Into: Jesus is about to accomplish our “exodus”
If you think about it, outside of the gospels, the miracles of Jesus don’t get a lot of mention. For example, as comprehensive as the letter to the Romans is, where do you hear about Jesus’ healings or his raising of Lazarus, or the feeding of the 5000? The same is true of the other epistles by the other Apostles.
There is one exception, however. That exception is the event that is told to us today: “The Transfiguration”. Though they did not say anything to anyone concerning what they had seen when they first came down the mountain with Jesus, after Jesus was resurrected, the Transfiguration ended up being a big deal when the Apostles gave their testimony. For example, in Second Peter, the Apostle Peter tells us that Jesus “received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to Him from the Majestic Glory saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And he says, “We ourselves heard this voice from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain”.
In the same way, the Apostle John tells us that “We have seen His glory, the glory of the only begotten Son, full of grace and truth”. They weren’t sure what they were seeing at the time, but later, they realized that, as they saw Jesus’ face and his clothing become dazzling white, they were seeing the “Chosen of” prophesied by Isaiah. They were seeing the Lord’s Servant who would not grow faint or weary until He had accomplished justice on the earth. They were seeing God Himself, setting forth to accomplish the greatest Exodus the world had ever seen.
I. That’s why the ESV tells us that Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus.
It tells us that they were speaking with Jesusabout His departure which He was to accomplish at Jerusalem. If you ask me, this word, “departure” is a poor choice of words. The word that was actually written, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (in the Greek) was the word, “Exodus” – a word that carries with it a much richer meaning than a simple word like, “departure”. True, the word “Exodus” does mean (literally) “the path out”. “Ex” means “out” and “odus” (in Greek) means “path, road, or way”. But, as we all know, there was more to it than that. The Exodus was a way out or path out from oppression. It was a Deliverance from evil. The Lord miraculously made a way through the waters of the Red Sea. He made a way where there was no way and He used a man by the name of Moses, to lead the people as He accomplished His amazing will and fulfilled the promises that He had spoken through the Prophets. The Exodus was a lot more than simply a “departure”. The Exodus was the way of salvation.
And though you probably don't think about the Exodus when you hear the story of Elijah, the fact is that Elijah had a pretty spectacular Exodus as well. It was miraculous, and it resulted in Elijah being taken up to heaven. Elijah never died. Yes, he suffered as he lived out his life in this world, but He was saved from death and the Spirit that was upon Him was taken and placed on his disciples, that his disciple might continues with the ministry.
You know the story. On the last day of his life, Elijah was accompanied by of his “disciples”...a man whose name was Elisha. And as the Elijah and Elisha were walking together, the two men came to the Jordan river where Elijah rolled up his cloak and struck the waters and (like the waters of the Red Sea, the waters of the Jordan were parted. And like the people of Israel of old, the two men walked across the river on dry ground. When they reached the other side, Elisha asked that a double-portion of the Spirit that Elijah had, be placed upon him. Elijah was then taken up in a chariot of fire and Elisha then went back...re-split the waters of the Jordan and became the next prophet over the “sons of the prophets”. Elijah’s Exodus was accomplished when the Spirit of God, that had been place upon him, was passed on to His disciple, equipping Elisha to carry on in the Name of the Lord and His ministry.
II. At the Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus to speak with Jesus of His Exodus
Jesus’ Exodus, when accomplished would be greater than Moses’ and Elijah’s. When Jesus’ Exodus was accomplished, everyone who “listens to Him” will be released from bondage. When Jesus’ Exodus is accomplished, the Spirit which came down and rested upon Jesus like a dove at His baptism, will be placed upon His followers. As He accomplishes His Exodus, Jesus will commend His Spirit into the hands of His Father who will pour out this Spirit upon Jesus’ disciples lavishly on the Day of Pentecost. Through the accomplishment of Jesus’ Exodus, the curtain that separated the people from the Ark in the Holy of Holies will be torn in two like the Red Sea and like the waters of the river Jordan and people will be able to “pass to the other side and enter the Promised land”. Through the Exodus that Jesus will accomplish, untold numbers of people will miraculously pass through the waters of baptism and simultaneously be covered by the water and blood that poured from Jesus’ side, saving them from death. By this gracious covering His people will be led safely into the presence of the consuming fire of God and there, behold His glory...they will walk with Him again...talk with Him again...and all things will be made new.
III. This is the promised land now to where Jesus leads and it is an exodus that passes through the cross.
Like the Exodus of old, this too is incredibly miraculous. When you think about it, some people might have been able to swim or float their way across the Red Sea. Possibly. There might have been at least a few that might have gotten away. But nobody would escape a Roman cross of crucifixion. The cross, however, is the way. The path to the promised Land passes through the cross.
If you could look back a few verses before this gospel reading, to verse 23, you’d see Jesus tell His disciples that “if anyone would come after ME, let him deny Himself, take up his cross DAILY, and follow me”. Verse 27 ends with the promises that there were some standing there (listening to Him) who would not taste death until they saw the Kingdom of God.
Eight days later, Peter, James and John saw His glory and in Christ, they saw the Kingdom of God. They saw it, not only in the brilliance of Jesus’ face, but in the fact that (behind this “mask” of flesh and blood), the Chosen Servant of the Lord, was setting out on a journey to His cross, and that this glorious being…this man that they would learn to call “God” was not going to grow weary until all was accomplished for the salvation of all His people of every time and place.
In the “transfiguration of Jesus” is a promise to all those who deny themselves and pick up their crosses daily...are ever turning from, as John says, “the lust of the eyes, the desires of the flesh, or the boasting of what one has and does”...and instead are daily, in the words that came from the cloud, “listening to Him”. These are the ones who in the words of the Apostle, are “chosen in Him from the foundation of the world” through the waters of baptism....who hold to the promise that we too shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed...that what is sown in dishonor, is raised again in glory...that when we awaken (as the Apostles awakened) we too, will behold His glory. We too, will see the Kingdom of God in the face of Jesus Christ our Savior...the One who (when He cried, “It is finished”) accomplished His Exodus.
Conclusion: Transfiguration Sunday is regarded as a “high feast day” and rightly so because it’s not just your “average text” for your “average Sunday”. In fact, it’s especially fitting that we receive the Sacrament of the Altar on such a day. This text is bursting with the gospel – which you can see if you hear it read with the original words. In other words, if you can hear what is being said in terms of the Exodus that Jesus accomplished.
Because of what Jesus accomplished, His promise continues to be true. There are some here who will not taste death before they see the Kingdom of God. Remember, that as the disciples followed Jesus up the mountain, His face was like any face...His clothing like any clothing...but as He prayed, what was hidden behind the mask of flesh and blood was momentarily revealed as they were encompassed by the cloud of the Heavenly presence.
In the same way, as you come forward, you will receive what looks like any other bread, you’ll drink what looks like any other wine, but in truth what is hidden behind these masks of bread and wine is the true body and blood of the Lord that by faith, you might also behold His glory...that in the body and blood of Jesus, crucified and risen for you...you might see the Kingdom of God...that you might hear His voice through His Word...and that you might follow Him along the path that He has prepared through the way of the cross, into life everlasting. IJN +