Transfiguration Sunday (A)
February 26, 2017
Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The text that I have chosen for this morning’s sermon is the Gospel reading, which was read a few minutes ago.
One of my flaws that drives Jennifer nuts is my poor memory. I don’t forget important things, like birthday or anniversaries, (Okay, I forgot once) but I usually forget the things she asks me to do. Did I order the cat food? Did I call the eye doctor? To help me out, she’ll leave notes on my desk or send me e-mails or just keep reminding me until I do it. I don’t think my forgetfulness is a moral failing, I just need reminders. Maybe some of you are the same way. Do you have to leave reminders around the house to do certain things? We have so much going on in our lives and our heads that we need help remembering what’s important. It’s not just Jennifer that knows this about me, but Jesus knows it too. Our text for today is the account of the Transfiguration and it too is a reminder. It’s a reminder of what we already know; that Jesus the True Man is also Jesus the True God. And as He drew near to His death, the reminder that Jesus is True Man and True God gives comfort to all His disciples and reminds us to keep our eyes always on Jesus.
When we speak of Jesus being true man and true God we call this the two natures of Christ, and while on earth Jesus didn’t always show His divine nature, the disciples certainly had seen both of His natures. They knew Jesus as a man who became tired and hungry, and yet they also witnessed our Lord’s greatest miracles. They’d seen Him heal the sick and raise the dead. So when Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do people say I am?”, Peter didn’t hesitate with, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” But despite what they’d seen, Jesus knows that soon Peter and the others will need a reminder of who He really is. Soon they’ll witness events that’ll challenge their faith as their eyes will tell them that Jesus isn’t God, but a crucified and buried man.
So Jesus takes his closest disciples with Him up a mountain, and on that mountain the Father issues a reminder of Jesus’ standing as the Son of God. As Jesus glows with His fully glory the Father again proclaims the words of Jesus’ baptism, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” Peter, James, and John are reminded of Jesus’ divine nature as the veil is lifted and the Lord’s face shines with the uncreated light of His glory. This glory that filled the disciples with fear and awe is the glory we confess in the Nicene Creed, “God of God, light of light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father.”
In a powerful and unmistakable way, the three were reminded of Jesus’ divinity and being three sinful men in the presence of God they had every reason to be afraid. Matthew writes that at the voice of God, “They fell on their faces and were terrified.” At this point, they needed another reminder, of the mercy of God. A reminder of the God who took on human flesh came to be their Savior. So Jesus comes to them, touches them, and tells them not to be afraid, and as they open their eyes they saw “no one but Jesus only.” With the Transfiguration over, Jesus hides His divinity and comforts His disciples with the words of true peace that only He can speak, “Rise and have no fear”. He tells them to look at Him and not be afraid, for God is with them, and He is merciful and loving.
The reason the disciples, and we, need reminding is a matter of focus. We’re constantly assaulted by evil, we’re challenged by the world, we’re tempted by our flesh, we’re broken by our disappointments, we’re inflicted with disease, and we’re left mourning by death. Our faith wavers when our reason and our senses say that we’re alone in our troubles. We struggle with our faith as we’re drawn away from the Word of God by busyness and complacency. We live in a world that’s hostile to Jesus, and at every turn we’re pressed to take our eyes off of our Savior. We, like Peter, James, and John, must be reminded to fix our eyes on Jesus, and Jesus only.
This sin of taking one’s eyes off Jesus and putting them on the self is older than man himself. This was Satan’s sin. It was Adam and Eve’s sin. It was Moses’ sin that kept him from the Promised Land. It was the sin of the Pharisees. It was Peter’s sin when he took his eyes off Jesus while walking on water and began to sink. It was the sin of the disciples who looked to their own safety instead of staying with our Lord during his trial. It’s our sin as we take our eyes off Jesus and look at only what we want and not what the Lord wants.
But thanks be to God that our Lord knows our weaknesses. He knows of our short memory so He comes to us in His Word and He mercifully brings our attention back to Jesus only. He gives us His reminder messages in the Bible, through conversations with other Christians, through the sermons we hear. Week after week we’re reminded of the Holy Gospel. Over and over we’re forgiven of our sins in Holy Absolution. Luther says that we should make the sign of the holy cross, again and again; in the mornings, in the evenings, when we pray, when we’re frightened, when we’re sad, and when we’re happy. We make the sign of the cross any time we need a reminder of our Holy Baptism. For it’s by remembering our Baptism we’re reminded us of our Savior’s love, the forgiveness that dispels our fear before God, and the power of the Holy Spirit that always draws our attention to “Jesus only”.
This week we begin the season of Lent with Ash Wednesday. The purpose of Lent is to point us to the ultimate reminder of all that Jesus Christ has done for us. As we look upon Jesus the battered True Man, we’re reminded that we’re forgiven precisely because on the cross Jesus hid His divinity. Even though He could’ve come down off the cross He didn’t. He could’ve ended His suffering right then and there, but He didn’t. He could’ve even used His divine nature, to mask the pain and to make the whole experience of Good Friday painless. But He didn’t. He didn’t because it was by hiding His divinity that He was the perfect sacrifice for us. He was punished for our sins and punished for the times that we look at ourselves instead of to Him. Had He come off the cross, we’d still be lost. But because He didn’t, our eyes have been opened to the love of our God and the forgiveness of sins that’s ours now and forever because of Jesus only.
The human mind is a wonderful creation. It enables us to think and to imagine. It enables us to solve problems and remember events that happened long ago. And yet despite its power, sometimes we still have to be reminded of the most important things. Like the times we have to be reminded of our families love for us and the times that we must be reminded that our God too loves us very much. In Christ’s Transfiguration He briefly let His full glory shine so the disciples would be reminded that He was God, and that no matter what would happen in the coming weeks, He would be in control. The Transfiguration reminds us too of Christ’s divinity, it reminds us that He is in control throughout our lives, and it reminds us that because He kept His divinity hidden on the cross, we have forgiveness and life. But just so we don’t forget, we’re reminded of Christ’s love and forgiveness every time we hear God’s Word and think of our baptisms. For it’s in God’s Word and in the memory of our baptisms that He daily reminds us of His love and mercy, and it’s in His Word that we find the power and the grace to spend our lives seeing only Jesus.
Now may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen