Sunday, February 15, 2015

Sermon -- Transfiguration (February 15, 2015)

LUKE 9:28-36

In the name + of Jesus.

     The apostle Peter saw something good, and he wanted to keep it going.  He saw Jesus when the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. (Luke 9:29)  It was the first time the Son of God actually looked like the Son of God.  It was awesome, and it was glorious.  On top of that, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory…. (Luke 9:30-31)  Moses and Elijah also appeared in splendor, as those who had departed from this world and now live in the glory and the bliss of heaven.
     Though Peter, James, and John had fallen asleep, this was no dream.  They had become fully awake and fully alert.  Peter did not want the glorious scene to end.  So, 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. (Luke 9:33)  Certainly, it was good for Peter, James, and John to be there.  The Lord had brought them up to this mountain so that they could see him with the glory that is rightly his—glory he had always kept hidden.  But Jesus did not go up the mountain to establish a shrine.  Nor was Jesus interested in granting merely a moment of glory to people.  Jesus gave these three disciples this special revelation so that they could remember that Jesus truly is the glorious Son of God.  Later, when these three again slept while Jesus prayed, and when they awoke to see Jesus sorrowful, then betrayed and arrested, then tried and condemned, then bleeding and dying, they could recall the vision.  If they would only believe what they saw, they would not consider Jesus divine, but defeated, a disappointment, and possibly even a deceiver.
     It is so easy for us to get swept away by what we see and feel, just as Peter did.  We think that God’s love for us is measured by how much we are blessed or have success.  Super Bowl winners, Olympic gold medalists, and others who find the limelight boast about this.  They tie their success to God’s love for them.  But this begs the question, “If you had failed, does that mean God loves you less?”  When life is good, we assume that God is smiling upon us.  But when tragedies strike, when a battery of medical tests concludes that there is no cure, when you have to pump a foot of water out of your basement, when you get demoted or downsized, or when plans you were excited about get torn to shreds, what about God’s love now?  What you experience will suggest that God’s love is fickle.  What’s worse, if you measure glory by what you see and feel, you are no longer trusting what God actually tells you.  Trusting in what you see and feel is deceptive, and it is idolatry.  That’s why the Lord urges you, “Listen to him.  Keep on listening to him.  He will never deceive you.”
     Peter saw the glory of the Lord, and he wanted to keep that glory.  “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. (Luke 9:33)  Peter thought it would be fantastic to have this glorious scene available to the disciples.  People could make pilgrimages to see this glory.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone could have a moment where they could see Jesus’ glory and feel that everything is alright?  Jesus loves you more than that.  He has not come to give you a moment of glory.  Jesus has come to deliver you from a troubled and tragic world to everlasting glory.  He could only do that by leaving this mountain to go to another hill called Calvary.   There, he would not shine in splendor, but die in darkness and shame.  There, he would not hear his Father declare his love and approval, but he would be forsaken.  There, he would not have his garments gleam like lightning, but he would be stripped of his garments.  And there, the appearance of his face would change—not radiating glory, but oozing blood and grimacing with pain.  Now, if you would believe your eyes and your feelings, you might pity this man, but you would not worship him.  But if you would see everlasting glory, and the glory that he wins you for by his sufferings and death, listen to him.
    If Peter had been listening, he would never have opened his mouth to begin with. Behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. (Luke 9:30-31)  Moses and Elijah were discussing with Jesus the prophecies foretold about him, how he would deliver sinners from the curse of their sins.  They spoke of Jesus’ departure.  Jesus had come to depart from this life by a sacrificial death.  That bloody death is the payment for all sins.  By his sufferings and death, Jesus had endured the curse which was hanging over us all.  To see everlasting glory, listen to him.
     But Jesus’ departure did not end with his death.  He also departed from his grave, conquering death and claiming back from death all who believe in him.  By his death and resurrection, Jesus has delivered you from all your sins.  It may not always feel like it.  You still experience guilt.  You still get frustrated because you have not overcome those temptations that get you again and again.  And you wonder if you are truly a devout Christian.  You may even wonder if God loves you.  This is what happens when you trust in your experiences. 
     To be sure of your salvation, to be confident that you are truly forgiven, to find strength to battle against your flesh all the more, and to know that God’s love is not fickle, listen to him.  Jesus has taken away all of your sin.  Jesus has lifted up God’s curse upon you.  Jesus even demonstrated his victory over the grave so that he can raise you up from yours.  These things are not true because you feel like they are.  Your salvation does not stand because you surely hope so.  To see everlasting glory, listen to him.  Jesus said that his mission was to suffer and die for sinners and then rise from the dead.  That mission is accomplished; therefore, Jesus assures you that he has paid for your sins and delivers you from your grave.  You have eternal life not because you want it, but because Jesus earned it and promises you have it.  To see everlasting glory, listen to him.
     The apostle Peter saw something good, and he wanted to keep it going.  He saw Jesus in his glory, and he wanted to preserve that.  Peter did get to see that glorious Savior again.  It was after Jesus’ resurrection that Peter, James, and John once again saw Jesus’ in his glorified body.  Only this time, the glory would not be momentary.  It is everlasting.  They saw their glorious Savior depart from this earth to ascend to heaven where he has gone to prepare a place for us.  You and I will see him in his glory, too, when he returns to judge the living and the dead.  Then, at the resurrection, we will also have our bodies transformed so that they will be like Jesus’ glorious body.  Then we will no longer see our frailties or experience guilt or shame.  Rather, we will be taken to everlasting glory, amidst the prophets and apostles, amidst the angels and archangels, and in the presence of our Lord. 
     Until that day, if you long to be kept in his kingdom and to find comfort in this world, listen to him.  Jesus’ voice is what will protect and preserve you while you struggle and strive in this world of troubles and tragedies.  Jesus’ words will remind you that God’s mercy rests upon you.  Jesus’ sufferings, death, and resurrection assure you that God’s love for you is everlasting.  And that everlasting glory will be yours when he comes again.  If you want to see that glory, listen to him.  He will never deceive you or disappoint you.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.