Sermon for Transfiguration/ Vicar James Preus/ Mount Olive Lutheran Church/ Jesus Shines His Glory On Us Through His Cross
And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. 3 And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 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.” 5 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.” 6 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.” 8 And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. 9 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.” (Matthew 17:1-9)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, Listening is important. Sometimes it is difficult to listen, because so many things are going on in our heads. It is even more difficult to listen while we are talking.
This is Peter’s problem. He doesn’t listen. He talks.
Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James, and John on a mountain. Jesus’ face shines like the sun and his cloak, which was previously covered in dust and stained with sweat, now shines as white as light. Jesus’ face reflects the very glory of God.
Peter, James, and John witness what sinners have always failed to achieve. They see the glory of God. Through faith they believed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Now they see Jesus’ divinity manifested with their own eyes.
Peter sees this and he must do something. He talks. He says: “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.” Peter has no evil intent. He wants to honor Jesus with Moses and Elijah. Peter sees the glory of God and he wants to capture it. He wants to preserve it. Yet while Peter speaks, God the Father interrupts him.
Peter was speaking when he should have been listening. This is a problem we all have. We have opinions. We have ideas. We think we know how the world ought to be run. We know what we want to hear.
And since the fall into sin, people have had opinions on how to reach the glory of God. That was the great theological riddle of the day. How can we reach the glory of God? In fact that is the theological riddle of our day. Both then and today people pontificate on how we can reach this glory. The Pharisees of Jesus’ day came up with hundreds of rules God never commanded. Today popular preachers give lots of advice on how to live a godly life and reach God’s glory. Although thousands of years span between these teachings, they ultimately teach the same thing. We have to do something!
Peter heard this teaching his whole life. Although Jesus taught him otherwise, Peter couldn’t shake his desire to achieve God’s glory by his own works. Now, he sees God’s glory, and he just has to do something!
But while Peter is talking, God interrupts him: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”
Listen to him!
Stop talking! Stop doing! Listen! This is God’s message to Peter. This is God’s message to us!
So God has gotten our attention. What does Jesus have to say to us? Just six days before his transfiguration Jesus said that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. His disciples didn’t want to listen. Peter said: “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you!” Jesus responded: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” When we set our mind on things of man, or on earthly things we hinder ourselves from hearing Jesus.
Peter rebuked Jesus for saying he would suffer and die, because Peter followed the false teaching of the world that you can reach God’s glory without the cross. Peter spoke out of turn to Jesus and wanted to build tents for Jesus and the prophets, because he wanted to preserve the glory of God without the cross.
Jesus called Peter ‘Satan,’ because there is no glory without the cross. God told Peter to listen, because Peter could not preserve this glory without the cross.
We want God’s glory. Jesus has God’s glory. How do we get God’s glory from Jesus? We listen. What does Jesus say? Jesus says there is no glory without the cross.
In our sin we are as separated from God’s glory as night is from day. The only way we can obtain God’s glory is if our sin is gone. Jesus went to the cross to pay for our sins. He suffered pain. The guilt of the whole world was laid upon him. Jesus was killed. In Jesus’ death, he paid for our sins. Jesus was the sacrifice God appointed for our guilt. Without this sacrifice, we would never obtain God’s glory.
If we want to obtain God’s glory, we need to listen to Jesus. We listen to Jesus by listening to the Prophetic Word recorded in the Bible. This Prophetic Word gives us God’s glory, because this Word has its certainty in the cross of Jesus. We are baptized into Jesus’ death on the cross. We know we are forgiven, because the blood of Jesus shed on the cross cleanses us from all unrighteousness. The body and blood we eat and drink in the Sacrament forgives our sins, because it is Jesus’ body and blood that he sacrificed on the cross.
Peter, James, and John saw the glory of God in the transfiguration of Jesus. Yet these three saw God’s glory for them and us on a different mountain when they watched Jesus bear God’s righteous punishment for the sins of the whole world on the cross. As we enter Lent, let us listen. Let us listen to the Word that comes from the cross of Jesus. Listening to this Word is the only way we will obtain the glory of God.
Let us pray: