In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Ghost.
The Church designed the season of Epiphany to be catechetical, that is, to teach us something. If you paid attention to the banner hanging from the balcony last week and this week, you noticed that it says “Christ revealed as God and Man.” That is the purpose of Epiphany. This season, which is coming to its close today, is a time to teach us more about the God who was born as the Babe of Bethlehem and the God who will suffer all for us, even death on the cross. In years where there are more Sundays between the Epiphany of Our Lord, the sixth of January, and the time of “Pre-Lent,” the three weeks before Ash Wednesday, we hear the Evangelists record this confession of who Jesus is. Were Easter not so early this year we would have heard about Jesus changing water into wine at the wedding in Cana, the healing of the centurion’s son, and Jesus calming the storm—all times when Jesus appeared to be nothing more than an ordinary man but was shown to be God in the flesh, the One who controls nature, the One whom even the winds and sea obey.
At the close of this season stands the Transfiguration of Our Lord. This is the chief event that reveals Christ as God and Man. Peter, James, and John go up on a mountain with Jesus, someone who looks no different than any other man of his day. Yet these three are given a revelation of who Jesus really is. They see Him shine with unborrowed light as He allows His divine nature to fully shine forth. They see Him in conversation with Moses and Elijah, showing Jesus to be the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, the One to whom both of them pointed. They hear God the Father speak, declaring Jesus to be His beloved Son, showing Him to be the Son of Mary and the Son of God—fully God, yet fully man.
St. Luke’s record of the Transfiguration says that Jesus, Moses, and Elijah discuss His exodus, a definite reference to the Old Testament event of the release of the children of Israel from their Egyptian slavery. Only, in the exodus of Jesus what was foreshadowed is accomplished, as His impending death stands as the event that frees His children from their slavery to sin and death. And that’s exactly why the Transfiguration is commemorated at this point in the Church Year, as the perfect close to the Epiphany season and the Time of Christmas, and the entrance into the Time of Easter, which begins with our preparations for Lent and then the events of Holy Week.
Transfiguration shows that what lies ahead—Our Lord’s suffering at the hands of the Jewish priests and the Romans and His unjust execution—was the will of the Father in heaven, the reason the Father loved the Son, and the fulfillment of His title, “Messiah” or “Christ,” which means “anointed one.” All of this is confirmed in the Father’s Word: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” That is also a bit of a rebuke from the Father to Peter, who is not telling Jesus to avoid the cross for the first time. The Father confirms that Jesus has the authority to lay down His life and take it up again, the desire to redeem all the world and to satisfy the Law’s demands. He is the One who fulfilled the promise made to Adam and Eve when they were expelled from Eden. Jesus is working out the world’s salvation.
As wonderful of a message as this is, Peter, James, and John were afraid. Despite their fear, they do not fall backwards, but rather on their faces, a posture of worship. They believed, despite their fear. So Jesus comes to them, touches them, and says to them “Arise, and do not be afraid.” This merciful touch of their Savior changed their perspective. There was no more talk of staying on the mountain, reveling in the glorious revelation of Jesus’s true character and avoiding the cross. Like Moses and Elijah they were converted, they recognized the goodness of the Lord revealed in the sacrifice of the Son. They realized that what Jesus was about to do would be done to restore fellowship between God and man. If Jesus goes to Jerusalem and dies, if He suffers wounds innocently, if He satisfies the Law’s demands, it is good.
As they come down from the mountain and Jesus sets His face for Jerusalem, knowing full well what lies ahead, they receive a greater revelation of Jesus’s Divine Nature than they had when He shone brighter than the sun. In that walk down the mountain they saw His steadfast determination to save the world, His perfect love for His father and His creation.
Transfiguration shows you your God. He sets His face for your salvation. He takes on all the punishment for your sin. He declares you righteous for His sake.
Your God comes to you and, just like Peter, James, and John, He says to you, “Do not be afraid. You do not know what the future holds, but I do. I will bring you home. I will end your sorrow.” Jesus will not fail, He will not forget you. He will not reject Jerusalem and the cross because He goes there for you.
And just like He endured the cross and death for you, He rose for you. By His resurrection He says to you ‘Your day will come when your soul will leave this cruel world. Your day will come when your body will be raised, perfected, and you will live with Me, sinless, in perfect communion, just like I intended. All because I went to the cross and paid for your sins and by your Baptism into Me, I have cleansed you of all guilt and shame.’
All of this because your Savior is both God and Man. Though your sin destined you for death, Jesus Christ took on your human nature so that you might not be destroyed by death. Though you were alienated from God, Jesus Christ restored you to fellowship with God. Jesus “has bestowed all His benefits and gifts upon you so that…you who are His brothers [and sisters] may receive the things which the Head bestows upon its members,” which are life and salvation. (Chemnitz)
The peace of God which passeth all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
2 Peter 1:16-21
Sermons from Mount Olive
Mount Olive follows the historic one-year lectionary (series of readings).