TRANSFIGURATION, B – February 10, 2013

SCRIPTURES – Deuteronomy 34:1-12; Hebrews 3:1-6; Luke 9:28-36 

The Lord God is a sun and shield. Psalm 84:11 

We’re told this morning that Jesus took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. Surely He knew that He was going to be transfigured before them, and that Moses and Elijah were going to appear. Why didn’t Jesus have all twelve of His apostles come to see this amazing event? Wouldn’t this have been a great blessing for them all? Leaving the others behind wasn’t fair! We’re also told that Peter and John and James kept silent and told no one what they had seen. Why not? Because Jesus had forbidden them to speak of it. How fair was that?!

Life is filled with inequities and things that seem unfair. Some people are tall and some are short. One person can eat all day and never gain an ounce, while another just looks at food and starts putting on the pounds. It’s not fair! Perhaps not. But, it’s life. Jesus didn’t come to be fair and take away perceived inequities.

Of course, when we promote unfairness we sin and can cause great problems. Peter and James and John kept silent about what they had seen, as Jesus commanded. But, shortly after this they and the other apostles got into an argument with one another about which of them was the greatest. You know human nature. They may not have said anything, but I’m sure that those three men thought they were greater than the others because they alone had been invited by Jesus to see His wondrous transfiguration. And we, when we wonder why only Peter and James and John were invited, or why only Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus and not also Abraham or Noah or some other great believer, promote ideas of unfairness when we find the reason within them, some faithfulness that seemingly set them above other believers.

  • Moses: he was the greatest of Israel’s prophets. God spoke with him face to face, and worked great miracles of deliverance through him. This is why he was there! Then again, he murdered a man in his youth, and because of a later sin he committed – taking credit for miraculously providing water to the people instead of crediting God with doing so – he was not permitted by God to enter the Promised Land. God also buried him secretly. The great Moses was given no marker, no monument to his life; like most other people of his day.
  • Elijah: before all Israel and 400 prophets of the false god Baal he called down the fire of God from heaven, thus proving that Israel’s God Yahweh was the true and only God. Great was his faith and witness! Of course, after Queen Jezebel threatened his life the next day he ran away – away from the people and away from the ministry to which God had called him – laid down under a bush, and prayed that he might die.
  • Perhaps it’s no surprise that Jesus chose to take Peter up that mountain with Him. After all, Peter had one time shown faith above all the other disciples by walking on water to Jesus when Jesus had walked out on the lake to join them in their boat. He had also confessed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God. Then again, he had the audacity to rebuke Jesus when Jesus had said he was going to be rejected by the people and crucified, and Jesus responded by calling him Satan. Peter would also deny even knowing Jesus when Jesus was on trial.

Each of those men on that mountain with Jesus had been great sinners – just like us. We must never lose sight of this. We so easily and often make comparisons, even of faith. We think too highly, or too lowly, of ourselves or others. We think of some sins as worse than others, or think of ourselves or others as deserving of Christ’s blessing. None of us is. We are all sinful and unclean, as we confessed at the beginning of this Service. Realize how bad this is! Last week we heard about Jesus casting out demons, who were referred to as “unclean spirits.” We also are unclean. Our sins make us like Satan! None of us is deserving of Christ.

But, He did not come for the deserving. He came for undeserving sinners. His Transfiguration on the mountain shows this and proclaims this.

“The Lord God is a sun and shield,” says Psalm 84. Yes, we certainly see Jesus as a sun, for on that mountain He shines like the sun, with a brilliant light that comes from within Himself. No other human being has ever done this. Jesus is also unlike all other gods who are worshiped, for He is God and yet is also a man. He is God enfleshed, to in flesh do His work of salvation. As the sun in the sky gives life on this earth, so we are given life with God solely through the God/Man Jesus. “The Lord Jesus is a sun.” On that mountain we see Him shining upon sinners and for sinners. They are not consumed, but join in His glory!

This is because Jesus is also a shield. A shield stands between you and that which would harm you. It takes the blows and bullets which threaten with death and absorbs them, thus keeping you safe. Jesus is the God who comes down from heaven and becomes a man, flesh like us. Then, even though His flesh is filled with divinity and can shine with God’s glory, He covers His glory, comes down from the mountain, and goes to the cross to cover His glory with our sins. He becomes a shield for us as He takes our sins upon Himself, for He then bears God’s blows, His punishment of our sins, for us. He is cast out of God’s loving presence, as He Himself had cast out unclean spirits. He does all of this to shield us, and all who stand behind Jesus are protected from God’s eternal judgment and kept safe. We now live in the bright light of His eternal love.

This doesn’t mean that there won’t be problems, inequities, unfairnesses and judgments in this life. Jesus didn’t come to shine as a sun upon us and make every day bright and happy. Rev. Joel Osteen may sell millions of books that teach how Jesus can give you your best life now, but he proclaims a different Jesus. He proclaims a Jesus who is a sun, but says little about Him as a shield. If Jesus had wanted us to have our best life now, He would have taken all of His disciples up on that mountain with Him. They would have stayed there. He would not have come down and gone to the cross.

The true God, and His Christ, wants you to have eternal life now. He therefore humbles us. He allows inequities to remain. He allows, and even sends, sufferings. By such things He reminds us that it is always and only by His grace and mercy in Christ that we are saved, and not because of any worthiness within us. But, we also learn that no sin, no judgment is so bad that it separates us from His love. God receives sinners. Along with our sins and sufferings and inequities, then, He sends His Son as our shield, to protect us from any blows that would hurt us eternally. He sends Him as a sun, to shine upon us with forgiveness and hold before us the hope of our heavenly calling, the promise of eternal life with Him in heaven.

“This is My Son, My chosen One; listen to Him!” God cries out. Don’t just fix your eyes on Jesus, shining in glory like the sun. That is to come, and is our future in heaven. Above all fix your eyes on Christ on the cross, shielding you from God’s judgment of your sin. Let the word of His death for you fill your ears. The Lord will then bestow His favor and honor on you, and you will shine with Christ in eternity!