February 07, 2016

Rev. Mark F. Bartels

Old Testament Lesson; Exodus 34:29-35

Epistle Lesson; 2 Corinthians 4:3-6

Sermon Text; Luke 9:28-36

Today is the last Sunday of The Epiphany Season. Before The Epiphany Season begins, we have something called Christmas, and then we have The Epiphany Season. Next, we go into what is called Lent.

On Ash Wednesday we begin The Lenten Season. That is when we look at the suffering and death of Jesus.

The Epiphany Season is the bridge between Jesus' birth, and Jesus' death. It comes between Christmas, which is the birth of Christ, and Good Friday, which is the death of Christ.

At Christmastime, God gives 'The Gift'.

'The Gift' is

His Son.

During Epiphany, we “unwrap” 'The Gift'. (The word 'epiphany' means 'to make manifest', or 'to show forth'.) So, we “unwrap” 'The Gift', and we see who is it that God sent. When Lent comes, we know who it is that is going to the cross. We know who it is that is hanging on the cross.

During The Season of Epiphany, there are some things that happen. Here is what happens during the Sundays of The Epiphany Season.

For example, we look at the miracles Jesus performed. Different years, it might be different miracles.

       -We may look at the wedding at Cana, where Jesus turned water into wine.

       -We may look at the calming of the storm, when Jesus calmed the storm.

       -We may look at the healing of the leper, or the healing of the centurion's servant.

       -We may look at the driving out of the demons.

What we begin to see, as we “unwrap this Gift” God has given to us is who is the One who has the ability to do those things.

       -the power of nature, 

       -the power over demons,

       -power over disease.

This has to be none other than God in the flesh.

So, we begin to “unwrap that package – Jesus”.

Then, the second thing that happens during The Epiphany Season, is that not only do we see from His miracles that He is God, but we also begin to see He is the One who was spoken about in The Old Testament. The Old Testament made many promises about the coming Jesus, the coming Messiah. So, we begin to look at passages. For example, when Jesus gave His first sermon in His hometown, and He read from the book of Isaiah, when He said,


this scripture is fulfilled

in your hearing.”

We begin to see Jesus is the One who was talked about in The Old Testament, the fulfillment of all of those prophesies.

Today is the last Sunday of The Epiphany Season. The Church Fathers did something really masterful. The two bookend Sundays for Epiphany are the baptism of Jesus, and today, which we call The Transfiguration of Jesus. On both of those days, there was a voice that came from Heaven that said,

“This is my Son

with whom I am well pleased.

Listen to Him.”

The Transfiguration of Jesus is kind of the culmination. It is the climatic event we are going to look at that “unwraps the package - Jesus”, so we know who is going to the cross, and who is going to hang on the cross.

Given that, we are going to look at what we refer to as The Transfiguration of Jesus, taken from Luke, chapter nine, verses 28 through 36. We read this, in our Savior's name.

Now about eight days after these sayings, He took with Him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. And as He was praying, the appearance of His face was altered, and His clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were talking with Him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of His departure, which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and those who were with Him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men who stood with Him. And as the men were parting from Him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah” - not knowing what he said. As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to Him!” And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.

These are your words, Heavenly Father. Lead us in the way of truth. Your Word is truth.


As I said, during The Epiphany Season we “unwrap this gift” God gave us, and we see who is Jesus. There may be no clearer picture of what we call The Divinity of Jesus. This is not just a man, but this is God in the flesh.

Then, what happened on the mount of Transfiguration? When we look at the books of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, we get this fuller picture. While the disciples, (Peter, James, and John) were on the mount with Jesus, they had fallen asleep. All of a sudden, the Bible says Jesus' appearance transformed. The Bible uses the word 'metamorphao', which means 'to metamorphize', or 'to change', or 'to transfigure', or 'to transform'. His appearance transformed. Now, you have looked at the sun, and you know how bright it is to look at the sun. Well, the Bible says His face shone like the sun. It says His clothing was dazzling white. His glory was shining right through Jesus' clothing. In fact, the Bible says it was so white, it was whiter than any launderer could ever launder them.

So, what were the disciples seeing, as they looked at Jesus? This wasn't a reflected light that was bouncing off of Jesus. This was glory that was emanating out of the body of Jesus, and through His clothing. There was no question who was standing before them. In fact, John later writes,

“We have seen His glory.

The glory of the One and only

who came from the Father,

full of grace and truth.”

Peter, later wrote,

“We were eye witnesses of His majesty.”

They understood, as they now saw Jesus shining in all of His glory, “This is God in the flesh, who is standing now in our presence.”

I want to talk about three other things from today's text.

       -There are different synonyms we use for the Bible. I want to talk about those synonyms.

       -Then, I want to talk about nice ways we say someone has died.

       -Finally, I want to talk about a sobering phenomena that has been discovered by seminary professors.

Synonyms for the Bible. What are different words we use to talk about 'The Bible'? Well, we might call it 'Scripture'. We may call it 'God's Word'. We may call it 'The Holy Book'. We may call it 'The Good Book'. We use different synonyms to refer to 'The Bible'.

In Jesus' day, they did not have The New Testament. All they had was The Old Testament. There were 39 books in what is now known as The Old Testament. They did not refer to it as The Old Testament, instead they used different terms to refer to The Old Testament. Sometimes, they called it “Scripture”. In fact, Jesus once said,

“Search the scriptures,

because in them

you have eternal life,

and these are they that testify about me.”

So, He referred to The Old Testament as “Scripture”. But, more often and actually more technically, The Old Testament was referred to as “The Law”, “The Prophets”, and “The Writings”. Sometimes that was abbreviated to just “The Law and The Prophets”. And, sometimes instead of referring to it as “The Law and The Prophets”, it was referred to as “Moses and The Prophets”, because The Law consisted of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, the first five books of the Bible, which are the books Moses wrote. So, often when referring to “Scripture” it was called “Moses and the Prophets”.

On the Mount of Transfiguration, as Jesus was shining in all of His glory, who appeared on the mountain with Him? The Bible says,

“There appeared with Him

Moses and Elijah”,

who were the quintessential prophets of the Old Testament! So here we have Moses, and the Prophet appearing with Jesus.

       -Moses had died 1,500 years earlier. The Lord had buried him, and now Moses is appearing with Jesus, from Heaven, here on the Mount of Transfiguration.

       -Elijah had gone up into Heaven in a fiery chariot, 850 years earlier. Now here he is appearing with Jesus.

But this is in essence representatives of the Old Testament – Moses and the Prophets appearing with Jesus. This is a clear indication that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament – Moses and the Prophet. As I said, Jesus once told the Jewish people (and He was referring to The Old Testament),

“Search the scriptures,

because in them you have eternal life.

And these are they which testify about me.”

The Old Testament testified about Jesus.

       -Remember when Jesus began calling His disciples, and He called Philip? Then, Philip called Nathaniel. Philip said to Nathaniel, “We have found the One Moses wrote about,

and that the prophets wrote about.”

He was saying Jesus was the fulfillment of Moses, and The Prophet.

       -Remember after Jesus rose from the dead, and He appeared to the Emmaus disciples, and they didn't know Jesus was walking with them? The Bible says,

“He opened their mind,

and beginning with Moses and all of the prophets,

He showed them how Christ had to suffer and die,

and rise again.”

And so, The Old Testament, Moses and the Prophets, appear with Jesus. This is a clear picture that Jesus is the fulfillment of The Old Testament - the One who had been pointed to. In fact, what were they talking about? Luke gives us a glimpse. The rest of the gospel writers don't tell this, but Luke tells us what Moses and Elijah were talking about with Jesus.

Now, what is a nice way to say somebody died? Sometimes, because we don't like to say, “'So and So' died”, we say, “They passed away”. Or, “They are no longer with us”. Or, “They have departed”, or some other euphamism, a nice way of saying someone died.

Well, the Bible says Moses and Elijah were talking with Jesus about

“His departure,

which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem”.

To say they were talking about Jesus' “departure” is a nice way of saying they were talking about His 'death', which He was about to accomplish in Jerusalem. In fact, I really wish the translators of our Bibles would, instead of trying to translate it into English, they would just use the actual word the Bible says, when it says, “Moses and Elijah were talking to Jesus about His departure”, because the Greek word for 'departure' is this: They were talking to Jesus about His 'exodus', which He was about to accomplish in Jerusalem. Now, the word 'exodus', is made up of ‘ex' which means 'out' and 'odus' which means 'road', 'the road out'. If we say somebody made a rapid 'exodus', we mean he made a rapid 'departure'. So yes, they were talking to Jesus about His 'departure', His 'death'. But, when you hear the word 'exodus', there are really some deep levels of meaning. That is a packed word.

       -As Christians, when you hear the word 'exodus', you can't help but in your mind go back to the second book of the Bible, which is known as Exodus, written by Moses, who was there with Jesus.

       -When we think of the Exodus, we think of the Children of Israel departing from Egypt, being freed from bondage, being freed from slavery, being delivered through the wilderness, and ultimately reaching the promised land.

When it says Moses and Elijah were talking to Jesus about His 'exodus', which He was about to accomplish, this is packed with meaning. They weren't just saying, “Jesus, you are going to die”. But, this is His 'exodus'. This is the 'exodus' by which Jesus is going to deliver His people from bondage and slavery, only it is the bondage and slavery of sin and death. He is going to lead us through the wilderness of this life, until ultimately, we enter eternal life, the Promised Land in Heaven.

It is awesome to think that there on that holy mountain Moses and Elijah were talking to Jesus about how He was the One who was the fulfillment of all of those Old Testament promises!

And so, as we enter Lent, you are really going to begin to hear this phrase over, and over again, as we get closer, and closer to Holy Week and Good Friday. You are going to hear the phrase about Jesus, “As it is written”, or “As it was written in Scripture”. And, you are going to see how Jesus continues to be the fulfillment of The Old Testament.

So, here we are about to jump into Lent. Who is going to go to the cross? Who is going to hang there?

It is God in the flesh.

It is the One

who came to fulfill all of The Old Testament promises.

They are all fulfilled,

when He dies on the cross.

Now I want to talk about a sobering phenomenon that seminary professors have discovered. This is true in our seminary, The Evangelical Lutheran Synod Seminary, The Wisconsin Synod Seminary. It is true across the board, not just our seminaries. But, when people, young men who are interested in going to the seminary, want to enroll in the seminary, there is often an entrance exam that is given, to see how well these young men know the Bible. What has been discovered is that there is what is called, A Growing Illiteracy of Scripture. Questions that 50 years ago, young men who were thinking about entering the seminary, could have answered, now fewer, and fewer young people really have a literate understanding of scripture. They know less, and less about scripture. This is so intriguing, because we have more, and more Bibles in our homes. We have more, and more access to scripture. You can get it on your cell phone. You can get it on the internet. So, even though we have this amazing access to scripture, somehow it appears our generation has less, and less of a grasp of scripture. Which is why the words God, the Father, spoke today are as applicable today, as they were when they were spoken to Peter, James, and John. The words the Father said where,


THIS is my Son,

my Chosen One;

listen to Him!”

Listen to Jesus. This is the call, the exhortation of God the Father.

Why is it so critical for us to listen to Jesus? Jesus said about scripture,

“Search the scriptures,

because in them you have eternal life.”

Eternal life!

“And these are they which testify about me.”

This is a treasure that is worth more than all of the gold and all of the silver in the world. There is eternal life found in these pages. That is why the Bible says,

“Faith comes from hearing the message,

and the message is heard through the Word of Christ.”

We believe that not only is

       -The Bible without error, and

       -it is the Word of God, but

       -we also use the word 'efficacious' which means 'it is powerful'.

The Word of God has the power to do what nothing else can do. The Word of God can literally bring you to your knees in repentance, and cause you to see your own sin, and your own damnation. And then, the Word of God has the power to deliver you by showing you that you have been declared not guilty for the sake of Jesus Christ by His holy life, and His death on the cross. You have been forgiven, and are a child of God.

       -The Bible has the power to bring you to faith, saving faith.        -The Bible has the power to enable you to recognize false doctrine and false teaching.

       -The Bible has the power to enable you to live a new life, a different life.

       -The Bible has the power to guide you, and direct you.

And so, having seen, during the Epiphany Season, who Jesus is, (this is God in the flesh. This is the One who was spoken about in the Old Testament.), and knowing what He is going to do, (He is going to go to the cross, and save us from our sin.), God the Father says to every one of us,

“This is my Son,

whom I love.

Listen to Him.”