Jesus Fulfills the Bible's Promises (Transfiguration Sunday)
[Matthew 17:1-9] And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. 3 And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 5 He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” 8 And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. 9 And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.”
Jesus Fulfills the Bible’s Promises
The Bible’s promises: Do they come true for you? Are they just empty words?
The Bible makes a promise of good things, of a good future, of glory in heaven. But when things are bad now, the promise of glory in the coming ‘then’ can ring hollow. It’s bad now; the promise of a good ‘later’ falls short of comfort. And the promises can feel like a fantasy – just hoping in the wind.
The promises of the Bible ring empty if I don’t see first how they’ve come true in Jesus. In Jesus, we have more than just promises. In Jesus, the promises of the Bible have taken on flesh. The promises of the Bible have come true in Jesus. So that now the promises are true for you in Jesus.
What does the Bible promise? In today’s Gospel, in the Transfiguration of our Lord, we see the promise of glory come true in Jesus. The glory of God’s nature shines through the human nature in Jesus. In Jesus, the promise of glory has come true – in His own flesh – so now this promise stands available for you in a concrete way. The promise has come true in Jesus. You now have access. No hoping in the wind.
But, again, what does the Bible promise? Does the Bible only promise the good? No, indeed, the Bible has not only promised the Transfiguration glory, but has also promised the cross. In fact, God is all good. Therefore, all that God has said – both the good and the bad – can be taken as His good promise. There isn’t just glory, but also a good cross for you and me.
Today we see the Transfiguration in our Gospel. We see the face as bright as the sun. We see the clothes as white as light. We see the bright cloud – the Father’s presence – and the voice from heaven. But what happened in today’s Gospel – this Transfiguration into glory – did not happen in isolation. Instead, this Transfiguration into glory took place in the context of an ongoing conversation between Jesus and Peter, and the rest of the disciples. The discussion is about the cross.
Just before today’s Transfiguration reading, Jesus had begun to teach the disciples plainly that He would go to Jerusalem; would there suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests, and scribes; and then would be killed. And on the third day would rise.
Peter then rebuked Jesus, saying, “By no means, Lord! This shall never happen to you!” [Matthew 16:21-22] Jesus’ response to Peter? “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” [Matthew 16:23]
God has promised both cross and glory. Peter could not understand the cross, the suffering, as a thing of God. To Peter, only the glory was a thing of God. But this is a human way of thinking. To think like God, we see the cross too as His promise and gift. And then the Transfiguration glory.
The Bible has indeed promised us many things. Our good God has promised us that “the wages of sin is death” [Romans 6:23]. And God had promised, “In the day that you eat of it, dying, you will die” [Genesis 2:17]. And, “to dust you shall return” [Genesis 3:19].
The Bible promises death and hell, and the grave, for sin. And the Bible promises eternal life and glory and resurrection. The Bible promises the wage of sin and also the grace of God [Romans 6:23]. All these promises of the Bible have come true in Jesus.
Jesus died for sin – your sin, my sin. Jesus suffered my promised hell. Jesus slept in my promised grave. Those terrible promises against me all came true in His flesh. The Bible’s promise of vindication, of victory, of life, resurrection, and glory then also came true in His same flesh.
By His agony and bloody sweat. By His innocent death and burial. By His resurrection, ascension, and glorification. All the promises have come true in Him. Now, brothers and sisters, you are in Him. You are in Him by baptism.
“All who were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” [Galatians 3:27]. His cross and His glory – you have put on the promises already fulfilled, already true.
“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” [Romans 6:3-5].
The Bible’s promises have all come true in Jesus. You do not grasp for the promises in the wind. You have died and risen in these promises already in your Baptism. You are connected to the completed promises in a concrete, inseparable way. All the good of the cross and all the good of the Transfiguration glory is already true and already yours. Now all that is just being unfolded and played out in your life as you go along. That’s your Baptism.
However, the order usually is cross first and then glory. Peter, James, and John saw a vision of the glory ahead of time, but were strictly ordered by the Lord to tell know one of it until after His death and resurrection [Matthew 17:9]. Peter said in today’s Epistle reading that, by seeing this beforehand-vision of glory, the prophetic word – the word of scripture – was more fully confirmed in him [2 Peter 1:16-19]. He got to see the end promise of the Bible ahead of time. But we are generally to know the good of the cross first and then the good of the glory last and forever.
You share in the promise of suffering now. Will you share in the promise of glory soon? Yes. Where do I find peace? For Peter, James, and John, it was the glory too that frightened them. But God, from the glory cloud of His presence, spoke, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” And Jesus touched them – “Rise, and have no fear.” Lifting their faces, they looked up and “they saw no one but Jesus only.”
“Things will get better.” “There are good things ahead.” Brothers and sisters, will all the Bible’s good promises come true for you? As you are waiting, see no one and nothing but Jesus only – Because in Jesus already, the Bible’s promises have indeed come true and are your possession. Amen.