Old Testament Lesson Exodus 24:8-18
Second Lesson 2 Peter 1:16-21
Gospel Lesson Matthew 17:1-9
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The text for our meditation this day is the gospel lesson just read. [Matthew 17:1-9]
Many of you know what the lectionary is. It’s the lessons assigned for each Sunday in the Church Year. And we follow a three year series of lectionaries so that we maximize the Word of God we hear over that three year period without repeating ourselves. So now the cat is out of the bag. No, I don’t select the readings each Sunday. I could. The lectionary isn’t required, but it is highly recommended, and with good reason.
The lectionary was developed by greater minds than mine. The theologians who developed this list looked for connected Old Testament and New Testament verses. So, we often hear a prophecy in the Old Testament lesson and then hear of the fulfillment of that prophecy in the Gospel lesson. Or, like in today’s lectionary readings, the glory of God is shown to Moses on a mountain top, and then in the Gospel lesson, the glory of God is shown to Peter, James, and John on a mountain top.
In these two events we see a lot of similarities, and with good reason. We see the presence of God in a cloud on Sinai, and we see the presence of God in a cloud on the Mount of Transfiguration. We see Moses enter the cloud, and when he comes out his face shines, reflecting the glory of God. We see Peter, James, and John watch as Jesus’ face shines like the sun, making it clear to them that he is the one true God.
We see that what happened on Mount Sinai prepared us to see and understand, to interpret, what happened on the Mount of Transfiguration. In these lessons we see the connection between Old Testament and New. We see God’s plan in action.
From before the beginning of time, God has had a plan for his creation, and in particular for his people. God’s plan has always been to prepare a way for us to be with him throughout all eternity. Not by zapping us unto compliance; not by entering us like some demon possession; not by ignoring our sins and treating them as if they didn’t matter; but by crafting a way to receive payment for our sin in a manner that would leave us pure and holy, the only state one can be in as they stand in the presence of God.
For this plan to work in the way God intended, he had to teach us, to inform us, to open our eyes to his plan. And so, he began preparing his people from the beginning, He began painting a picture for his people; a picture that would open their eyes to understand things that were beyond their understanding; things that their imagination, though limited by sin, could comprehend. And then he built on that picture over time, each time making the picture a little closer to the reality of his plan.
His pictures gave us examples of men who served their people and lead their people from death to life; men like Joseph, saving his family from starvation by saving up grain in preparation for seven years of famine. Men like Moses who saved an even great number of people, leading Israel out of captivity in Egypt, and still leading them all the way to the Promised Land. Each of these was a shadow of the One who was to come; the One we would hear of in the Gospel, Jesus, the One who would save all people from their sins.
Every word in the Old Testament is a part of God’s plan to show us the way of salvation in his Son. Every story in the Old Testament, every prophecy, every festival and every sacrifice were meant to show us, to prepare us for the Messiah who was to come. Every word was pointing us to Jesus.
But in our sin it was impossible for us to see. In our sin it was impossible for us to get it. Imagine how Jesus must have felt as he tried to make people understand who he was and why he’d come. He taught them, scripture says, with authority like no one before ever had; his teaching wasn’t like the scribes and Pharisees, he had firsthand knowledge of what he was talking about. And, as if his teaching wasn’t enough, he performed miracles. He healed the sick, cast out demons, turned water into wine, calmed storms, walked on water, and so many more that they can’t all be written down; and still the people said, “I don’t get it.”
No amount of teaching or miracles seemed to get through. Even the people who did believe in him as the Messiah didn’t understand why he’d come. Oh, they thought they understood, but they just didn’t get it; not until after the resurrection, and even then, those who really got it were far and few between.
What’s worse, the scribes and Pharisees told him, “We do get it, and you’re not it!” Maybe, the problem was information overload. Maybe, what they saw was too good to be true. Sometimes what we see is too good to be true, too fantastic to be true. That’s what happened to Peter, James and John up there on the mountaintop with Jesus. What they saw was amazing; so amazing that they couldn’t believe that it was true; so amazing that they just didn’t get it.
And when they did try to understand they got confused. Was this the source of Jesus’ great teaching; the source of his miraculous powers? Jesus was shining like the sun, or maybe he was absorbing power from the sun. Who could tell? And he was talking to prophets that’d been gone for hundreds of years; certainly they’d be able to fill him with the great knowledge and understanding he so often displayed. They just didn’t get it.
Only after they heard the Father’s voice from the cloud did they fall on their faces in fear. Then, in the hearing of God’s Word their hearts and minds were opened. Then, they cowered until Jesus touched them and said, “Have no fear.” It took hearing God’s Word to make them believe what their eyes and their reason had already told them to believe.
Isn’t that the way it is with us? We see God working in our lives, but we pass it off as coincidence, or even worse we don’t even acknowledge that anything miraculous or unexpected has happened at all. Oh, when things get tough we ask God to help us…as if he wasn’t there every step of the way; providing, guiding, sheltering, protecting; but we just don’t get it.
But not getting it is not an option with God. For this reason, God’s written the Law on our hearts; not so we’d know what to do to save ourselves, but so we’d know that we can never keep his Law perfectly, so we’d know that our only hope is a Savior who can rescue us from our sinful condition. God uses his Law, every word in scripture, to point us to our Savior, to show us that when it comes to the great task of salvation, we can’t get it; to show us that our salvation must come from outside of ourselves. When we’ve seen that vision, then we’re ready to hear; then we’re ready to listen to his Word.
Just as God’s Word, spoken to his disciples on the mountain, revealed Jesus as true God, God’s Word speaks to us now and reveals our salvation. His Holy Spirit uses his Word to create faith in us as we’re born anew; born of water and the Spirit in our Baptism. His Word forgives sin as we confess to him and hear his absolution. His Word touches us and unites us with him in the eating and drinking of his body and blood in holy communion.
His holy Word reveals our salvation to us. It tells us of his steadfast love for us. It tells us that he paid for the sins of mankind on the cross. And finally, through his word, we get it. Now we see God’s glory in the agony of Jesus’ crucifixion. Now we see love in his death, a death that conquers death for all time. Now we see him shine like the sun, shining forth as only God can, as he rises on Easter morning, and we know, we believe, that Jesus Christ is our dear Savior. We get it.
In Christ’s service,