The Transfiguration: Shedding New Light on Jesus and the Crosses We Bear
Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. AMEN! Our text for this morning’s sermon is taken from St. Luke’s gospel account the 9th (Luke 9:28-36) chapter.
Beloved in the Lord,
Order in the Kingdom
The scandal of the cross and the stumbling block of suffering is an affliction of the soul with which we all must wrestle. Peter, James, and John were no different. It has been about 8 days since Peter made the great confession and then promptly stuck his foot in his mouth. He would not allow the scandal of the cross and the stumbling block of suffering to impose on Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. He would have no crucified Christ. It’s been 8 days since Peter’s embarrassment and Peter’s rebuke, for there is no proclamation of the Christ unless He be a crucified Christ. This is the order of the Kingdom. There is no Christ unless He is crucified, there are no disciples of Christ without a cross, and there is no glory without suffering.
The order of the kingdom is one of suffering first and then glory. Glory comes later. Suffering is an experience. Glory is a promise. Suffering we have now. Glory shall come at the last day. Suffering is on account of sin, yours, mine and ours. Glory is on account of Jesus, Him alone, Soli Deo Gloria!
And so in order that we might bear up the sufferings of this world, endure the affliction of the soul and wrestle the scandal of the cross to the ground to receive a blessing Jesus takes with Him, Peter, James and John high on a mountain top. And so, with Peter, James and John, we go. For we are no different. We, too dwell at the bottom of the mountain where sin brings suffering and the devil imposes his own “glory” on our hearts and minds, where confusion reigns and people hurt. We go with them that we too may see our end and hope in the glory that is to come to all who believe the gospel and persevere in the faith.
Escaping the World (suffering)
Going with Jesus and the rest we are able to escape for a while, we get a sort of spiritual break, a vacation. It’s not quite Vacation Bible School, there’s no food, no crafts, no songs to sing, but its up, up, and a way from everything down below. It’s a break and with Jesus it’s a good break.
While on the mountain Jesus is transfigured. What was common to men now shines like the brightness of the sun. What was known by angels is revealed to men. What was hidden under flesh and blood, wool and leather, explodes in the glory of the eternal Son. Surrounded by the Law and the Prophets, Moses and Elijah, the glory of God appears. This is better than VBS! Who needs crafts and songs and cookies and juice? This is AWESOME!
Basking in the awesomeness Peter can’t help himself. He just has to say it. He just wants to do it. Peter is always wanting to say and do when he should be silent and still. “Lord! It is good for us to be here.” In other words, “This is awesome!” “Let us build three tents, three tabernacles. One for you and one for Elijah and one for Moses.” In other words, “Let’s not go back down below. Let’s stay!”
But to stay would be outside the order of the kingdom. The order of the kingdom is suffering first and then glory. Glory comes later. Suffering must be dealt with. We, like Peter, don’t want to deal with suffering because we don’t want to face up to suffering’s cause. We don’t want to face up to sin. We don’t want to deal with it ourselves. And we don’t want to deal with it in others. Suffering hurts and we don’t want to hurt. We would much rather escape.
So rather than repent, we flee. We avoid things. We shift in our pew, we turn away from the word, we ignore our vocation. We want to give up. We don’t want to fight for what’s right. We’re not even sure what’s right anymore. And so rather than “tough it out”, “fight the good fight” and suffer a bit we make every effort to squirm out from under our cross. This is evident in our culture and even in our churches. In our culture and our churches are people who choose sin over righteousness, death over life, abortion over babies, control in place of faith, divorce instead of fidelity, sex before marriage, laziness as an alternative to the blood, sweat and tears of hard work, shallow entertainment rather than the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God. We don’t want to suffer so in our maneuverings to avoid it we actually sin more and hurt more and make things we worse. Our hearts grow cold and we learn to withhold compassion from out neighbors, for to be compassionate means to be suffering with your neighbors for their good. And we’re not too concerned with anyone’s good but our own.
Peter gets some time away with Jesus on a mountain and he wants to stay there forever. He wants to stay and he wants to speak and he wants to do. But Peter can’t stay and Peter needs to be silent and be still. Jesus is speaking with Moses and Elijah. They are discussing His departure, His ex odos which is to be accomplished in Jerusalem. Jesus is going back down the mountain and unless Peter shuts up and listens Peter will stumble and fall under the weight of a Crucified Christ. Things won’t make sense. Things won’t fit. Things will be terribly confused. And Peter will suffer more.
Jesus is changing Peter’s worldview. He’s changing how His disciples will see the world, will behold, experience and deal with suffering and sin in the world, and in themselves. Jesus is going back down the mountain. He is going to be betrayed. He is going to be rejected. He is going to be arrested, beaten, mocked, spit upon, shamed, uncovered, slandered, striped, pierced through, crucified, dead and buried. He is going to be a crucified Christ for there is no Christ apart from the crucified Christ! And there are no Christians apart from the cross. The Crucified Christ seizes the sins of the world, yours, mine and ours with His strong arms and bloody hands. He seizes them. He takes them. He endures them. He suffers them for us, for you, for me and for the world. Unless He does this we are all lost in sin and death and will suffer eternally. But because He does this, His holy blood covers over the sins of the world, yours, mine and ours. He pays for our sins. He is compassionate and suffers with us, for us, to save us, all of us, not a one of us is left out, for He loves us into death and through death and the grave. He loves us enough to be near us, to draw us closer to Himself, and therefore also His cross and His passion, and to lead us out of death and into His glorious resurrection.
There is glory to be had, beloved. There is the brilliance of this mountain top experience for all who believe and are baptized into His death and resurrection. The order of the kingdom is suffering first and then glory. And oh, beloved what glory awaits us, what glory is prepared for us, what glory is readied for us by the blood of the eternal Son who was crucified but is risen! Our sufferings in this present age are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us on the last day!
In the World with the Word
This glory, though purchased and won for us by Jesus’ death and resurrection, though now a present possession, is still not yet. We must depart the mountain and return to our vocations. Seeing Jesus in His glory on the mountain, hearing the Father’s Voice, we are strengthened for the days ahead. Hearing of the Word of the crucified Christ, the passion of the Son, we are encouraged in our own suffering. For we are not alone in the world. Jesus has not abandoned us, but has sent His Spirit that we might cry out Abba, Father. The Spirit comes through the Word and the Word proclaims Christ Crucified. Thus, when the Father says, “this is my beloved Son, Hear Him” He is urging us to continually be in the world with the Word. In the world with the Word we return to our vocations from this mountain top vision knowing the end, our end, the end of sin, and death, and all suffering.
In hearing the Word and facing up to the Crucified Christ we face up to the realities of our sin and the depravity of our world. We don’t run away from them. We don’t avoid them. We don’t try to pawn to others. We look to Christ! We cling to Christ. We hear Christ and Him crucified. We hear the forgiveness of our sins for His sake. We hear His mercy poured upon us in the waters of our baptism and we Hear our Good Shepherd offer us good food to support and sustain us in the wilderness here below. Heavenly food gives into our hearts the very resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. Thus, in the world with the Word we are in Jesus with Jesus. Without the Word we are without Jesus. With the Word with Jesus heaven is ours by faith. Without the word without Jesus we have nothing. With Jesus! Without Jesus! With Him! Without Him. With Him! Without Him! You don’t want to be without Him – EVER! Therefore HEAR HIM. BE HEARING HIM. NEVER STOP HEARING HIM. KEEP ON HEARING HIM. Hearing Him works, strengthens and sustains FAITH in HIM.
Order in the Kingdom
Beloved in the Lord, having gone up the mountain with Peter, James and John, we now descend back to our jobs, our families, our broken and sinful world, where broken and sinful people like us are afflicted by the scandal of the cross and stumbling block of suffering. There is still sin in us and in our neighbors. There is still this thing called cancer that takes away our loved ones. There is still miscarriages and bareness. There is still devils and demons trying to steal you away from Jesus. There are still pot holes on the path to heaven, thorns and thistles in the field of the Lord. Facing such things we are compelled to face up to our sin and our sinful world. With Christ, in Christ, hearing His Word we see this world differently. We see things are they are, redeemed by the blood of Jesus and in need of the Love of Jesus.
And in Jesus we see the glory at the end of the story. And oh, beloved there is great glory waiting for you, a never ending glory, a glory that has no need for tent or tabernacle, no need for walls or gates, no need for sun or moon or stars, for the Lamb is in the midst of it and the Son of God is the Light of the World. And there is great song and great joy in the hearts of all who cling to Christ by faith, for all who persevere the wilderness and follow the greater Joshua into the Promised Land of Paradise. Yes, beloved there are great and glorious things awaiting you. The Beloved Son has made it so. Hear Him. AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!