Trinity 11, 2016
The Epistle. 2 Peter 1:13-18
The Gospel. St. Luke 9:28-36
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Transfiguration. The Transfiguration of Jesus on the mountainside is one of the best attested to events in the life of Jesus Christ.
All three of the Synoptic Gospel writers tell us about it. Each has his own individual accounting of what happened. Each includes information that, when put together, tells us quite a lot of detail about the event.
Even John himself, who was one of the three on the mount that day, mentions later on that he and the other two “had seen His glory, the glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Yet with it being so fully accounted for, we still hear it read, as we did today, and we must ask, ‘What is the significance of this event?’
‘Why did it happen and what does it mean, especially for us, 2000 years later?’
Because on the surface it may seem to some to just be an interesting story, with nothing really coming of it.
Yes it is miraculous and supernatural.
Two dead men appear out of nowhere and stand and talk to Jesus.
Jesus’ countenance and clothing all become very bright and radiant.
The Apostles are very scared at what they see.
But after it ends, Luke tells us today, for example, “They kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.”
But at the right time, later on, Peter, James and John did share their experience with the others. The writers of the Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke, none of whom were there at the Mount of Transfiguration, all received the news of this event and proceeded to write it down as the Holy Spirit gave inspiration.
Peter’s writing today gives us his reason for why it was important….why it happened….what it testified to and what sort of comfort and assurance it gave both the eyewitnesses and those of us who have been blessed to receive their testimony.
Here is Peter’s reasoning. Here is precisely why he wrote these words today and why he included the Transfiguration in his Epistle.
He says, “I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.”
So first, he is convinced, because of so many worldly things around us that tend to drag us down, drag our attention and sometimes our very selves away from Christ, that we must know about this event.
It is for our benefit as well that Christ entered the Mount and was transfigured and spoke with Moses and Elijah.
He goes on there to tell us this….and more precisely to his immediate audience that he was about to put off his own body….his own tabernacle.
We heard a bit about the Tabernacle last week. Peter here, well aware of much more than we even heard last week, compares the human body to a tabernacle that must at some point be put off. That we must leave behind.
He is referring to dying if it’s not that obvious to anyone here.
Before he dies, he finds it necessary to share with his readers and down to us that the Transfiguration was significant.
Third he says that this information must be imparted so that when he is gone, as he is for us now, that we not forget the story… that we recall this from time to time as we do today.
So, the significance of the Transfiguration. What is it for us?
First, Peter testified on behalf of the other Disciples that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God. The Transfiguration proves this, as God spoke from within the cloud that this was His Son, His chosen One….listen to Him.
The Transfiguration confirmed Peter’s testimony. He was right.
Peter did in fact see the Son in all of His glory on the Mount. He heard the Father speak from Heaven.
This eyewitness testimony is for us as well as Peter’s immediate readers.
A word briefly on Testimony. In the Scriptures, the Bible, we read back in the Law these words, “A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established.” (Deuteronomy 19:15 ESV)
Or from Paul in the New Testament, relying on the Law of the Old…. “This is the third time I am coming to you. Every charge must be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.” (2 Corinthians 13:1 ESV)
Jesus says, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.” (Matthew 18:15-16 ESV)
In each of these cases, it is the testimony of two or three witnesses that establishes the facts or the integrity of the story.
How many men accompanied Jesus to the Mount? Three.
Does Jesus need these three to prove anything? No.
But the fact that three men were accompanying Jesus and did all hear the voice from Heaven and did all see the Son of God transfigured…provides for us the grounds for its truth.
Three of them all saw the same thing. Their eyewitness testimony certifies that the event happened.
Matthew, Mark and Luke, three Evangelists also testify to its occurrence….and so it is not coincidental either that three men wrote of this.
So the events, as they unfolded, are corroborated. The Transfiguration happened.
Second, for Peter, the Transfiguration had a special significance for Jesus Himself. Jesus was not far from the cross at this point. His life was drawing to a close.
What better witness than the men who represent the Law (Moses) and the Prophets, (Elijah) would appear to Him. They would certify that Jesus was the fulfillment of both the Law and the Prophets. His ministry was a fulfillment of both.
This was important. The Law was set in place to be a guide for the children of God. They failed to keep that Law. Christ came and did keep it. He kept it at every point.
The Prophets all heralded the Day of the Lord. They pointed to the final and eternal Prophet, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Prophets all wrote in different ways about the Christ and here was Elijah, symbolizing and summarizing the Prophets appearing to Jesus as well.
One writer says that this was so because, “It was the Father’s way of strengthening His Son for that terrible ordeal of being the sacrifice for the sins of the world.
The Law and the Prophets (Moses and Elijah) pointed to His ministry, and now He would fulfill those Scriptures. The Father spoke from heaven and assured the Son of His love and approval. The Transfiguration was proof that suffering leads to glory when we are in the will of God.”
Finally but probably not lastly, there is this important point as well.
Jesus promised that before His Disciples would die, some of them would see the Kingdom of God coming in power.
Jesus promised this about His Kingdom. Jesus said at one point, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” (Matthew 16:28 ESV)
Again, Matthew, Mark and Luke all attest to this very thing and each of them uses almost identical language. “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” (Matthew 16:28 ESV)
Luke, just one verse earlier from where we began this morning said this as well…so obviously it is tied to this event. Luke purposely ties them together in the text.
We will back up here to verse 25 and lead up to today’s lesson and then move right into it.
Starting at verse 25. Jesus speaking….
“For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
But I tell you truly; there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.
Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white.” (Luke 9:25-29 ESV)
And so it was. The curtain, so-to-speak, was drawn back just a little to reveal the Kingdom and its glory on the Mount.
Moses’ face shone when he returned from speaking with God. The Kingdom is light and somehow it can break into this world and show just a hint, a foretaste of Heaven in all of its glory.
On the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus revealed His glory. This gave assurance to the Disciples.
It gave them a taste of what their father Moses experienced in the wilderness so many hundreds of years earlier.
Peter later on recounting this in his letter is defending his readers from those who would tease them and mock them about the delay of Christ’s return. They would be saying that God’s Kingdom would never come.
Peter says this in the third chapter. “This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” (2 Peter 3:1-4 ESV)
Denying the coming of Christ is both a dangerous and futile way of thinking and believing.
Peter wrote, “For 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.”
“Paul warned Timothy that the time would come in the church when professed Christians would not want to hear true doctrine, but would “turn away their ears from the truth, and … be turned unto fables [myths]” (2 Tim. 4:4).
The Transfiguration happened to certify to many truths. Not the least of them the deity of Christ.
Our Lord did in deed that day change before the eyes of His closest followers. Three witnesses certify to its truth.
The Holy Spirit now certifies this truth in our hearts. And it is to their peril and to ours that any one should deny this or His coming again in the same glory on the last day.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.