2/7/2016 Transformation of Our Lord The text is Luke 9:28-36 (37-43a).
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Who is this Jesus of Nazareth? That is the question that has rolled off the lips of many. Who is this Jesus? A teacher par excellence to be sure…a healer of great power…a miracle worker…BUT, is he anything more than this?
The disciples may have had their suspicions about him – perhaps thinking he was Elijah incarnate, or a new Moses, or a prophet of the old order. Some may have actually dared to think that he was someone new and maybe even the long-awaited messiah. But until the transfiguration, Peter, James and John had only the facts that were laid out before them and Jesus’ true identity remained a mystery. Jesus was like the Lone Ranger – doing good, fighting for what was just and right, but masked to those around him – or like a bride, adorned for her intended, whose face was veiled and obscured from clear view.
Yes, Jesus had given his clueless disciples clues to who he was and what he was here to do. Before going up the mountain to pray, Jesus told them about the suffering and death which was to come. Yet, what he said to them never really seemed to sink in. But then, why would it? They did not have the advantage that we have…they did not have the whole story…all they had was a mystery. We can see the signs of what is to come. We know what will happen. But the first disciples had neither the voices of angels interrupting a night’s work, singing praised about Jesus, nor the insight to unravel the puzzle and unmask the truth about Jesus.
Who is this Jesus? To us, he is the Lord God, the almighty, the Son of the living God, the one to listen to. He is the messiah who was sent into the world to deliver his people from death and the power of sin. To the disciples, this same Jesus was a man of faith and power. He was the one to follow, the one to learn from, and the one to watch. But, the disciples were too close to the mystery to see all the dimensions and get a complete picture of Jesus. In their familiarity with him as man, they failed to understand who Jesus was and what Jesus was saying to them. But all that was about to change.
Peter and James and John had no idea that the veil was about to be lifted before their eyes as they went up the mountain with Jesus to pray. On this occasion, unlike the past when they would go with Jesus only so far and then let Jesus walk away to do his own thing, the three remained with him and they watched and waited. Their attentiveness was soon rewarded as they, and they alone, saw the mask removed and witnessed with their own eyes the revelation of Jesus’ true identity.
On the Mount of Transfiguration, our Lord’s true colors shine through not only in his dazzling white attire, but also in his conversation with Moses, the lawgiver, and Elijah, the prophet. There was no longer any doubt that Jesus was neither one of these two figures of the past. In Jesus, God was doing a new thing. God was fulfilling the law and the prophets in his Son.
In Luke’s account of the Transfiguration, the climax occurs as God speaks these words from the hovering cloud, “This is my Son, my chosen, listen to him!” These words were not just for Peter, James and John. These words are for all people, as God exhorts us to listen, to listen not to ourselves or to words passed down through human hand. God commands us to “Listen to him!” We are not merely to hear the words spoken off the lips of Jesus. We are to listen to him. We are to open our ears to Jesus and listen with our hearts.
How often have we heard the words of Jesus’ birth? How often have we heard the words of his passion and death? How often have we heard the words of his sermons and the record of his miracles? And how often have we listened? How often has our familiarity with the words and our closeness to them caused us to nod off or talk with our neighbor as they are being spoken? How often have we put the Bible on the back shelf, believing that it has little to say to us in our everyday life?
“Listen to him!” God says. “Listen to him!” Do not merely hear his words. Do not merely read the words printed on the pages of the Bible. “Listen to him!” For Jesus has the words of eternal life. Jesus is more than a Moses. He is more than an Elijah. He is the chosen one, the Son of the most high. And he has a lot to tell you and a lot to do for you. “Listen to him!”
Listen to him, not only as individuals, but also as a body of people. Listen to him and hear the words of salvation. Listen to him and receive the blessing of forgiveness. Listen to him and be empowered by him to serve. Listen to him and know that you are not alone in your struggles. Listen to him and be made free. Listen to him and become his arms and legs in this world. For the church to have any significant impact upon the lives of people in these rapidly changing times, it must remain embedded in the word and the intimate relationship that is ours in Christ Jesus. It is only when the we faithfully listen to the master’s voice that the church offers new life and hope to people and offers them genuine acceptance, love and compassion. When we listen to him and his words become part of our identity, strangers are touched by the warmth, hospitality and genuine concern we express toward them. When we listen to him and his words become part of our identity, the world around us changes.
As we rush through our fast-paced lives, finding our way through busy schedules that are jammed with activities, we seldom take the time to listen. We hear the noise around us. We read words without meaning. We keep everything at arm’s length so we can focus on what we think is important and it doesn’t take long before we find ourselves ignoring God’s word and acting as though our faith has no significant role in our lives. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to remain that way. On this Sunday before the beginning of the holy season of Lent, we are told once again to listen to him – to listen of Jesus and witness the revelation of his true identity.
We may not have a mountaintop experience. We may never hear the voices of angels interrupting a night’s work. We may never see Jesus standing before us in dazzling white clothing. We may never experience the cloud and the voice of God. But, still we can listen. We can listen and find the true identity of Jesus. We can listen and be changed by the Son of the living God.
May we stay alert. May we listen. May that word and the intimate relationship with our Lord transform our lives. And may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.