Sermon for the Transfiguration of our Lord based on Matthew 17:1-9
Dear future witnesses of the glory of Christ: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
Peter, James, and John saw a glimpse of the glory of Christ. They fell down on their faces and were terrified. When they saw Jesus’ glory that was no longer veiled under a cloak of humility, He revealed that He is God under the veil of human flesh. He deliberately hid His glory except for this moment with His three disciples. These three disciples were witnesses of the glory of Jesus, along with Moses and Elijah.
Jesus’ glory witnessed by Peter, James, and John is an indication to us that Jesus does not intend to keep His glory just for Himself, but He will share it with us. His transfiguration is a foretaste of eternal glory, joy, and blessedness where we will also be.
However, Scripture tells us, “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.” (I Cor. 15:50) As we are, we cannot be with Jesus in His glory. As sinful flesh and blood, even a glimpse of Jesus’ glory would knock us down on our faces in terror.
Our perishable bodies must put on the imperishable; our mortal bodies must put on immortality (I Cor. 15:53). Then, and only then, we can see Jesus face to face.
Until then, Jesus veils His glory from us, even though He is with us. He has promised us, “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:20) He has promised us, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matt. 18:20) He has promised to be with us in the bread and wine of Holy Communion, where He gives us His true body and blood to eat and drink for the forgiveness of all our sins (Matt. 26:26-28).
Jesus is here, even though He is veiled from our sight. Since Jesus is here, it is impossible to be too pious, reverent, or respectful. God is here, even though we cannot see His glory. We cannot have a church building beautiful enough, or singing, artwork, or crucifixes that are majestic enough for what takes place here. This is the closest that we get to heaven on earth. Jesus comes in His body and blood to us and for us.
Our response to God’s presence among us is to bow our heads and to kneel as we are able. If we would see the glory of God, we would fall on our faces like the three disciples on the mount of transfiguration. Above all, our response to Jesus being among us is listening to Him. After all, that’s what God the Father said from the cloud, “This is my Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.”
Indeed, you can have the most beautiful cathedral with the most beautiful paintings and statues. You can have the most beautiful choirs and orchestras playing the most beautiful music. You can have golden vessels, jewel encrusted vestments, and the most expensive of paraments. But if you don’t listen to Jesus, you have nothing except eternal damnation. Even if you saw Jesus in His glory, but you don’t listen to Him, you have nothing but eternal damnation.
This is what Peter writes about his witnessing of the transfiguration in our Epistle lesson. He writes, “We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For when He received honour and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to Him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,’ we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with Him on the holy mountain.”
Peter, James, and John were eyewitnesses of the glory of Jesus. They heard God the Father speak from heaven. Yet, what does Peter say? He says, “We have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place.” We have something more sure than experience. We have something more sure that feelings. We have something more sure than anything. We have the Word of Jesus. God the Father says, “Listen to Him.”
Listen to Him of whom Moses and Elijah spoke, and all the prophets before and after them. Listen to Him to whom all Scripture points. Listen to Him to whom God the Father points. Listen to Jesus, because only He has the words of eternal life.
Anyone can tell you to live a better life. Anyone can tell you to be more helpful to your neighbour, more loving to your family, and more supportive of those in need. Anyone can tell you to stop being selfish and self-centred. Only Jesus can say to you, “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28)
Jesus gives you rest from the demands of the Law. He gives you rest from the accusations and curses of the Law. He gives you rest from your failures and sins because He gives you forgiveness.
Only Jesus has the words of eternal life and only Jesus gives eternal life. Only Jesus gives eternal life because only Jesus has earned eternal life for you. No one else has paid the price of your sins. No one else has fulfilled the Law of God on your behalf. No one else can give you eternal rest.
Jesus’ death for you was Jesus purchasing your eternal rest. He took all your sins so that you can enter His eternal glory, in which you will see Him face to face. Jesus will not keep His glory just for Himself, but He will share it with you. Not just a brief glimpse of glory, but eternal rest, joy, and blessedness in His glory.
To bring you safely to that place where you will see Him in all His glory, He comes to you with His glory veiled to give you forgiveness. He gives you His true body and blood, in which His glory is veiled so that you can eat and drink without falling on your face in fear. Indeed, He gives you His body and blood so that you would have no fear, but instead have joy in the forgiveness of your sins and the promise of eternal glory.
Receive His body and blood in firm faith for your eternal blessing, and as God the Father says concerning His Son, “Listen to Him.” Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.