Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Transfiguration Is Not About the Transfiguration

The Transfiguration of Our Lord
Last Sunday after the Epiphany
February 22, 2009
Mark 9:2-9

Jesus was transfigured, but simply showing His glory wasn’t the reason He was. The Transfiguration would seem to be about the Transfiguration, but it’s not. If it were, Peter’s idea would have been a good one. Jesus probably would have told Peter, James, and John to pack, for they weren’t going to be coming back.

But no, the Transfiguration isn’t about the Transfiguration. It is about the Word. Peter, James, and John weren’t the only ones Jesus brought up onto the mountain. He invited Moses and Elijah also. Why is that? Moses and Elijah represent something. What they represent is the Word. At the time of the events of the New Testament the New Testament didn’t exist. The Bible was what we call the Old Testament. One of the ways the New Testament refers to the Old Testament as is the Law and the Prophets. The Law referred to the first five books—written by Moses—the Prophets the rest of the Old Testament, much of which are the prophetic books.

Paul speaks of the Word of God in the Epistle reading. God spoke creation into existence, He did it with His Word. God brought light out of darkness. How did He do that? By speaking—“Let light shine out of darkness.”

No, the Transfiguration isn’t really about the Transfiguration. It is about Baptism. What do you have in Baptism? You have water, of course. And you have the Word. The Word of God is connected with water to make Baptism. But what does this have to do with the Transfiguration? The same thing the Baptism of our Lord had to do with it. When Jesus was Baptized, what did God the Father say? “You are My beloved Son.” Now, here, on the Mount of Transfiguration, God the Father is saying: “This is My beloved Son.”

See, you and I can’t all be up there on the Mount of Transfiguration. For that matter, neither could Peter, James, and John. Or at least, they couldn’t stay. But they could be Baptized. And so can we. There’s a reason Jesus was Baptized. And there’s a reason He was transfigured. Jesus certainly didn’t do these things for Himself. He did them for us. That’s why He gives us Baptism. The glimpse of glory on the Mount of Transfiguration wasn’t only a glimpse of Jesus’ glory, but of ours as well—given to us in Baptism. If Peter, James, and John were amazed by what they saw on the mountain, they hadn’t seen anything yet. They would see Jesus face to face in eternal and full glory in heaven, and they would share in that glory. That’s what God gives us in Baptism.

So, no, the Transfiguration isn’t about the Transfiguration. It is about Holy Communion. If it seemed a stretch that the Transfiguration was about Baptism, though Jesus had not instituted it yet, at least He Himself had been Baptized already. But what about Communion? The Lord’s Supper was not even on the disciples’ radar. There was nothing up there on the mountain about bread and wine, or any meal, for that matter. How is the Transfiguration about Holy Communion?

Communion is what Jesus was doing on the Mount of Transfiguration. He was communing with Moses and Elijah. The disciples didn’t quite get that. They thought they should have a gala event, honoring these three men. It went right over their heads that they were actually communing with Jesus and the saints who had gone before them. This is what the Communion liturgy is getting at when it says, “therefore with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven we laud and magnify Your glorious name.” If you look around the altar rail when you commune you will see the other members of this congregation communing with you and you with them. Who you won’t see are Moses and Elijah. But they’re there, communing with you and you with them. You won’t see Peter and James and John. But they’ll be communing with you as well, and you with them.

The Transfiguration, is about the Transfiguration, of course. Of course, it’s about the Transfiguration. Jesus was transfigured before them so that they, and we, can see who it is that has come to bring salvation. He’s the God who is divine and radiant in His glory. He’s the God of Abraham and David and Moses and Elijah. He’s the God who spoke creation into existence with His Word and who was Baptized by John the Baptist. He’s the God who communes with His people and invites them to commune with Him. So, yes, the Transfiguration is about the Transfiguration.

But Jesus didn’t, after all, stay up there. He didn’t, when all was said and done, remain in His glorious transfigured state for very long. That’s because the Transfiguration, when you come down to it, wasn’t really about the Transfiguration. Jesus tells us what the Transfiguration is about when He is coming down the mountain. It’s about the cross. Everything, after all, is about the cross. Christ is about the cross. His Ministry was about the cross. Salvation is about the cross. The Transfiguration is about the cross.

Once again, we see Jesus telling people not to tell people about Him and about what they had seen! It’s seems very strange until you realize that who He is and what He does means nothing for us apart from the cross. That what people had seen didn’t help them one lick without Jesus ascending the hill of Calvary. Jesus didn’t pay for the sin of the world on the Mount of Transfiguration. But He did on Calvary. What Jesus accomplished on the cross is given to you in His Holy Word, delivered to you in your Baptism, and offered to you in Holy Communion.

The Transfiguration is all about you. It is about what God does for you, in Christ. In the Transfiguration we see why Christ came, what He came to do, how He accomplishes salvation. Seeing Moses and Elijah up on the mountain and Jesus in the middle of them, we see that Jesus is at the center. He is the key to the Scriptures. Hearing the voice of the Heavenly Father up on the mountain, “This is My beloved Son; listen to Him,” we hear the call to make disciples of all nations, Baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Seeing our Lord bring Peter, James, and John into communion with Him and the saints triumphant, we rejoice in the invitation to us to commune with Him and the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.

Peter, James, and John may have been wondering why they weren’t to tell anyone about what they had seen but we don’t have to wonder or keep quiet. Jesus said not to speak of it until after the resurrection. It’s now after. We tell others. We give to them the message of the cross, not platitudes. We give them Christ. It’s what we need, it’s what they need. It always goes back to the cross. As Paul said in the Epistle: “we proclaim not ourselves but Christ.” He was transfigured. He suffered. He rose. He gives you salvation. Amen.


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