Expectation in Christ: A Transfiguration Sermon

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transfigurationRev. Paul Lantz preaching on Luke 9:35 on February 10, 2013

 “Expectation”… the dictionary defines this word as:  A strong belief that something will happen in the future.”  Or “That someone will achieve something.”  Hope… Anticipation… Prospect.  Thursday afternoon this week there was great expectation amongst the thousands of students in Massachusetts that on Friday there would be a snow day.  Their expectation was fulfilled.  What are your expectations for 2013?  Success in your studies?  Perhaps a profitable year of business?  Maybe anxiously expecting the arrival of a newborn son or daughter.  In today’s gospel reading of the Transfiguration of Jesus, we find a number of significant lessons on the topic of “expectation.”

       Luke 9 is the basis for today’s message.  (bulletin gospel reading)  Let’s look at the context.  What happened just prior to Peter, James and John heading up the mountain with Jesus?  Verse 28… “Now about eight days after these sayings…”  What sayings?  What conversations?  It certainly wasn’t a bunch of small talk.  Just a few days earlier Jesus had asked his disciples the most important question any human being can be asked:  “Who do you say I am?”  Peter boldly confessed:  “You are the Christ of God.”  Later, Jesus went on to clearly explain all that was about to happen… his suffering, rejection, death and resurrection.  To top it off, listen to a couple remarkable claims Jesus made…  “Take up your cross and follow me.”  “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”  Jesus wasn’t speaking in parables.  He brazenly declared that He was…(tada dada) the Son of God, the Savior of the World.  How about that for creating just a little bit of expectation?

       Have you ever made a big promise and as soon as the words left your mouth you began wonder, “Man, I hope I’m able to do this?”  Talk is cheap.  People want to see results.  So, I’m sure the pressure was palpable amongst the disciples as they wondered just how Jesus was going to prove His claim to be the Messiah. 

       What was the first thing Jesus did?  He invited some close friends to go hike up a mountain with him.  Although Mt. Tabor is considered by many as the location of this event, Mt. Hermon actually fits better.  Why?  It’s location to Caesarea Philippi… the lack of inhabitants and it’s height.  (around 3,000 feet higher than our own Mt. Washington)  Do you remember why Jesus would periodically go up mountains?  He was making time to pray.  If Jesus found encouragement in times of prayer, just imagine how we can receive peace in the midst of all our stresses.  Why don’t we start looking at prayer as a “spiritual vacation time” available to us on a daily basis?

       During His prayer, God’s Word says that, “the appearance of (Christ’s) face was altered, and His clothing became dazzling white.”  The word from the original text implies a brilliant white like fresh fallen snow that shines as bright as lightning.  Remember this fact for later.

       Then, two individuals are seen talking with Jesus… none other than Moses and Elijah.  I’ve often wondered just how did the disciples know it was Moses and Elijah?  I mean was there some kind of divine nametag?  “Hi!  I’m Moses.”  “Hi!  I’m Elijah.”  Maybe the disciples knew who they were because Jesus called them by name?  Or maybe it was because they heard the context of the conversation.  The Bible says they were talking about, “His (Christ’s) departure… about to be accomplished in Jerusalem.”

The word the scripture uses for “departure” is similar to that of “exodus”.  What a moment in history!  Moses… the one who brought the children of Israel out of slavery… the one who went up on the mountain to receive the Law of God… Elijah… the prophet of God who went up on the mountain and defeated the false god Baal… both together with the Son of God who would go up on Mt. Calvary to be the Passover Lamb for all mankind.  And let’s not forget the most obvious reason why this encounter with two Old Testament leaders must have touched Jesus… both men had been dead for generations.  Now, on the home stretch before facing His own death He was able to have a face to face conversation with two men who already had passed through death’s portal and looked to Jesus for their own eternal life.

       The grand finale is when the clouds rolled in.  The disciples become afraid.  And the voice of God says, “This is my Son.  My Chosen One.  Listen to Him.”  Nothing more said.  In fact after those words, the event was over.  Jesus was once again alone with his disciples.  Could you ever dream of a better confirmation service?  Moses… Elijah… and God Almighty declaring that Jesus Christ is exactly who he claims to be.

       How should we respond to such a marvelous moment?  Even though he was just waking up, Peter actually had a fine response.  “It is good that we are here.”  (built the 3 booths – remembering the moment)  When the stresses of life grow and we begin to doubt if we can live up to all the expectations… remember Peter’s comment… “It’s good to be wherever Jesus is.”  You made a special effort to be here in church today with over two feet of snow…  That’s good!

       However, I believe Jesus had the best response to what happened on the mountain that day.  Do you remember what He said?  It wasn’t what he said… it was what He did… He literally shined!  The brilliant light of His divine nature was evident to all!  Can you imagine how many hits there would be if we could’ve made a YouTube video of that moment?  Yet, there is an application for us today… God has a wonderful purpose for your life… He has high expectations if you call yourself a Christian because that same Jesus is the one who lives in your life.  Have you been baptized in Christ’s name?  Do you plan to receive the gift of the presence of Jesus this morning at the Lord’s Supper?  Then be prepared to shine today!

Philippians 2: 13-15

 for it is God who works in you, Do all things without grumbling or questioning,  that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 

       My dear friends, there is no doubt that unfortunately we live in a “crooked and twisted generation.”  All major cultural influences in our country – media, government, education, entertainment, business – all these areas currently display a blatant opposition to the message and example of Jesus Christ.  Yet God’s plan remains the same:  salvation to all through Jesus alone.  And His expectation is that we would make a difference in this world by being real examples of how the unconditional love of Christ can change a life.  When our expectation is in Christ… we have a hope that will not fail… we have a promise that God’s love will be reflected in our lives… He will shine in us just like the bright sun shining on freshly fallen snow.

In the precious name of Jesus Christ.  Amen

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