The Transfiguration of our Lord: Jesus Only is Our Lord and Savior

Transfiguration of our Lord
As Jesus is transfigured atop a mountain, Moses (left) and Elijah (right) appear while James, John, and Peter sit in amazement and fear, based on Matthew 17:1-9. From a 1702 German printing of the Holy Bible.
Listen to the entire service here (the sermon alone is above)

      Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

      In last week’s Gospel, we heard Jesus was with some disciples in a boat. Jesus was sleeping and a violent storm arose. The disciples, fearful they were about to die since their boat was sinking, awoke Jesus and said, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” Jesus then performed a most stunning miracle. He not only stopped the storm, but also calmed the waves. If the storm were to stop naturally, then the waves would continue for some time and gradually calm down. But not so in this event. Jesus, as God, calmed both the storm and the waves, revealing His divinity.

      When Jesus performed that miracle, He was still early in His three-year ministry. The people were still trying to figure Him out. He had not yet called all twelve of His disciples. But people were turning to Him as they heard Him preach and witnessed His miracles. Others, such as the Pharisees were becoming alarmed by Him, fearing He was upending their ways and overturning their religion.

      In today’s Gospel, Jesus is nearing the end of His three-year ministry. The Twelve had been with Jesus much of that time, learning at His feet the Word of God. Occasionally Jesus would take Peter, James, and John aside. On this day as our Gospel teaches, Jesus takes them with Him up a high mountain. If there lingered any question about who Jesus is, the Transfiguration of our Lord should settle the question. Jesus’s clothing became as white as light and His face shone like the sun. This revealed our Lord’s glory—that He is God Himself—the same God in whose presence Moses stood at Mt. Sinai.

      You see, nearly 1500 years earlier, Moses went up Mt. Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments, the Book of the Covenant, and the blueprints for constructing the Tabernacle. When going up the mountain, Moses stood in the presence of God, even though God remained veiled to the point Moses requested to see God’s back side to get a glimpse of God. As Moses stood before God whose glory shone, Moses’s own face received the light of God’s glory so that his face also shone. When Moses came down the mountain, he did not know it, but his face continued to shine, which alarmed the people, so he wore a veil.

      Obviously, this happened to Moses because he was in the presence of God. And now, in today’s Gospel, Jesus Himself shines like the sun and even His clothing radiates light. Jesus is God, as His preaching and miracles demonstrated, and His transfiguration proves.

      Then if that weren’t enough, Moses and Elijah appear, talking with Jesus about His upcoming exodus—His crucifixion to take away the sins of the world. These two men represent the entire Old Testament, for Moses wrote the Pentateuch and Elijah represents the Prophets. Earlier, Jesus had said, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me” (John 5:39). The Scriptures—the Old Testament at the time of our Lord’s ministry—were written to direct the hearts of minds of God’s people to Jesus. They speak of Him. And so, upon His transfiguration, the prophetic Word is confirmed, even as Moses and Elijah appear.

      And, if these aren’t enough to see that Jesus is God, a voice speaks from Heaven—the voice of God the Father—saying, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.” Jesus, the Man who seemed to be destroying the religious system so popular in Jerusalem turns out to be the Son of God the Father! God Himself!

      During Epiphany, we examine who is this Baby born in Bethlehem and we see why the whole world even to this day rejoices at His birth. He is the fulfillment of the Scriptures. He is the promised Messiah. He is the One who is sent by the Father to take away the sin of the world.

      The transfiguration of our Lord is a high point in His ministry. And yet, Moses and Elijah speak to Jesus about what would seem to be a low point in His ministry—His crucifixion. In fact, about a week earlier, Jesus told His disciples that they were going to Jerusalem where He would “suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” from the dead (Matt. 16:21). Dying just doesn’t seem like the thing for God to do.

      In many of the world’s religions, they dwell on the greatness of their gods. To them, dying is weakness, not greatness. And here we have it. In Christianity, God dies. Not the Father or the Spirit, but the Son of God—Jesus. That Jesus became Man—even becoming our sin—and goes to the cross to die in our place shows Christianity is not an invention of man. It is the only true religion. Jesus does not die for no reason. He dies for you—on your behalf—to take your sin away.

      “What sin?”, you may wonder. “Why do I need sins taken away?”, you may ask. After all, we are naturally inclined to believe we’re pretty good people. We may feel we have suffered from the hand, the gossip, the uninvited criticism, the cruelty of others. But when we dole it out, we’re just doing it for their good, or so we think as we try to justify ourselves and explain our sin away. A few days ago, a survey revealed that 40-some percent of drivers think they’re the best driver they know. That’s the attitude common to mankind. We think we’re above average in good behavior, good intentions, and good actions. But how can everyone be above average? Or how can everyone be the best? As Jesus said, “First remove the plank from your own eye” (Matt. 7:3-5).

      Our world is in a lot of hurt. And we make it worse for ourselves. In countless households who consider themselves Christian, parents rob Jesus from their children. They may do a bedtime Bible story or a prayer (which is wonderful and good), but then they sleep in Sunday mornings or allow other things take priority—things which are ultimately fleeting and do not save. Children are being tossed around and manipulated by the winds of public opinion. They’re being led to believe God and science are wrong when it comes to X and Y chromosomes and that gender is fluid. God is clear: “Male and female He created them” (Gen. 5:2).

      I read a manipulative article intended to draw sympathy from its readers and lead them to believe it is fine for 14-year-old Kris (who is a girl but thinks she’s a boy) to play on the boys’ football team. The article first appeals to your emotion to draw you in. Then it appeals to your intellect to help you think you’re making an informed decision in support for Kris and others like her, which is contrary to the Word of God and the way of life God would have for Kris. The article featured many photos of Kris dressed up in her high school football uniform. It talks of the injustice Kris had and how she needed to move from one South Dakota school district to another just to play football on the boys’ team. It speaks against the godly legislation introduced to ban trans students from ruining sports for boys and especially girls. And when Kris was in second grade at her Catholic grade school, she was expected to wear a dress for First Communion. Her dad fought the Church and they allowed her to wear a blazer. In this case, the parents and many in the community are supporting her in her confusion and sin. But in some places, parents have no rights as children obtain gender-reassignment surgery. Many of these children have been manipulated through online activities and some even through their schooling.

      The hurt goes on. Children and adults alike are addicted to gaming, memes, their phones, and even porn. Social media is an underlying cause to depression in many people. Anxiety rates are higher than ever. Families are breaking up. Our world is mired in sin.

      It is a blessing, then, that God has provided us with a sanctuary. While technology is in use in this building through computers, a copy machine, and video recording of our services, you are blessed with a sanctuary that is geared to be free from the world’s distractions. No screens (there’s too much of that the rest of the week). No emotion-manipulating music. No attempts to draw your attention away from Jesus and toward human personalities. Instead, the services here at Grace are intended to be reverent, Christ-centered, and forgiveness-focused.

      Our world is corrupt with sin. We have been corrupted with sin. We often celebrate sin over celebrating what Jesus accomplished for us. You see, Jesus went to the cross to pay for our sin. That’s why the Son of God had to die. The corruption of sin goes so deep that many do not even see it anymore as they are swimming in it—even drowning in their sin. Jesus had to come into this world to go to the cross. He had to come to take away that which we could not—our sin. He bore our many sins in His body, and He offered Himself as the ransom payment for our sin. He died on our behalf so that we sinners may now live. Jesus died to grant us life. And we now live as children of God, redeemed by Christ, and clothed in His righteousness.

      This means that, even though we still sin much and deserve nothing but God’s punishment, we are now reconciled to our Father in Heaven. He is well-pleased with us. He sees us as righteous as Christ Himself is righteous. For Christ has taken our sin away.

      We can be confident of this because God’s Word tells us so. The Bible teaches us clearly who are boys and who are girls, when life begins, how families are to conduct themselves, and how God’s people are to gather regularly to hear Jesus and receive the Sacrament. Instead of giving in to the culture with all the hurts, lies, grief, and sin, we submit to God’s true Word and joyfully receive His reconciliation.

      Jesus really did perform an amazing miracle when He calmed the storm. Jesus really performed amazing miracles when He raised the people from the dead. Jesus Himself rose from the dead. And, perhaps just as amazing, God has taken your sin away through Christ, and reconciled you to Himself. That way, you can be confident of who you are in Christ and that He has prepared a heavenly home for you. Last week, the disciples said, “Save us, for we are perishing.” Jesus has come to do that. He has come to save you.

      And so, when the disciples look up after hearing the voice of God the Father, they see no one but Jesus only. He’s our Savior, and we, as children of God, focus on Him, the Author and Perfector of our faith (Heb. 12:2). Amen.

      The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to life everlasting. Amen