Pastor James Hopkins preached this sermon for the Transfiguration of Our Lord, 1/29/2023. The bulletin is available as a PDF: Transfiguration Bulletin

The text for the sermon was the day’s gospel lesson. To read the Bible texts for the Transfiguration of Our Lord, click here. 

Jesus was transfigured before them. He shined brighter than the Sun before their eyes. He shined so brightly that even His clothes were too much to look at. Jesus showed them His great, big, beautiful, and incomprehensible glory.

And so, what? Three guys get to see Jesus for who He really is, while the rest of the world (i.e. everyone not on the mountain) sits in darkness.

You may have wondered: If Jesus really wanted us to know who He is, wouldn’t He have shined bright like that for everyone? What about them? What about us?

What about everyone who needs to see Christ for who He is?

What about a mother in Duxbury, who in a tragic, psychotic break killed her own kids last week? What about those very kids who died in fear and terror? What about a grieving husband and his presently surviving infant?

What about their families? What about their communities? What of all our prayers for them? What good are they? When do they get a big, bright, Jesus? When do they get lit up? When do they get epiphanied?When do they get an answer to murder and death, to sorrow and pain and grief and shame?

If you tell them this story of Jesus’ Transfigurationif you tell them of Jesus’ great, big glory and beauty; if you tell them how He shines brighter than the Sun; you can wait for a great, big, “So what?” Jesus can shine as brightly as He likes.

All they can see is darkness. Show them that picture of footprints in the sand, and they will see themselves as having been abandoned.

Show them a painting of smiling Jesus holding a Lamb on His shoulders, and it will mean nothing to them at all. As far as they can see in the dark, they are not cute, little lambs in the arms of a loving Shepherd.

Show them an empty cross, and they will see themselves hanging there, suffering and dying, forsaken by God.

I know what you’re thinking, and you’re correct. All of that is completely wrong, and utterly backwards.

You know that Jesus does love them. You know that Jesus does care for them.

Even if, sometimes, it’s hard for you to come to grips with as well, you know that Jesus does answer all those very big, very serious problems. But, can you blame them?

This world is far more darkness than light. When does it get transfigured?

When does death turn into life? When does darkness give way to light? When does hate turn into love? When does tragedy turn into glory? When will what happened on the mountain then matter to everyone else now?

And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.” Tell no one. Tell no one? Tell no one.

Tell no one because it will get a great, big, “So what.” Tell no one because it won’t make any sense, until the Son of Man has risen from the dead.

A world of darkness cannot behold the bright and shiny Jesus of Transfiguration. The world first needs to see the Jesus that Paul preaches. A world of darkness needs Christ crucified before it needs anything else.

That’s why the Church will always have Lent, for which we’re about to prepare. That’s why we will always have Good Friday. That’s why we will always preach Christ crucified.

Hanging there is a Jesus who gets it. Hanging there is a Jesus who cares. Hanging there is a once-shiny Jesus, now crucified for them and for you. For the life of the world. For the little, the least, the last, the lost, and the dead.

There is a Jesus who came to be transfigured on the mount, and disfigured on the cross. Marred beyond recognition.

There is a Jesus who dies our death, that we might have His life. Hanging there is a Jesus who surrenders His glory and His brightness, and gives it instead to us. There is a Jesus, forsaken by His Father, that we would never be forsaken.

The terrible world you see on the news is real, and it is dark. And it is the world Jesus came to redeem: a world stripped of “Alleluias” and songs of praise, a world we’ve made for ourselves. And so, today, in our closing hymn, we will surrender our “Alleluias” as well. Those words of praise will cease to pass through our lips. But we will sing them again.

On the other side of Golgotha, when we see the Light that lasts forever, that shines from an empty tomb. When the Son of Man has been risen from the dead. Then we will sing and be glad again. Then those “Alleluias” will come back bigger and brighter than ever.

Because Christ has turned His conviction into our acquittal. Because Christ has turned His agony into our delight. Because Christ has turned His murder into our vigor, and redeemed murderers. Because Christ has turned His death into our life, and will raisethe dead in number.Because Christ has turned His shame into our glory.

Full cross and empty tomb. Good Friday and Easter. Death and resurrection.

That’s the only way Transfiguration makes sense. When we and the whole world know that it is not just for Jesus. Transfiguration is for us, too. Just as you sang in the Hymn of the Day: “O Wondrous Type, O Vision fair, of glory that the church may share…” That’s a poetic expression, I think, of what St. Paul meant in his second letter to the Corinthians:

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. 2 Corinthians 3:18

The veil has been lifted. This Jesus Transfigured for you is also Christ crucified for you. Jesus is not done with this world. Despite all of Satan’s raging madness, it is conquered. Your prayers are not in vain.

That mother and her children can one day be a family again, free of the illness that afflicted her and tore them apart, free of grudge or complaint, full of the love that she, like all mothers, certainly longed to show them.

For Christ is Risen. And so shall they rise. Jesus lives, and so shall they live, not merely changed, but utterly transfigured.

That’s something you can tell everyoneFor the Son of Man is raised from the dead.

First Lutheran Church Sermon Archive


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