February 23, 2020

Rev. Bernt P. Tweit



Epistle Lesson; 2 Peter 1:16-21

Gospel Lesson; Matthew 17:1-9                            

Sermon Text; Exodus 24:12

                       Exodus 24: 15-18


The portion of God's Word we look at for today is taken from selected verses of Exodus, chapter 24.  This is God's Word.


The Lord said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain.  Wait there, and I will give you the stone tablets with the law and the commands that I have written so that you can teach them.”

Moses went up onto the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain.  The Glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered the mountain for six days.  On the seventh day the Lord called to Moses out of the middle of the cloud.  The appearance of the Glory of the Lord looked like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel.  Moses entered into the middle of the cloud and climbed up the mountain.  Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.


These are Your Words.  Heavenly Father, lead us in the way of truth.  Your Word is truth.



Today is a Sunday of transition.  I say that today, because we are ending one season of The Church Year, and we are getting ready to enter another season of The  Church Year.  The season of The Church Year we are ending today is The Epiphany Season.  The word 'epiphany' just means 'to reveal' or 'to make known'.  We particularly look at Jesus revealing Himself to us as true God.  The Epiphany Season began on January 12th this year.  On January 12th the focus of our services was the baptism of Jesus.  At the baptism of Jesus, we heard God the Father speak, when he spoke these words about Jesus. 

“This is my beloved Son. 

With Him I am well pleased.”

You just heard those words again today, didn't you?  Today, on this Sunday, as Jesus was up on the Mountain of Transfiguration, we heard those same words from God, the Father, about His Son. 

“This is my Son,

whom I love; 

with Him I am well pleased. 

Listen to Him.”

Now, going forward from today, Jesus would be coming down off of this Mountain of Transfiguration.  He would resolutely set Himself out to go to another mountain in Jerusalem.  That is Mount Calvary, where Jesus would lay down His life on the cross to pay for the sins of the world.

And so, we leave The Epiphany Season behind us today.  On Wednesday we begin a new season.  On February 26th we begin the Season of Lent, with our Ash Wednesday worship service.

Well, how does this day get its name?  It is known as Transfiguration Sunday.  It gets its name from our Gospel Lesson for today.  We heard that one, simple, short, little sentence that Jesus was “transfigured in front of them”.  The word we translate as 'transfigured' in English is really the Greek word, 'metamorphosis'.  You hear that word 'metamorphosis', and certainly we talk about that in our grade school years, particularly when we talk about the stages of a Monarch Butterfly - how it goes from an egg to the lava, or the caterpillar, and then in to the cocoon or chrysalis.  Then, it comes out as a full grown, adult Monarch Butterfly.  It is talking about the change that takes place with those stages of a butterfly.  That Greek word is to remind us that on this Transfiguration Sunday Peter, James, and John got a glimpse of who Jesus really was.  He was more than just a Man.  He was transformed, or transfigured, or metamorphized right before their very eyes.  He is God.

Today, as we look at our Old Testament Lesson, it is Moses who is going up on the mountain.  That is a little bit of a precursor, or a little bit of a reminder of Jesus' transfiguration. 

I want to set the stage by looking at a few of the chapters before Exodus, chapter twenty four. 

Exodus, chapter nineteen tells us God wanted to make a covenant with His people.  Pastor Bartels eluded to this a little bit last week.  The word 'covenant' is not one we talk about very often in our language.  We maybe use the word 'contract' a little bit more.  It is an agreement between two parties.  So, God was beginning to establish this covenant between Himself, and the people. 

Then comes Exodus, chapter twenty.  That is the well known chapter in scripture in which God gives The Ten Commandments, or He gives the Decalogue to Moses.  The Ten Commandments are The Moral Law.  The Ten Commandments tell us what to do, and what not to do.

Now, we get to the chapter our text is in for today, Exodus, chapter twenty four.  Here is where God is going to ratify the covenant with His people.  The word 'ratify' just means 'to make it official'.  God is going to make it official with this covenant, and to give it formal consent.  So, the Lord says to Moses,

“Come up to me on the mountain.”

I just want to go back to what it is the people said they were going to do with this covenant.  God had established the covenant.  He had formulated the covenant.  The people stood there in acknowledgment before God, before His covenant, and they said,

“We will do everything the Lord has said.”  

Right before our text, they even go a step farther than that, and they say, “Not only will we do everything the Lord has said.”  But they also said,

“We will obey.”

But, you and I both know The Children of Israel would never, ever, ever be able to keep their side of the covenant.  They would never be able to keep their side of the contract.  Why is that?  It is because there was an impassible barrier between God, and The Children of Israel.  There is an impassible barrier between us, and God as well. 

Now, usually here in Wisconsin, when we use the word 'impassible', we are talking about winter time, and we are talking about snow, blowing, drifting, and how sometimes the roads are 'impassible'.  Sometimes, here in Wisconsin the roads are 'impassible' so that they take the plows off of the roads.  They put down gates so that people cannot get on to the interstate system, anymore, because the roads are 'impassible'. 

Well, there is an impassible barrier between ourselves, and God.  Here is what scripture says that impassible barrier is.  There is a passage from Isaiah, chapter fifty nine that says this. 

“Our iniquities have separated us from God

and our sins have hidden His face from us.”

Between us and God is this impassible barrier we cannot get beyond because of our sin.  It's a “What hope do we possibly have?” 

God has given us The Ten Commandments.  In His Ten Commandments He tells us what to do, and He tells us what not to do.  We look at those Ten Commandments, and we have to admit to ourselves that we can't obey The Law, as God has established before us in His covenant. 

And so, what answer of hope do we have?  How can that impassible barrier of our sin be overcome?

I want you to hear a beautiful passage from the book of Ephesians that talks about how this impassible barrier has been broken down.  Ephesians chapter two says,

“Jesus has destroyed the barrier,

the dividing wall,

through the cross.”

Jesus came to take down that impassible barrier.  He destroyed it, through His death on the cross.  Now, right after that passage I just quoted for you, is a much more familiar section of scripture, and it says what we now have, because Jesus has destroyed the barrier.

“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens,

but fellow citizens with God's people,

and members of God's household,

built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets,

with Jesus Christ, Himself as the chief cornerstone.”

Right before our text for today, Moses did something before he went up on Mount Sinai to receive The Ten Commandments.  He built an altar, and he sacrificed an animal.  He collected the blood of that animal and put it in a bowl.  This is what Moses then did.  He took the blood from the bowl, and he began to sprinkle it on the people and he spoke these words.  He said, “This is the blood of the covenant.” 

When I speak those words to you today that Moses spoke, “This is the blood of the covenant”, does it remind you of anything? 

Moses lived about fifteen hundred years before Jesus.  Here is what Jesus spoke in His day, and particularly this is what Jesus spoke on Maundy Thursday evening.  Jesus said,

“This is MY blood of the covenant.” 

So that we can see these sentences right by each other:

Here is what Moses said,

“This is the blood of the covenant.” 

While Jesus said,

“This is MY blood of the covenant.” 

This last week, as I was preparing this message for us, one of the things I looked at is The Lutheran Study Bible.  It is a great Bible, with great commentary.  At this part of Exodus, chapter twenty four, there are a couple of paragraphs that talk about what this means, and the connection it has.  I want to share these two paragraphs with you.  It says,

“Jesus' disciples understood the blood of the old covenant (which is talking about Moses receiving the covenant from God), but could they possibly comprehend the depth of Jesus' words on Maundy Thursday evening, when He lifted a cup, and spoke of the blood of the new covenant?  Jesus often foretold His suffering, and death, yet no words could prepare the disciples for the evening that followed.  Another altar rose above the earth on Good Friday.  It was wooden and roughly cut.  It would hold The Sacrifice, the One whose blood would redeem all people, for all eternity.  The Father in Heaven observed Jesus' obedience, and accepted the sacrifice.  For in the Heavenly Tabernacle an everlasting covenant was made.  By the cross we are partakers in Jesus' life, and possessors of the Heavenly inheritance.”
And so, today, here is what we understand.  We understand we are not at Mount Sinai receiving The Ten Commandments like Moses did.  But, we are 'at another mountain'.  Here is what the book of Hebrews says about 'that other mountain we are on today'.  It says,

“You have not come to a mountain that can be touched

and that is burning with fire. 

But, you have come to Mount Zion,

through the Heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. 

You have come to Jesus,

the mediator of a new covenant.”

You see, Moses is 'a picture'.  He is a type of 'christ'.  He is a picture of Jesus.   He was the mediator between the Children of Israel and God.  It is a reminder to us of who Jesus is.  Jesus is the mediator between us and God.  Jesus stands between us and God.  He has broken down that impassible barrier.  He has broken down that dividing wall, through His death on the cross. 

The very last statement of our text for today said Moses was up on the mountain for forty days and forty nights.  During that time, he was receiving what the tabernacle should look like, and what worship in the tabernacle should look like.  Moses went up on to the mountain to be in the presence of God.

Guys, today Jesus comes to you.  He says, “Come up to me, on 'the mountain'.”  That is what we are doing today.  We are coming up to God on 'the mountain'.  We are coming in to the presence of God.  And, God is coming to us through His Word, The Bible.  God is coming to us through the Sacraments of Baptism, and The Lord's Supper.   We see that most clearly with The Lord's Supper, in which Moses said, “This is the blood of the covenant”, and Jesus saying,

“This is my blood of the covenant.” 

Oh, how we wish we could stay with God on 'the mountain'.

Do you know what the room that we worship in is called?  It is called, 'a sanctuary'.  The word 'sanctuary' means, 'a place of refuge, or a place of safety'.  Sometimes, we might wish we could stay in the sanctuary.  Now, Moses was up on the mountain for forty days and forty nights.  But, I don't think we would say we would want to stay here for forty days and forty nights.  But, we would love to remain in God's sanctuary. 

Do you know what?  We need to leave the sanctuary.  We need to go 'down from the mountain', just as Moses did, and just as Jesus did.  Why?  It is so that we can take the message of Jesus to other people.  Sometimes that may seem to be a daunting task, to share Jesus, or invite people to come to worship.  I understand that, and I agree with that.  But, I offer another thing we can maybe do this week.  This upcoming Saturday, February 29th is Leap Day, and it is also an Open House here at Holy Cross.  It is an opportunity to invite people to come to our Early Learning Center, to our school, and to our church and sanctuary, to see who we are.  Invite them to the offerings we have here, in our ministries, here at Holy Cross.  We need to 'come down the mountain' so we can take that message, and share it with other people.

I am going to go back, and repeat one thing I said today, and then conclude with these two things.  The book of Hebrews says this, connecting our Old Testament Lesson and Gospel Lesson. 

“You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire.  But, you have come to Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God.  You have come to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant.” 

Praise be to God that Jesus has broken down that impassible barrier of our sins.  He did that through His death on the cross.  Now, our response is this, according to the book of Hebrews. 

“Let us be thankful,

and to worship God acceptably with reverence

and awe.”

I close with this.  Today is the last day you are going to hear the word “Alleluia” sung in this room for the next two months.  The reason you are not going to hear that is because we are transitioning from The Epiphany Season to The Lenten Season.  During The Lenten Season, yes, we focus on the depth of our sin.  But, yes especially, we focus on the depth of God's love for us in sending Jesus to be our Savior.  The Lenten Season is just a little more somber. 

Do you know when the next time is when we will sing “Alleluias” in this room?  It is going to be on Easter Sunday, in which we celebrate the resurrection of our Savior, Jesus, and we rejoice in the promise He has given,

“Because I live,

you also will live.”