The Transfiguration of our Lord
Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
February 9, 2014
Central Passage
Matthew 17:1-9

In the name of the Fahter and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

“Yeah though I walk through the shadow of death, Thou art with me…”

We all want the mountain top experience. We all want Jesus to glow like the sun and for us to be in the cloud wherein the Father’s voice affirms the Son. We know that Peter, James, and John didn’t understand, that there was more learning and growing to do, but that doesn’t stop us from wanting to be where they were on that Mount of Transfiguration, and to stay there; where Jesus shines brightly and where Moses and Elijah speak to the same God, now incarnate in the flesh of Mary, to whom they spoke so long ago.

Life is hard. Not only do our own sins haunt our dreams, so do the sins of others. Around every corner there is danger and heartache. Everything seems to conspire against us. Even when things are good and going well, we fear the time when they will not. We seem to be robbed even of the brief moments of tranquility by the ever-present fear of the unknown. So when we get our mountain top experience, when things seem to be as they should be, we want to stay there. Or, knowing we can’t stay there, we want to re-create it time and again.

We see this in many things; it is where nostalgia comes from. We want to have again and again that which seemed to be so inspiring and uplifting. As Christians we seek it most often in weekly worship. We want it to be a mountain top experience. We have experienced before the movement of the Spirit and the glory of God and the majesty of His Christ, and that’s what we want, every time. Regardless of whether or not what we actually experienced was indeed godly or worldly, orthodox or heterodox, it is the desire of peace and to be uplifted that we want. Surely Peter, James, and John felt uplifted as they sat there staring and Jesus as He shone like the sun, and Elijah and Moses speaking to Him. We know they did because Peter said, “Lord, it is good for us to be here, let us make three booths, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” In other words, “This is great! I don’t want it to end!” Surely this is the way it’s supposed to be.

In truth we are “uplifted”. So we sing, “Lift up your hearts / We lift them up unto the Lord.” We are lifted up to the right hand of God where Jesus is ascended and from where He reigns in peace and mercy over all creation through His gospel and sacraments. This is the mountain top where Jesus glows brighter than the sun and where Moses and Elijah – the Law and the Prophets – speak with Him to whom they spoke so long ago, and where His chosen little band of disciples sits and listens to heavenly discourse and godly wisdom.

And as Peter, James, and John fell down terrified at the voice of the Father, we, too, are often filled with fear at the voice of God when the Law comes hammering down on us. Then, we think, it’s not so good to be here, but it is. It is always good to be where Jesus is. Because wherever Jesus is, there is the kingdom of heaven. Wherever Jesus is, there the wisdom of God is taught. Wherever Jesus is, there mercy and peace reign.

But that mercy and peace is not gained for us on the mountain top experience. It is gained for us in the valley of the shadow of death. So many of us take that verse, that whole psalm, Psalm 23, to heart and even know it word for word. And that is good. It is a beautiful psalm of God’s faithfulness. And, in fact, it is first on the lips of Jesus who walked through the valley of the shadow of death and yet feared no evil for His Father was with Him. And it is in this valley of the shadow of death He hung upon the cross and died as the sinner and transgressor of God’s law and will, though He was Himself an obedient Son. In this valley the Son of Man suffered what we always fear we will suffer: abandonment by God. He suffered it, suffering hell itself, so that you and I would not.

And being found in the divine court innocent of any transgression – the law had executed an innocent man – He was raised from the dead. And now we have our mountain top experience. For only after the Son of Man is raised from the dead does the mount of transfiguration matter.

We have a Christ who wants to be known as the One that is raised from the dead, not merely as the one who shines like the brightness of the sun or is beloved of the Father – so much the less as merely the one that brings us out of a funk and makes us feel good. He wants to be known as the One who has walked through the valley of the shadow of death in order to show us that death is truly only a shadow. Here the wisdom of God is made manifest.

Listen to Him. He speaks words of godly wisdom and heavenly counsel. He speaks words of strength and confidence. He speaks words of majesty and glory; the words He spoke to Peter, James, and John – Do not be afraid, I am risen from the dead and I will be with you always, even unto the end of the age.

+ In Nomine Iesu +