2 Peter 1:16-21
St. Matthew 17:1-9
The lessons appointed for the
Transfiguration of our Lord combine to present to us a well balanced
diet of good spiritual food. From
the Epistle Lesson we learn to put our confidence in the written word of
God that is preserved for us in the Bible.
From the Gospel Lesson we learn to listen to Jesus, the Word
become flesh. The Old
Testament Lesson invites us to trust in the gospel truth that God has
covered us with the robe of Christís righteousness so that we can
stand with joy before the God whose face we see in Jesus.
The Bible is the word of God.
Christ is the Word of God. The
gospel is the word of God. This
morning, as we celebrate the transfiguration of our Lord Jesus, we look
to this threefold revelation of Godís word: the written word, the
incarnate Word, and the gospel word of God that covers all our sins and
makes us saints.
The Bible is the written word of God.
No other book is the written word of God.
Only the Bible is the written word of God.
The Muslims believe that the Koran is the word
of God. The Mormons believe
that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. How can we know that the Bible is the word of God and the
Koran and Book of Mormon are not? St.
Peter answers this question in the Epistle Lesson for this morning.
Peter, James, and John were was eyewitnesses of Christís glory.
They saw his face shine like the sun.
They heard the voice of God the Father come from out of the
cloud. They saw Moses and Elijah standing there with Jesus.
It was through Moses that God gave us the first five books of the
Bible, and God proved that Moses was a true prophet by doing one
miraculous sign after another through him. From the ten plagues, to the miraculous crossing of the Red
Sea, to the water from rock, the miraculous daily descent of manna from
heaven and the guiding of Christ in the cloud and the fire Ė God
revealed his glory to Moses. Moses
had the credentials of a prophet. Elijah
stood up against the false prophets of Baal.
They promoted a nature religion in which their god was supposed
to bring them fertile harvests if they won his heart.
So they cut themselves, cried out mournfully, whined, and wailed
and got nothing from their false god.
They thought that by inflicting pain on themselves they would win
the heart of their god and he would send rain.
Elijah preached the gospel of the true God who sent his Son to
bear our suffering. He
prayed a prayer and God sent fire from heaven.
God confirmed his prophetic office by miraculous signs.
God did this from Moses through Malachi.
The Koran has no such evidence to authenticity.
Who was Muhammad but an adulterer and a thief?
He did no miracle. He
was a false prophet. The
Koran is filled with easily discovered errors of fact.
And what was Joseph Smith but a religious con man from a family
of counterfeiters and cheats? Smith
made up a tall tale about magic eyeglasses that he used to translate the
Book of Mormon, which was supposedly written on golden tablets in a
language called Reformed Egyptian Hieroglyphics.
However, this language never existed anywhere but on those golden
tablets, and the golden tablets have conveniently been taken back to
heaven by an angel called Moroni.
For centuries skeptics and unbelievers have
tried to shoot holes in the Bible, but they have never succeeded.
In recent generations the most outspoken critics of the Bible
have come from within the church herself.
University and seminary professors devoted to preparing future
pastors and teachers for the church call into question the truthfulness
of biblical assertions. They
argue that there are myths in the Bible, just like there are in every
other ancient religion. Many
have even gone so far as to call the resurrection of Jesus Christ from
the dead a myth.
But it was witnessed by hundreds of people.
Peter, James, and John, saw Jesus transfigured before their eyes. They saw his face shine like the sun. They saw his clothes become whiter than light.
This they saw before Jesus died.
After Jesus died, many people saw him alive.
He ate food, drank drink, walked into rooms that were locked from
the inside, and promised miraculous signs to validate the teaching of
And Jesus delivered.
He told the eleven that they would cast out demons, survive
poisonous snake bites, speak in languages they had never learned, heal
the sick and do other signs to prove they were his spokesmen.
And this is what they did. St.
Paul raised Eutychus from the dead.
He was bitten by a poisonous viper and suffered no ill effect.
The apostles all spoke in foreign languages on Pentecost and even
had the power to give this gift to others, though it was often misused.
They did the signs that authenticated the apostolic word, just as
the prophets had done signs to authenticate the prophetic word.
On the mountain where Jesus shined forth his glory as God in the
flesh, prophets of the Old Testament surrounded him while his apostles
of the New Testament witnessed the wonderful event.
The Bible didnít drop down from heaven.
God did not dictate his word through Gabriel to a man named
Muhammad. God didnít send
an angel named Moroni to bury his written word somewhere in upstate New
York. No, the Bible is from
heaven, but it was written here on earth.
It was written by men who lived here on earth.
Every one of those men was shown to be a spokesman for God.
And this is why the Bible, the whole Bible,
from cover to cover, is Godís word about Jesus, his only begotten Son.
Godís spokesmen didnít write down principles for successful
living, or rules on how to gain Godís approval.
Godís spokesmen wrote the words that direct us to Jesus.
Todayís Gospel lesson makes this crystal clear.
The Holy Scriptures is the book about Jesus Christ.
God the Father said to the writers of the Bible, both Old and New
Testaments, ďHear Him!Ē Listen to Jesus. Do
you want to know what God says? Hear
the words of Jesus. Do you
want to know why the Bible is like a light shining in a dark place? Itís all about Jesus, who is the Light of the world. Do you
want to know why the Bible was written?
The Bible was written that we may know Jesus.
The Bible was written in time.
It was written here on earth.
It was written in at least three languages, on three continents,
by many men, over a period of almost fifteen hundred years.
It was not written in heaven, but it was written on earth.
Why? The answer to
this question determines what we will look for when we read the Bible.
It will determine for us how we read the Bible.
St. Paul wrote about how when the Jews of his day read the Bible,
it was as if a veil had been placed over their eyes making them blind to
the plain sense of the text. And
so it is today among many nominal Christians.
They read their Bibles, memorize passages, study, and attend
classes, seminars, and revivals. They
are constantly seeking to improve themselves by a more thorough
knowledge of the Holy Scriptures. But
they donít see Christ as Christ must be seen.
And so the Bible does them little good other than perhaps
providing helpful principles for living a worthwhile life.
The Bible wasnít written so that you could
improve yourself by submitting to its principles.
In fact, looking to the Bible for enduring principles is to turn
the Bible into something it is not.
Why was the Bible written? To
show you Christ. The
transfiguration of Jesus shows this most emphatically.
Representatives of the Old Testament are there with Jesus, while
God the Father tells the writers of the New Testament to listen to
Jesus. St. Lukeís Gospel
tells us that Moses and Elijah were talking to Jesus about his departure
from this world. The word
Luke uses is exodus. Jesus
didnít leave this world without first setting his people free from
bondage, just as in the Exodus. If
you read your Bible and you arenít being set free by what you read,
you do not understand it.
The Bible does teach the law.
Thatís true. It
contains not only the Ten Commandments, but also a most thorough
explanation of them, both in the Old and the New Testaments.
In fact, Jesus himself taught the law more strictly than any of
the prophets. Moses said
not to kill. Jesus said
that hatred was murder. Moses
said not to commit adultery. Jesus
said that to lust after a woman was to be guilty of adultery.
Moses said that no one could be condemned except by the testimony
of two or three witnesses. Jesus
said that you had to go to the brother who did you wrong and try to
become his friend before you accused him of wrongdoing before others.
In every case of teaching Godís law, Jesus made more radical
demands than did any of the prophets.
But the teaching of the law is not Christís proper work.
That is, it isnít his first order of business or the theme of
his teaching. Jesus came to
preach Godís forgiveness. He
preached grace by forgiving the unforgivable.
He embraced in love those whose sins made them unfit for the
company of decent people. Jesus,
whose face shined like the sun with the unborrowed light of his eternal
deity, humbled himself to bear the sins of those he forgave.
It was his humiliation and suffering and death that occupied his
conversation with Moses and Elijah on the mountain.
When we listen to Jesus we are listening to him talk about his
passion. ďThis is my
body, which is given for you. This
is the blood of the New Testament shed for you and for many for the
remission of sins.Ē Thatís
the talk Jesus talks to us. ďI
am the good Shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep.Ē
Thatís Jesus talk. ďWhosoever
sins you forgive, they are forgiven.Ē
Thatís what Jesus came into this world to say.
And the glory of his face is always seen in
his grace. The Benediction
says it. The Lord make his
face shine upon you and be gracious unto you.
That is the second part of the threefold benediction given by God
to Aaron so long ago. That
benediction is spoken by the same divine authority here in this place
every Sunday morning. The
words give to you what the words say.
They give you the grace that shines in the face of Jesus.
And Jesus set that face toward Jerusalem where
he went to die. Nobody got
saved on the mountain where Jesusí face shone like the sun.
No sins were washed away there, and no sinners were redeemed
there, there was to be no great exodus taking place there.
No, where sinners are redeemed, forgiven, and saved eternally in
on Mt. Calvary where Jesus was shamed.
Where we hid, as it were, our faces from him because he was so
despised that we couldnít bear to watch him.
His face, disfigured in torment and suffering, was no pleasant
sight to behold, and so we couldnít look at it.
But it was as the Word made flesh fulfilled the prophecy of the
written word of God that the robes that cover us and make us beautiful
Jesus earned no benefits for us when his face
shone like the sun. The
benefits were won rather when his face was filled with pain, sorrow, and
the anguish of the damned. There
in the most lowly and awful and shame filled time and place of all
history Ė a time and a place where Peter repeatedly told Jesus not to
go Ė we were made beautiful. For
all the ugliness of our sins was poured out on Jesus, so that the beauty
of his holiness could cover our sins.
There on the cross is how Jesus brought his glory to us.
So we look at the one mountain and watch him walk to the other
mountain. He gives us the
glory of the first by bearing the shame of the second.
And this is the gospel truth, brothers and
sisters in Christ; this is what the gospel is.
The word of God that we trust is the message of Christís
righteousness covering us. The
word of God in which we rejoice is the garments of Christís salvation
making us saints. Nobody
ever got to heaven by trusting in the simple fact that the Bible is
Godís word. The devils
surely know that! And
nobody ever got to heaven by the simple assertion that Jesus is Godís
eternal Son. Didnít the
devils call him the Holy One of Israel?
But we do get to heaven, and we enjoy peace and joy with God here
on earth as well, when we trust that the righteousness of Jesus Christ
really does cover us and make us fit to inherit eternal life.
We do get to heaven by believing that for Christís sake all our
sins are forgiven and forgotten and we have Godís approval.
The glory of God in Jesus is the glory that
God on the last day will reveal in his children.
It is a wonderful day to anticipate.
It is a day for which to prepare.
This is why we, today and every day of our lives, treasure the
written word of God which testifies to the incarnate Word who in his
gospel word covers our sins so that we, with the children, may sing with
joy the words of the hymn:
When he shall come with trumpet sound, Oh may I then in him be found
Clothed in his righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the
On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.
Rev. Rolf D. Preus
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