TRANSFIGURATION, A – February 26, 2017

SCRIPTURES – Exodus 24:1-18; 2 Peter 1:16-21; Matthew 17:1-9

Behold, a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.” (Matt. 17)

 

I have always enjoyed heights. Climbing to the top of the big Tulip tree in my front yard as a kid; hiking to the top of the 10,300’ Mt. Sheridan while backpacking in Yellowstone; standing on the roof of the Twin Towers and looking out over Manhattan; getting a window seat and looking out while flying; the higher, the better. You can see so much more when you’re up high!

 Today we are given an incredible view from a high mountain in Israel. We see Jesus, shining like the sun, and standing with two Old Testament prophets who had lived hundreds of years before Him. We need this view, for after today we will descend down the mountain and into the season of Lent. We will see Jesus to be weak, lowly, and rejected, and finally dying on a cross.

 Who is this man Jesus? This is what we are considering this morning. In this glorious event of His Transfiguration we are shown that:

I.              JESUS IS GREATER THAN THE GREATEST PROPHET.

 The greatest prophet in Israel’s history was Moses. Our reading today from Exodus 24 tells how God called him to go where no one else was allowed to go: up Mt. Sinai and into His very presence, where he stayed for 40 days as God revealed to him His words and commands for His people. Moses was the mediator between God and the people. God spoke to them through him and gave them His Law by him.

 Did you notice the similarities between Moses and Jesus in today’s Scripture readings?

Ø  It’s on the 7th day that the Lord calls out to Moses and reveals Himself to him; it’s after six days – and so, on the 7th – that Jesus ascends the mountain.

Ø  Moses is told to take three men part way up the mountain with him; Jesus takes three disciples to the top of the mountain with Him.

Ø  Moses is in the presence of the Glory of the Lord, and when he comes down his face will shine; Jesus begins shining like the sun before the bright cloud of God’s glory appears.

Ø  Moses is given God’s words, to which the people are to listen; Jesus is given no words, but God says of Him, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.” Jesus is God’s Word, His communication.

Jesus is like Moses; but is far greater. “Listen to Him.” God directs all attention to Him and gives all things into His hands.

 There is no one like Jesus. No other prophet, of Judaism or of any other religion, can compare to Him. Jesus is a human being, like us, but is greater than the greatest among us. There will not be three shelters, so that people can look upon Moses and Elijah with amazement as they look on Him. Jesus is in a class by Himself. This is how you must see Him.

II.            JESUS IS THE BRINGER OF ETERNITY.

 We see this in the presence of Moses and Elijah. Why do these two men, who had lived and then gone to heaven hundreds of years before, appear with Him, and not others?

 Moses’ appearance is certainly understandable. He was the greatest prophet of Israel. He was the first, and main, author of the Scriptures – he wrote the first five books of the Bible – and the giver of the Law. In fact, all of the other books of the Old Testament rest upon and refer back to the books of Moses. Moses is there to testify to Jesus and declare that his writings are about Him.

 But, why is Elijah there? Malachi, the last prophet of Israel, had prophesied that when the day of the Messiah came the enemies of God’s people would be crushed and His people would “go out leaping like calves from the stall” and be filled with joy and peace. He then said, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before [that] great and awesome day of the Lord comes.” (Mal. 4:5) Elijah is there on the mountain with Jesus because God’s day of salvation had come. Jesus brings it, and it is present in Him.

 God’s eternal kingdom is present. It is here on this earth. It is in Jesus and is where He is, for He is God Himself, among us in our flesh. And we who follow Him will live forever with Him, and in our flesh. That is the message of Jesus’ Transfiguration. That is why Moses and Elijah appear with Him. Do you want God? Do you want His peace, His life, His eternity? Look to Jesus! God and His kingdom are found in Him.

III.           AND JESUS IS IN HIS WORD, HIS SCRIPTURES.

 “Listen to Him,” says God. You do so, you hear His voice, when you open His book, the Bible. Peter, who was with Jesus on that mountain and saw Him shining like the sun, wrote: “we have something more sure [than that vision], the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place.” (2 Pet. 1) Do you want Jesus? Open His Scriptures. Do you want eternity with its eternal life and joy and peace and health, and so many other blessings? Read and learn and believe the Bible. It is the voice of God. It is the presence of Jesus.

 God expects you to learn and know His Word and to take it very seriously. "All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient." Israel’s response to God at the mountain is the response He expects of you and me. Woe to you if you ignore His Word and do not order your life according to it! God will not call you to ascend to Him at the end. You will not stand with Jesus or see Him.

 But, blessed forever are you if you listen to and believe and follow the prophetic Word! The Lord Jesus is, and will always be, your sun and your shield. He will shine upon you with God’s mercy and love and forgiveness and peace and joy, and He will protect you from all evil. He will especially protect you from the threat of God’s eternal judgment for your sins. Jesus took that judgment upon Himself. He will shield you from it forever!

 We’re not on that mountaintop now, however. We don’t see this now. We don’t even see Jesus. We only see Him from afar, through the pages of the prophetic Word. Hold to that sure Word, and the day will dawn when the morning star – Christ – arises and says to you, “Rise, and have no fear.” You will then see Jesus, shining in the glory He shares with the Father and the Holy Spirit. And with all of God’s people you will sing, “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! Blessèd are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise!” (Ps. 84:1, 4) In the name of Jesus, our God and Lord. Amen.