The Transfiguration of Our Lord
Grace, Mercy and Peace to you from God our Father and His only Son, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.
Over Christmas last year I was able to visit with my brother face to face. I had not seen him in 4 or 5 years. He had changed. It was not his personality that changed, or the way he talked or the length of his hair and beard; it was the color of his hair.
His hair and beard were black and the last time I saw him there were a few gray strands of hair here and there, but this time his hair was completely white. Every hair on his head and in his beard was white as snow. The length and style had not changed. In fact, it made me a bit jealous as he has not lost his thick head of hair.
Yesterday I got a haircut. As the clippings fell to the floor, I noticed there was more white hair than brown. When the barber holds the mirror up for me to see the back of my head, I am shocked to see that bald spot growing bigger. I look in the mirror in the morning and I think, ‘I’m in pretty good shape.’ And then I put on my glasses and find not only my eyesight is bad but so is my physique.
As I read the Old Testament narrative of Moses’ death, a bit jealous. It all comes down to the sentence in verse 7:
Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died. His eyes were not dim nor his natural vigor diminished. [Deut 34:7]
My eyesight is already leaving – my vigor already diminishing. If I were to miraculously live another 70 years, I would probably be blind, deaf and too weak to walk.
Also, I am jealous of the relationship Moses had with God. In the book of Exodus in verse 11 of chapter 33 it is written of Moses: “…the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” [Ex 33:11] Yes, I covet the friendship Moses had with our Father in Heaven.
Then there is Elijah. Now Elijah did not speak with God face to face. God spoke to Elijah through visions and prayer. God gave Elijah the power to prophesy and to preach the Word of the Lord. Elijah did the work of God here in His creation. He prayed to God to raise a widow’s son from the dead and God answered him through the child’s resurrection:
‘[Elijah] cried out to the Lord and said, “O Lord my God, I pray, let this child’s soul come back to him.” Then the Lord heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came back to him, and he revived.’ [1 Kings 17:21-22]
Elijah did as the Lord command with the authority of God. When Elijah spoke, people listened as they listened to Moses before him. This was the word of God coming to His people through His servant Elijah. Kings and rulers of this world feared and respected Elijah as God’s right hand. One would not wish to be an enemy of Elijah. To be a friend of Elijah was to be a friend of God.
I imagine being one of the disciples at Jesus’ feet, learning firsthand from the mouth of God. Peter, James and John were close to our Lord. Peter was given the blessing of feeding God’s children the Gospel of Christ when he was commanded to, “Feed my sheep.” [John 21: 17]
John, the author of one of the Gospels we read to this day, was called the disciple whom Jesus loved and, along with James his brother, was often called to be witness to the work of Christ. These three men had a close relationship with God as Jesus Christ. They ate together, traveled together and lived under the hand of God. Oh, what a friend to have in Jesus.
Today is a momentous occasion in our Church year. Today we celebrate The Transfiguration of Our Lord. It was at this juncture when Jesus the Christ was revealed in all his heavenly glory to these three disciples. In the words of St. Peter, “…it is good for us to be here.”
Peter, James and John now know without a doubt that Jesus is the promised Messiah. Before them, they literally see God’s record of keeping His promises. God said he would bring his people out of Egypt and there is Moses. God said he would not abandon his people that he will send Elijah before him and there stands Elijah. God said he would send a savior to redeem his people from all sin and in the center is his Son, Jesus Christ. In addition, by announcing Jesus as his Son to confirm his promise of a savior, God tells the disciples yes, this is he, the one I promised to you; through him I will make you my people and I will be your God.
We may not have the benefit of Moses to speak face to face with God. We may not have the power to heal the sick, raise the dead or to call down lightning as Elijah. We were not present to witness the glorification of our Lord and Savior as did Peter, James and John, yet we do have something in common with them all… we have the salvation of our souls through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yes, we have a friend in Jesus.
Just as God spoke with Moses as a friend, just as Jesus spoke with Peter, James and John as beloved friends, God speaks to us through Christ. On that mountain, so many years ago, Our Father in heaven commanded us to listen to His Son.
This is how we are to listen to Him. We hear the Word of God in the Holy Scriptures. In His word, we read about God and his people. We even hear the words spoken by Christ himself. As we read and hear the Word, God’s power, wisdom and even heaven itself is revealed through Jesus Christ. Through the Word, we are given the promise of life over death.
Why is this necessary? Because God does not break his promises. His promise of death to all who sin against His holy command cannot be rescinded. Yet repeatedly, we showed God that we cannot fulfill his commands and thus are destined to eternal condemnation.
Therefore, God made a new covenant of blood with his people. This new covenant was not through the sacrifice of animals nor was it written in lifeless stone. This new covenant was a living promise in the incarnation of His only Son, Jesus Christ.
We are all brothers and sisters in Christ. We have been given the Holy Gospel to take to all who have not heard. We battle against a great opposing force who does not wish for you to achieve your goal.
At times, it may seem that you are alone. It may seem that everyone is trying to beat you into the ground and take the Word of God from you. But you are never alone. You have a friend who is always with you. You have Jesus Christ ready to take the Gospel and carry it for you until you are back on your feet. You and the other members of the body of Christ will never lose the good news of your salvation to the enemy no matter how many are against you.
Your struggle may be bloody. You may be bruised during this conflict. You may have bones broken and you may even die, but you will never be defeated. We have a friend in Jesus. He is always with us. We call on him and he answers:
“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them… I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.” [John 10:27-28]
We celebrate the revelation of God’s wisdom, power and love in the form of the living Word of this new covenant which is Christ. With all the authority of his Father in heaven, Jesus Christ, truly God and truly man took upon his shoulders the weight of the sin of the world. He bore that weight to the cross where he was crucified unto death.
The blood shed by Christ became the blood of the new covenant between God and his people. However, the new covenant did not end with the death of our Savior. If Jesus had merely died as a righteous man, we would have only had an example of the fulfillment of the Law. Instead, Jesus Christ took the covenant to new heights. He not only paid the price of our sin and redeemed us from evil; he also raised himself up again in victory over death and the grave.
The work has been done. Our salvation is secure. This is not a promise of death without hope, but a promise of life eternal. It is good to be here. For now, our struggle in this life is not in despair, it is not empty and it is not without peace. All we must do to obtain life in our Father’s kingdom is to listen to our friend Jesus.
Listen to Jesus Christ. Follow him to the glory of our Father in heaven. Hear the word of God – as Jesus said; “…blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” [Luke 11:28] And,
“…blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.[Matt 13:16-17]
It is good to be here. We no longer are condemned by the Law to death. We live under the new covenant in the blood of the Lamb. We do not have to wait for the promised Savior for he has already come. We now have the opportunity to tell others who have not heard for many long to hear it and do not.
Peter, James and John were witnesses to the glory of God in Jesus Christ. We are now witnesses to the glory of God through the Word. The saving grace of God is not to be kept hidden. As Christ tells us
“Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. [Matt 10:27-28]
Those who hear the word of God and do it are brothers and sisters in Christ. Those who hear you hear Christ, and those who hear Christ, hear the one who sent him.