Sermon for the Transfiguration of Our Lord based on Matthew 17:1-9
Dear people who listen to Jesus: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
When celebrities speak, people listen. When famous actors, singers, or athletes give their opinions, people want to hear what they have to say. Never mind the fact that most of the time these celebrities have no expertise in the matter at hand. Most of the time celebrities have no more knowledge about the subject than the average person. Yet people want to hear what celebrities have to say; what their opinion is on global warming, immigration, the Middle East, or the election. People watch them on TV, read about them in magazines, and follow them on social media so that they can hear their opinions.
However, when it comes to hearing what God has to say, people don’t care. They don’t want to hear it. God knows everything, but people don’t want to hear His expertise. The creator of the universe has given us His Word so that we would know His will, but people don’t want to hear what God says.
In fact, even more than that, they project onto God what they think God should say and what He should be like. They say things like, “I don’t believe God would condemn my actions.” “I don’t feel God would tell anyone not to come for communion.” “I think that God would say this or that is okay.”
However, what we believe, what we feel, and what we think is wrong if it does not line up with what God says. Our feelings can be all over the place. Our thoughts can be all messed up. What we believe is wrong if it is not what God says.
What is it that God the Father says in our Gospel reading as Jesus was transfigured? God the Father says, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.”
How many times have you heard someone say that God told them to do something, or that they think God would want them to do something? Such people search for a voice in their heart or in their head that they think must be God’s voice. But God’s voice is not in your head or in your heart. His voice is in His Word, and only in His Word. God points to Jesus and says, “Listen to Him!” Don’t listen to your thoughts, feelings, or beliefs. Listen to Jesus.
Why listen to Jesus? Well, what happened when the three disciples on the mountaintop heard God the Father’s voice? The disciples fell on their faces and were terrified. What happened when God the Father spoke from Mount Sinai to the Israelites? The Israelites were terrified and begged Moses saying, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us lest we die.” (Ex. 20:19)
Moses makes a point in our Old Testament lesson about saying that when the elders of the people of Israel were in the presence of God eating and drinking, God did not lay His hand on them. The fury of His wrath did not consume them because God had made a covenant with them and sprinkled the people with sacrificial blood. This sacrificial blood attested to the people that their lives were protected by virtue of the vicarious atonement of their sins. In other words, someone else’s blood covered their sin so that their blood would not be shed. Someone else was struck dead so that God would not strike them dead.
These Old Testament sacrifices pointed to the one all-atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. They foreshadowed the New Testament in Jesus’ body and blood which gives the forgiveness of sins.
Listen to Him. We listen to Jesus, because He is the Mediator between God and men. He stands between us and death; between us and hell; between us and the wrath of God over our sin. Jesus stands between us and the punishment we deserve because of our sin. He stands there because He paid the punishment our sins deserve. Jesus was struck dead so that God will not strike us dead for eternity in hell.
That is the reason why on the Mount of Transfiguration, God the Father says He is well pleased with Jesus. God the Father is well pleased that God the Son has reconciled us back to Him, because God does not want us to die eternally.
That God is well pleased with Jesus is of great comfort to us. It is of great comfort to us, because we are baptized into Christ Jesus. Our Baptism has put us in Christ. Since we are in Jesus, and God is well pleased with Jesus, that means God is well pleased with us. [This morning, since West was baptized into Jesus, and God is well pleased with Jesus, that means God is well pleased with West.]
How can water do such great things? Here’s a neat connection to the Transfiguration. Jesus looked like a regular man as He walked around teaching and preaching. During the Transfiguration, the disciples saw a glimpse of His eternal glory as the eternal God who has no beginning and no end, who created all things, and is over all things. The disciples fell on their faces terrified. If Jesus would have walked around in His glory as He taught and preached, everyone would have simply been terrified and fallen on their faces. Jesus veiled Himself in human flesh that hid His glory so that He could walk among His people and speak to them without them being terrified. Jesus hid His glory so that He would be crucified for our sins, which could not have happened if He walked around in His glory.
Similarly, Baptism looks just like regular water. If we could actually see sin being washed away, the Holy Spirit descending, and Jesus present in His glory during Baptism, we would fall on our faces in terror. God hides the glory of what He does in Baptism so that we do not have to fear Baptism, so that we do not fall on our faces in terror.
Baptism does such great things because it is not just water, but the Word of God in and with the water. Baptism puts us into Jesus, so that God is well pleased with us. Baptism puts us into Jesus so that we would listen to Him; so that we would listen to His Word rather than our own thoughts or feelings; so that we would listen to Him rather than the opinions of the world, or the opinions of whatever celebrity happens to be tweeting this morning.
Listen to Jesus, because He knows everything. He has created you and you are baptized into Him. He is the Mediator between you and God. He stands between you and death; between you and hell; between you and the wrath of God over your sin. Jesus stands between you and the punishment you deserve because of your sin. He stands there because He paid the punishment your sins deserve. Jesus was struck dead so that you will receive eternal life, because God is well pleased with you. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.