Thursday, March 10, 2011
To see Jesus and Him only....
How many times don't we blurt out to somebody, "Did you see that?" only to have they say "What?" After listening to the Transfiguration account in the Gospel for today, it makes me wonder what was going on with Peter, James and John. Did you see that? What? Moses, the great patriarch dead for thousands of years, and Elijah, the great prophet who was to usher in Messiah's reign, who was also dead for thousands of years. As an aside, how did they know who these guys were? Did they have pictures in their wallets to use to recognize Moses and Elijah?
But that is the whole point of this day, the whole point of the testimony of the Law and the prophets, of Scripture and tradition, of confession and creed: That we might see Jesus and Him clearly and see Him only. Our Lord is not one of many messages of one messenger among many but the one message of God and the one messenger of salvation. It is our lifelong task to see Him clearly – amid troubles and trials, sorrows and struggles, doubts and death. It is the transforming work of the Spirit that everything else falls into the background when we see Jesus.
Too often the Mount of Transfiguration is preached as if on it Jesus changed. But did He? Was He different on that mountain than in the manger or in the Jordan River or walking on water or healing the sick or raising the dead or preaching the Kingdom or eating with sinners or suffering on the cross or dying for a sinful world? Was He a different Jesus than before?
Was the Word of God different on that mountain? Was its message new or different? Was it a different Law Moses used to point to Jesus on that mountain? Was it a different prophetic promise raised up by Elijah to point to Jesus? Did the message of God's Word change? What exactly happened on that mountain? Who was transformed, transfigured, and changed? Was it the Word who changed, or the Word made flesh who changed, or?
Or.... were the disciples transformed, transfigured, and changed? Did Jesus have more glory than He had when He spoke the creative word that brought all things into being or when He was born of the Virgin or when He turned water into wine, sick into whole, dead into the living? Or, was His hidden glory revealed for the sake of the disciples so that they might be changed, transformed, and transfigured... prepared for the glory that the cross would reveal, for the love that would sacrifice all, and for the triumph of mercy over sin? Could it be that this mountain was not for Jesus but for us? Could it be that what Peter, James, and John saw, we now see by faith?
The transfiguration, like the cross, is for us. It exists to shape and sharpen our vision so that we might see Jesus and see Jesus only. What was crystal clear to the disciples with Jesus on that mountain is to be crystal clear to our hearts and minds. That Jesus is the one and only righteous man, the holy One who has alone kept the Law perfectly and satisfied its every claim upon us, so that we sinners can give up the charade of righteousness that are our failed works and cling to Christ's righteousness alone in our baptism.
The transfiguration is for us. It exists to shape and sharpen our vision so that we might see Jesus and Him only as the message of the Scriptures and the One the prophets point to. There is no other Gospel, no other Word from God and no other Word of God than the Word which is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, whom the Father has sent to be our Savior and Redeemer. He has paid every debt of our sin, unshackled our chains to death, and made us free.
The transfiguration is for us. It exists to shape and sharpen our vision so that we might see Jesus and Him only amid a life with too many doubts, detours, and distractions. It is for us so that all the sorrows and struggles, trials and tears may not steal our focus away from Christ who is our Savior.
Hey! Did you see that? What? That is the dialog spoken by faith in the face of every danger, temptation, and hurdle faced in this mortal life. We are constantly being asked if we saw the hurtful words or actions done to us... did you see the injustice toward you... did you see how unbelievable the claims of Scripture... did you see how intolerant God is... did you see how hard it is to be good and how easy it is to be bad... did you see how short life is and how much you have to pack into it to make it worth while... But in all of this we were not fixed or focused on these things. Rather, we are too busy looking at Jesus.
The transfiguration was not for Jesus but for Peter, James, and John... and for you and me living nearly 2,000 years later. We live amid the great temptation to see everything around us with perfect 20/20 vision – everything except Jesus. But it is only when we see Jesus that we see everything else clearly. Our vision is being clouded by all sorts of things – from the lie that we can make ourselves good enough to the lie that we are too bad to be saved... from the lie that if you don't live for yourself you won't be happy to the lie that says there is no happiness or contentment in this world... from the lie that says the Bible is full of messages to the lie that says the Word of God has nothing to say to us whatsoever... But we are determined to see Jesus only. And seeing Jesus, everything else that we need to see comes into clear focus.
Think about it... those guys up on that mountain with Jesus had seen Him do amazing things, had heard Him speak of His coming suffering, death and resurrection, and then saw Moses and Elijah as living witnesses standing there pointing to Jesus... And shortly they would see Him mount the altar of the cross and die as the innocent for the guilty, the Son of God for mortal men. So Jesus reveals His glory and the glimpse the grace hidden in His earthly flesh and blood so that soon they might glimpse in His suffering and death the glory of forgiveness, life, and salvation for a whole world. They were being prepared so that seeing Jesus clearly and seeing Him only, everything else in their lives might come into proper focus.
We come today to see Jesus. We come with the distractions of sin and guilt on our hearts, of doubt and fear in our minds, of sorrow and despair that has stolen our joy – these things have stolen our focus so that seeing them, that is all we see. And here Jesus reveals His glory in the surprise of simple earthly elements, hidden glory only faith may see, but glory that helps us clear out the clutter, refocus our weary eyes, and see Jesus... see Him clearly... and see Him only... and then all things we need to see fade into view in their proper focus. Amen.