alone. No voice from heaven. Just the thunderous cry: “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?”

That’s how Jesus wants to be known, how He wants to be packaged and presented to the world. It’s why “He commanded them, ‘Don’t tell anyone the vision until the Son of Man had been raised from the dead.’” Even the angels confessed to the women, “You seek Jesus, the Crucified. He’s risen. He’s not here.” It’s not so much that Jesus is the Crucified one. It’s the why of it all that matters.

Why did Jesus go up the mountain on the sixth day? Why was He crucified and buried? Why was He dead, entombed, resting on the 7th day? Why was He raised on the eighth day? Because no matter when Jesus did things or said things it was all about what He said to Peter, James, and John, what He says to you, too: “Arise and don’t be afraid.” That’s what Jesus is all about! JESUS REMOVES YOUR FEARS.

There’s no reason to be afraid of what you’ve done. No reason to flee from Him and not pray. It doesn’t matter when you’ll die either. You won’t have to be afraid of the scowling face of a disappointed Father, a thunderous voice. You don’t have to fear the Last Day. You will only have Jesus. A Jesus who will say to you, “Arise!”, and present you perfect to His Father.

But Jesus doesn’t just tell you it’s going to be okay, that you’re saved, that you’re forgiven. He comes to you, touches you, splashed His water and says, “I baptize you.” He places His hand upon your head and says, “I forgive you.” He touches you with His body and His blood that you may eat and drink it that you may receive His “Don’t be afraid!”

We ascend the mountain with Jesus. Here He delivers Himself: body and blood. His sixth day, His Good Friday is yours. His seventh day, His rest in the tomb is yours. His eighth day, His Resurrection is yours. There’s no reason to be afraid. He’s touched you with them. They are yours, as surely as you were washed, as surely as you’ve heard, as surely as you’ve eaten and drunk. It’s no vision or make-believe. No fear! It’s just Jesus. Jesus only. FOR YOU.

INI + AMEN.

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