God Works through His Word, with Hidden Glory
Matthew 17:1-9 - Transfiguration Sunday (5th, Last Sunday after Epiphany) - February 9, 2014

Dear believers in Christ, we have here absolute confirmation that your faith in Christ is not in vain.

Jesus shows clearly what is to come, for you. Jesus was transfigured. That’s where we get our word “metamorphasis” - Jesus was transformed. This is confirmation of what is to come for you: a complete transformation. For you too will enjoy a glorified body, free from all sin and sorrow.

You too will be as white as the light, in the glory of heaven. White is the color that symbolizes purity, and holiness. For there will be no more sin, and no more sorrow in heaven. Not even a hint of sin in your glorified body.

The Transfiguration of Christ is absolute assurance - your faith in Christ is not in vain. You will rise to eternal glory, just as surely as Jesus is risen.

Yet, before the glory, comes the gory. Before life, comes death on a cross. For without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins. For in the Gospel of Luke we learn that the topic of discussion between Jesus, Moses, and Elijah was exactly that: Jesus’ death on the cross. Before eternal glory could be gained for us, payment had to be made for our sins.

We think we know better, like Peter, “Be it far from Thee, Lord: this shall not be unto Thee.” Like Peter, we want the glory now, without the cross.

And so God finally gives what everyone thinks they want to see and hear. Well, here it is - the great glory of God on display – unfiltered. We can be sure that it was absolutely spectacular. “His face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was white as the light.” Then there was the voice of God too. We can only imagine what it must have sounded like. What it must have felt like to hear the voice of Almighty God reverberate.

Three of His disciples finally get to experience what we all think we need. And what happens? They’re so afraid that they all fall on their faces.

Interesting, isn’t it? We can’t even seem to endure what we all think we need. Not so different from Adam and Eve, after the fall. “They heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God. And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard Thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.”

But why? Why hide from God? It was the same for Moses too, as we heard in the Old Testament lesson. When he saw the glory of God, “Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.”

But why hide? Why be afraid? Here’s the part that no one really wants to hear. We can’t see God in all His glory because we are sinners. We simply lack the holiness required.

That’s why we need Christ. He is the bridge between God and man. He is the go-between - the one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. He takes upon Himself our sins, and He makes us acceptable to the Father. So that one day soon, we can, and we will stand before God in all His glory, because we will be standing before Him on the basis of the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ alone.

So the Father clearly indicates the way to heaven, the way to salvation, the way to complete freedom from all sin and death. It’s so simple isn’t it? Here is the secret to life – the answer to everything. “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” The Father says, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him.”

And what does Jesus have to say, for us to hear? “Arise, and be not afraid.” There’s no reason to fear. There’s no reason to doubt. Jesus is all that we need.

We may not have a Phd. We may not have half the intelligence that many have, or the power and money and earthly glory that many have. But by God’s grace, we have in our heart what matters most: Jesus went to the cross to be everything we need to be saved. His voice, His word, calms our fears, and erases our doubts. Simply believe, and thou shalt be saved.

God usually works with hidden glory – for example, in the not-so-glorious looking cross. Even the transfiguration was an example of God hiding His glory. For Jesus told the disciples, tell this vision to no man, until the Son of Man be risen.

Even the way Jesus refers to Himself, is so humble. For that day it was obvious that He was the Son of God, yet He refers to Himself in great humility, as the Son of Man.

God works in us with hidden glory. And many think, surely it’s gotta be His Transfiguration, or His walking on water, or His stilling the storm, or His raising the dead, that really showed His glory. Yet, it was the night in which Jesus was betrayed that He said, “The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.”

A pack of seeds that sits on our shelf, does nothing, grows nothing. Only when a seed is buried, and first decays, and dies, is when it finally begins to bring forth new life.

To bring forth new life in us, in the forgiveness of our sins, “The Son of man must suffer many things…and be slain, and be raised the third day.”

His ways are above our ways, His thoughts are above our thoughts.

Most of the time Jesus did not show His great power, “for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”

And that is still how He works today, in you and me. His strength is made perfect in our weakness. As we continue to struggle, and have many trials and tribulations, let us remember, God is at work, hiding His glory, so that we may be strengthened in the true faith, by the only thing can do it for us: God’s Word. By the comfort of His death and resurrection. Because He lives, we too will live.

We can’t see it. We can’t witness it. And even if we could, it wouldn’t do us one bit of good. “If they hear not Moses and the Prophets”, that is, the Word of God, “neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead. For “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”

Jesus knew they couldn’t handle the great glory of God. So He gave them what they could handle, and what would comfort and strengthen them. He said, He spoke, “Arise, and be not afraid.” Because of His sacrifice, God is at peace with us and our sins are forever forgiven. So there is no reason to be afraid. He accomplished all things needful for us to be saved. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved."

May He then continue to comfort and strengthen us, by His Word, by His Sacraments, even though they aren’t so glorious-looking: simple water, bread and wine, and simple words. Yet in and through them, God’s Spirit works in us, to strengthen us, and keep us in the one true and saving faith.

Dear believers in Christ, your faith is not in vain. Eternal glory with Christ, waits for you. Your glorified body, without sin, is yet to come. In Jesus’ name. Amen.