Sermon: Listening to the Transfiguration’s Voices (Luke 9:28b-36)

Text: Luke 9:28b-36
Transfiguration of our Lord
Listen to the sermon here.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Many voices are speaking to us today: the voices of the news media, the voices of government leaders, the voices of protesters, the voices of YouTubers, the voices of bloggers, the voices of politicians, and the voices of television and movie actors. These voices all want us to think, feel, behave, and believe in specific ways. Yet remember, it was because Adam and Eve listened to a strange voice that we find ourselves in this broken world. With so many different voices speaking to you each day, do you think about what they say? Do you consider where the voice is coming from? Is this voice a voice that will promote growth in godliness and Christian virtues? Or is this a voice that condones and stirs up your sin? This morning, consider the scene of Peter, John, and James with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration. There is much to see: the appearance of Jesus’s face is altered, his clothes are sparkling with light, and with him are Moses and Elijah. But this morning, we’re going to listen. We will listen in on the conversation between Moses, Elijah, and Jesus. And we’re going to hear a voice from heaven.

Listen in on the Conversation

Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him to the top of an undisclosed mountain to pray. And as Jesus was praying, something spectacular happened to Him. His face was changed in appearance. He glowed. No, He shone like the sun. His clothing became dazzling white, too bright to view. It was like staring into the sun.

And then, just as impressive – Moses and Elijah appeared. Despite being long dead, they were now very much alive. Moses and Elijah don’t shine like Jesus. Yes, they appeared in glory, His glory, but they didn’t shine. They reflected the glory of Jesus but had no glory of their own. Jesus stands alone, uniquely, as the shining One. Moses was the one through whom Israel received the Law. Elijah was a prophet who was bodily assumed into heaven with fiery horses and chariots. Moses represented the Law, and Elijah represented the Prophets. They are the voice of the Old Testament. They were there, standing alongside shining Jesus, speaking to him.

Have you ever wondered what the topic of conversation was? They talked about Jesus’ “exodus”, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Jesus is heading towards Jerusalem. The Lord himself was about to enter into the depths of humiliation by being arrested, mocked, tortured, cruelly executed on a cross, and buried. Most of us do not think about our departure—our exodus—very often. We are too busy living to spend much time thinking about dying. But death has a way of forcing its way into the conversation. Death often makes unwelcome intrusion into our lives. But, when you have to come face to face with your impending exodus, listen to the conversation between Moses, Jesus, and Elijah.

Don’t forget the connection to Moses! Christ’s exodus is his death and resurrection. It was his “passover” from death to life. By his death, Jesus will do something similar to the great Exodus from Egypt, only far greater. God, through Moses, freed the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt, by protecting them from death through the blood of the Passover lamb, and then guiding them to a new life of freedom in the Promised Land. In the new Exodus, Jesus will lead us out of our slavery of sin and death and home to our promised inheritance—the new creation in which the whole world will be redeemed. Instead of the blood of a lamb on our doorposts, we have the very blood of Jesus. The same Jesus who displayed his unearthly glory in majestic splendour is the same Jesus who was beaten and bloodied and hung dead and defeated. The conversation we hear tells us that you can only be saved because Jesus died. Jesus is your mediator between God and Man because He is both God and Man. This is what Moses and Elijah point to, and it’s the Old Testament is all about. These giants of the faith come to talk about the direction Jesus needs to go and encourage him that down that path lies the world’s salvation.

Listen to the Voice from Heaven

And from the cloud, a heavenly voice is heard, “This is my Son, my chosen; listen to him!” During one of the most dazzling visual spectacles that ever took place on this planet, the main point from God the Father is “Listen to him.” Listen? Listen, and not “Look”? Why go through all this razzle-dazzle, bright-as-lightning stuff if the whole incident ends up being more about ears than eyes? It’s not what we might have expected to hear the Father say! God says: “Listen to him. He is the one I have chosen. What he’s saying is true–and necessary.”
Everything God wishes to say to mankind he has said through Christ, now that the fulness of time has come. Moses was a great religious leader and teacher. Elijah was the greatest of the prophets, uniquely honoured by God. But when we listen to the voice from Heaven, it tells us that Jesus, and only Jesus, is God in the flesh, comes to die and rise to save the world. Only Jesus, who was crucified, can bear your sin. Jesus is the one who makes the restitution of your sins. The only one you are commanded to listen to is Jesus. Only Jesus.

And the truth is that Jesus did not need to glow visibly to display his glory. His glory shined just as brightly when he talked to lonely prostitutes and outcast lepers. Jesus was glorious when he saved wayward tax collectors and offered forgiveness to people who had never heard a forgiving word their whole lives long. Christ is most glorious when his flesh was torn from his body and as nails were driven into his hands. As he was lifted high upon the cross, the glory was there. It’s still here today in the church if we don’t sleep through it.

People are often overly fixated on outward appearances and displays of power and glory. And what about us? What about you and me here today? Maybe the way things look get in the way of truly listening to what the Bible says. We don’t get a bright-as-lightning Jesus, but a Jesus who comes to us in Word and Sacrament. And that’s a good Jesus to have. The Jesus we get comes hidden in baptismal water, in a pastor’s absolution, in the Body and Blood you’re about to receive. That’s the One to listen to; that’s the chosen one, the one who saves you. This Jesus – listen to Him. He has the words of eternal life. His words are Spirit, and they are life. Listen to Him and no one else but Him. Listen when he tells you to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul. Listen to him when he tells you to love your fellow man as yourself. Listen to him when he tells you that your sins are forgiven. Listen to him when he says that the bread is his body, and the wine is his blood, given and shed for you. Listen to him when he promises you eternal life. Listen to him when he says that because he lives, you too shall live. Listen to him when he talks about humility and sacrifice and being servants of the lowest of the low in our society even today. Listen to him.

That voice is not for our eyes only. Many others around us need to hear what we hear. So reach out to others. Invite your friends and neighbours to join you here–where the gifts of God are being given out. Bring others so that they too can hear the word of the Lord.

In the end, the three disciples saw Jesus alone. He came and picked them up off the ground, raised them out of their fear. They saw no one but Jesus alone. He’s all they need, and he’s all you need. Jesus is God in human flesh. He went to the cross to die to forgive your sins and rise again to new life. And our response is to listen to him.

May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus

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