“Take a Peek”
Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from our Lord and savior Jesus Christ who has shown us the true glory of God by His suffering and death on the cross. Amen. We are used to watching previews as Americans. Prior to a release of a movie a person can always get a sneak peak of the trailer. Before purchasing a pay-per view sporting event on TV there are always commercials advertising its attraction. Even those expensive video games always have free demos to show what the game will be like. All these things are done for the sole purpose of giving encouragement to keep on pursuing what was already experienced in a small way.
As the church gathers together on this last Sunday before Ash Wednesday, we celebrate once again the transfiguration of Jesus. The white paraments awaken us to keep in mind the glory and power of God’s one and only Son. St. Luke’s reading for us is a sneak peak of the promised victory of Jesus. We are to cherish this moment in our hearts and minds as Lent and Holy Week approaches. No one should be so bold, as to imagine that their own personal strength can make it through the passionate focus upon Jesus’ suffering and death over these next weeks. The disciples couldn’t do it and neither can we as sinners. This is why God by His grace reveals one last time the glory of His Son before it will be all stripped away. The transfiguration of Jesus gives us hope to know that we can go to the glory of His cross.
Peter, James, and John got exactly what they wanted on top of that mountain. Their messiah was fully uncovered to be the Son of God and they could see and feel it. No more having their questions partly answered or listening to hints here and there by parables. God the Father let them have the straight forward truth of what they already heard once at Jesus’ baptism, “This is my Son.” The experience was probably overwhelming, almost surreal. It comes as no surprise that the magnificent glory of the transfiguration woke up these disciples who were extremely tired. Yet, this was what they had been waiting for, a picture perfect experience with God like it was described in the Old Testament. Everything was the way it was supposed to be.
Ever notice how we are just like those disciples. Everything in life has to look nice to finally be good and pleasing. This is what we strive to have all the time. Who purposefully leaves their house a mess when guests come over? Who carelessly dresses up for an important occasion? Who intentionally wants their children to misbehave or get bad grades? Who seeks to go to a worship service that appears unenthusiastic? Anything that might cause embarrassment, feels negative, or puts us in an unpopular position threatens that picture perfect life. This is not simply frowned upon by cultural standards, but has to deal more with that sinner inside of us. We are naturally unsatisfied until we experience the glory of what is believed to be God’s “goodness” in our life. Only then, like Peter, will we finally say, “…It is good for us to be here…”
However, in the midst of the transfiguration, God revealed that the way of the cross was to be the greater glory of His Son. The texts tells us, “And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.” Right smack dab in the middle of this heaven on earth was the cross. No greater topic was discussed than the suffering and death of God’s Son. It probably startled Peter to hear such negative words while being surrounded by such positive images. No wonder he suggested to remain on top of the mountain. He was okay with Jesus it was the cross of Jesus that disrupted His life.
As humans, we expect to peek into heaven and hear about things that are above this world, things that would be inspiring. Who would have guessed the greatest glory that captivates heavens’ attention is the crucified Jesus? Not quite the perfect picture we were hoping to hang on the wall. We might acknowledge the cross, but who wants to live in it? Yet, it is Jesus’ suffering and death for sinners that raises Him up higher than anything else in heaven. Our epistle read, “For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself.” No one else could take what was so ugly and make it the glory of heaven except for God’s Son. Only He would use the symbol of sin, death, and the devil and make it into the victory of God.
This gives hope for us to go to the cross of Jesus and not be afraid for it is the life of true glory. It was not good enough for those disciples to get a glimpse of what heaven treasured. The Father abounded in grace by voicing His loving opinion saying, “This is my son, my Chosen one, listen to him.” Everything was going to be stripped away from Jesus this point on, but one thing would remain. His words of forgiveness, life, and salvation would never change. Everything spoken by the messiah no matter the circumstances was to sooth the disciples aching hearts as they watched a picture perfect life fall apart. All they had left was to listen, to receive the gracious words that Jesus spoke as their savior. And we know they did, because they wrote it down for us.
Christian life is defined by traveling down that road of the cross. Holy baptism into Jesus’ death promises it will be this way. Here is something different than just being a mere victim in a sinful world. Instead, it is bearing the cross of Jesus for He is yours and you are His. We experience such a life every day by holding on to His Word of truth. But have you ever wondered why even our worship appears this way? Simply put, it is the highest glory of heaven to center on the cross of God’s Son. No more picture perfect dream, all we have left is to listen and receive Jesus’ words of forgiveness. The greatest moment when we encounter this cross-filled Christ is at the sacrament. It is our guarantee of having true worship for Jesus Himself is now declaring and distributing His suffering and death for us. Who else in heaven could take up and exalt the victory of the cross like this?
As we face the darkness of Lent and Holy Week watching all things being stripped away. The transfiguration today lets us know that we can go to the cross not merely into a church season, but into our own lives. The glory of heaven has been truly distinguished by the glory of what God’s one and only Son has done. With a preview like this, there certainly is a promise for all those who are in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen. Now may the peace of God which passes all understanding be with your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to life eternal. Amen.