Do Not Fear, For You Will Share In My Glory

Text: Matthew 17:1-9

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

The Lord continually revealed Himself to the people of the days of old.  For example, the Lord came and appeared to Moses in the light of the burning bush, as we hear in the Book of Exodus.  As a result, Moses’ face shined with the light of God’s glory.  And in today’s Gospel reading we heard about the Transfiguration.  Jesus’ face was shown like the sun; His clothes became dazzling white.  Moses and Elijah were also there with a bright cloud upon that high mountain. 

Considering all of this, what is this Transfiguration really about?  What does this Transfiguration teach us today? 

Well, the Transfiguration demonstrates Jesus’ glory and majesty – that He is no ordinary man.  It shows us that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of living God, the Messiah, the Maker and Savior of the world.  It also shows us that Jesus is the fulfillment of everything spoken in the Old Testament Law and everything spoken by the Old Testament Prophets. 

There is another dimension to the Transfiguration, though.  And that is this; it is a miracle that not only teaches us about Jesus’ character and identity but it also shows us something about ourselves.  That is right; the miracle of the Transfiguration is meant to impact you and me. 

You see, Jesus typically did not just throw out miracles here and there – He did not waste them – but was very intentional about His miracles.  He did not do them to show off, but He did these miracles for the purpose of granting faith to humanity.  Yes, behind all of Jesus’ miracles was His love for mankind and His intention of revealing Himself to the world.  Thus, His miracles were ways that He reached out into the human race, into some tragedy to address it.  And by doing so, He granted faith, while also revealing Himself. 

And so when we think of the Transfiguration – this miracle of Jesus shining on the mountaintop with Moses and Elijah, and the voice of the Father testifying that Jesus is His Son – we must above all consider how this miracle impacted Peter, James, and John.  And as we understand how this affected Peter, James, and John, we will know a bit more about how this miracle impacts us personally. 

You see, this miracle did not end directly with Jesus saying:  "Don't tell anyone."  He added:  "Don't tell anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead." 
Peter, James, and John saw Jesus shine on the mountain.  Not for His own sake, but for their sake and ours right here and right now.  In other words, the miracle was revealed to Peter, James, and John, so that they could share the account of this miracle with us. 

To the point; what all of this means is this: the glory that lit up the sky that night is the glory that Jesus came to give to us.  The glory that shone from His body is the glory that Jesus will impart to you, to your body, at the Resurrection! 

Dear friends, by our baptisms into Christ’s body, we are given a glimpse of the glory in this Transfiguration miracle.  We are given a sneak peek into the glory that we will share with in the resurrection – that day when the trumpets will sound and the graves will burst open, and our souls will reunite with glorified bodies forever and ever. 

But for all of this to come about, Jesus first has to come down one mountain and begin His walk up towards another mountain.  Yes, indeed.  Today marks the descent of Jesus from the glorious mountain of the Transfiguration, down into the valley of suffering, and then up to Mt. Calvary. 

This is indeed where we are also going to a church.  We have been journeying up to the Mt. of Transfiguration since Christmas, and after today, we travel off of the mountain into the valley of Lent towards Mt. Calvary. 

But, why the change of mountains, why the change from a heavenly glory to the glory of the cross?  My friends, because that is how Jesus would bring glory to our bodies, rescuing us from death and the icy grip of sin – by trading places with us, by taking our shame, by dying for the lost and forsaken. 

Jesus dies your death to give you His life.  He bears your shame to give you His glory.  That's how much He loves you and me and why He came down the Mt. of Transfiguration and went to Mt. Calvary. 

The three disciples that witnessed the Transfiguration no doubt needed the memory of that vision just to get them through the horror of Good Friday.  But can you imagine their joy on Easter?  Their joy when they saw Jesus again, glorified, never to be touched by death again?

Imagine their joy when they saw Jesus as He was after His resurrection, glorious and dazzling, to be and remain that way forever.  Imagine their joy when Jesus said:  "Because I live, you too shall live!"

You see, the Transfiguration glory they witnessed that night on the mountain was only a taste of the glory that was to be His forever.  And His death and resurrection made that glory His gift to all believers, which is you!

This changes everything, my friends.  Does it not?  It changes how we face our suffering.  It changes how we think about our death as well.  And what is so remarkable is that this change has already begun in you because of what happened on the day you were baptized.

You see, baptism is like your own Transfiguration.  In fact, an ancient custom of the Church calls for the newly baptized to be clothed in garments of white as they come to the baptismal font.  This is a way of confessing that Baptism is our very own Transfiguration.  Baptism is the moment when Jesus grabs ahold of us and marks us with His glory.  In baptism, Jesus is essentially saying:  "You are my family.  You are my sister.  You are my brother.  And you will share my glory with me forever."

But as we know from the Bible, after the passing moment of the Transfiguration of Jesus, came the suffering, and the dying for Jesus.  And as it was true for Jesus, it is true for you.

Dear friends, the glory that Baptism promises us is a glory that we will not have as our own in this world, or in this life.  No, our bodies will still grow old.  They creak.  They begin to wear out.  We can feel death in our bones, and we can sense it when it moves stealthily upon us at our birthday each year.  Indeed, even though we are baptized, we face death; it looms before us; we all approach it.   

And when the thought of death frightens us, and we don't know if we can bear the sufferings that may well precede and go with it – the humiliation and the sorrow – then we understand why Jesus gave us the miracle of the Transfiguration and the miracle of our Baptisms.

In love, Jesus shows us what we will be in the end.  In love, Jesus shows us what glory awaits us on the other side of the sufferings and death – yes, even after our bodies have fallen apart and become food for worms, even after they've returned to the dust.  Jesus shows us the glory that He has promised to give us on the day of His second appearing. 

You see, the vision of this glory gives us the courage to face death with boldness even as we are tucked in our graves.  Because we are baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection, death is only a pathetic and pitiful little thing.  It is only a moment.   

Yes, death can growl and snarl all it wants.  It can and will tear into us and make us cry.  But death will never win in the end because our Redeemer lives and His eternal life is given to us by our baptisms through faith.

Baptized Saints, because Jesus lives, you too will live again.  He is the Champion, and He has marked you as His own in Baptism so your grave cannot hold on to you.  Even though your grave is staring at you and your body will be put six feet under, you shall sleep secure, for you have heard today that you will stand before Jesus, glorified and whole, and will sing His praises.

What better way for a Christian to face death and suffering than with the vision of Jesus, shining on the Mountain top, and knowing that we are looking at a glory that He gives to us.  This is the eternal glory that awaits you on the other side of the grave, my friends! This is why this miracle was revealed to Peter, James, and John, and this is why the miracle was revealed to you personally this day. 

You are baptized; you belong to Christ Jesus. Do not fear.      

In the name of Jesus: Amen.    

Note: Portions of this sermon are indebted to Rev. Joshua Reimche and Rev. Will Weedon.  

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