A Place for the Law
Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen
Sun and moon shall darkened be,
Stars shall fall, the heavens shall flee;
Christ will then like lightning shine,
All will see His glorious sign;
All will then the trumpet hear,
All will see the Judge appear;
Thou by all wilt be confessed,
God in man made manifest.
These beautiful words which we just sang are appropriate for both the Transfiguration of our Lord--for they show Him shining with the light of the sun--and for the Last Day, the day when Christ will return in glory to judge both the living and the dead, as we confess in the Apostles' Creed. The world looks at such a judgment as folly, and even within the Church that judgment is viewed with trepidation and fear, for it seems that we will be judged by what we have done and by what we have left undone...both the good and the evil.
But everything in the Law of Moses and the message of the prophets points to and is fulfilled in Jesus. Moses would say that you should change your heart and your ways and turn back to God. But that preaching pointed to the coming Savior. When Jesus is standing on the mount of Transfiguration, the chosen disciples see Moses and Elijah with Jesus. Then, when the disciples look again, they only see Jesus. We are to learn from that that everything Moses wrote and everything the prophets said is fulfilled and wrapped up in Jesus, who comes to fulfill the Law by keeping the commandments perfectly and dying on the cross under the Law's judgment upon sins. Everything finds its place in Jesus.
Like Peter, we want to give Moses and Elijah their own place alongside Jesus. Sure, we believe Jesus died for our sins, but what really matters is what the Law says. What matters is how you live, how you treat others. Of course you're better at keeping the Law than other people. We act as if the preaching of the prophets to turn from our evil ways is something we can do if we just try hard enough. What happens then is that Jesus is no longer the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets; He is just a better and more powerful version of them. We make Jesus into a new Moses whose job is to teach us how to live and to point out bad behavior. If we go to church and have our lives in order, other people should too. Jesus becomes the guy who leaves us in guilt that we aren't doing what we're supposed to be doing or not doing it well enough. That's what happens when you give Moses and Elijah their own place next to Jesus.
The place for Moses and Elijah is in Christ—fulfilled in Him, that is. Peter wants to make tabernacles for them. The Father interrupts and tells them to listen to Jesus. Then they look up and see only Jesus. What they are to learn from this? It’s not, "Keep an eye on bright, shining Jesus," but rather, "Hear Him." Hear His Word. What does His Word say? It says He will go to Calvary and die for sinners and the third day rise again. It says that to be washed in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit is new birth from above. His Word says that when His pastors forgive your sins, they are forgiven. His Word says that true repentance isn't turning your life around; it's being forgiven for your sins. His Word says, "Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins." His Word does not say to fix your life and do what the Commandments say. Like we really need Jesus to tell us that. We already have the Law written on our hearts. But if we listen carefully, the words of Moses and Elijah point us to Jesus who takes away our sin and gives us a place with God.
And that's where this all ends up. The Father said at Jesus' baptism, "This is my beloved Son." The Father says at Jesus' transfiguration, "This is my beloved Son." At your baptism, the Lord says, "This is my beloved son." It’s not because you did everything Moses told you. It’s not because you did what the prophet said to do. You are the beloved Son of God because you are in Christ, the One who has kept all the Law for you, fulfilled every prophecy for you, and is the Father's beloved Son for you. Stop trying to make tabernacles for Moses and Elijah! Jesus has made a place for you—a place with Him forever. That's what the transfiguration of Jesus is all about. In the name of the Father and of the Son (+) and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always. Amen.