140302 Matthew 17:1-9

Last Updated on Monday, 03 March 2014 Written by Pastor Schmidt

Sermon Text: Matthew 17:1 – 9

Have you ever had a "Mountaintop Experience"? A "Mountaintop Experience" is any event in our life that is exciting, uplifting or life-changing. Maybe for you it was when you were actually on a mountain, say in the Rocky Mountains, overlooking the Grand Canyon. Maybe it was in your favorite spot in the north woods of Wisconsin. Maybe it was at the birth of your first child. You see, a "Mountaintop Experience" does not HAVE to take place on the top of a mountain. But today, we do go to a mountaintop. Today our Savior invites you and me to the Mount of Transfiguration to ENJOY A MOUNTAINTOP EXPERIENCE WITH THE LORD.

Matthew begins his account of the Lord's Transfiguration in this way, "After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them." Jesus gave three of his disciples a rare glimpse of his glory. And there was even more of his glory for them to see. "Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus"; "a bright cloud enveloped them" and the voice of God the Father, saying, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!" It is interesting to note that these words of the Father echo what he said about Jesus at the time of his baptism. As Jesus began his ministry here on earth at his baptism, the Father blessed him. As the Savior's ministry is reaching the high point and coming to an end, God the Father once again pronounced his blessing on all his Son had done and would yet accomplish.

Why this "Mountaintop Experience"? Why this reminder of our Savior's glory on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent? Think about the events that the disciples would soon witness with their own eyes. Very soon they would see their Lord and their Master, with whom they had enjoyed a very close, personal, day-to-day relationship with for almost three years, suffer and die at the hands of his enemies. They would be tempted to see him only as a man who suffered and died, and not as the glorious Son of God. This "Mountaintop Experience" reminds us that it is necessary for Jesus Christ to be true man so that he could live under God's Law in our place. Jesus needed to be true man so he could suffer and die in our place. But during our Mountaintop Experience this morning we have also seen his glory. We have seen that Jesus Christ is also true God. As true God the perfect life he lived under God's Law counts for us. Jesus lived, suffered, died and rose again for the forgiveness of your sins and mine. By allowing us to see his glory, the comfort you and I enjoy is that we can be sure that the debt of our sins is paid in full by our glorious Savior, Jesus Christ.

Do you ever find yourself wondering what it must have been like for Peter, James and John as they enjoyed this "Mountain Experience" with the Lord? What must of it been like for them to be an eye-witness of our Savior's Transfiguration? Imagine for a moment that you are there for this "Mountaintop Experience." Jesus' appearance changed. You see the blinding light. You see two "giants" from the Old Testament, and you hear them speaking with Jesus. You see the cloud. You hear the voice of the Father. What is your reaction? Are you afraid? Do you want to stay or leave? Do you agree with Peter when he says 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." As I mentioned earlier, Jesus was using the final days of his life here on earth to prepare his disciples for his upcoming suffering and death. He was also preparing them for a time when he would no longer be with them. Maybe this is why Peter said what he said. Maybe he didn't ever want there to be a time when he would not be at the side of his Savior in his glory. Maybe Peter was thinking that Jesus could enjoy this glory now, without having to go through the suffering and death that he was talking about. This is exactly the reason why the disciples needed this "Mountaintop Experience." This was just the right time for Jesus to remind his disciples, this is just the right time for the Savior to remind you and me of his mission.

In his account, Matthew tells us that Jesus, Moses and Elijah were talking. What was the topic of their discussion? The Gospel writer Luke, led by God the Holy Spirit, tells us that "they spoke about his departure which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem." In other words, what Peter, James and John heard the Savior, Moses and Elijah talking about was Jesus' upcoming mission in Jerusalem. They were talking about how Jesus would willingly go to Jerusalem to suffer and to die. Did the conversation stop at that point? While we aren't told, most likely Jesus, Moses and Elijah also discussed how the suffering and death of Jesus would not be a shameful defeat, but a glorious victory, including the victory of Easter morning, as Jesus would rise from the dead. And then, 40 days after his resurrection, the Savior would depart this world and once again take his place in the glory of heaven. Yes, the mission of the Savior was to suffer and die. But it did not end in the grave. He would also rise from the dead and ascended into heaven. Leading up to the Transfiguration, we are told in Matthew 16 that "Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priest and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life."

We talked a moment ago about what our reaction might have been if we were there in person for this "Mountaintop Experience". Perhaps one emotion that most of us, if not all of us, would have is fear. Matthew reports that when Peter, James and John heard the voice of God the Father speaking "they fell facedown to the ground, terrified." Fear, being terrified of God, is a very natural reaction of sinful mankind in the presence of the holy and just God. However, the mission of Jesus was to do away with that fear. The mission of our Savior was to bring peace and comfort between sinners and God. We see Jesus bring comfort to the disciples on the maintain that day. We read, "But Jesus came and touched them. 'Get up,' he said. 'Don't be afraid.' When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus." The "Mountaintop Experience" was over. Jesus, once again hiding his full glory, comes to the disciples' side and offers words of comfort that only he is able to offer. "Don't be afraid", he says, "I am your Savior." And so that no one would get the wrong idea about his mission, the Lord instructs his disciples, "Don't tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead."

As we approach the Lenten season, the Lord prepares us for this time of the Christian Church year by giving us this "Mountaintop Experience"; by reminding us of Jesus' mission. It is important for us to remember that the mission of Jesus is not to give us every material possession this world has to offer. The mission of your Savior and mine is not to make earth such a great place to live that we never want to leave. The mission of Jesus, our Lord and Savior, is clear: it is to do away with the fear of punishment for our sins; it is to pay in full the price demanded for all sins, which includes the sin of misunderstanding his mission. So I invite you to join us beginning this Wednesday Evening at 4:00 or 7:00 pm, and each Wednesday for the next six weeks, as we will be reminded of the mission Jesus accomplished for us.

I don't know if you feel the same way, but it is hard for me to think that this coming Wednesday is Ash Wednesday. Our lives get busy with many different activities and commitments. Time quickly passes us by. As our lives become more and more hectic, we too easily forget about all that our Savior Jesus Christ was willing to endure to win the forgiveness of your sins and mine. Knowing that we are easily distracted by the things of this world, knowing that we sometimes get caught up in the events in our personal lives, Jesus encourages you and me to witness his glory and remember his mission as he invites you and me to ENJOY A MOUNTAINTOP EXPERIENCE WITH THE LORD! Amen.


Our Mission Statement:

Compelled by the love of Christ, St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and School seek to reach out to our families, community and world, using Law and Gospel to make disciples, growing and nurturing them in their Christian faith and life.


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St. Matthew's Lutheran Church
818 West Wisconsin Avenue
Oconomowoc, WI 53066




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