Sermon on Luke 9:28-36
Text: About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters–one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what he was saying.)
While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves, and told no one at that time what they had seen.
Across the world, people are getting ready for Lent, which begins on Wednesday. The season of Lent is a special time of the year when we focus on our Savior’s suffering and death. Many people will give up something for the season of Lent. If they particularly like candy bars, they might give them up, so that their suffering might remind them of Christ’s suffering. There is nothing wrong with this, in and of itself. However, there are some church bodies that tell you if you do this, you will earn favor with God. In addition, because many people give up things for Lent, the days prior are filled with excess to hold them over through Lent. This is how Mardi Gras was started. You want to do the things and enjoy the things that you are going to give up for Lent. This is how some prepare for Lent. This morning, let us prepare for Lent in another way, as we focus our attention on the events found in our text. JESUS’ TRANSFIGURATION PREPARES US FOR HIS PASSION. He does so 1. By Reminding Us He Is God’s Son and 2. By Directing Us To His Word.
In verse 28, we read “About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray.” Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem, where he would suffer and be put to death. Jesus knew what was going to happen, so he wanted to take time to pray to his Father. The road that lay ahead would not be easy. He went to his Father for the strength that he would need to be the Savior of the world.
The disciples fell asleep while Jesus was praying. But, when they awoke, they could scarcely believe their eyes. Our text describes Jesus’ appearance that “the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning.” Jesus allowed his disciples to see a glimpse of the glory that was his as the Son of God. Jesus occasionally allowed his power and glory to show forth, such as when he performed miracles. The purpose of the miracles was not just to help the people in need. The miracles pointed to Jesus as the Son of God, because he did things only God could do. So, also on this mountain, Jesus allowed his disciples to see a glimpse of the glory that was his as the Son of God.
Jesus and his disciples were no longer alone on the mountain. “Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus.” Two Old Testament heroes of faith were now there. The disciples knew who they were. They saw Moses, the one through whom God gave the Law to his people. Deuteronomy 34:10, describes the special place that Moses had in Old Testament history, “no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face.” The last phrase shows the close relationship that was there between Moses and God. They were friends. God chose Moses to come back and encourage Jesus.
The other figure was Elijah. Elijah was the prophet who stood up to wicked King Ahab and his wife, Jezebel, when they introduced Baal worship into Israel. He dared to tell them that they were wrong. Although his life was threatened, he continued to speak out against them. When it came time for Elijah’s work on this earth to come to an end, God sent a chariot and horses of fire, that picked Elijah up and carried him to heaven.
Both of these men had prophesied what the coming Messiah would do. Now, as Jesus faced Jerusalem, they “spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem.” They were encouraging Jesus as he was on the brink of his Passion. They reminded him of all of the things that had been prophesied about him. Jesus had prayed for strength and his Father sent help to him.
Remember, the disciples had been asleep when this took place. Now, however, rest assured, they were wide awake. One can scarcely imagine that shock that must have run through Peter, James and John. They were seeing something that no one else had ever seen. We are told in verse 33, “As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters–one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’” Peter wanted this to continue, and who could blame him? They were being given a foretaste of heaven. As they saw Moses and Elijah leaving, they wanted to prolong the moment. Peter offered to set up three tents for the men there. He wanted to remain in the glory of Jesus. However, as Luke tells us, “He did not know what he was saying.” The time had not yet come for Jesus to remain in his glory. He still needed to enter the full depth of his humiliation, as he suffered and died. Then would be the time for Jesus to take up the full use of his heavenly power and glory. Peter wanted a heaven on earth. However, heaven cannot come to sinful earth. Man must be taken from the earth to the glory of heaven.
As Peter spoke these words, “a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. A voice came from the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.’” God the Father lends his voice to the testimony that Jesus was the Son of God. Just as when Jesus entered his public ministry, so also as it was nearing its close, the Father testified that Jesus was his son.
All of these reminders that Jesus was the Son of God would be important for the disciples, as they watched the events unfold in Jerusalem. So also God allows us, through the eyes of faith, to see the events that took place on the mountain. We will soon be focusing in on Jesus’ suffering and death. In faith, we will see him being beaten and struck, spat upon and whipped, made fun of and deserted. We will watch as he breathes his last and dies. We, too, need to be reminded of the fact that Jesus is the Son of God.
First of all, we need to be reminded of this, because it reminds us that Jesus is holy, that he was perfect. Only God could keep the Law perfectly. Only God could be without sin. Jesus was able to do something that you and I could never do. Jesus’ suffering and death did not happen because of something he did. Rather, he allowed himself to be punished to save others from their sins. That is another reason that we need to be reminded that Jesus is the Son of God. If Jesus were merely a man, he could not have saved anyone except himself. Psalm 49:7&8 says, “No man can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for him–the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough.” This passage tells us that no human being can save another from their sins. If they could manage to live a perfect life, they would only save themselves. However, because Jesus is the Son of God, his suffering and death counted for the entire world. We need to be reminded of who Jesus is because it tells us that our sins were paid for, when Jesus suffered and died for us.
We also would do well to remember of the fact that Jesus is God’s Son, for it tells us of God’s great love for us. God loved us so much that he was willing to send his one and only Son into the world. He was willing to sacrifice his Son so that you and I would be saved from our sins. As we study together this Lenten season, may we see the basic message of the Bible, which is summed up so well for us in John 3:16, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” In this way, Jesus’ transfiguration prepares us for his passion by reminding us that he is God’s Son.
God the Father also directs our attention to his Son when he says, “listen to him.” The disciples still had much to learn, even though the time was drawing near for Jesus’ death. We see this from their reactions on Maundy Thursday evening. When the soldiers arrested Jesus, the disciples ran away. When Peter was in the courtyard of the high priest, he was accused of being one of Jesus’ disciples. Peter called upon God as his witness that he was not a disciple. On that first Easter, instead of waiting by the tomb for Jesus to rise, as he had promised, they were all huddled together in a locked room. Indeed, they had a long way to go. They surely needed to hear Jesus.
Before we point at the disciples, we would do well to look at ourselves. Haven’t we all, at one time or another, denied knowing Jesus? While it may not have been as dramatic as Peter’s denial, we deny knowing Jesus in other ways. When our Christianity is challenged, do we stand up for it, or try to fade into the background? When a sin is committed, such as language or stories that are not fitting, do we stand up against it, or do we join in, trying to top the other? We, too, when we fall into sin, deny Jesus just as loudly as Peter did on Maundy Thursday.
We, too, need to be strengthened against the lures of the devil. We become strong by listening to the words of Jesus. During the Lenten season, we recall the words of Jesus as he was betrayed, arrested, and put on trial. We hear him speak while he is on the cross, suffering for the sins of the world, We marvel as he says, “It is finished.” For, with those words, we have the assurance that our sins have been paid for; that all of our guilt has been taken away; that in God’s sight we are now holy and perfect, with heaven as our eternal home.
God tells us to listen to his Son. We have the wonderful opportunity to do so during our Lenten services. We hear of God’s great love for us. May we listen to what Jesus has to say to us. He speaks words of great love for us. More than that, he backs up his words with actions. May we gather together to hear the greatest story of love ever told. Jesus’ transfiguration prepares us for his Passion by directing our attention to his Word.
When a big event like an anniversary or birthday draws near, we spend a great deal of time and effort getting ready for it. We want things to be just right. When things are all ready, we can enjoy ourselves. So also, my friends, let us prepare ourselves for Lent, not with outward things, but with repentant and believing hearts. This morning, Jesus’ transfiguration helps us prepare for his passion. May we see Jesus, the Son of God, as he shows his love for us. May we listen to his words of love. Amen.
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