Sunday, February 14, 2010

Transfiguration Sunday Sermon -- Luke 9:28-36 (LSB Transfiguration C)

February 14, 2010 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran ChurchMechanicsburg, PA

“And a Voice came out of the cloud, saying: ‘This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!’ And when the Voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone.”

From today’s readings, it appears that the main figure should be Moses. Moses’ name is found in all four portions of the Scriptures read or prayed: in the Psalm, the Old Testament Reading, the Epistle Reading, and the Holy Gospel. He even is mentioned in the Collect of the Day. Why should Moses get such ink? What makes him such an important person?

Those familiar with the salvation history of the Lord God’s people know that Moses is a prominent figure. And that has been known well before Charlton Heston’s portrayal of him. Moses is the Law-Giver: the one who sets down the Ten Commandments and the Levitical Code. Moses is the Intercessor: the one who speaks with the Lord God face-to-face, pleading with Him not to destroy the rebellious people of Israel. Moses is the Miracle-Worker: the one who ushers in the plagues, parts the Red Sea, and brings forth water from the desert rock. Moses is the Deliverer: the one who leads the Hebrew people out of Egypt.

All of these roles which Moses plays lead to his fame. It is why the Psalmist declares: “Moses and Aaron were among His priests, Samuel also was among those who called upon His name. They called to the Lord, and He answered them.” It is why the Editor of Deuteronomy concludes the book with the great statement about him: “And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, none like him for all the signs and the wonders that the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, and for all the mighty power and all the great deeds of terror that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.”

But Moses is not the Christ. He holds many similar roles and does many similar things. However, everything that Moses accomplished was temporal and imperfect. It would not last. Israel would be captured and enslaved again. Moses’ striking of a rock to produce water a second time would even keep him from entering the Promised Land, as the Lord God declares: “I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there.” And so Moses dies, being buried “in the valley in the land of Moab.”

What Moses gives is a type, a pattern of what the greater Christ would be and do. That is seen in the life of Jesus. Jesus fulfills the pattern that Moses left: how He acts, what He teaches, where He accomplishes His deeds. It is so, even in the event of His Transfiguration. Like Moses, Jesus “went up on the mountain.” Like Moses, “the appearance of [Jesus’] face was altered, and His clothing became dazzling white.” But from the events on that mountain, it is clear that Jesus is not Moses. Jesus is greater than Moses, for Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. He is the main figure for this day and all days.

That is what the Transfiguration Event reveals. “Eight days after these sayings,” where Peter declares that Jesus is “the Christ of God” and Jesus prophesies His death and resurrection, the Transfiguration Event happens. It confirms Jesus’ words. It confirms Jesus’ identity. For what takes place? “Behold, two men were talking with [Jesus], Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of His departure, which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.” The talk is about Jesus’ death—the same death that He foretold to His disciples. “A cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. And a Voice came out of the cloud, saying: ‘This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!’” The Father’s Voice reveals Jesus’ identity—the same identity that Peter rightly confessed.

In these things, Jesus is shown to be greater than Moses. For Jesus is not struck down by the Lord God for disobedience. No, Jesus’ death, “His departure” was something that “He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.” It is not something done to Jesus; it is what Jesus does, what He accomplishes. Additionally, Jesus is not identified as simply “the Chosen One,” in the way that Moses had been chosen to be a prophet. No, Jesus is identified by the Father’s Voice as “My Son.” No matter all that Moses did, he would never hold that title. But it truly is Jesus’ identity.

This is why the Author of the Hebrews writes: “Consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, who was faithful to Him who appointed Him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses. . . . Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a Son.” The Author speaks about Jesus’ identity. Jesus is greater than Moses because He is God’s Son. Jesus is greater than Moses because He accomplishes what had been prophesied, to speak of the second and greater things.

All of you know Moses. You know what he said; you were told to listen to him. You have been taught the Ten Commandments. Some in this room—our catechumens—are committing them and their explanations to memory. From the commandments, you learn about God’s holiness. You have heard them and you have come to agree with the Psalmist: “The King in His might loves justice. You have established equity; You have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob.” It is clear what had come from Mount Sinai: the powerful and unyielding Law of God. Through Moses, the Lord God had spoken to His people: “In the pillar of cloud He spoke to them; they kept His testimonies and the statute that He gave them.” But what He spoke brought to light their sins and iniquities, their faults and failures. The people listened to Moses, but disobeyed. Even the Great Prophet himself committed transgression.

But all of you also know Christ. You know what He said. In fact, God the Father commands: “Listen to Him!” For from Jesus’ mouth comes the message of salvation. Moses’ Law condemns you and your sin. But listening to Jesus, you hear how salvation is given. Peter testifies about Him: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Jesus speaks and sins are forgiven. But how is this so? Because of what He does. The Son of God endures “His departure, which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.” Jesus goes down from the mountain in Galilee to climb another hill. And it is clear what has come from Mount Calvary: the even more dynamic and unyielding Gospel of God. Hearing that Gospel of God—the words of and about Christ—you are forgiven and delivered.

This is what the Author of the Hebrews alludes to in his writing: “Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession.” What is that confession? It is the repetition of what you have heard from Jesus. You obey the Father’s command: “Listen to Him.” And you can say again those words of life. The words of Christ give you “a heavenly calling.” The Chosen One sent by the Father has chosen you to share in what He has earned for you. Because He has made atonement for your sin, Jesus calls you to hear and to believe Him. As the Father’s Eternal Son, Jesus offers Himself in a once-for-all sacrifice for the guilt of the entire world. “Christ the Victim, Christ the Priest”—the hymn rightly confesses Jesus’ identity as Priest of all priests and “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Through all this, Jesus “was faithful to [His Father] who appointed Him.”

In all these things, Jesus is shown as greater than Moses. It is just as the Epistle-writer says: “For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses. . . . Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a Son.” The Transfiguration Event confirms this to be true. You are called to believe this witness that God the Father gives about His Son. You are called to recognize the truth about Jesus’ identity. You are called to confess the faith that the sent Chosen One has revealed to you through His words.

And so, you hear the Father’s declaration: “This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!” He does not say this about Moses, but He does say it about Jesus. The greater glory belongs to Christ—“as much more glory as the builder of the house has more honor than the house itself.” Jesus, who builds a spiritual house of living stones, has the greater honor: “And we are His house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.” That hope is not in Moses, not in the Law that no descendant of Adam could keep. No, that hope is in Christ and His actions that no mere mortal could ever do, but what the Eternal Son has accomplished for us.

For Jesus would accomplish His departure in Jerusalem; He died and rose again, so that you may be given a heavenly calling to life everlasting. So do as Jesus’ Father declares: “Listen to Him!” Listen and hold fast to what the One who has the greater glory says. Listen and hear His words of eternal life. Listen and believe His testimony. Listen and know that He speaks about you. You are forgiven, holy, living, because the Son has made you His household. “Listen to Him!” for in that Chosen One is found the glory of your salvation and in His words is found your eternal hope.

T In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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