The Man Who Went to the Cross Is God
Luke 9:28–36 (CSB)
28 About eight days after this conversation, he took along Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30 Suddenly, two men were talking with him—Moses and Elijah. 31 They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish in Jerusalem.
32 Peter and those with him were in a deep sleep,, and when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men who were standing with him. 33 As the two men were departing from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it’s good for us to be here. Let us set up three shelters: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he was saying.
34 While he was saying this, a cloud appeared and overshadowed them. They became afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 Then a voice came from the cloud, saying: “This is my Son, the Chosen One;, listen to him!”
36 After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. They kept silent, and at that time told no one what they had seen.
Dear fellow redeemed: Our text takes place about eight days after a certain conversation takes place. Now John doesn’t pay too much attention to chronology; His gospel follows a theme rather than a synopsis of events. So that means this conversation must have some significance to our text. You will recognize the conversation: “But he strictly warned and instructed them to tell this to no one, saying, “It is necessary that the Son of Man suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and be raised the third day.” Then he said to them all, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will save it. For what does it benefit someone if he gains the whole world, and yet loses or forfeits himself? …”” (Luke 9:21–27, CSB)
So Jesus says, (greatly paraphrased) “I need to suffer and die, but I will rise again. Anyone who follows me should be willing to follow me, event to the cross, it is a matter of eternal life and eternal death.”
Really? Does this make sense to you? It should, given the truth that you know about Christ.
These words make sense, given that …
THE MAN WHO WENT TO THE CROSS IS GOD
- The Transfiguration Shows His Glory
- He Shows the Curse of Sin and the Glory of Salvation
- He Stirs Us to Faithfulness
- The Transfiguration Shows His Glory
What happened here in our text is simple to describe. Jesus took three disciples, Peter, James, and John and went up on a high mountain, possibly Mount Hermon, at about 9000 ft. Through their word we are able to know what they knew, to see what they saw: He was transfigured – that is, His appearance changed. He permitted His divine nature to show in such a way that human eyes could see it as a whiteness and a brightness.
They saw His glory; they knew Him as holy and divine. It is apparent in their recognition of Moses and Elijah. It is clear in the voice of the Father, “This is my Son, the Chosen One;, listen to him!” Later on, John summed things up, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14, CSB)
Peter wrote (2 Peter 1:16) that they were “eyewitnesses of his majesty,” so they were not telling “cleverly invented stories” when they told “about the power and coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The man who went to the cross is God.
2. He Shows the Curse of Sin and the Glory of Salvation
While this shows us the glory of Christ, it also shows us the joy and glory of salvation, in the fellowship between Moses, Elijah, and Christ. It is no wonder “Master, it’s good for us to be here. Let us set up three shelters: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” Because such perfect fellowship is something he saw as sheer joy.
For that brief moment, the disciples saw what it meant to associate with God. Moses and Elijah stood there with Jesus, comfortable with Him in his glory and majesty — and comfortable with themselves. Unafraid. Sinless and holy.
They could discuss the coming events in Jerusalem, Jesus’ “exodus” – departure from Jerusalem – matters of tragedy and hope, sorrow and joy, grief and triumph. And they could do so with no doubts or fears but perfectly certain of the glorious mercy and perfection of the living God.
We are missing that because our doubts diminish our faith, and because we know our God and Savior less well than we could if His word were more part of our lives, and certainly less well than we will in heaven. Think about what it would be like to discuss even the sorrow and trouble that is before us with a PERFECT certainty that God lovingly oversees it all, that victory is ours.
It was with this understanding that Luther taught us to sing, “Take they goods, fame, child, or wife; let these all be gone, they yet have nothing won; the Kingdom ours remaineth.” Whatever Moses and Elijah suffered, now we see their glory also.
The transfiguration of Jesus also shows the curse of sin because it shows the depths to which God must descend to save us. Jesus withdrew the veil only momentarily, and then stepped out immediately upon that road that leads to the cross, obeying the will of His Father, that He be blamed for the world’s sins, and bear God’s wrath over them. As Paul writes, by inspiration, “who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited. Instead he emptied himself by assuming the form of a servant, taking on the likeness of humanity. And when he had come as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death— even to death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6–8, CSB) The man who went to the cross is God.
The transfiguration of Jesus shows the curse of sin also because it shows the contrast between the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man. Sinful man cowers before the holiness of God.
We see the curse of sin, but also the glory of salvation. Look again at Jesus. For Him death is not a separation. He can speak to Moses and Elijah, dead for hundreds of years, with as much friendliness as He could speak to His disciples, answering their questions, eating dinner with them, and being their friend. The man who went to the cross is God.
3. He Stirs us to Faithfulness
This is the Christ who stirs us also to faithfulness – to trust and confidence in Him. Just as an example, the words He caused Paul to write to us, “More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. … My goal is to know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead.” (Philippians 3:8–11, CSB) He wants what Christ here in His transfiguration shows is His to give: To know Christ. We can do that. By faith. By faith we can see Him now, know Him now, even as we look forward to knowing Him better.
We can be like Job: “But I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the end he will stand on the dust. Even after my skin has been destroyed, yet I will see God in my flesh. I will see him myself; my eyes will look at him, and not as a stranger. My heart longs within me.” (Job 19:25–27, CSB)
We can be like Paul: “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, as I am fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12, CSB)
And since we can know him as well as He can be known only through the Word, Here Jesus gives us reason to be in the word, in the word, and in the word. That we might know Him better, see Him better through the eyes of faith, and put our faith in him — even as we face the troubles and disappointments of life.
In the next 6 weeks, we will follow Jesus. We will follow Him, in faith, all the way to the cross. Here we see that the one who went to the cross FOR US is God. Here we see just a hint of His glory. Here He brings us a wonderful assurance of the glory of our salvation, and through His word stirs faith in our hearts.
We can see why it is worth it even to lose this life, because of the eternal life that is ours through Him.
May God grant such an abundance of faith in YOUR hearts, bearing fruits in joy and peace now, and everlasting bliss hereafter because the man who went to the cross is God.