In His Glory

"Transfiguration" by James I. Tissot
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“And after six days Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them, and His clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them” (Mark 9:2–3).
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
The word “epiphany” means a showing, a manifestation, or an appearance. Frequently the word represented the official visit of a prince or emperor. The root meaning came from “sunrise,” or “dawn,” and became associated with light. Consequently, the season of Epiphany is the time of the church year in which our readings, particularly the Gospel, focus on the revelation of Christ as true God. In each we get a small glimpse of the light of Christ’s glory.
This is especially true this week with the Transfiguration of Our Lord. Fittingly, this last Sunday of Epiphany gives us the greatest epiphany of the Epiphany season. Soon we will begin a 40-day Lenten journey and then come to the reality of that dark Good Friday. On Wednesday, ashes will remind us of our mortality. But today, we see Christ, at least for a short time, in His glory.
Jesus takes with Him Peter and James and John, and leads them up a high mountain by themselves. And He is transfigured before them. His form changes, a metamorphosis takes place. His face shines like the sun. His clothes become radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. Jesus is in His glory.
His glory. Jesus shows them His glory. He is God with us. The Lord of Glory. God Himself is one of us. God so close that you can touch Him. God just the way we want Him. Powerful. Mighty. Everlasting. Shining with all the radiance of heaven!
Then, as if it couldn’t get any better—Moses and Elijah show up. Heroes of the Old Testament and Sunday School. But more than that—when you’ve got Moses, you have the Law and the Ten Commandments. When you’ve got Elijah, you’ve got the prophets. When you have both, you have the Law and the Prophets, and that’s the Old Testament—the entire Old Testament! Can you get any more wonderful than that? I mean really, God’s Son and the Old Testament having a conversation about saving you. And you are there. You are there with them.
St. Peter speaks up for us all: “Rabbi, it is good that we are here.” Let’s set up some tents, altars, so that this sort of worship will never end. Let’s not come down from this mountain. This is religion! Power. Glory. Honor. God shining and us being there. A retreat that won’t end with God’s Son. Now that’s an Epiphany!
No more broken hearts. No pain and abuse. No sufferings. No more not being appreciated. No more being despised. No more being poor. No more hoping things will look better tomorrow, then tomorrow comes and they are still the same. No more happily going about your life when suddenly something comes and changes your life for the worst. No more cancer. No more death. Just me with Jesus up there shining on the mountain. Now, that’s a religion I can glory in!
But such religion doesn’t consider one important thing: my sins. My sins are the problem. My sins are what separate me from God. They are the reason for suffering and death in this world. Adam’s sin, then my sins. My sins are what separate me from heaven and Jesus in His glory.
Yours too. You have all the time in the world for everything, but the Lord’s words. They come after everything that you think is important.
What’s most important to you? You. You. What you think is important. What you think about God. What you want—even at the expense of others. Don’t deny it. I know, because I’m the same way. I’m the center of my own universe. If you are honest with yourself, you will confess that you are too.
Then, as St. Peter is still babbling, as he’s reveling in our theology of glory, comes the cloud to save us. God the Father makes another Epiphany appearance. In the clouds of heaven comes the majesty of Almighty God!
Then He speaks. The same words that He spoke at the baptism of His Son, “This is My beloved Son.” Then the Word that saves us: “Listen to Him.” No more focusing on you, Peter. No more being your own center of the universe around you. No more you first. Instead listen to Him. Listen to Jesus!
But the voice and the glory and God on the mountain are just too much. The gift becomes Law because of their sin. So, they do what we sinners do (or at least what we ought to do), they fall on their faces terrified. They hide!
Like Father Adam and Mother Eve hid. Like the children of Israel begged Moses go up on the mountain to listen to God’s words and bring back a report because they couldn’t stand in be in God’s glorious presence themselves. Like those same Israelites who told Moses to cover his face after it was glowing with the glory of God. Sinners and the glory of God don’t go well together.
Why? Well, you want know something scarier than hell? Standing before God with your sins! You know you’ve done wrong. You know what God does to sinners! And the fear… the terror… takes over. For where can you hide from the holy, all-knowing, almighty God?
And there the three disciples are, where you and I are, amidst the glory and majesty of God. Sins exposed. Punishment coming. We are done in. God is going to get us and there is no shelter. No place to hide. Not one of us would dare to stand in the glorious presence of God with our sins intact.
And suddenly, looking around, they no longer see anyone with them but Jesus only. Jesus. He’s still there. Amidst the glory and majesty of God. Amidst the personal hells that we have landed ourselves in because of what we’ve done. Amidst all the suffering and death that we try to escape from, He is right there.
Jesus comes and touches them. He comes to stand with them. He isn’t standing with the glory and majesty of God against them. And He’s not against you, either. For here is the greatest Epiphany of today: They look up and there is only Jesus there. Only Jesus. He is the Son of the living God. He shines with the glory and majesty of God against them. He is God and Man.
And in a moment like this, Jesus doesn’t judge. He doesn’t condemn. He doesn’t discard us. No, at the moment in the Gospels when He looks the most God, as He stands in all His glory, He is in solidarity with us sinners and on our side. What I mean is, Jesus, God incarnate, is one of us. And if God is for us, who can be against us? Heaven is yours because of Him.
They look up and there is no cloud, no majesty, no glory, there is “only Jesus.” Only Christ. For “only” or “just” Christ saves. Jesus who is headed for Jerusalem, headed to be handed over for us all into the hands of sinful men, to be betrayed, flogged, mocked, scorned, rejected, and lifted above the earth to be displayed for all the world to see. To Good Friday, He goes. To death itself, He marches. For that is when He demonstrates the fullness of His glory.
"Crucifixion" by Guido Reni
Jesus says right after Judas leaves to betray Him, “Now is the Son of Man glorified” (John 13:31). Jesus is glorified, because He going to be arrested, suffer, die, and rise for you and me and all the people. Jesus’ greatest glory is the cross—where He hangs all alone naked, cursed, mocked, beaten, and bloody. More so even than in the radiant light of the Mount of Transfiguration, Mount Calvary and the cross is where Jesus is at His best—where He is most in His glory.
And the mountain retreat with Jesus? It ends for Peter and James and John almost as soon as it began. But the you and Jesus time never ends. Oh, it doesn’t happen on the mountain. Mountaintop experiences are only temporary. The excitement dies down and everyone has to go back to his everyday work-a-day world. But Jesus is with you always to the very end of the age.
No, it doesn’t happen on the mountain. No, it doesn’t appear so glorious to the world. But it couldn’t be more glorious. For here at His Supper the same Jesus gives to you His body and blood to eat and drink for the forgiveness of all your sins. Forgiveness achieved for you when the One who was transfigured set His face to the cross and death is delivered to you in the bread and wine.
The bread and wine is the body and blood of the transfigured, crucified, and now risen Lord. And all your pain, all your suffering, all the abuse, the despising, the rejection, the abandonment, the sadness, the failures, the guilt, the sickness, the cancer, the blindsided suffering, and death itself is taken away.
Not by you being with Jesus, but with Jesus being with you, being for you—so for you, so one of you, that He would set aside the glory of the mountain of the Transfiguration to save you. Now, risen from the dead, He has that glory and then some. All the glory and majesty is in the man Jesus at the right hand of God. And there is an Epiphany that is so glorious that it will never end. Not now, not ever.
This is the beloved Son of God. Listen to Him. For here is your salvation. Here, in His Word and Sacraments, Jesus brings you the light of salvation. Here, in this place, week after week, He brings you this glorious Good News: You are forgiven of all of your sins.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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