Sunday, February 7, 2016

Sermon -- Transfiguration (February 7, 2016)

LUKE 9:28-36
(Theme borrowed from Rev. Guy Purdue)

In the name + of Jesus.

     Normally, Jesus of Nazareth looked like any other Jewish man.  While the disciples were amazed at Jesus’ words, those words came out of the mouth of a man.  The crowds were amazed by Jesus’ miracles.  But even as he healed the deaf, the blind, and the lame, and drove out demons, he looked like a man.  They had confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, but that was a confession.  It was based on faith, not sight.  By faith, the disciples knew that he was the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  By sight, he was just Jesus of Nazareth.  But for once, on that mountain, the Son of God looked like the Son of God.  The divinity of Jesus shone through and radiated from his face and his form.  It was a glimpse of glory that had never been seen, only believed.
     But it was more than that.  As [Jesus] was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white.  And 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 9:29-30)  Jesus not only radiated his heavenly glory, he also had heavenly guests.  Moses was the prophet to whom the Lord had spoken and through whom he had established his covenant with Israel.  Elijah was the prophet to whom the Lord had spoken and sent back to serve those in Israel who had remained faithful to that covenant.  Now these sainted prophets spoke with the Lord who himself had come to fulfill his covenant and all of Scripture.  They spoke of Jesus’ departure, or his exodus (the Greek word), which he would fulfill in Jerusalem.  Jesus had come to reveal his true glory at Jerusalem through his sufferings and death.  That is where God’s love is displayed, because that is where the Lord paid for the sins of the world.  That is where Jesus secured the forgiveness for all your sins.
     A glimpse of glory gets us ready for Gethsemane and Golgotha.  At this mountain, Peter, James, and John saw the glorious, heavenly vision.  But from this point, they would see Jesus’ weakness and humility on display.  Peter, James, and John would go with Jesus to pray at night in the Garden of Gethsemane.  There, rather than seeing Jesus in glory, they would see him in agony.  Rather than seeing his face glow, they would see him sweating drops of blood.  Only hours after that, Jesus would hang from a cross on Golgotha, bleeding and dying.  There, Jesus would not look even remotely like the Son of God.  In fact, he would be so beaten he would barely look like Jesus of Nazareth!  The disciples would be tempted to abandon Jesus as one giant disappointment and failure.  But this glimpse of glory at Jesus’ transfiguration would be a reminder to them that this Jesus was no fraud.  The agony in Gethsemane does not change the fact that he is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  The crucifixion at Golgotha does not negate the truth that he is the Savior of mankind.  This glimpse of glory gets us ready for Gethsemane and Golgotha.
     Peter wanted this glory to last much longer than a glimpse.  He loved seeing the Son of God look like the Son of God.  He wanted a continual, glorious kingdom right there on the mountain.  But soon, Moses and Elijah departed.  Soon, Jesus’ appearance was back to normal.  Soon, they would go back down the mountain to life as usual.  But before they went, God the Father gave these disciples and us the proper focus.  Even though Jesus’ divinity was clearly demonstrated, the Father added his personal testimony, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” (Luke 9:35)  So, while this glimpse of glory gets us ready for Gethsemane and Golgotha, it is continuing to listen to the Lord which sustains us through every aspect of life.
     When Peter, James, and John later witnessed Jesus enduring the depths of suffering, they had to remember that Jesus had foretold them that this would happen.  They would have to cling to his words when Jesus did not look like what the Son of God should look like.  It is the same for us when the Christian life does not look like we think the Christian life should.  If we are children of God, why don’t we look like it?  Why don’t we feel like it?  Why does life still consist of pain and heartache, of fear and doubt, of struggling against temptations and falling into sin?  We might complain that God is not acting like God should act.  He should step up and stop divorces, prevent cancer, frighten criminals and terrorists into submission, cancel tornadoes, and eradicate flu season.  At least God’s children should look like God’s children and have the good life.  Yet, we struggle.  We cry.  We ache.  We sin.  And we continue our march toward the grave.
     The problem is not that God has failed us.  The problem is that we have believed promises that God never made.  We have assumed that God said he would make heaven on earth and be the instant fix to every problem.  We expect glory.  Then we get angry with God for problems that he neither caused nor promised to prevent.  Our problems come because we are sinful creatures living in a sinful world.  Bad things happen, and sometimes they happen to us.  The glory we crave is deceptive.  God does not promise endless success and honor.  That is what the world craves.  Today, dozens of grown men will vie for football glory in the Super Bowl.  Last year's champions can only look at gaudy jewelry and say, “I remember when...”  Worldly glory only gets a glimpse.  The fanfare of championships, the thrill of the wedding day, and the accolades of the promotion quickly face to photographs and memories.  Do not be deceived by worldly glory.  Even pagans get that, and it is fleeting.  Jesus gives us a glimpse of heavenly glory, but it only serves to get us ready for Gethsemane and Golgotha.  That is where God's glory is truly seen.
     Jesus left behind his glorious moment to make the trip to Gethsemane and then to Golgotha.  There, Jesus suffered under God’s wrath, bore the guilt which stood against us, and endured the divine vengeance upon sinful mankind.  The glimpse of glory reminds us that it is God who does this for us because he loves us and wants to deliver us from a life of pain and sorrow, shame and remorse, dread and death.  So when we complete our march to the grave, we will not fear.  After Jesus delivered us from sin and its curse, he conquered the grave by his resurrection.  The march to Jesus’ grave ends with an empty tomb.  Therefore, the march to our grave ends with eternal life.
     This is the glory you should long for because it is everlasting.  And that glory will come to us just as it did for Jesus.  In this life, we will endure humility, weakness, suffering, and sorrow.  These are constant reminders that we need God’s mercy and strength.  You will need to listen to him to persevere through life.  But fear not!  The glory will come.  Jesus' love means that he will give you more than a moment in the sun or fifteen minutes of fame.  Just as Jesus entered his full and everlasting glory at his resurrection, so will you.  Then you will have bodies that will be incorruptible, blessings that will be inexhaustible, glory that will be inexpressible, and life that will be eternal.  The Lord will be pleased to have you not only see his glory, but share in it.
     For now, though, we will begin another Lenten journey in which we will remember the depths of our sin and be reminded of the heights of God’s love.  We will again ponder the sufferings and death of Jesus.  But we know that Jesus is not some man to be pitied.  He is true God who loves you and willingly suffers and dies for you.  The glimpse of his glory gets us ready for Gethsemane and Golgotha.  Listen to him; for his words sustain and strengthen you in times of struggle and sorrow, and they proclaim to you a gracious deliverance to everlasting life where you will not merely get a glimpse of his glory.  You will dwell in it, and you will partake in it.

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

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