Sermon – Matthew 17.1-9 (Transfiguration – 2021)-

Let us pray: O merciful and everlasting God, heavenly Father: We thank You that You have revealed to us the glory of Your Son, and let the light of Your Gospel shine upon us: We pray that You would guide us by this light that we may walk diligently as Christians in all good works, ever be strengthened by Your grace, and conduct our lives in all godliness; through the same, Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

  1 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.”

These are Your Words heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.

Glory Hidden in Humility

Dear fellow redeemed,

Even while the pandemic continues, sports goes on. Many athletes are continuing to seeking the glory of victory. In a couple weeks, the Super Bowl will take place, and the athletes are working hard to be the one in glory holding the Lombardi Trophy. For such glory, most of these athletes dedicate their lives to their particular sport. Time, effort, and money are poured into their goals, only for the chance to achieve the glory of victory.

A few years back the winning quarterback of the Super Bowl said, “Jesus is better than the Super Bowl.” I don’t know what his theology is, but he is right on as far as that statement goes.

Even with the glory of victory of the Super Bowl, basking in the attention of over 100 million people, accomplishing his lifelong dreams, he still says, “Jesus is better than the Super Bowl.”

Worldly glory means nothing apart from the glory in Jesus Christ. Think of the many eulogies that have praised the dead about their accomplishments and good character, yet they die without Jesus, souls suffering in hell forever.

I’m not saying that we can’t enjoy the glories of this earth. In fact, Jesus gives us reason to enjoy those more, with thanksgiving. But compared to the glory of Christ, the glories of the earth are insignificant.

No matter what glory we may achieve on this earth, whether in sports, wealth, fame, popularity, career success, and moral living, without Christ, we remain people under the wrath of God, enslaved to sin, and subjects of death and the devil.

Consider what Paul writes to the Philippians. As far as earthly glory goes, Paul had it. If anyone could boast of his glory before the Lord, it was Paul. He writes, “I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him…” (Philippians 3:4-9).

The glory that matters is not our own, but the glory of the One to whom we’re joined through baptism. This epiphany season is about the manifestation of the glory of Christ. From His revelation to the Gentile wisemen, to His baptism, to His miraculous works of changing water into wine, and healing the sick, Jesus is revealed to us as God Himself who has come in the flesh to save us.

The most revealing display of His glory before His resurrection is what is recorded for us in this Gospel lesson, and that which Peter testifies to seeing in our Epistle lesson today. It is His transfiguration. Throughout His ministry, Jesus performed many miracles displaying His divine power. But here we have a special revelation of His divinity.

Jesus is transfigured. His image was transformed before the eyes of Peter, James and John. Like a hot fire causing iron to glow, so His divinity caused His human flesh to glow bright. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes were white as light. His mortal body, given to exhaustion and pain and death, for a time became a spiritual, immortal body, bright and glorious! What an incredible sight it must have been! Peter, James and John was astounded by it, and wanted it to remain in the presence of His glory, asking that they prepare tents for Jesus and the two prophets who appeared with Him, Moses and Elijah.

By the transfiguration, Jesus demonstrates that He is the eternal Son of God, of the same divine substance of the Father and the Holy Spirit. He fills all things, He is infinite, all powerful, and all knowing! But He displays His divine glory for only a moment. It is hidden in humility during His life on earth. We call it His humiliation and we confess it in the Apostles’ Creed when we say, “He was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried.

Jesus didn’t come to show His glory through His majesty, rather He becomes flesh to show His glory through suffering and the cross. His majesty condemns us sinners. But He leaves His mighty throne of glory to assume human flesh and live among us as the friend of sinners. This is God who does this! The radiant Jesus on the Mt. of Transfiguration sets His face to another mount, called the place of the skull. He has the full power, might and authority as true God, but He hides it. He makes no use of it. Instead He humbles Himself to the point of death, even death on the cross for your sake and mine. That is where He wants us to see His glory, there in the cross! There God hangs for you, suffering and dying to cover the penalty of all your sins. There on the cross He wins salvation for us!

What a glorious thing the cross is! Yes, we see it on the one hand, as a horrid reminder of the wretchedness of our sins. There all hell literally rained down, the just punishment and wrath we deserve from God. But that is not us there suffering, it is God taking it for me! Yes, indeed what glory we see in our crucified Christ. Some of our hymns declare this glory. One of them is the 1500 year old hymn we sing, usually during Lent, “Sing my tongue, how glorious battle, Glorious victory became; And above the cross, His trophy, Tell the triumph and the fame, Tell how He, the world’s Redeemer, By His death for us o’ercame.

This is the glory that truly matters! The glory that gives each day of our lives meaning, and gives us a joyous life without end.

That glorious victory and salvation over sin, death, the devil and hell won for you by Christ remains with us today. Just as the power of Christ was hidden under His lowly appearance, so also His power is hidden under the lowly appearance of His Word and Sacraments.

Don’t we fail to realize that hidden in His divine Word, in the absolution which Christ has given me to speak to you, in His sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, is the saving power of God! Here, and in the Word which you have in your homes, and in your minds, and in your mouths, the blessings of the cross of God are given to you!

Come, then you sinners, in need of salvation, hear the glorious Word of God, and receive by faith, that which He died to give you, “You are forgiven all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

Yes, it is good that we listen to Him. It is good that we are here, in the presence of the glory of the Lord.

With His glorious victory and salvation we have everything that we need! Whether or not we are blessed with glory in this world, we have through faith the glory of Christ, which truly matters. We see Christians in other nations dying for the sake of the faith. We are now living in a post-Christian nation, where the culture is now beginning to turn against Christians. We struggle against the evils of our own sinful flesh, and the evils of the devil inflicted upon our bodies, and we face death. Christ’s church on earth is not particularly glorious in the eyes of the world. But hidden under its small, weak and humble appearance, is a people who have the victory in our crucified and resurrected Christ, whose sin is forgiven. And by this account of His transfiguration, we are reminded that we shall live forever in God’s heavenly city, where there is no need for sun or lamp, nor will there be light, but it shall ever be day in the light of our Savior’s divine glory. Amen.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be. Forevermore. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto everlasting life. Amen.

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