What a Beautiful Sight!

What is the most beautiful sight you’ve ever seen? God blesses us with beautiful sights to see. However, Matthew 17:1-9 encourages us to look to Jesus. “What a beautiful sight!” February 23, 2020.

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 It was midafternoon on a hot day that had started at 5 am and included a hike of 10 plus miles through switchbacks and canyons along a dry, rocky, and sandy trail while carrying a pack full of equipment. With weary legs, my wife and I turned the corner of the trail to see a Hawaiian-like oasis in the middle of the desert. Lush green trees stood at the edge of a pool being filled by the brightest blue waterfalls I’ve ever seen. We were at Havasu Falls in the Grand Canyon and it was one of the most beautiful scenes of nature that I have ever seen made even more beautiful by the fact that we were at the goal of our hike where we could set up camp and relax. What a beautiful sight!

The church was filled with family and friends as I stood at the front. When the organ started and the doors were opened, there came my bride looking radiant walking down the aisle escorted by her father while wearing a beautiful white dress. She was more gorgeous than I could have imagined. It was a beautiful sight… even better than Havasu Falls.

What is the most beautiful sight you’ve ever seen? Was it a scene from nature where the sun was shining just so upon a landscape that took your breath away? Was it a moment with a special person? Was it a smiling face greeting you at a door? A cold drink after a hot afternoon of yard work (I’m trying to think warm thoughts today!)? God blesses us with beautiful sights to see.

But perhaps none of these can rival the beautiful sight that was seen upon the high mountain by three of Jesus’ disciples which we hear about in the gospel for today from the book of Matthew. Peter, James, and John, who were the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples, were alone with Jesus on the mountain. There Jesus was transfigured before them. In other words, he was changed. The Bible describes it this way. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. It was a beautiful sight. Don’t you see it? I know, maybe you’re thinking this is a bit of a stretch. It might have been pretty grand and glorious to see in person, but that was a couple thousand years ago. It’s lost a bit of its luster. So, the question has to be asked, “Why should I get excited about the transfiguration? What’s so important about it?”

Let me take you back six days. Jesus had asked his disciples a seemingly simple question. “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” The answers were scattered, “John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or another prophet.” But then Peter spoke up and with a heart of faith and confidence said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” What a beautiful confession of faith! But as Jesus then began to describe the suffering and death that he must go through, Peter wanted nothing to do with this. He pulled Jesus aside saying, “Never! This won’t happen to you!” His heart was filled with fear for Jesus whom he loved. He didn’t want to let go and let Jesus do the work he came to do. He had trust but it was wrapped in fear.

So, Jesus took them to the mountain. It must have been a beautiful sight. I don’t know of a mountain view that isn’t. But that’s not why Jesus brought them there. He changed his appearance right in front of them. He was transfigured. Jesus showed a glimpse of his divine and godly glory that shined brighter than the sun. It was a beautiful sight for the disciples to see that Jesus was truly God, just as he had told them. To confirm this truth, out of a bright cloud came the voice of the eternal Father, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

If there was any doubt as to who Jesus is, this moment drives it all away. This was God, fulfilling his promise to come and rescue the people of this world, to rescue you from the sin that separates us from him. Jesus is the promised Messiah and here’s the proof. It’s right in front of you. See it. Listen to it. Jesus shows us who he is. He shows us his divine glory. What a beautiful sight!

And if there was any doubt about what he came to do… two prominent Old Testament leaders appeared with Jesus – Moses and Elijah. Moses was the one through whom God led Israel out of slavery and gave them his law. Elijah was the great prophet who proclaimed God’s promises to Israel during a tumultuous time in their history. Who better to have a conversation with Jesus especially as they talked about Jesus’ coming death? All the laws that were given to make a person right with God, that haven’t been kept perfectly by a single person – not by you, not by me, not by Israel, not by anyone – were kept perfect by Jesus. All the promises to send a Savior to overcome sin and restore people to God centuries of promises, promises continued still today, all fulfilled in Jesus. His death was his sacrifice to rescue you from sin. He came for you, undeserving sinner that you are. How amazing the love of God. What a beautiful sight!

Peter recognized it. “Lord, it is good for us to be here.” The point of the transfiguration was to build trust that Jesus is the promised Lord and Savior and not fear Jesus’ path to death, it is a part of the great rescue plan for sinners. Jesus showed this to the disciples to strengthen their faith and reassure them when they would go through challenges to their faith. What a beautiful sight!

But are you starting to see it, how beautiful the sight is? God’s Word allows us to go up the mountain with the disciples so that you too can see Jesus for who he is. You get to see that all the claims of Jesus to be the promised Savior of the world, your Savior from sin, are true. He’s just the kind of Savior that you need. You need one who would be perfect in your place. Who could be more perfect than God in flesh? You need someone to take the punishment that you deserve. Who better than the one with holy, precious blood who loved you so dearly that he was willing to go to the cross for your sins and was powerful enough to overcome the grave? What a beautiful sight.

There are moments in your life where doubts creep in. You’re just not sure that Jesus who is says he is, or that he’s capable of accomplishing what he says he can. At those moments, go back to the reliable witness of the disciples to see the beautiful sight of Jesus. Let this view of Jesus give you the blessed assurance that Jesus is your eternal Savior!

Almost as quickly as the transfiguration started it came to an end. Terrified to be in the presence of the Lord’s glory, the disciples fell facedown to the ground. Jesus reached down and touched them on their shoulders and said, “Get up. Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one but Jesus. The divine glory was hidden again in human flesh. Moses and Elijah and gone back to heaven. The view that Peter didn’t want to let go of, that he wanted to set up some tents and enjoy for a while, was gone. They were back to real life. But Jesus was still there. They didn’t need to fear.

Why do I need to know this – who Jesus really is? Because you’re going to come down from the mountain and back into real life with all of its challenges, all of its sorrows, all of its suffering. This morning’s glimpse of God’s glory, this beautiful view of your forgiveness and life with Jesus, will be clouded by your sin and by the evil of this world. You are going to long that God would shine his glory in your life, produce some kind of miracle in your life, speak to you so you know what direction to go, and long to have heaven right here on earth. When these things are hidden, you’ll be tempted to be afraid. But Jesus reaches out through his Word and touches your hearts and says, “Don’t be afraid.” Through eyes of faith, you can look up and see only Jesus. See that Jesus is always with you through this life and you know who he is. You’ve seen his glory. The glory of the one and only. The glory of God in Jesus the Savior who went forward to conquer sin and death to rescue you and give you life. Look up and see no one but Jesus. What a beautiful sight.

A few years back, my wife and I went on our first vacation without kids since we’ve had them. We went to Cancun and enjoyed a wonderful time spending it with just each other, relaxing on the beach, enjoying the sun. It was one of those moments, those vacations that we just didn’t want to come to an end. There are days and moments when we find ourselves overwhelmed by life, stress and kids and dealing with people and whatever, and we will look at each other and with smiles on our faces say, “Remember Cancun?”

When the stress of work overwhelms you, when the sickness of the body weakens you, when the loneliness of rejection plagues you, when anxieties freeze you up, when sin and guilt burden you, go back to the mount of transfiguration and look and see nothing except Jesus. See the Savior who had all the divine love and power to rescue you from sin, who never wavered from his path of suffering, who never leaves you nor forsakes you, who gives you life and will bring you to your home in heaven. Look to Jesus. What a beautiful sight! Amen.

Preached at Grace Lutheran Church, Milwaukee, WI on February 23, 2020