February 23, 2020
Pastor Gunnar Ledermann
After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3 Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.
4 Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
6 When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” 8 When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.
9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”Matthew 17:1-9
The power went out on our street last week. I left church Wednesday just as it was getting dark and on my way home, I felt my pocket vibrate indicating I had received a text message. I did not check my phone though because that is not safe, and I have one of those car insurance apps that knows when you look at your phone ruining the discount for being a good driver. When I finally turned onto our street, I noticed that the streetlights were not shining on our street but were on everywhere else. Then, when I got to our community mailbox area and was able to check my phone, I saw that my wife texted me that the power was out. I quickly called her, and she said the power was not scheduled to be back on for a few hours. I then asked what I could do to help her with the power being out because we have two children under the age of two and it was almost bedtime. We decided that I would go grab some fast food for mom and dad, since the kids had eaten, but we had nothing prepared for ourselves. As I hung up the phone my mind raced with all the issues we were going to have if the power did not come back on soon like how were we going to keep the kids warm, see in the dark to change diapers, charge baby monitors, charge phones, etc. Then, as I got back into my truck to drive off to grab something to eat, the lights turned back on. I could not believe it, and as the feeling of confidence that everything was going to work out returned, I headed for home.
You and I have had plenty of situations remind us that we depend on something or someone. I just gave the example of the electricity going out and how I was reminded how much I depend on it. You and I have weaknesses that make us dependent on others and other things but talking about being dependent isn’t something we generally like to talk about. Weak and dependent do not sound like who we are supposed to be, especially in this country where independence is celebrated. It may be difficult to talk about our weakness, but it is reality. You and I are weak in many ways and depend on others or other things to get us through life. Whether we feel weak and unprepared going to school for the first time as a preschooler or kindergartener, moving from one school to another, going off to college, getting a job, balance school, a job, a relationship and attending church, planning to get married, buying a house, trying to have kids, trying to figure out how to raise kids, pay for kids, talk to our kids, pay the mortgage, make our boss and coworkers happy, plan for retirement, take care of aging parents, aging spouse or our aging self, and then death. And, while all that is going on there are things like power outages, elections, moving to a new city or state, a new flu strain, cancer, etc. all to remind us that we are weak and dependent. A lot of the time, we are able to ignore how weak and dependent we are, but there are times when it all piles up on us and we hit our knees wondering how to find the confidence to move forward. This is very similar to how Peter felt in our gospel reading from Matthew 17.
Peter’s weakness seemed impossible to come back from. Six days before what we read about in Matthew 17, Jesus told Peter and the other disciples that he was going to go to Jerusalem, suffer at the hands of the Jewish religious leaders, die and three days later come back to life. When Peter heard all this, he took Jesus aside and said that this would never happen to him. Then, Matthew 16:23 Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” There really is not much worse than Jesus calling you Satan. Six days later though, Jesus took Peter, James and John up on a mountain and was transfigured before them meaning, Matthew 17:2…His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Jesus had not given up on Peter bringing him along to see this incredible display of the Son of God’s glory. Then God the Father spoke from heaven saying, 5… “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” It was too much to bear for the three disciples and they hit the ground in fear. As they laid there in the presence of God’s glory, all their weakness, regrets, guilt, sins and fear of death weighed on them, but they were not lost. God had spoken these same words, Matthew 3:17… “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” about Jesus when he was baptized, but now the Father added the words, “Listen to him.” Peter, the other two disciples, you, me and all people are not lost in our weakness before Jesus, we are saved.
Jesus had already given the answer to Peter’s weakness and ours in what he said six days earlier. Jesus’ death and resurrection are what we depend on in our weakness. In our reading from Exodus 24, we heard about Moses going up on a mountain to receive God’s law in the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments summarize how God wants all people to live, but we all break them. You and I are weak because we are sinful. As the Israelites stood before the mountain where God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, we read, 17 “To the Israelites the glory of the Lord looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain.” The mountain was terrifying to the eyes of sinful man, but through faith in Jesus God’s glory, power, perfection and even his law are no longer terrifying. Jesus saved us from our weakness to keep God’s law, our sins, through his perfect life and innocent death. He kept God’s law perfectly, but he was treated as if he broke it by giving his life on the cross to die for you and all people. Now his perfect life is yours through faith, so that God now looks at you as perfect meaning you are welcome and part of his kingdom and eternal life in heaven with him is yours.
Those who listen to Jesus are filled with confidence for life. Peter, James and John hit the ground in the presence of Jesus and at the sound of God the Father’s voice. 7 But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” Jesus knows you and I are weak, that is why he came to this world. He is not a God far away watching us try to work out our lives, then decide if we were good enough on our own. He is a God who became one of us to save us. He is here with us. His words are for you and me to listen to for eternal life, and to get us through our daily lives.
God’s word in every way is our confidence because it reveals our Savior. God calls us to faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins and eternal life through his Word. He also frees us from sin through his Word as it feeds our living faith inside of us that stands against sin, weakness, the devil, lies, the world and the broken choices we make that seem right to our sinful selfish hearts but only lead to hurt, regret and death. In our reading from 2 Peter 1, God assures us with these words, 21 “For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” These words we read about Jesus and all he has done for us are the words of God. They are words that no one can change or speak against with any authority or power. They give us confidence even in our weakness.
Jesus is your confidence, but you still struggle because the sinful world is against you. When you go to school, others will find some way to hurt your feelings, exclude you from friend circles or games, post lies and gossip for many to see online, but your identity is not found in what others say about you. Your identity is in Christ. The Almighty God who literally shines forth with light, who created all things, finally, who rose from the dead, says that he loves you and you are his child. When you are not sure what career path to follow or others say you will be a failure or not make any money, Jesus said in Matthew 6, 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Stop worrying about picking the right path and be confident that God will be with you whether you have a degree or not, or whether you make minimum wage or six figures. When you worry about your kids, your parents or yourself growing old, getting sick and even dying, the words of Jesus are your confidence. Jesus said to Peter, James and John, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” Jesus did come back from the dead. No one else has done what Jesus did. Confidence in Jesus is the ultimate confidence. It is confidence for eternal life and for your life now.
The power went out on our street last week, but after the lights came back on and I had time to sit down and think. I thought about all those who lived before electricity and how they survived. Granted life expectancy was a lot shorter and life was a lot more difficult in many ways, but God saw them through it all. You and I depend on so much to keep us alive because we are weak. At the same time, you and I are confident because of Jesus. Jesus is the source of life. He was there at the creation of the world as God, he is the one who rose from the dead, he has forgiven your sins and he is with you now. Your present and future are secure because you live with confidence in Jesus. Amen.