Transfiguration (Mt 17, 1–9)

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“When they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.”

᛭ INI ᛭

Jesus brought them. They, like us, only ever go where Jesus alone would have us go. On that mountain Jesus set aside “the form of servant.” (Phil 2) He shone with the royal glory that’s eternally His. The disciples were used to Jesus being around the worst of sinners, but they then saw “Moses and Elijah talking with Him.” But suddenly the pillar of cloud showed up on that mountain. They were surrounded on every side! Surrounded by God Himself. They were terrified! But then “they lifted up their eyes and saw no one but Jesus only.”

When sinners are confronted with God’s glory, smack dab in the middle of His throne room, it’s right to “fall on our faces” and to “be very afraid,” just like Peter, James, and John. God’s glory forces their eyes downward. They knew the Scripture: “Man shall not see me and live.” So it is in the liturgy you often see me bow at the mention of God’s glory.

God forces us to look at ourselves for who we are—lost and condemned sinners. It’s His Law that does this. His Law is a mirror of His glory and perfection. Each time God says “You shall” our eyes are placed only upon ourselves. Those words aren’t first about others but you. Not how they’ve wronged you, but how you’ve wronged them. God is comparing your sin with His holiness, your guilt with His righteousness.

“I don’t want the death of a sinner, but rather that he be turned from his evil way and live.” And so Jesus went up to Peter, James, and John, placed His hand on them, and said “Arise; Do not be afraid!” He forgives them, gives them peace. When they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. The Spirit, whom Jesus sends to us from His Father, does the same thing for each of us. He lifts our eyes, our hearts, souls, minds, and strengths, unto Jesus. He creates faith in our hearts toward Jesus only, and that, well, that is what the Christian life’s all about.


((I. Jesus only in His Word and Gifts.))

It’s a blessing when we look in the Scriptures for Jesus only. He’s the center and essential part of the Word. (Without Him they’re meaningless!) The Scriptures bear witness about Him. (Jesus Himself says so!) Everything in the Word of God leads to Jesus or flows from Him. Jesus and His cross and empty tomb cast their shadow over the entire Bible. You can’t find insight into Moses or Elijah or any other prophet or book or passage in the entire Old Testament apart from Christ. (New Testament, too!) That’s why for many the Bible remains a veiled and confusing book. “When one turns to the Lord,” when someone has faith, “that veil is removed,” as Paul says.

Jesus only—that’s sermons, too! Paul himself confessed: “I determined to know nothing among you but Jesus Christ and Him crucified,” for it’s only through that Gospel message that anyone comes to faith and is kept in the faith. The Gospel speaks of Jesus and Jesus only. Any doctrine or teaching or sermon or denomination that doesn’t speak in the way of Jesus only, whatever other experience or glory or life application it may proclaim, is not the Gospel.

Jesus only is the Lord’s Gifts. Holy Baptism “clothes [you] with Christ,” His righteousness, His death, His resurrection. Private Absolution is nothing other than a return to your Baptism. There the minister, in Christ’s place, puts his hand on the sinner and says, “I forgive you all your sins. Depart in peace.” The Supper of Jesus’ body and blood is the clearest “preaching of His death until He comes.” (1 Cor 11) There His body and blood are for you for the forgiveness of your sins.

((II. Jesus only in our salvation.))


That’s our salvation! Jesus alone saves sinners, purchases their release. “While we were still sinners Christ died for the ungodly.” He died for our sins and those of the whole world. Only Jesus’ death can count for all humanity, even those who don’t believe, who reject Jesus only. Those who reject Jesus reject the Father who says, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.”

Jesus only is the only evidence for your justification, your being innocent before God. Jesus is the evidence the Father uses to make and declare you righteous, holy, innocent, forgiven. Only because of Jesus does the Father not count your sins against you because they’ve been covered with Jesus’ blood. He paid the whole debt, so God doesn’t look at your good works but only at His only beloved Son.

You are innocent, you receive the benefits of that heavenly and eternal verdict by faith alone, but only Jesus is the foundation of your faith. He is “the Author and Finisher of our faith,” as Hebrews says. He not only atones for sin, but He gives the Holy Spirit who works to give you faith. (Free gift!)

Faith embraces Jesus only, relies on Jesus only, faith is eyes open to seek Jesus only. One day faith shall be sight, and we shall rejoice to see Jesus face to face. Faith presses on to grasp Christ more firmly, trust Him more with more certainty and boldness. Faith receives such life and focus because of the Spirit, who opens our eyes and ears to see and receive from Jesus. The Spirit does all this in the constant, life-long delivery of the forgiveness of sins.

((III. Jesus only in our sanctification, too!))

Faith and the sanctification that follows also are grounded on Jesus only. Only Jesus enlivens us to put off the old man and put on the new. (Such is the life-long gift of Baptism.) If you’re going to get rid of your wicked thoughts, to quench your evil desires, to succeed in overcoming your old sinful habits, there is truly no other help for this in heaven or on earth than Jesus only.

He alone conquered sin—cross and empty tomb victorious! He is “the Lord who sanctifies you.” He sanctifies us through God’s Word: “Sanctify them in Your Truth; Your Word is Truth,” Jesus says. Jesus is in that Word. His suffering, His blood, His obedience and death are proclaimed in the Word, and this is the only means that the Spirit uses to bring you to right faith in Jesus. That’s what the Sacraments are all about, too. They’re the Visible Word.

The more you grow in faith in Jesus, the more you’ll lalso increase in good works. (Faith is increased by the Spirit working on you, in you through Baptism, Sermons, the Bible, Confession and Absolution, and the Lord’s Supper.) You don’t, as we often sinfully think, get more faith and favor with God because of your watchfulness, humility, patience, and devotion. It’s the opposite! (Only the Spirit can give such a gift!) The more Jesus becomes great and glorious, the more He becomes indispensable, you will increase in all the virtues that derive their strength from Him alone. The more faith increases, the more love will increase. Faith is the fountain and source of love. Love is the result, not the response, of faith.



Jesus only in our daily lives. More faith, more love. More Jesus, more faith; more faith, more love. All from Him only. Love for Jesus strengthens us to love everyone because He died for everyone. Love for Jesus opens our hearts to love our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Love for Jesus quenches our anger, kills hatred, and enlivens us to love our enemies, since He loved them, too, just like He loved us while we were His enemies.

Jesus only saves us. Jesus only gives us faith. Jesus only in the Word. “Sanctify them in Your Truth!” Jesus only at His font. “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.” Jesus only through the Pastor: “I forgive you.” Jesus only at His Supper: “My body and blood for you.” We receive all those words at face value because the Father commands us: “Listen to Him.” Not our own thoughts.

Jesus only before the Judgment seat of God. Jesus only makes you eternally innocent. Faith alone in Jesus only. Jesus only the fountain and source, “the Author and Finisher of our faith.” Jesus only face to face in paradise. The preview of that, today.

᛭ INI ᛭

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