Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, February 7, 2016
We Are His House - February 7, 2016 - The Transfiguration of our Lord/Last Sunday after the Epiphany - Text: Hebrews 3:1-6
Peter, James and John were privy to witness something the rest of the Apostles did not get to witness, at least not while on earth. Peter, James and John witnessed Jesus in all His glory and Peter’s response was, “Let’s build three houses.” Of course, we are let in on the fact that Peter did not know what he was saying and we might notice that James and John said nothing. And we know Peter, he says it like it is, no thinking, simply blurting out what is on his mind. Peter’s instinct was that this was a great, and you will pardon the pun, mountain top experience and as is the case with most such experiences, we do not want them to end so we want to find a way to keep them going. Peter’s thought, “Let’s build three houses,” so this will not have to end. So, this morning, we will focus our attention on looking at the building of at least one house. In order to build a house that will last, the first thing that must be built is the foundation.
In our other readings for this morning we get our foundation. In the Old Testament reading we have the account of the death of Moses. Moses was a faithful leader in Israel. He did not choose his lot to be such a leader and as we know of his life, his history, he was rather a reluctant leader making excuses and asking the Lord to send someone else. Perhaps this account has been chosen as our Old Testament reading for today because Moses shows up in our Gospel reading.
In our Gospel reading we have the account of the transfiguration of Jesus, the account of what marks our celebration of this day, this Sunday, Transfiguration Sunday. It must have been some sight to see, the transfiguration of Jesus, or as the Greek word literally says, the metamorphosis of Jesus. Jesus was morphed, that is He was changed so that the Apostles saw Him in His heavenly glory. Why this change? So that He might be able to consult with those who were already in their heavenly glory, Moses and Elijah, the great leader and law giver, and the great prophet of Israel.
In our text for this morning, we have words from the writer who, later in chapter eleven, recounts for us the great men of faith and in this text he gives us, what amounts to, a comparison of two great men of faith, Moses and Jesus. As for this man, Moses, he was a great man, especially by human standards we would say he was a great man. He was raised by the daughter of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. Certainly he attended the best of school, had the best teachers, and gained knowledge concerning everything that was known in his day. Later he continued his education while caring for sheep in the wilderness, giving him knowledge concerning life outside the protective confines of the kings castle.
More important than his education, was the fact that he was faithful. He was a faithful servant of the Lord. As we said earlier, he was reluctant, but he did lead and he did lead as the Lord commanded him to lead. Even while facing the adversity of the people he was leading he remained faithful to the Lord and to His leading. As a matter of fact, his faithfulness was seen in the glow of his face from his communing with the Lord.
And in essence, in one sense we might say that Moses “built” the children of Israel. They were slaves. They were in bondage. They were not wilderness nomads, but shepherds. They were not soldiers and fighting men, but workers. As Moses lead them out of bondage of slavery they had to learn how to live in the wilderness as well as how to be soldiers. Moses lead them, taught them, and even ruled them as prophet, priest and judge.
And finally, Moses brought them to the border of the promised land. But, of course you may remember, because of his own frailty and sin, because of his own doubt and disobedience, because he hit the rock instead of speaking to it, Moses was not allowed to enter the promised land, but he did bring the people to the point of entering into their promised possession. This is Moses, certainly a great man and a great leader.
Yet, the writer of Hebrews tells us that there is one greater than Moses and of course we would agree, that the one greater than Moses is Jesus. Moses was a great man, Jesus is our great high priest. Jesus is the one who hears and answers our confession, giving us forgiveness of sins.
Moses was faithful, reluctant, yet faithful. Jesus was faithful. He was not reluctant, but of His own will gave up the glory that was His in heaven in order to be born a man, in order to be our Savior. He actively obeyed all God’s laws perfectly. He actively fulfilled all God’s prophecies perfectly. He was faithful even to the point of death, death on a cross. He passively allowed Himself to be crucified and nailed to the cross. He came, freely. He lived perfectly. He freely obeyed all God’s laws. He freely fulfilled all God’s promises concerning Himself. He freely took our sins upon Himself. He freely was obedient, even obedient to death on a cross.
Thus, Jesus “built” the true “Israel.” To be a part of Israel is not something that one gains through a birth line, it is not a physical right or entitlement, it is not automatic, rather it is a gift that is given through faith and through faith in Jesus Christ alone. A true “Israelite” is not one by birth, but a true “Israelite” is one who has faith in Jesus alone. All believers, that is all who are members of the Holy Christian Church are true “Israelites.” You and I, those who have faith in Jesus Christ alone are true Israel.
Most of all, we see Jesus as greater than Moses, because, although Moses brought the Children of Israel out of their bondage of slavery in Egypt, Christ brings us out of our bondage of slavery to sin and ultimately He brings us to heaven, the greater promised land.
What does this mean? Today is Transfiguration Sunday. Today is the day we see Jesus in His heavenly glory while here on earth. We have been following along with Jesus’ life. We witnessed His birth, lowly, humbly, born in the small town of Bethlehem and placed in a manger. We witnessed the announcement to the shepherds as well as their visit to see the baby Jesus. We witnessed as the Magi from the East, led by God by the star, traveled many miles in order to be the first Gentiles to witness and worship the Christ Child, God in flesh, God incarnate, God in flesh made manifest. We witnessed Jesus’ presentation in the temple and we heard Simeon’s words professing that this was the Messiah who was promised of old. We witnessed Jesus’ baptism and heard the voice of God the Father pronouncing Jesus as His Son. We witnessed Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness and saw how He never gave in to Satan’s temptations and never sinned. And today we bear witness of the beginning of the end, at least the beginning of the end of Jesus’ earthly life. Wednesday is Ash Wednesday and marks the beginning of Lent. When Jesus comes down from the mountain He is ready to go to Jerusalem one last time, in order to be crucified.
The writer of Hebrews presents us with Jesus who is greater, even than Moses. The writer writes concerning the fact that the one who builds the house is greater than the house itself. As we have said, Moses helped to build the Children of Israel, but Jesus is the ultimate builder. Moses helped to build a people who, unfortunately, as we have been studying in Bible Class, time and again broke their covenant with the Lord, and even gave up their covenant. Their ultimate giving up of the covenant is seen in their rejection of Jesus.
Jesus came to fulfilled all the law and the prophets. And He did fulfill all the law and the prophets perfectly. At His transfiguration we have Moses, the giver of the Law and Elijah, the great and even the greatest prophet in Israel come down from heaven in order to make sure Jesus had accomplished and was accomplishing all that He came to accomplish. In essence, Jesus came to do what all the people of Israel could not do and to do what we cannot do. God’s command to Adam and Eve was to obey Him and not eat of the forbidden fruit, yet they failed, they disobeyed and ate. God’s covenant with the Children of Israel was that He would be their God and they would be His people. They were simply to believe in Him and obey His commands, yet they failed. Time and again they failed and ultimately at their rejection of Jesus they failed. God’s command to us is that we are to be perfect even as He is perfect, yet, time and again we fail. Daily we sin much and are in need of forgiveness. Daily we sin, not against just one commandment, but two, three and sometimes even all ten. As we confess, we sin in thought, word and deed. We sin sins of omission, not doing as we ought and sins of commission doing the things we should not. Indeed, our greatest need is not the physical comforts of this world, as God provides all that we truly need. No, our greatest need is forgiveness of sins. Without forgiveness we would be left in our sins and eternally lost and condemned, but with forgiveness is life and salvation. Not only does Jesus take care of all our physical, bodily needs, He has taken care of our greatest need, forgiveness of sins. And that is what He came to do and what He did.
Thanks be to God that Jesus has not, does not and never will fail. The very foundation of the Christians Church, the New Israel, if you will, is Jesus Christ Himself. As Peter confessed and as Jesus acknowledged His confession, Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God and on this confession, on Jesus Christ Himself God builds His Church. The covenant, first given in the Garden of Eden, first given even before there was a Jew and a Gentile, the first covenant given to all people continues even today. The covenant reiterated to the Children of Israel was broken, not by God, but the Israelites, meaning they gave up having a part in His covenant, at least the earthly part. The covenant that was first given and continues today continues to be a covenant of grace. Jesus makes us a part of His kingdom by grace, through faith. Jesus is the foundation of the House of the Holy Christian Church. Jesus is the one who has accomplished everything that needed to be accomplished. And He gives everything to us. Yes, the children of Israel were a great people, but the people of God, the people of Christ Jesus are even greater as He is the foundation, the chief cornerstone, and the Builder.
This morning we come and once again we witness something great. Truly we witness the greatest thing we can witness here on this earth. Every Sunday morning we are privileged to come and bear witness, not only of our Lord, through the witness of His Word and Sacraments, but we are also privileged to bear witness of our forgiveness and our salvation. Our reaction, each and every Sunday morning, might rightly mirror that of the Psalmist who spoke well when he said, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’” (Ps. 122:1). Or our reaction might mirror Peter’s reaction in our text, “Let’s build three houses,” “let’s not leave this place,” “Don’t make me go home.” My prayer for us all is that as the Lord has His way with us, our desire might be even more the desire of Peter, the desire to continue to be given the gifts the Lord has to give. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.