The Transfiguration of our Lord – Series C – Luke 9:28-36
In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
‘Tis Good Lord to be Here.
Today, these words come to us not only from the lips of St. Peter in our Gospel reading from Luke 9, but also, in a little while, they will come from our own lips, as we sing our closing hymn, number 414, ‘Tis Good Lord to be Here.
Hopefully, by that time, at the close of the Divine Service, we will all know for sure, that it is indeed Good, it is enough, and it is finished, that we are gathered Here.
For these words rest and go forth from our lips, and are sung as the words of utmost comfort, of confidence and of faith.
However, as they come today, from the lips of St. Peter in Luke 9, ‘Tis Good Lord to be Here, are not found as words of comfort, not of confidence, and most certainly, not words of faith.
Peter’s desire is to remain on the mount of Transfiguration.
And in that desire, we see Peter for exactly what he is: a phoney, a fraud.
Peter claims to have left everything for Jesus, but later he won’t manage to stay awake for even an hour in the garden. He claims that he will never deny the Christ, and yet he does so three times. He wants to stay on the Mountain. He wants the journey of Christ to be over, for glory to come now.
He wants to pretend as though he loves Jesus, when all he really wants is to save his own skin.
He is a phoney and a fraud.
But it’s not just Peter. All of us are just as selfish, just as cowardly, just as weak, and just as unwilling to go to Jerusalem and face the end.
Being political is not just a skill reserved for politicians, it’s the very nature of the human heart.
We tell ourselves that appearing genuine and authentic is just as good, if not better than actually being authentic.
We say not what we’re really thinking, but what we think others want to hear.
We guard our image and reputation by making sure that our neighbor has none.
We spend more time worrying about appearances than about the truth.
We fake our way through each of our vocations, through our marriages, our families, school and career.
We tell lies, we cheat and deceive, and all the while we applaud our own behavior and call it success. We call it wisdom, flexibility, the survival of the fittest, anything we can do to stay at the top.
At the end of the day, we are all found like St. Peter, desiring so desperately to appear loving, all the while, really just wanting to save our own skin.
St. Peter was a fraud. But Jesus loved him anyway. Moses was a murderer and a coward. But Jesus loved him too. Elijah was full of despair and self-pity, but Jesus still loved him.
Here is the truth, not the lies we tell, not the things we say to make others happy, but the real truth:
God is love. And His mercy endures forever.
Christ has paid the price to buy back and redeem Moses, Elijah, Peter, James, John and you.
He laid down His life in your place, to set you free and forgive your sins, to make you whole and give you hope.
Peter’s selfishness, the lies and false-piety doesn’t stop him. For Christ loved the real Peter – the one that Peter was afraid to let men see; the lying, cowardly, lusty, greedy, lazy Peter.
Jesus loved that one, and wanted that one to be His own. He wanted Peter to be His perfect son, his innocent, righteous and immaculate Bride, to be with Him forever in eternity, free from Satan and from temptation, free from his own betraying and lying heart.
Jesus also loves you, despite your lies and your faults. He loves you no less than He loves Peter, Moses and Elijah.
But that love, that real and true love, cannot be fulfilled by staying here on the mountain.
God in the flesh must go to Jerusalem and face the full force of man’s hatred and brutality.
He must endure the lies of the crowds, and the cowardice of Pilate.
He must suffer at the hands of men who love appearances and their own reputations rather than the truth.
He must die a hateful, violent and unfair death.
But that is why He came. He has taken up our flesh to be a sacrifice. The serpent must bruise His heel. The Messiah must pay with His life.
And Moses and Elijah, the ones who appear with him speaking about his Exodus, they are not ashamed of his death. They love it, they rejoice in it, they are eager for it. For this is what they longed to see, what they preached about, prayed for and hoped in.
This is how God loved the world, this is where the Father is made known, where His mercy is defined.
The crucifixion of Christ is where men are drawn to Him, where his full glory is revealed to the world, it is the culmination of God’s own image.
Do not let the crucifixion make you feel sad or guilty. For Christ himself, says that He alone has the authority to lay down His life. No one takes it or robs it from Him.
The crucifixion is not some tragic divine accident, it is the perfect will of the Father, the joyful work of the Spirit, and the gracious love of the Son.
The day Christ dies is a good day, it is in fact, the best day, the day that the Lord has made all things new, therefore let us rejoice and be glad in it.
For the day He died, He took death itself to the grave. He damned the serpent forever, and swallowed up sin in his sacrifice.
The serpent is crushed, it is finished, there is nothing more to do, death is dead and life now lives.
He rises from the tomb, for Christ alone has the authority to take his life up again. He is raised in the body…for this is what the transfiguration shows us; that is his divine nature literally shines forth through his flesh.
This is the hope given to you, a real hope, a true and certain promise. That where our bodies do fail and die in this fallen world, they will not remain in the ground forever.
Christ who has been washed over you, shines his divine nature also through your humanity, your flesh and blood.
Therefore, you will rise, you will live forever, for you are in Christ, the one who has come into creation so as to restore creation.
For this is what He is and this is what He does, that you, O Christian, would be spared the sting of death, and know His full and perfect love, that you would be forgiven and cleansed, true in Him, comfortable at last to be who you are inside.
Not the liar, not the phoney, not the coward or the fraud, but the real you: the Bride of Christ bearing his watery Name, eating His true body and blood, living by His Word, and waiting for the feast to come that has no end.
By His name, in His body, and through His faith, you live as the real you that He has called and declared you to be. That reality is not phoney, it is not vain or self-seeking…it is real. For God declares it and makes it so.
So that as Peter before you, is now St. Peter by grace in Jesus Christ. He is found forgiven and perfected.
Soon, you, too, shall bear that same title without end and without sin.
In the Name of Jesus, Amen.