Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Sermon for 06 March 2011, Transfiguration C

The Rev. Paul J Cain
Matthew 17:1-9
Jesus Only
The Transfiguration of Our Lord, 06 March 2011
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, WY

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
If only we could live life seeing Jesus only. Think how nice that would be. A temptation would arise, we would look to Jesus, he would shake His head, “No,” and we would have the strength to resist. We would have a bad day and He would be right there with the perfect word to say and a reassuring arm over our shoulder. We could be confronted with the very devil himself and have no fear for He would be with us.
Let’s pause just a moment. Who says Jesus isn’t with us? No He is not present as He was during His earthly ministry, but He has promised to be with us to the very end of time through His Holy Spirit. And we abide with Him as He abides with us in His Word. We can always pray. We have that privilege as His own redeemed people.
Why then is it so hard to see Jesus? The fog. Yes, the fog. Soldiers speak about the fog of war. I suppose it has always existed. And it doesn’t just refer to the disorienting smoke of explosions or centuries-old firearms. The fog of war is uncertainty, both for the troops on the ground and the commanders in the theater. Honestly, people sometimes don’t know what’s going on because of all of the noise, confusion, adrenalin, injuries, or a variety of other factors.
Spiritually, is it any different? No. We are engaged in spiritual battle with the devil, the world, and our own sinful human nature. Life is confusing and foggy since the fall into sin. We don’t see as clearly as Adam and Eve did before. And we are born in Adam’s image, in Adam’s likeness, no longer in the pure image of God.
If only we could see Jesus only. Listen again to today’s Holy Gospel. Who gets caught up in the fog of confusion?
And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.
Peter loved his mountaintop experience. Who wouldn’t? Did he really know what he was saying about camping with Jesus and Moses and Elijah? Probably not. We can’t be too hard on Peter. Once they lifted their eyes, Jesus’ Old Testament conversation partners had vanished, Jesus had returned to normal—no longer the Transfigured, “shining like the sun” Jesus.
And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.”
Jesus sets a time restraint on telling about the vision of His Transfiguration “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.” Why the delay?
Jesus knows that people love spectacle. Were some of the 5,000 fed at one miraculous sitting merely captivated by “dinner and a show?” Where were they later on when Jesus was all alone? Suffering isn’t pleasant to endure or watch. Jesus’ Mother, Mary Magdalene, and John were rather lonely on Good Friday, keeping vigil with Jesus. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were secret disciples since they were members of the Jewish Senate. After the crucifixion, they made their confession of Jesus public. Even then, Jesus’ story was not yet complete. Remember His words? Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.”
Only in the light of Easter morning does Good Friday seem good. Only the context of Jesus’ suffering of Holy Week does the Transfiguration find its proper context. And what happens after Easter and Pentecost? The disciples not only tell the vision, but it is recorded multiple times in Holy Scripture for our comfort and hope. The only way to properly understand Jesus is the way He explains Himself: “raised from the dead.” That is when the glory of His Transfiguration makes the most sense. Usually people don’t want a “God” or a “Jesus” that allows suffering. But isn’t it better that we have a God in Christ that endures suffering for us and helps us get through the bad times for the sake of the good times and eternal life?
After His baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist, Jesus was led by the Spirit to the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. That is what we study together and apply next Sunday. John has his own time of trial coming:
10 And the disciples asked him, “Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” 11 He answered, “Elijah does come, and he will restore all things. 12 But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist. [1]
We all have times of testing, trial, temptation, and tribulation. Jesus understands. He knows about the fog of this world. He is with you to strengthen you in your time of need. He is present with us today according to His promises. He gives His clear Word. He is present in His Body and His Blood of the Sacrament according to His own Words. You have both His forgiveness and His presence as blessings.
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus according to Hebrews 12: Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. [2] Amen.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

[1] The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Mt 17:1–13). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
[2] The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001 (Heb 12:1–2). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.