Luke 9:28-36 (The Transfiguration of Our Lord—Series C)
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield, CT
February 10, 2013
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is the Gospel Lesson from Luke 9:
Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. 30 And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33 And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”– not knowing what he said. 34 As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” 36 And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.
So are you all ready for Lent? It starts Wednesday! I’ve had my Paczkis from Big Y before they disappear for another year, so I think I’m pretty much all set. But Lent really isn’t about what we can give up for 40 days. It’s a time when we especially consider our sins in light of Jesus’ suffering, Passion, and death in preparation for the great celebration of His Easter resurrection. It’s His resurrection that guarantees us that Jesus’ Passion and death were the once-for-all perfect sacrifice to purchase and win our complete forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
But how can we talk about Lent on this day of such revealed splendor and glory? We just finished singing, “Jesus on the mountain peak / Stands alone in glory blazing; / Let us if we dare to speak, / Join the saints and angels praising. / Alleluia. (LSB 415:1) Yet, the Transfiguration of our Lord can be seen as a setup for Lent. This Last Sunday after the Epiphany sets us up for the next season of the Church Year, showing us that, at the end of the Lenten road, there is glory for Jesus and for us.
Our text takes place on “the mountain,” exactly which mountain, we don’t know. But Jesus takes Peter, John, and James with him up the mountain for the purpose of prayer. It seems like Jesus prayed for a while because the three disciples were heavy with sleep. Nevertheless, while Jesus was praying, suddenly there was glory! The sight of His face was different. His clothing was white, extra-gleaming like lightening. This is Jesus, the Son of God, in His divine glory. This is the Son of Man who, in Daniel 7, came on the clouds of heaven and received from God the Father dominion, glory and a kingdom. Jesus is joined by Moses and Elijah, also in glory. And they are having a conversation. And Luke is the only Gospel writer who lets us be a fly on the wall so that we know what it is that they talked about—Jesus’ exodus which was about to be fulfilled in Jerusalem.
When you hear “exodus,” what do think about? We think about the Israelites as slaves in Egypt. We think about Pharaoh and harsh task-masters, forcing the Israelites to make bricks without straw. We think of Moses going before Pharaoh saying, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Let my people go’” (Exodus 5:1 ESV) and of Pharaoh’s refusal and the hardening of his heart. “Exodus” invokes images of the plagues that God sent: the Nile turning to blood, frogs, gnats, flies, the death of the Egyptian’s livestock, boils, hail, locusts, and darkness. Finally, there was the death of the firstborn when God set up the Passover, so that when He saw the blood of the lamb on the doorposts, He would pass over and not destroy the firstborn of that house. “Exodus” makes of think of the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea, the people gathering at the foot of Mt. Sinai when Yahweh appeared in a cloud of fire and smoke and rumblings of thunder and lightning. The people were afraid of the Lord’s presence on the mountain. Yet Moses went up to meet with God, and came down with his face shining with the reflected glory of God Himself. Of course, there is the ultimate destination of the Exodus, the Promised Land of Canaan, a land flowing with milk and honey where the Israelites would be God’s people and He would be their God.
The Exodus event was the greatest redemptive event in the Old Testament. It was the ultimate saving act of God in rescuing His people Israel from slavery. But it was a forward-pointing prophecy of the perfect and complete rescue from slavery that would come about by another exodus—Jesus’ exodus, which includes His suffering and death, resurrection and ascension. The language of “exodus” reminds us that the mission of Jesus is grounded, as we have heard over the last few weeks, in the purpose of God to bring people liberation from bondage to sin, its effects, and the power of the devil.
Tied up in the exodus of Jesus is the release of all people from slavery, not to Pharaoh, but a far worse owner and task master. Jesus tells us that everyone who does sin is a slave of sin. (John 8:34) Surely we don’t like the idea, but we are slaves! We sin. There’s a new Pharaoh in town—Satan! There are new taskmasters—the world and our sinful flesh—keeping up bound to sin and its effects. Satan oppresses us, driving us further from God. The world draws us deeper and deeper into bondage, enticing us with its fleeting and perishable goods. Our sinful flesh constantly tempts us to lust after those things that cannot satisfy and that soon perish. We are held fast in the chains of our sin, bound in our slavery to our evil inclinations, under the curse of God’s Law which we cannot keep.
The people of Israel needed a deliverer to set them free from their slavery to Pharaoh and the Egyptians. So, too, all people need an even greater deliverer to set us free from our bondage and captivity to sin and Satan. It was promised by the Lord through Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen.” Who is a prophet like Moses, yet is greater than Moses, to whom we should listen? The very One whom God anointed to proclaim good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at release those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. God the Father identifies this One today in His transfiguration, “This One is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!”
Jesus Christ is the one greater than Moses. He is the greater Deliverer, anointed to bring all people rescue and release from the slavery of sin and Satan. As God saved the people of Israel through the Old Testament Exodus, in His Son Jesus Christ He has saved all people with Jesus’ exodus. This exodus was accomplished by Jesus who passed through the waters of Jordan River, even as Old Testament Israel passed through the waters of the Red Sea. In Jesus’ baptism, He identified with the sinners whom He came to save as He was anointed for the task of being the One to bring us release from sin, its effects, and from the devil’s lordship over us. This exodus was accomplished by Jesus who entered into the wilderness, not for forty years as with Israel, but for forty days and forty nights, being tempted by Satan. Where Israel failed, yielding to temptation in the wilderness, Jesus did not. He overcame Satan with the power of His own divine Word, a foreshadowing of the devil’s ultimate undoing as Jesus healed the sick, cast out demons, and even raised those claimed by death.
Yet Jesus’ exodus was not complete without the shedding of blood. God didn’t spare His firstborn Son, but let Him die, shedding His own blood so that God might “pass over” our sins with a decree of “Forgiven.” Jesus, the Lamb of God, took away the sins of the world by dying a sacrificial death in our place on a cross outside Jerusalem. Jesus’ exodus took Him to the cross and the grave, in order that, having borne our sins in His body on the tree, having died in the place of all sinners, He might rise again from the dead in His glorious resurrection. Jesus’ resurrection assures us that the sacrifice of the Lamb of God was totally effective in releasing us from our sins, from sins effects, and from Satan’s power.
Our forgiveness and release accomplished by Jesus’ exodus, by His death and resurrection, means that He has led us in our exodus from Satan, the world, and our sinful nature. Jesus’ transfiguration glory now gives us a glimpse of what our future holds when our Lord Christ brings us ultimately into the promised land of eternal life and eternal glory.
Transfiguration Sunday is not just a setup, a glimpse, into Lent. It is also a glimpse of our future glory with Christ in the new heaven and the new earth, the home of righteousness that will follow our resurrection from the dead on the Last Day. As Moses and Elijah appeared in glory with the Lord, so shall we. We will one day be with the Lord in body and soul in glory. We will be with Him at His eternal banqueting table, celebrating the release He won for us through cross and grave. With St. John in Revelation, behold the glory that awaits you with Christ:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” . . . Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 through the middle of the street of the city; . . . the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. (Rev 21:1-5; 22:1-5 ESV)
Now we are ready for Lent! We have seen the glory that awaits Jesus following His Passion and death—the glory of Easter. We have seen the glory that awaits us who stand in Jesus’ forgiveness and release from sin and Satan. There is transfiguration brilliance and glory at the end of the Lenten road—forgiveness, everlasting life, resurrection, new heaven and earth, Jesus’ glory forever and ever. Amen.