Sunday, January 17, 2016

There Is Only One

The Transfiguration of Our Lord
Last Sunday After the Epiphany
January 17, 2016
Matthew 17:1–9
First, we must come to terms with which Jesus you are going to seek. The one Peter thought was great was the one shining brightly and gloriously. The one in holy conversation with the great prophets of old, Moses and Elijah. The one who took no small effort to bring them up a high mountain. The one who obviously wanted them to share in the splendor that is Jesus Christ; radiant, brilliant.

Yes, this is the Jesus Peter chose. There was only one Jesus for him, and it was not the one who had led them up the mountain. It was the one who was revealing Himself in His true glory now that He was on the mountain. This is the Jesus Peter wanted. It’s too bad the other apostles wouldn’t get to see it, but, Jesus, let’s hang out together here for, oh, forever, just us three with you and Moses and Elijah. It’s perfect. The Jesus who shows Himself for who He really is.

But Jesus tips His hand at the end. Don’t tell anyone about this until later. This was a glimpse. This wasn’t what was meant to be here in this life. So He brought them again down the mountain and He went back to being ordinary-looking Jesus. The Jesus who looked and talked like they did. Sure, He was still healing and preaching, but nothing could compare with that glorious sight on the mountain. That’s the Jesus Peter wanted.

Which would you rather have, the Jesus who is around you all the time, looking a lot like He’s part of the crowd, or the Jesus who will take you from the ordinariness of life and reveal Himself to you in all His splendor? Up on the mountain, there were no problems. Just magnificent Jesus with Moses and Elijah and brilliant radiance. Of course Peter wanted to stay.

But Jesus wasn’t transfigured to show us who He ‘really’ is. This was a glimpse. Jesus was transfigured for another reason, which we’ll get to in a moment. The Jesus we want is the Jesus we don’t need. The Jesus we need is the one we can become apathetic to. So when you come to terms with which Jesus you are going to seek, seek the one He shows you, not the one you think you want. When He shows you His glory, His transcendence, His majesty, don’t be deceived. He’s not showing you what you need. He’s showing you what eventually will be.

The only way you get the Jesus you think you want is the through the Jesus who went up another mountain, this time with no disciples. This time not in holy conversation with Moses and Elijah but in suffering punishment with two criminals. This time His clothing is not shining brightly in brilliant white, but tattered and torn, bloody and filthy. This time His face is not shining like the sun but is bruised and cut and bleeding. This time His Heavenly  Father is not speaking to everyone of His beloved Son but is forsaking His only Son. This time there is no one there to say, let’s stay here, this is the place to be, this is what we need. This time He is there on the mountain, alone, suffering not His own punishment, but ours. Not displaying glory and radiance as we would like, but grace and mercy and eternal love as we truly need.

If you seek Jesus, as Peter did, then don’t look in the wrong place. Jesus brought them back down the mountain and told them not to say anything until after He died and rose. This is the Jesus we need and so ought to seek. The one who went to the cross. There is only one Jesus and if you would like what He gives and does, don’t seek Him in ways He doesn’t come to you. He comes not in glory but in humility. The Jesus who is God in the flesh is the one who actually came in the flesh as a baby. The Jesus who is the glorious Lord displayed His greatest glory in speaking on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Let these words sink deep into your soul.

What does a magnificent display of glory do for you? But the forgiveness of Christ Himself from the cross does everything for you that you need. It erases your sins. It restores you to God the Father. It releases you from the judgment of the Law and the punishment you deserve. It assuages your guilt. On the Mount of Transfiguration God said, This is My beloved Son, listen to Him. What better words to listen than these words from the cross, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

This is the Jesus you ought to seek. And once you do you must come to terms with something else. There is only one Jesus and He is the one who came to save you in His death and resurrection. There is, then, only one person you ought to seek. There is only one person you ought to point others to. Once you see Jesus for who He is, you see that He is the only one that can give you what you truly need.

Matthew helps us see this when he tells us that on the mountain Jesus was transfigured and then joined by Moses and Elijah. Moses and Elijah were prophets who proclaimed Christ. They pointed people to the one who was to come and now, Matthew is showing us, He was here. They proclaimed that God would send the Savior, and now, Matthew is helping us see, He was here.

You see, there is only one. Moses wasn’t it. Elijah wasn’t it. David, Abraham, no other great patriarch, king, or prophet. Jesus. He is the only one. God enveloped Peter, James, and John in a cloud, and said, “This is My beloved Son, listen to Him.” Not to anyone else. Jesus alone. When the cloud lifted from them and they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. It is Christ who we need. It is Christ in whom there is salvation, no one else. God the Father sent Him and He is the one we need.

Peter had said that he thought it would be a good idea to make three tents, one for Jesus, one for Moses, one for Elijah. Nope, there is only one, and it Jesus. He alone went to the cross. He alone suffered for the sin of the world. He alone is the beloved Son of the Father. He alone is the one we are to listen to. He alone is the one we are to point people to. There is only one. There is only one Jesus and He is the one went to the cross. And there is only one God who is the Savior, the Triune God who has revealed Himself most fully and brilliantly in Jesus.

Don’t seek glorious displays from God. Don’t seek manifestations of power or splendor. Just look to the humble places He reveals Himself to you. It’s not high on a mountain, but in simple ways like the water in your Baptism. Like the ordinary words which come from the mouth of a pastor in pronouncing Absolution. Like the ordinary words that are proclaimed when the Gospel is proclaimed. Like ordinary bread and wine which Christ gives to you to give you His flesh and blood. There’s no display of glory or brilliance, just His body and His blood.

What He gives you to eat and drink is the body Mary carried in her womb and gave birth to. It is the body, to be sure, that was transfigured on the mountain. But most especially, it was the body transfigured into a bloody mess while it hung on the cross and which He gave over to His Father as the sacrifice for the sin of the world.

What He also gives you in His Holy Supper is His blood to drink. It is the very same blood that coursed through His veins as He was growing in His mother’s womb and that kept Him alive while He lived on this earth. But most especially, it was the blood He shed on the cross for the sin of the world.

There is only one way to salvation. It is Christ and Him crucified. There is only one thing you ultimately need, it is Christ. There is only one God and He has revealed Himself in His beloved Son, the one who went to the cross and gives you salvation in His doing so. Amen.


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