Getting back to God
Sermon Text — Luke 9:28-36
Transfiguration — February 7, 2016
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 chapter.
Beloved in the Lord,
Getting to God
Humanity has a sin problem. Sin doesn’t get us to God. Sin separates us from God. In the garden Adam ate the fruit, sin entered the world, and death spread to all men, women and children. While humanity tends to think the only problem is a death problem, the reality is that we have a death problem because we have a sin problem. Humanity has a sin problem and having such a problem has led us to believe that we have to fix our sin problem to alleviate our death problem. Fixing our sin problem we can get back to God. If sin separates us from God and leads to death and then surely fixing our sin problem gets us back to God and leads to life. That’s what makes sense. That’s we humanity thinks. That’s what our fallen nature believes.
And so we try to fix our sin problem while trying to get back to God. Since we’re the fallen ones we must need to get up. Man has always been trying to get up to God. Nimrod and his followers built their tower. The Egyptians built their pyramids. The Greeks had their acropolis and Parthenon. The Jews even established their high places. For humanity to get back to God humanity thought getting up there was the way. God was up there so I or we need to get up there.
Well, Jesus takes Peter, James and John up on the mountain. It’s not the first time He’s done so. Jesus would occasionally go up on the mountain to pray. But this time was different. Up on the mountain things happened. Jesus was transfigured, became as blinding as the sun and whiter, more glorious than could be imagined. With Him stood Moses – the giver of the Law, whose body the Lord Himself buried, and Elijah, the Prophet, whose Body was swept up by the Lord and a chariot of fire. One died and now is risen. The other never died. Both are there sharing the glory of the eternal Son from Heaven. All are there in the flesh. And Peter, James, and John see it all and hear it all.
The Wrong Order
Despite their seeing and hearing they do not understand. You see, they, like us still have that sin problem. That sin problem has corrupted their understanding. They see but they do not perceive. They hear but they cannot discern. What does this mean? And so Peter speaks. He shouldn’t. But he does anyway. “Lord, its good for us to be here. Let us build three tents/tabernacles, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” Peter didn’t know what he was saying because Peter was saying what came natural to his heart. Peter had things all out of order because Peter, like us is all out of order. Sin is out of order. Sin makes you and me out of order, out of God’s order, out of the way things have been created to happen.
You see, Peter wants what James and John want, what you and I want, what everybody ever born wants. He’s finally made it up the mountain where God is in His glory and He wants to stay. But Peter’s out of order. He can’t stay because Peter, like you and me, still has a sin problem. Climbing the mountain and getting up to God doesn’t deal with our sin problem. It doesn’t get us back to God safely and securely. That’s why when the cloud envelops them Peter, James and John are terrified. They don’t know what’s going to happen next and they surly know what they deserve to happen next. “For no man sees God and lives” (Ex. 33:20).
Peter is out of order. James and John are out of order. You and I are out of order because we want to get ourselves up to God apart from the order He has established. We climb the mountain and build the tents. We want to praise our way in, pray our way in. We want to see what no eye has seen nor any ear heard. We want to peek in on God’s glory up on the mountain, catch a glimpse of Him without His clothes on – so to speak. Humanity is forever and always spiritual peeping toms. We want to see what has been hidden from us. And we think if we do see it or experience it or feel it in the depths of our heart that we’ve dealt with our sin problem. There is no glory without the cross. There is no paradise without the wilderness. There is no peace without suffering, no forgiveness of sins without Jesus passion.
Discussing His departure
You see, beloved, Peter was talking when he should have been listening. Jesus, Moses and Elijah were talking, just finishing up actually. And we know what they were talking about. Luke, by the Holy Spirit, tells us that Jesus was discussing His departure that was about to take place in Jerusalem. They were talking about His exodus, His going out, His death and resurrection. They were talking about fixing our sin problem. That’s why Jesus came. You see beloved, God doesn’t leave us to fix our sin problem. God doesn’t abandon us to figure out our death problem. His Word is clear. His teaching is true. The soul that sins shall die. The wages of sin is death. Sin leads to death. And what the Law was powerless to do –namely fix our sin problem, God did in the sending of His Son. Jesus is all about fixing our sin problem, not with gold or silver, not with new methods, ecstatic experiences, mountain top pictures of glory, not with inspiring music or emotional stories, not with you doing or building or praising or tithing, or even suffering and dying. Jesus isn’t come to teach you how to save yourself.
He’s come to do the doing,
build the building,
offer the offering,
suffer the suffering
die the dying,
rise on the third day and
forgive the sinner,
redeem His kinsman with Holy blood,
cleanse the unclean with water from His side,
clothe the naked and afraid with His own righteousness,
feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty that they may have life and have it abundantly.
Jesus has come to be the doer of the verbs so that you are the direct objects of His love and His life. Thus He fixes your sin problem. And fixing your sin problem He also becomes the answer to your death problem. For all who die in the Lord shall be raised on the last day. Death no longer has dominion over Him, and if no longer over Jesus, who is God in the flesh, then no longer over you and me who have been redeemed with His blood, nourished with His body, and baptized into His passion, death and resurrections.
The problem remains, however that Old Adam want to see and hear what we’ve not been given to see and hear. Peter still wants to build his little tabernacles. Humanity still wants to fix its sin problem. But notice what happens in our text. Nobody answers Peter, not the Father whose voice beckons from the cloud, not James and John – they’re not going say anything, in fact you can probably imagine slowly backing away from Peter – and not Jesus. No one answers Peter because there is no answer to such a request. Instead, the Father gives Peter, James, John, and you and me something greater. He gives us a word. “This is my beloved Son. Hear Him!” Like us, Peter had his eyes fixed on Jesus. Like us Peter was following his heart and wanting to do what his heart thought he should be doing for God. But none of that mattered to God. We, like Peter are given to hear Jesus. Jesus is the chosen one. Jesus is our redeemer and savior – not Moses and not Elijah. That’s why they depart and go back to heaven while Jesus gathers His disciples and goes down the mountain. Jesus has work to do, work to do for Peter, James and John and all men, women and children. Because He’s the one doing the work we are given to listen. His Word is the light unto our path. His Word is the lamp unto our feet. His Word interprets what we see and experience. His Word guides us along paths of righteousness, teaches us what is good, right, and salutary. His Word tells of His works and His heart put in action for you and me and the world. We would know nothing of God if we didn’t have His Word.
Thus when the Father says listen to Him, He means that we should always be listening to Him. We should read, learn, mark and inwardly digest the whole counsel of God because the whole counsel of is given to us as divine revelation for our good and for our salvation. We don’t need to be up on the mountain to get to God. Jesus has come down. We don’t need to build Him a tent or tabernacle! Jesus willfully and delightfully clothes Himself with bread and wine, fills the water with His passion, and speaks His absolution to us through the real voice of a real man. Rather than getting ourselves to God, God gets Himself to us through these means. Rather than us doing the verbs, God does the verbs and does them perfectly, the way He wants them done. This makes our salvation sure and secure for everything hinges on Jesus and His blessed Words to us in the Scriptures.
Getting Down to Sinners
Beloved in the Lord, we find ourselves living in difficult times. Humanity still has a sin problem and humanity is still trying to get back to God. Even many in the church seem to think that we need to get ourselves back to God. That’s why so many are trying to get people to follow them up the mountain to experience God in His glory. They’re trying to get to God outside of God’s order. There is no glory apart from the cross and there is no cross apart from God’s means. If we truly wish to be hearing Jesus we should be here in Church. If we truly want to get people to God we should be leading them to Church, to baptism, absolution and the sacrament. There is no mountain top experience that we should all strive for, there is only Jesus down here below in the midst of sinners with sin problems. This Jesus offers Himself to you and me and all would believe. He speaks – as is right for Him to do – for His Words have authority to forgive sins. He is the chosen one of God, God’s Beloved Son. He has chosen, He has promised to be here below, here with us, here with you in Word and Sacrament. Listen to Him. AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!