The Transfiguration of Our Lord
These are the readings for Transfigurastion.
God’s Word for This Week
Jesus appears in glory as the Son of God. The Epiphany season is bookended by the voice of God the Father proclaiming Jesus his Son. Before he suffered as man’s substitute, Jesus gave his Church a glimpse of the glory that he set aside to be our Savior. See how much he loves us! The God of Mt. Sinai, the Majestic Glory, became a man to suffer and die for us, just as Moses and the Prophets had foretold. It’s good that we are here.
First Lesson – Exodus 24:12,15-18
Why was Moses called up to the top of Mount Sinai?
Moses went up the mountain to meet God “face to face” and to receive the Old Testament Law.
What covered the mountain for six days?
A cloud enveloped the mountain and the glory of the Lord rested on it.
What did the glory of the Lord appear to be to the Israelites?
The glory of the Lord seemed to look like fire to the Israelites. They were terrified by the Lord’s glory.
How different Mt. Sinai was from the Mount of Glory! Moses entered into thick darkness (Exodus 20:21) to receive the Law of God and the two-sided covenant for Israel. When he came down from the mountain and found Israel dancing before a golden calf, he could see how man would never be able to keep this Law. Yet on the Mount of Glory in the midst of a bright cloud, Moses saw God’s new covenant in the person of Jesus Christ. Here was the Man who would not just keep the covenant, but who would be the covenant for all mankind. On Mt. Sinai, the people cowered in fear at the glory of God which looked like a consuming fire. But on the Mount of Glory, that same glory looked like a man—a man who touched his disciples and gave them the message of the covenant fulfilled, “Don’t be afraid!
Second Lesson – 2 Peter 1:16-21
What event is Peter recalling in these verses?
The Transfiguration of our Lord.
What did some people apparently think of Peter’s account of this event?
Some apparently thought that Peter, James, and John made this story up. Peter tells us the origin of the Bible is not “the will of man [man’s ideas], but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
What is the source of everything in Scripture?
God is the source of Scripture. The Bible is God’s Word.
“We were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” Only two remained, since Herod had killed James years earlier. But for Peter and John, that day on the sacred mountain continued to shape their lives. From John 1 to 2 Peter, these men who had seen Christ’s glory testified that the man Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God. Peter promised that the Lord Jesus Christ would come again in power, and he offers us a three-fold assurance of his reliability: Peter was an eyewitness of the glory of Christ; Peter heard the Majestic Glory call Jesus the Son of God; Peter had the word of the prophets which were inspired by the Spirit and fulfilled in Christ.
Gospel – Matthew 17:1-9
Who met Jesus and his three disciples when they climbed this high mountain?
They met Moses and Elijah, who were generally considered by the Jews to be the two greatest prophets in the Old Testament.
Why did Peter make the suggestion he did in verse 4?
Peter wanted to build shelters on the mountain for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, in order to keep the glory of God all to themselves. Jesus, though, needed to head for Jerusalem, where he would suffer death on a cross (verse 9).
Six days earlier, Peter had his moment of great triumph and great failure. After witnessing the ministry and miracles of Jesus, his mouth confessed what his heart believed: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. But his great failure of faith came immediately thereafter when he wanted no part with a crucified Christ. Six days later, God gave him proof for what his faith confessed, and hope in the face of what his heart feared. God showed Peter, James, and John all the glory that belonged to the Son of God shining out in the person of Jesus. They heard God the Father testify that this was his own Son. They understood that Jesus’ death and departure were a fulfillment of the Old Testament promises of God. As Peter said, it is good for us to be on this mountain and see this Jesus, because it prepares us for Lent, and it prepares us for life. We have seen his glory, so we know he goes to his suffering and death willingly, lovingly, to be our Savior. We have seen his glory, so we know that no matter the sorrow or darkness we face in this life, we have been bought for another life in the kingdom of glory with our Lord.
Transfiguration is a distinctly Lutheran addition to the Christian calendar. In the 16th century, Johannes Bugenhagen and Veit Dietrich placed the celebration at the end of Epiphany before Lent, remembering that Jesus descended the Mount of Glory and set his face toward Jerusalem (Luke 9:51).
On Transfiguration, the Church says “farewell” to alleluias. The Church refrains from using her most jubilant words of praise during the muted celebration of Lent. The alleluias will return with the risen Lord at the celebration of Easter.