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"The Transfiguration Transition" (Sermon for the Transfiguration of Our Lord, on Matthew 17:1-9) ^ | February 19, 2023 | The Rev. Charles Henrickson

Posted on 02/18/2023 6:16:51 PM PST by Charles Henrickson

“The Transfiguration Transition” (Matthew 17:1-9)

Today we’re celebrating the Transfiguration of Our Lord, that day up on a mountain when our Lord Jesus Christ was transfigured, that is, his appearance was changed. This event marked a transition--a turning point, a pivot point--in our Lord’s ministry. And that’s why this Transfiguration festival today marks a transition--a turning point--in the church year, as well. The Transfiguration of Our Lord comes as the climax of the Epiphany season, and at the same time it serves as a transition into the season of Lent, which begins on Wednesday. In this way, the church year mirrors the life of our Lord. Thus our theme for this morning; “The Transfiguration Transition.”

Our text is the Holy Gospel, from Matthew 17. Today we’ll see how the position of this event in the context of the entire gospel narrative--and therefore the position of this festival in the context of the whole church year--serves to lead us from the Epiphany season into Lent. And, dear friends, today you’ll see how all of this works for you, to strengthen your faith in your Savior, who is transfigured in glory before he heads to the cross.

First of all, let’s start with the event itself in the life of Jesus. Jesus has been at his ministry for some time now, and he takes three of his disciples, Peter, James, and John, up on a high mountain. Suddenly, Jesus’ appearance changes--that’s what the word “transfiguration” means, a change in appearance. “His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.” Listen, this is no mere earthly glory that Jesus is manifesting. This is heavenly glory, the light of Christ’s divine majesty and purity shining forth.

Next, there appears with Jesus, Moses and Elijah. Why those two? Why Moses and Elijah? These are two important figures from Israel’s past, and God is bringing them back for this special occasion. Moses and Elijah, the two most outstanding prophets from Israel’s history. Moses, from the section of the Hebrew Scriptures called the Law. Elijah, from the section called the Prophets. As Paul says in Romans, “The Law and the Prophets bear witness to the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ.” And so here are Moses, from the Law, and Elijah, from the Prophets, bearing witness to God’s righteousness in Christ by appearing with him at the Transfiguration.

Moses and Elijah: Each of them had had their own mountaintop experience in which they caught a glimpse of God’s glory. Now Peter, James, and John are having that same type of mountaintop experience, as Jesus is transfigured before their eyes. This is an epiphany, a brilliant manifestation of Christ’s glory as the holy Son of God.

What happens next is a further attestation to Jesus as God’s own Son. A bright cloud overshadows them, the cloud of God’s glory. A voice comes from the cloud: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” God the Father is bearing witness to his Son. Peter, James, and John are to know, beyond a doubt, that their teacher is none other than the Son of God: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” These are the same words that the Father spoke at Jesus’ baptism. And now he adds: “Listen to him.” The disciples are to know--and we are to know--that the words of Jesus are words to listen to and take to heart. “Listen to him.”

Peter had wanted to put up three tents, one for Jesus, one for Moses, one for Elijah. But this is to be no triumvirate of three equal parties. One is here who is greater than Moses. One is here who is greater than Elijah. The disciples are to know that Jesus is the fulfillment of all of Israel’s history. Jesus is the one whom Moses and Elijah were pointing ahead to. And so, in a moment, when Peter, James, and John lift up their eyes, they no longer see Moses and Elijah. They see no one but Jesus only. As Hebrews says, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.”

So that is the Transfiguration event itself. Now how does it fit into the context of the gospel narrative, and into the context of the church year? And how does all of this benefit us?

Well, the Transfiguration event fits into the gospel narrative like this: In the first part of the gospel, Jesus manifests his glory as the Son of God. He begins his public ministry by going about preaching, teaching, and healing. In his preaching, Jesus calls people to repentance, announcing that the kingdom of heaven is now at hand. The kingdom has arrived in the person of Jesus himself. In his teaching, Jesus unfolds the true meaning of God’s law, its intent and its extent, that we cannot hide from the law’s accusing finger. We all need a righteousness better than anything we can muster on our own. Jesus’ words are words of wisdom, words of divine authority. His words have the authority to heal the sick, cast out demons, and calm storms. Jesus calls men to be his disciples: “Come, follow me.” All of his early public ministry points to Jesus as being the Son of God come in the flesh, come to do the will of the one who sent him.

And so Jesus’ early Galilean ministry is what we’ve been tracking through this Epiphany season. Beginning with the Baptism of Our Lord, we’ve been following Jesus throughout this season, hearing his preaching and teaching, witnessing his signs and wonders--manifestations of his divine wisdom and authority. Through the Epiphany readings, we come to know who Jesus is. He is the Son of God. The Epiphany season has made this quite clear.

Notice how this whole season has been bracketed. At the beginning of the Epiphany season, at the Baptism of Our Lord, the liturgical color was white, and in the Gospel reading we heard the voice of the Father say, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Now today, at the conclusion of the Epiphany season, at the Transfiguration, the liturgical color again is white, and once again we hear the Father’s voice: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” A perfect inclusio, a brilliant bracketing, at the start and end of the Epiphany season. There is no question who this Jesus is. He is God’s beloved Son.

And that’s what’s so significant for what follows in the gospel narrative and in the church year. For from this point on, Jesus is going to Jerusalem. He’s going to Jerusalem, not to take up a throne, there in the city of the kings, but rather to take up a cross, in the city that kills the prophets. And so that is the shift that takes place now, both in the gospel and in the church year. Lent begins this Wednesday, a season in which the skies will darken, even as the days lengthen. Jesus is on a journey to Jerusalem, there to suffer and to die.

Why is he going there? He’s going there to suffer and die for you. For your sins, the Son of God will take up that cross. Jesus will die on that cross for you and for me and for all the sinners of the whole world. That’s everybody. Dear friends, this is God’s mercy in action: Jesus dying for sinners. Jesus shedding his holy blood to obtain forgiveness for you, to wash away your sins. Gone is the stain of guilt that would accuse you and condemn you. Because Jesus has paid the price for all of that.

And that’s the point. That’s why Transfiguration works so well as the transition from Epiphany into Lent. That’s why the Transfiguration serves as the pivot point in the gospel narrative. In the early chapters of the gospel and in the weeks of the Epiphany season, we see Jesus showing forth his glory as the Son of God. The Transfiguration, then, serves as the culmination, the climax, of Jesus manifesting his glory as the Son of God.

And at the same time, the Transfiguration works to transition us into Lent. Now we know who it is who will go to the cross for us. “Listen to him,” the Father says to the disciples, “listen when Jesus tells you that he must go up to Jerusalem, to be rejected and handed over, to suffer and be killed at the hands of sinful men.” Yes, listen to him! This is not easy to hear, but it is necessary that you know this. This journey to Jerusalem is necessary, it is essential to God’s plan to redeem sinful mankind. There is no Plan B.

This glory that Jesus displays at his Transfiguration--this is the same glory that God’s Son had in the beginning with the Father. And it’s the same glory he will return to, once he has completed the saving mission for which he came. After Christ dies for the sins of the world, the Father will raise up his beloved Son on the third day.

And guess what, beloved? No, don’t guess; know this for sure: You who believe in Christ, you will share in his resurrection. You will be with Christ, sharing eternal life with him. You are baptized. You believe in Christ. You’re trusting in him alone for your salvation. Yes, Jesus only: No one else can do what he does. Jesus, the only Savior for sinners, dying for your forgiveness, rising for your eternal life. Jesus only, God’s beloved Son, with whom he is well pleased. And when you’re connected to Christ, God is well pleased with you, also. Friends, lift up your eyes and, like those disciples, you also will see Jesus only.

Today the Transfiguration serves as the transition from Epiphany into Lent, from Christ’s glory to his Passion. Because it is through his Passion that Christ our Lord will bring us with him into glory.

TOPICS: Religion
KEYWORDS: epiphany; lcms; lent; lutheran; matthew; sermon; transfiguration
Matthew 17:1-9 (ESV)

After six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.

And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.”

1 posted on 02/18/2023 6:16:51 PM PST by Charles Henrickson
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To: squirt; Freedom'sWorthIt; PJ-Comix; MinuteGal; Irene Adler; Southflanknorthpawsis; stayathomemom; ..


2 posted on 02/18/2023 6:17:47 PM PST by Charles Henrickson (Lutheran pastor, LCMS)
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To: Charles Henrickson

Thanks Pastor!

3 posted on 02/19/2023 6:23:20 AM PST by old-ager
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