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LSB Transfiguration of Our Lord C Sermon – Luke 9:28-36

February 8, 2016

February 7, 2016 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

“As [Peter] was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!’ And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone.”

This morning, the Scripture Readings brought to your attention again the person of Moses. Some of you who attended Sunday School in the Fall Quarter are very familiar with Moses, as a good portion of his life story was studied. Moses’ great significance is found in the LORD’s calling him to be the person who leads the Hebrews out of slavery in Egypt. The Old Testament Reading which recorded Moses’ death included a description about this most important figure from Israel’s past: “There has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, none like him for all the signs and wonders that the LORD sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, and for all the mighty power and all the great deeds of terror that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.” 

Moses’ uniqueness is recorded for the LORD’s people to know. As they would recall Moses, they would also recall the works that the LORD did through him. Most importantly, they would remember the Exodus, the great act of salvation that was fundamental to their identity. The Hebrews would be confronted with the great and gracious truth about the LORD: He made them a people, keeping the word of promise that He had spoken to them. That would set the people right again in their trust and reliance on the LORD for all things good, including the promises of future events that He had yet to fulfill.

For as great as Moses was in all of Israel’s history, there was a divine promise made about the coming of someone who would surpass him. Moses himself knew that promise. He spoke the LORD’s pledge to the Hebrew people: “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen—just as you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb in the day of the assembly, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’” The promise is given that the LORD will raise up for His people a person who will speak just like Moses did.

That tie to Moses and the LORD’s promise made to His people is part of the Transfiguration of Jesus celebrated today. In the Gospel Reading, you heard the details of Jesus’ Transfiguration: “the appearance of His face was altered, and His clothing became dazzling white.” But besides the changes in how Jesus looked, several other unique things occurred. You heard how two people from Israel’s past showed up: “two men were talking with [Jesus], Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of His departure, which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.” And there was the appearance of a strange cloud: “A cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud.” Not only did the cloud appear, but it spoke: “And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!’”

These strange, extraordinary phenomena make Jesus’ Transfiguration a supernatural event. It is a theophany, a manifestation of God on earth. There are insights given into the life of the world to come, that the LORD’s faithful people live beyond the grave. And there is the great revelation about the identity and work of Jesus. That revelation begins to show how Jesus is the One who was promised to appear, the One whom the LORD’s people had long awaited.

In this revelation about Jesus’ identity and work, the LORD makes known that Jesus is greater than Moses. The Father declares that Jesus is His Son. That is a role that Moses never carried, as the author of the Epistle wrote: “Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a Son.” It was said that “the LORD knew [Moses] face to face.” But with Jesus, that knowledge is greater, for He has always been the LORD, eternally begotten of the Father. Moses was revered for “all the mighty power and all the great deeds of terror” that he performed for both Egypt and Israel to see. But Jesus is sent to carry out an even greater act, something that Moses could never accomplish: the atonement for all mankind’s sins and the opening of Paradise for all believers. In this way, Jesus would give a deliverance that surpasses the Exodus that Moses led but never completed.

The Transfiguration Event puts that revelation of Jesus’ identity and work right in front of you. It is beneficial for you to know that Jesus is greater than Moses, but not just as a bit of data to retain in your mental files. Knowing the greatness of Jesus is meant to direct you to Him as the source of your salvation and the One who establishes your way of life.

Recall again the subject of the conversation that Moses and Elijah had with Jesus: “His departure, which He was to accomplish at Jerusalem.” This phrase is a little difficult to understand. But it is helpful to know that the Greek word translated as “departure” is ἔξοδον or “exodus”. The conversation that is being held on that mountain is a talk about the act of deliverance that Jesus as going to perform during Holy Week. He had told His disciples about that eight days earlier: “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” This is how Jesus was going to bring salvation to all people. Dying and rising to life again is what Moses could not do. But it is done by the Incarnate Son of God. This is what Jesus will ever be known for—“the signs and wonders… all the mighty power and all the great deeds of terror” that He performs.

Recall again the appearance of the cloud that envelopes the mountaintop and the voice that comes from it, which gives the Father’s great testimony about Jesus. It is a declaration of His Sonship. But it is also a statement about how Jesus carries all the divine authority with Him. The cloud of glory surrounded the mountain and the LORD states that Jesus is His “Chosen One.” The LORD also gives the command: “Listen to Him!” And to be certain that there is no confusion about whom the LORD was speaking about, “Jesus was found alone.” This acts take place so that you are directed to place all your trust and hope in Jesus. Just as the Israelites were solemnly instructed but the LORD to heed what Moses said, so also you are given the order to give Jesus your full attention and devotion.

This is fundamental to your identity as the LORD’s people. Jesus’ work has made you holy, as He has redeemed you from sin, death, and the power of the devil. His death and resurrection gives you a place in the world to come, so that you can stand in glory with Him, just as Moses and Elijah did on the mountaintop. Jesus is the object of your faith. You are followers and disciples of Him. You belong to Him. You have Jesus as your Lord. It is a recognition of His authority as the Chosen One, which the Holy Spirit has caused you to have. Your hope and confidence is in the work that this Son of God has done for you. And the benefit of this was made known to you: “We are [God’s] house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.” 

Jesus’ great significance is found in His being the One who takes mankind out of slavery and bondage to sin to holiness and righteousness. It is an exodus that Jesus leads, just as Moses did. But it is an exodus that Jesus also goes through, so that He Himself has entered the Promised Land, the destination where He is leading you. You are given a glimpse of what awaits. The pattern of your glorification is seen in the Transfiguration event. This is what you are meant to receive. This is your “heavenly calling” that the LORD has assigned to you. Your place is in His house as you trust and rely on what His Son has done for you.

So at Jesus’ Transfiguration, the revelation and the command are given about Him for you to hear: “This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!” Believe what is said about Jesus and His work. Listen to His Word, both His promises and His instructions. For in these things your salvation is found and your new life is established.

+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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