"The MIGHTY Lord is with us; the God of Jacob is our FORTRESS." Psalm 46:7
 
 

Transfiguration
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
Luke 9:28-36 Sermon 
February 18, 2007

Hymns (from The Service Book and Hymnal):
147 “O Wondrous Type, O Vision Fair”
535 “Not Always On The Mount May We”
481 “Jesus The Very Thought Of Thee”
195 “On Our Way Rejoicing”

A CHANGE FOR THE BETTER

TEXT (vs. 25-31): “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 splendour, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem.”

This past October, there was a little excitement in Lincoln. Early in the morning on October 27th, a huge bus made its way down Platte Avenue in Havelock. It stopped outside of a smaller, 100 year-old home. Ty Pennington and a number of other people emerged from the bus. Standing in the front lawn, Ty put his bull horn in front of his mouth, and shouted out “Gooooood morning Machacek family!”

The front door opened, and out came Kenny Machacek with his two children Ericka and Justin. They were screaming, laughing, and jumping up and down. Their lives were about to be dramatically changed.

Then the bus went over to the apartment complex where Theresa Fullerton lived with her three children, Brianna, Chelsea, and Tucker. Again Ty Pennington put his bull horn to his mouth, and said, “Gooood morning Fullerton family!” And then they also emerged from their residence, just as enthusiastic as the Machaceks were earlier. Their lives would be dramatically changed as well.

The scenes that I’ve recounted here are the typical opening scenes for the popular ABC television program, “Extreme Makeover—Home Edition” that airs on Sunday evenings.

The concept for the program is simple really. The show’s producers receive applications from people all over the country who are in some way needing a home make-over. The applications usually come with some homemade video footage of the family describing their particular situation. Then the producers select one of those families to be the recipients of a complete home make-over.

In this particular case, there were two families trying to come together as one, but there were some obstacles. The home owned by Kenny Machacek was over a hundred years old, and in bad repair. The two families couldn’t come together and live in that house. Kenny Machacek and Theresa Fullerton wanted to get married, but they had to do something about their living situation first. So they submitted an application to ABC television, and they were selected for the program.

When the Extreme Makeover team shows up, they are ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work. They start their projects and get them completed in only a week. And one of the interesting parts of this TV program is watching how everything all comes together and it gets done during this rather short period of time.

The family is sent away on a week’s vacation somewhere, so everybody can get to work on the house. The Machaceks and Fullertons went to Paris for that week, where Kenny and Theresa also got married.

When the family returns, there is a dramatic conclusion. They arrive back at their house in a limousine. When they get there, their view of the house is blocked by that big bus. The suspense builds, waiting for the unveiling. And then Ty Pennington gives the order, “Bus driver, move that bus!”

The bus then slowly pulls away, bringing the house into full view. The family is now able to see the outside of their beautiful home.

In some cases, the design team uses at least some of the original structure. In other cases, like with the Machaceks, the old house is completely razed, and an entirely new structure is built in its place. But whatever happens here, the family is presented with something new and different from what they had before.

I’ve seen quite a few of these programs, and I can say that in every case the family’s reaction is a combination of emotions including joy, happiness and tears as well as a sense of shock and unbelief. The families say something to the effect of, “Something this awesome and beautiful can’t be OUR house, can it?”

Even though there is this sense of shock and unbelief, yet in every case, the reactions are good and positive. These families have had a life changing event happen to them.

Today is the Sunday in the Church year known as Transfiguration. Our Gospel lesson for today from Luke gives the account of what happened. In fact, if you look at the Gospels recorded by Matthew and Mark, they also contain this story of what happened. Since this is the case, we must conclude that God feels this account is very important for us to know. God wants to impress something upon us here—something we need to always remember.

I’ve talked about this subject with other pastors before. This is one of those topics that we have to deal with every year. Even with our Scripture readings in a three year cycle, we have Matthew’s account one year, Mark’s account the next year, and then Luke’s account the year after that. They read pretty much the same. And so pastors are faced with the task of trying to present this story fresh every year. And yes, it does take a bit of work to do.

The story is a rather simple one. Jesus takes Peter, James and John up on a mountain to pray. There, he is transfigured before them. What this means, is that his appearance completely changes. He is then seen talking with two of the Old Testament leaders of the faith, namely Moses and Elijah. Then a cloud appears, God speaks, and then things are back to normal again. Peter wants to make three shelters for the three men—he didn’t know what else to do. Jesus tells them not to be afraid, but also not to tell anybody about this event right now. That would come later.

So there you have it in a nutshell. In one paragraph, I was able to outline the events of the transfiguration. So where do we go with it now? What kind of lessons can we learn from this account?

First of all, let’s look at the transfiguration itself. Peter, James, and John were close companions with Jesus. They had been with him, they had heard him preach, and they had seen him work miracles. They ate with him, slept with him, worshipped with him, and talked with him. They were, without a doubt intimately acquainted with each other. So when Jesus invites them to come to the mountain to pray with him, they wouldn’t have been surprised.

But now, something was about to happen that they didn’t expect. Jesus would show himself in a way that nobody else on earth would have ever witnessed. These disciples would at least catch a glimpse of his divine glory.

The fact that Jesus was the true Son of God was no secret. Just eight days before the transfiguration Peter makes the bold confession regarding who Jesus was. In Matthew 16, 16 Peter says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” They knew that Jesus was no ordinary human being.

Even with this kind of knowledge about Christ, the transfiguration event was so glorious and so awesome that the disciples were in a state of shock, almost bordering on fear. The sight was so glorious that they could hardly believe it. There stood Jesus in dazzling array like they had never seen him before. And even though Moses and Elijah had lived many hundreds of years before their time, yet these disciples knew who they were. This was a life changing event for them. Even though they might have expected super human things from Jesus, yet they never dreamed something like this would happen.

Secondly, let’s look at the Heavenly Father’s role in all of this. Verse 35 of our text says, “A voice came from the cloud, saying, This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.”

Do those words sound vaguely familiar to you? Have we heard similar words recently, only in a different situation?

Matthew 3 gives the account of Jesus’ Baptism by John in the Jordan. After he is baptized, Jesus comes up out of the water. Here we see the Heavenly Father’s role in all of this too. Verse 17 says, “And a voice from heaven said, This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

The Epiphany season of the Church year begins with the baptism of Jesus, and concludes with the transfiguration. Epiphany begins and ends with this very dramatic reminder from God the Father stating in no uncertain terms exactly who Jesus is. One pastor made the comment to me that these two accounts are like bookends for the whole season.

If we go back even to the earliest centuries of the Christian Church, this has been the case. Even when the Church calendar was in its infancy and just being formulated, Epiphany has always begun with Jesus’ baptism, and ended with his transfiguration. Jesus’ identity of being true God, the only begotten Son of the Father, the promised Messiah and Saviour, was and still is the key doctrine of Christianity. Without Christ, there would be no Christian Church and ultimately no salvation for sinful mankind.

Jesus was transfigured. He gave the disciples a glimpse of his heavenly glory. He was there with Moses and Elijah, prominent Old Testament figures who faithfully testified to his coming. God the Father once again cements Jesus’ true identity and gives his divine approval. So what does that mean for us?

The reaction of the three disciples on the mount is probably similar to the way we react. Here were sinful mortals in the presence of divine greatness. The disciples would have felt their inadequacy and their mortality. They knew they couldn’t even compare or begin to stand up to the holiness of God. They were afraid.

How do we compare to God? As sinful people, how do we measure up to the standards of a holy and righteous God? The prophet Isaiah’s reaction recorded in Isaiah 6, 5 best sums it up: “Woe to me! I cried. I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”

Left to ourselves and our own righteousness, we could never measure up to God’s standards. However, Jesus is there to rescue us and save us. The disciples were terrified at what they saw and heard on that mountain; however Jesus gives them some needed words of comfort. In Matthew 17, 6-7 we read: “When the disciples heard this, they fell face down to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. Get up, he said. Don't be afraid.”

Isaiah also experienced the forgiving love of God. After he expresses lament over his sinfulness and unworthiness, the angel takes away his fear and assures him in Isaiah 6, 7: “…your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

In the beginning, I talked about the Machacek family and their new home. Extreme Makeover—Home Edition came to Lincoln and changed things. Even though they expected something different than what they had, they were still amazed and awe-struck at the final result. Things were changed for the better for them; and as a result, their lives have been forever changed. They were chosen by the producers at ABC-TV for this makeover, and the team of people involved with this project did something that the Machaceks and Fullertons couldn’t have done on their own.

Jesus was transfigured; God spoke, and lives were changed. God chose the likes of you and me to be the recipients of his grace. God the Holy Spirit entered into our lives and worked a miracle. We were brought to faith in Jesus our Saviour; and it’s only through him that our lives have been changed, and we have been saved.

Through the eyes of Scripture, we are assured that Jesus is indeed our Saviour, the promised Messiah of the Old Testament. With Jesus as our Saviour, we can boldly stand in the presence of the Almighty God knowing that Christ’s righteousness is ours too.

Therefore, we have nothing to fear at all. God has forgiven us and restored his image of righteousness and holiness in us. He has done something for us that we couldn’t do on our own. He has given us the faith it takes to accept Jesus as our personal Saviour.

As we conclude this Epiphany season today, may we be prepared for the Lenten season just ahead of us. We will experience yet again just how much Jesus loves us as we journey in spirit to all those places connected with our Saviour’s passion and death. When we stand on Golgotha and see Jesus on the cross, we know that he is there in our place, suffering the punishment we deserve.

Jesus is God’s only begotten Son. He is the one sacrifice for sin that pleases God. He is our Saviour. Therefore, we will always do well to listen to him, just as God directed Peter, James, and John to do on that mountain so long ago.

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