Why Do We Get Nervous With God's Glory?

Text: Matthew 17:1-9

In the name of Jesus. Amen.


We humans do not react well when we are confronted by things bigger than us. For example, we often portray Angels as quiet, feminine, and gentle beings that we humans might want to cuddle. However, when we read the Bible, Angels are not cuddly feathery beings but warriors. And the people in the Bible who come into contact with Angels? Well, they never do well but fall into a thousand pieces due to fear of these angelic warriors.


And Jesus? While we often enjoy hearing stories in the Bible about Jesus’ tenderness and compassion, today’s reading portrays not a cuddly Jesus but a majestic Jesus. 

That is to say, in our reading from the Gospel of Matthew, we hear that Jesus’ appearance changed from the inside out. Right before the eyes of Peter, James, and John, Jesus’ face poured out sunlight. His clothes were filled with light. Jesus’ divine glory was revealed to the disciples, showing that He was no ordinary man.  


Now, you would think that the disciples would have been really excited about this, but just like people who came into contact with angels, the disciples were nervous. They were uneasy. They didn’t know what to really say. So, when the Apostle Peter said, 


“Teacher, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up some tents…” 


Well… this was Peter’s nerves. Peter reacted to the great glory of Jesus with nervous talk and wanting to build stuff.  


Isn’t that typical, though? When we face things that are bigger than us and more powerful than us, we often become paralyzed in fear, or we talk a lot with nerves. You know, something bigger than us confronts us, and then we talk and talk and talk. And when we are not talking, our nerves force us to ‘do’ something – to build something – to act.


For example, anytime anything big or catastrophic happens in life, news reports are filled with reports of the events, analysis of the event, commentaries on the events, and commentaries on the commentaries of the events. Then right after the event, task forces are formed. Committees are assembled. Hearings are commissioned. Reports are written. Action steps are taken, and laws are made. Big things in life cause us to talk a lot and act like busy little bees or nervous hamsters.


But why is it this way?  


Simply stated, when big things occur in our lives, we try to find words to describe or talk about the thing that just happened. When we have the ability to talk about big events, we somehow feel like we are more in control of the big events. And all of our actions and busyness in response to the big event – that is us trying to manage the big event. We try to contain the event and wrap our arms around it so that we can feel in control and safe and secure.


Now, dear friends, while it good to know how to respond to big things and events in life, the majority of the time, our nervous talk and our building of things are rather useless. More often than not, they just serve as things that distract us from just how tiny and helpless we are.  


Peter, James, John were tiny as well that Transfiguration Day long ago. Jesus revealed His glory to these three disciples. And Peter? As previously mentioned, he freaked out. He started blabbering with nervous talk and trying to build stuff. However, in the midst of nervous chatter and busy plans, a cloud overshadowed the three disciples, and the voice of God the Father interrupted, 


“This is my Son, the Beloved, with Him I am well pleased; listen to Him!”  


In other words, knock it off, Peter! Shut up! Stop all your nervous work! Listen! Open your ears! Listen!  


Baptized Saints, it troubles me to say this, but it seems that in North America, way too many churches and Christians talk a lot about God’s glory but do not understand it. In other words, it is not uncommon for churches and Christians to sing about wanting to see God’s Glory. But, if we are truly honest, we really don’t want to see His glory because every time that we Humans have seen God’s glory, we freak out. God’s glory is not tame. His glory is not domesticated. His glory is not something that would immediately give us comfort but drives us to fear.  


But perhaps we really do understand God’s glory – perhaps it is evident in our piety. For example, in North America, while we sing about wanting to see God’s glory, we at the same time push pastors to not preach about God’s glorious wrath, His Law, or Christ’s second coming in judgment. Furthermore, consider the architecture of many North American Churches, does not the architecture communicate what we believe about God’s glory? Frankly stated, it is very, very weird to see churches in North America singing about how they want to see God’s glory, while at the same time, these very same churches have exchanged pictures of glorious archangels, bloody crosses, and vaulted ceilings for padded theater seating, PowerPoint projector screens, and vanilla lattes. Much of the architecture of churches in America do their very best to conceal the glory of God to make sure the person in the pew is not uncomfortable with God’s glory. Once upon a time, church sanctuaries that displayed divine and glorious eternal things to a lost and dying world now have been transformed to make a parishioner not feel small but like they are in a coffee shop, hotel, or movie theater. Like Peter, we build stuff and talk a lot whenever we come into contact with God’s glory because we frankly are uncomfortable and nervous about God’s glory.  


But dear friends, what we must understand is that it is not bad if the Lord’s glory makes us uncomfortable. The glory of God should make you and me uncomfortable. We should never trust a version of Jesus that we don’t fear. Silly slogans like, “Jesus is my homeboy. Jesus is my best friend forever,” are more harmful than good. Yes, Jesus is a friend of sinners. Yes, Jesus is fully human – flesh and blood like you and me. However, Jesus is also Lord. He is divine. He is Master. He is the One who was transfigured that day before Peter, James, and John. He is bigger than you and me. He is more powerful than you and me. And so, Jesus must be feared and respected. We cannot and should not worship a version of Jesus that is on the same level or beneath you and me, for we are just not that glorious. We are small. We are the created.


So, point taken. Jesus is glorious. Like Peter, James, and John, we fear glory. But now what?  Now, we knock it off.  Now we stop; listen.  We need to stop our nervous talk and busyness to simply listen. 


Please hear this now. We often try to strip the glory away from Christ because the glory and power of Christ make us feel uncomfortable and alone. It is easier to have Jesus on our level. But in doing this, we miss the whole point of who Christ is. Yes, He is fully man, but He is fully God. We cannot dismiss His glorious divinity, even if it makes us uncomfortable. You see, even though the disciples fell to the ground and were overcome with fear, Jesus came to them and touched them, saying, 


“Get up and do not be afraid.”  


Christ is the One who created all things; however, He did not remain high and above those disciples transfigured but drew near to them.  And the same is true for you!  Hear this, Christ descended so low that no sin of your could escape His bloody wounds on the cross.  


Baptized Saints! Hear this text! Consider who Jesus is. He is the Glorious Transfigured One! However, as the Glorious Transfigured One, Jesus then descended off the mountain to go toward Mount Calvary to pay for all your sins. Just as He could not have stayed in heaven but had to be born in Bethlehem, Jesus could not have stayed transfigured on that mountain but had to descend to a cross for you and me.  


And so, who goes to Mount Calvary to suffer on Calvary’s cross? Not some weak victim but the Glorious Transfigured Christ. Who bleeds and dies on the cross for your sins? Not some ordinary Joe Blow but the Divine Messiah.  


Baptized Saints, yes, we fear Jesus because He is God and we are not. We always have holy awe and reverence for Christ. However, we also love Jesus and listen to Him because He does not leave you and me in fear but drew near to us not only at Calvary’s cross but comes down to the same level as us (even beneath us) to touch you and me with forgiveness, life, and salvation in His glorious Word and Sacraments.


His glory is not too high for you, but the glorious One comes to you; thus, we not only fear Him, but we love, trust, and obey Him.  


In the name of Jesus. Amen. 

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