Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
This morning we're wrapping up our time in the book of Isaiah. We’ve been here since Christmas, listening to God speaking through one of His prophets. We’ve heard Him talk about a coming Savior, known as God’s Servant here in Isaiah. We’ve heard Him condemn all sorts of sin, culminating in the last two weeks in our sin of false worship: idolatry. This morning, however, we are basically going to follow one big rabbit trail. Our Old Testament reading is going to lead us to the Gospel reading. Our Gospel reading is going to lead us further into Jesus’ life. And Jesus’ life is going to lead us into our lives as well. It's going to be one thing after another, following all the twists and turns along the way.
If there’s one word that jumps out from Isaiah 42, that word is “justice.” Three times in the first four verses, Isaiah describes this servant of God doing justice: “He will bring forth justice to the nations... He will faithfully bring forth justice... He will establish justice in the earth.” And then in verse seven, the center of Yahweh’s speech to His Servant, He describes justice being done, just without using the word. God’s Servant will “open the eyes that are blind, bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, and from the prison those who sit in darkness.” One of the key attributes of God's Servant is His justice. God's servant, Jesus, is just. He rights what is wrong and does not allow sin to go unpunished.
But we’ve heard that before. In particular, we’ve heard this very Old Testament reading before on a day very similar to today. It was a day we celebrated a major event in Jesus’ life and ministry that identified for us who Jesus truly is. Both days were marked by a voice from heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” that last phrase being a reference back to Isaiah 42. “In whom my soul delights” “with whom I am well pleased.” Today we hear these words of justice, being played out not in line with Jesus’ Baptism, but in line with His Transfiguration. There is something that happens on the top of this mountain that highlights Jesus’ justice.
Today, Jesus took three of His disciples—Peter, James, and John—up a high mountain by themselves. Jesus had some thinking, planning, and praying to do, and He knew that He needed His inner circle there with Him. As they’re up on the mountain, Jesus is transfigured, changed before their very eyes. His face shines like the sin and His clothes become white as light. And all of a sudden, Moses and Elijah show up and they start to have a conversation with Jesus. Luke gives us the detail that they're talking about Jesus’ “exodus”—what's going to happen to Jesus in just a few days. So, Jesus is having a conversation with these two hollowed figures of the Old Testament, brought there by God to talk together about His death and resurrection which will accomplish the salvation of the world, and Peter interrupts them. “Lord, it's good that we're here, let's make three tents, one each for you, Moses and Elijah. How about that?” It’s at this point that God's glory overshadows them, this cloud surrounds them, and the Father speaks, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him.”
Now, Jesus has a couple options. If he's like most of us he would react to this interruption a little more on the frustrated side. He has every right to be upset with Peter for interrupting such an important conversation. Or, He could respond in a just way as Isaiah describes it. Jesus came and touched His disciples saying, “rise and have no fear.” Jesus had every right to break this bruised reed and to quench this faintly burning wick. But He chose to build up and to fan into flame. Here, on this mountain, Jesus demonstrates God's justice.
But that mountaintop experience did not last. As he spoke with Moses and Elijah, His cross was in view. For that reason, it’s good for us to put the cross in view. Jesus and His disciples climb down the mountain and wrap things up in Galilee very quickly. From there, Jesus begins to make his way to Jerusalem. This transfiguration is a turning point in Jesus life. From here He heads to the cross. It’s the reason that we celebrate the Transfiguration at the same time every year, the last Sunday before Lent. Here, we are reminded of who Jesus is—the Son of God—and of what He’s come to do—bring forth God’s justice. And with that fresh in our minds, we plunge ourselves into the season of Lent, a time to reflect on our sin—what caused Jesus death. But we reflect on our sin, knowing what’s to come.
As we make our way down the Mount of Transfiguration, we make our way up another mountain—Mount Calvary—where God's justice is accomplished. But this way of justice leaves us a little bit unsettled. It's a counterintuitive justice. We don't imagine that some guy dying on a cross 2,000 years ago should have any impact on our lives today, and yet He does. What Jesus accomplished on that cross was a draining of God's wrath, taking it all onto Himself so there is none left to be spent on you and me. On the cross, God's justice is accomplished. Sin is paid for. It is finished.
And what's all the more incredible for us are Peter's own words, as he writes in this morning's epistle reading. He was there on that mountain. He saw Jesus as the Son of God, receiving honor and glory from the Father, and He writes, “we have something more sure, the prophetic word to which you will do well to pay attention.” Peter says that the Transfiguration is great, but we’ve got something better. We have the Word of Jesus’ death and resurrection—His Word that has been passed along to us in this Holy Book. Better than seeing Jesus changed, better than hearing the voice of the Father, we have the sure and certain Word of God's justice that has been accomplished for you and me.
To be sure, it doesn't always feel like it. We live in a world that is broken, and it seems that we’re in need of more justice than exists. Families around us are broken. The relationships we have between husbands and wives are never quite perfect. Even the best relationships have issues to work through. Even the relationships between parents and children are off. Kids, when they’re young, don’t always realize that the impact their words and actions have. And when they’re grown, many times it seems they know, but just don’t care how they hurt their parents. You and I speak words that we cannot take back, words that cut and sting, words that break down and beat up.Words that leave us with a lingering sense of betrayal, brokenness, and heartache. That's coupled with a lack of trust, a lack of grace, and a lack of forgiveness. People around us do unreasonable things in unexpected ways at unanticipated times. And in the face of all this injustice and brokenness, we cry out for God's justice to be done, for our sin and guilt to be done away with, and for salvation to be accomplished once and for all.
That is the assurance that we have in Jesus. Our Old Testament reading points forward to Jesus as the one who faithfully brings forth God's justice. We see that justice being acted out in our Gospel reading. And Peter goes one step further to say that we have something more sure than even the Transfiguration of the Son of God Himself. We have the Word of God. Yes, we still live in a broken world. Yes, we still cry out for God's justice. But we know that the cry from the cross, still rings true today, “it is finished.” Even though we don't always see its effects playing out in our lives, even though sin still rears its ugly head, even though you and I are still broken, God’s Word will never be broken. God’s justice will never be overthrown. Jesus’ justifying work is still being played out in your life and in mine as we wait for His return. In the face of injustice, look to Justice Incarnate, and hold fast to Him. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.
Lobe den Herrn
B. A. Woell