The Sermon for Quinquagesima Sunday, February 27th, 2022
The Lessons: Psalm 99; Exodus 34:29-35; Luke 9:28-36
The Text: Luke 9:28-36
The Topic: Obedience to God – a Lesson we learn from the Transfiguration
In January 1993, the Galeras volcano, located in Colombia, South America, suddenly erupted. One week later a geologist, Dr. Fraser Goff, was sampling gas vents in a canyon west of the volcano summit. The guide who was with him jokingly said, “Do you want to look at some gold?”
Dr Goff picked up some of the rocks and later cut them into thin slices. He found that there was real gold in the rocks, quite a bit of gold. The naked eye could see tiny gold nuggets in the slices.
This was the first time scientists had detected visible gold particles in an active volcano. More than a year later Dr. Goff announced that the Galeras volcano, which remained active, was spewing more than a pound of gold each day into the atmosphere and depositing forty-five pounds of gold a year into the rocks lining its crater. He explained that magma from inside the earth has many components, including gold, and estimated that there is a gold vein at the base of the volcano that is at least ten feet wide.
Just as the ultra-high heat and pressure of a volcano can bring gold from below the surface of the earth, so the pressure and fiery trials of our lives can bring forth spiritual gold. If we draw close to God during difficult times, we find the gold of increasing faith, character, wisdom, and nearness to God.
St. Peter wrote of Christians being kept by the power of God through faith for salvation that will be revealed in the last time, and that this was a cause of great rejoicing, even if now for a while, they are weighed down by many trials. The purpose of this he expressed as follows:
That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ
(1 Peter 1:7, KJV)
The trial of the Lord Jesus Christ’s faith in God is set before us as the supreme example of virtue more precious than gold, and his Transfiguration predicts his faithful obedience to the point of suffering and death on a cross.
The Transfiguration of the Lord Jesus Christ on a mountain was witnessed by the Apostles Peter, James, and John, so that they might have clearly imprinted on their minds the truths that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that God, whose Only Son Jesus Christ is, must be obeyed. These three Apostles also witnessed Jesus’ Transfiguration to know the certainty of the Gospel which they were to proclaim. St. Peter wrote these words later about this unique vision:
For we have not followed cunningly devised fables when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, this is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.
(2 Peter 1:16-18, KJV)
The vision of Jesus’ Transfiguration was seen by three Apostolic witnesses, and St. Peter clearly states that they were “eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Peter 1:16c, KJV). The Gospel, therefore, is not a cleverly imagined story, but the truth, for not only did these three Apostles see the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, but they also heard God’s own testimony, the voice from the cloud, saying, “This is my beloved Son: hear him” (Luke 9:35b, KJV). The Transfiguration of the Lord Jesus Christ is an essential part of the Gospel record, as is his Baptism in the River Jordan, for both these events are epiphanies revealing the divinity of the Lord, his divine Sonship and God the Father’s delight in Him.
THE GLOWING OF MOSES’ FACE – A PRECURSOR OF CHRIST’S TRANSFIGURATION
In our First Lesson today we read of how Moses’ face shone after God had been talking with him. Since the people of Israel were afraid to come near to him when this happened, he used to wear a veil when speaking with them. The shining of Moses’ face after he had been in the presence of God was a sign prefiguring the Transfiguration of God’s Son. If whenever Jesus had finished praying, his face had visibly shone, then the crowds and even his disciples might have been afraid to approach him. When Ss. Peter, James, and John went up on the mountain with the Lord Jesus, and Jesus had prayed, then to those three, God revealed Jesus as “the brightness of God’s glory” (Hebrews 1:3a, KJV), so that they might always remember and obey Him.
OBEDIENCE AS THE GOAL OF THIS VISIONARY EXPERIENCE
Now the Transfiguration of the Lord not only showed these disciples who Jesus is, but also the necessity of his passion and death in Jerusalem. They see Moses and Elijah appearing in glory with the Lord and speaking “of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem” (Luke 9:31b, KJV). The Greek word translated by “decease” is “exodos,” which is also the name of the second book of our Bible, “Exodus.” St. Luke’s use of the word “exodos” here is rich in meaning, for it connects God’s redemption of Israel from bondage in Egypt signified by the institution of the Passover with Christ’s own death to redeem the world from sin. The appearance of Elijah with Moses reinforced in the Apostles’ minds the fact that Jesus is the Christ, since Elijah was believed to come again before the Messiah (Malachi 4:5-6) returned to earth. The necessity of Christ’s obedience even to the point of death on a cross was therefore also clarified to the Apostles through this vision, as was the redemptive significance of it for the salvation of the world. When St. Peter responds rashly with the suggestion of making three booths, one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah, God reminds him of the fact that Jesus is his beloved Son (some early manuscripts read “chosen” instead of “beloved”), and that Peter must listen to Jesus, that is, hear and obey him. St. Peter had to learn this lesson of obedience, and he did, for he also became obedient to God to the point of dying on a cross.
The great lesson of the Transfiguration is obedience. Because Jesus is the beloved and chosen Son of God, he must be obeyed by all disciples, wherever it leads them. As we enter the season of Lent, let us draw closer to God in prayer, as our Lord did on the mount of Transfiguration, that God may reveal to us his perfect will, just as he revealed it to the Lord through Moses and Elijah on that mountain. Then let us obey God from the heart.
 p.585, Craig Brian Larson and Leadership Journal: 750 Engaging Illustrations for Preachers, Teachers, and Writers. Grand Rapids, Michigan: BakerBooks, 2002, 2008.