Sermon for the Transfiguration of Our Lord
March 3, 2019
This Glory, We Too Shall Share
Today culminates the Epiphany season where we have read of the many miraculous things that Jesus did in ushering in the kingdom of God. Each of these miracles were wonderful examples of the compassion Jesus had upon every one of us that is oppressed by sin and devil. Each of these miracles also was a testimony or witness to who Jesus truly is, the incarnate God who has power over all things. Today takes such witness a step further into the concrete reality that was hidden from physical sight prior to this event.
Our reading says that the appearance of his face was altered. Literally, it became otherly. It no longer appeared as we would expect but appeared in a manner unknown to humanity, different than any other man had been seen before. It should remind us of the way Moses’ face glowed after speaking with God. The difference being that Moses reflected the glory that was burned upon him while Jesus emanates the glory that is His by nature. The face of Moses was enough to terrify Israel. The face of Jesus was so great that Peter wanted to enshrine the moment for posterity recognizing the appearance of God upon earth. It is certainly a manifestation of the true nature of Jesus; an Epiphany like no other miracle had shown.
Today, I wish to approach our reading from the Collect that we prayed earlier. The first phrase is “O God, in the glorious transfiguration of Your beloved Son You confirmed the mysteries of the faith by the testimony of Moses and Elijah.” We agree that the altering of his appearance is, of itself, a glorious thing that testifies to the divinity of Jesus. But the testimony of Moses and Elijah confirmed our understanding and belief in Jesus as the incarnate Lord come to die for us. It is they, who represent the Law and the Prophets, the Old Testament Scriptures that speak of and point to the one who was to come, the who would take away the sins of the world, the ones whom Jesus says speak of Him. From the Genesis to Malachi, the history and testimony of God has pointed to the manifestation of His Son.
More than just their presence, it is the conversation that they had with our Lord that contributes to their testimony. They spoke with Jesus concerning His departure. Literally, they spoke of His exodus. Neither Moses nor Elijah were strangers to difficult and miraculous departures or exoduses. Moses was the one that God chose from birth to be the savior of His people from their bondage under Pharaoh. When everybody else was thinking about retirement, Moses was departing Egypt under the shadow of death to pass through the Red Sea into a renewed life before enduring a wilderness of sin and coming to the Promised Land.
Elijah also suffered under the hand of oppression as he was pursued all over the land for speaking God’s Word. His life was constantly threatened by the wicked who had abandoned God’s commands and ignored His promise. Elijah’s life was counted as nothing by ruler and peasant. He too passed through the water as he struck the Jordan with his mantle and the river parted. His exodus was as visually amazing as God’s presence upon Sinai whereby his departure was accomplished in a whirlwind and chariot of fire.
They both knew something of hardship, obedience to God, suffering, and miraculous departures. But they also knew that the departure of Jesus would mean something greater for all men of all time. The exodus of Jesus would be far more difficult, filled with much more agony, scorned far and wide for its humiliation, yet bring about greater glory to God and ultimate freedom for man. The coming exodus for Jesus had been planned from the beginning and foreshadowed throughout time. The passing of Jesus through death and into the life God has chosen and desires for all men had been specifically spoken of by these prophets in their earthly lives and now continues to be their conversation even in heaven. In fact, your salvation has been the main topic of conversation for God revealed to humanity. What greater thing is there to speak of than the feat accomplished by Jesus for the salvation of the world and the renewal of the creation. What else is there to talk about in heaven or on earth than the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus and thus the reconciliation of God to man? The lives and the conversation of these three men are testimony to this miracle exodus.
The second phrase of our Collect reads, “In the voice that came from the bright cloud You wonderfully foreshadowed our adoption by grace.” These heavenly words echo the promise given by God through Moses that He would raise up prophet from among them like Moses and it would be to him that they shall listen. God reveals in the voice from the cloud that it is Jesus now to who all shall listen. He has the words of eternal life. He possess and reveals the secrets of God that man must know. As the people shared in the glories of God given to Moses and Elijah, man shall share in the glory of God displayed in the life and death of Jesus. As the people listened to Moses and Elijah during their ministries, they came to possess the promises given in those words. As mankind listens to the words of Jesus and believes, the very thing promised is realized – forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.
To receive the forgiveness of sins is to be included in the heavenly family. It is to be adopted and to receive the bliss of heaven as an inheritance all as gift from God, certainly costly as the price was the Son of God but free entirely to the receiver – you and me.
And the final phrase, “Mercifully make us co-heirs with the King in His glory and bring us to the fullness of our inheritance in heaven,” is the request that we make based upon the realities of the preceding two phrases. To be a co-heir is to be recognized as a brother. This is a remarkable thing, even an unrealistic request by the creation except for the fact that God first became like us in the person of Jesus Christ. In this man, transfigured before three of His disciples, the Son of God shared fully in our humanity so that we might fully partake of His divinity. He became a co-heir with us in death that we might share in His eternal life. He forsook the glory that was His in heaven to taken on the shame that is ours upon earth so that we might participate in His heavenly glory. He was crowned with thorns so that we could be crowned with jeweled life.
It is His exodus into which you have been baptized and His kingly glory into which you will revel. But as God was glorified in the suffering of His Son before which came the resurrection, so too, is His glory manifest in the faithful suffering we endure now before our resurrection is accomplished. It is the King in His glory that the Father sees as you face the troubles of this life trusting and never doubting that He loves you. As you believe the words that Jesus has spoken and you cling to them in faith, your hope in His promise displays His glory. Such might seem a subtle change when compared to the vision beheld by Peter, James, and John, but you being included as co-heir with the King in His glory is a transfiguration that God is pleased to see.
All praise be to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.