Tale of Two Hills

In Sermon Outlines by Rachel Schultz

Tale of Two Hills

Text: Luke 9:28-43

Main Thought:
 We give witness to the glorified, transfigured Christ with our faces turned toward the future in which we will all stand before his glory.

Call to Worship
 – Psalm 99

I. Introduction
A. Today’s text takes work.
1. Not least because we, to the best of my knowledge, are people who cut our eye teeth in the arid landscape of modernity – enlightenment rationalism.
2. We love the scientific method and look to reason and empirical evidence to answer all our questions.
a. Like you, when I go to the doctor, I am eager for her to embrace the rational with vim and vigor.
b. While under the knife no one wants their doctor contemplating the mysteries of the universe, wondering if things are so “cut and dried.”
B. But our task today is different than that of surgeon.
C. Our task today, like that of Jesus’ first apostles – especially those three “favorites,” Peter, James and John – is to shut our mouths, quiet the voices of modernity in our head, and simply listen to God and dwell in the mystery of God revealed.
D. God revealed!
1. That’s quite a mouthful.
2. But that is exactly what Peter, James and John experience on this day.
E. They’re tired – exhausted from a day of work among the people.
F. They just want to sleep.
G. But Jesus is called to this hill where he will experience one of the most profound turning points of his life.
H. For Luke, in particular, everything hinges on this experience.
I. It is the great Hinge in his story.
Please hear the scripture this morning from Luke 9:28-36

“Holy Spirit, enlighten us with your fire from heaven. Help us to see and listen to your wisdom, that the Good News of your commandments and grace may be chiseled on our hearts. In the name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.”

J. What a story – and so loaded with meaning.
K. There are so many clues in this story about what’s going on that I hardly know where to begin.
L. Perhaps we can set the stage on which this amazing God encounter takes place.
M. If we just look back over the recent experiences in Jesus’ and his disciples’ lives we’ll notice some remarkable things.
1. Jesus’ ministry has really gained momentum.
2. He has calmed a severe storm.
3. Cast out demons, healed people
4. He even gave authority of demons and sickness to the 12.
5. He fed the 5,000.
N. And as we get closer to the Transfiguration we pay closer attention to the details of the context.
1. Peter has just answered correctly about the true identity of Jesus – “The Messiah of God.”
a. Remember this!
2. Then, as in the other gospels, this statement by Peter is followed by Jesus’ first prediction of his suffering and death.
3. And this is followed by a difficult call to discipleship.
O. VERSE 28 says, “Now about 8 days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray.”
P. While keeping this context in mind, let’s remember what this experience on the Mount of Transfiguration might remind us of.
1. When was the last time a voice from heaven spoke to Jesus?
a. His baptism – Luke 3:21-22
2. And what is the significance of Moses and Elijah?
3. Didn’t Moses have an experience like this once?
a. Receiving the law and a leadership mandate from God.
4. And now here is Jesus, facing the Law and the Prophets personified.
5. And Luke is telling his original hearers, as us today, Jesus not only stands in company with these two massive heroes of Jewish faith, but his is the culmination of their ministry.
a. Jesus is, in fact, a new Moses and a new Elijah.
Q. And just as the voice from heaven confirmed his baptism and commissioned him for his public ministry
1. So now, the voice of God and the transfiguring presence of God confirms Peter’s declaration that He is the Messiah and Jesus’ prediction of his suffering
a. AND, sends him toward Jerusalem.
R. This is the hinge in Luke’s story.
1. From this point forward, just over a third of the way into Luke’s story, Jesus has already “set his face to go to Jerusalem.”
II. What happened on this hill?
A. Can you imagine Peter, James and John trying to explain to the others what happened up on that hill?
1. It was probably a few days after the actual events.
B. I’m sure they asked themselves, “What did happen up there?”
1. Was it all just a dream?
C. Moses and Elijah were there, talking to Jesus.
1. Talking about what?
D. Talking about his departure!
1. Departure?
2. Yes, actually the word is “exodus”
E. They’re talking to him about his impending death at the hands of the Romans and Jewish power brokers.
F. But this choice of language – Exodus – is power, especially given that it’s coming from none other than Moses!
1. I mean when Moses appears and starts talking to you about “your Exodus” that’s pretty serious!
G. And Jesus death is an Exodus
1. But for more than just him.
2. Sure, we might think of anyone’s death as a kind of exodus – a departure – and passing over to the other side.
H. But in Jesus’ case, his death is an Exodus for the entire creation.
1. Jesus is like Moses only more-so.
2. He leads the greatest Exodus in history.
3. The Exodus from death to life
4. From corruption to immortality
5. From sin and death, to life more abundant.
I. And all this talk of death is set in the context of GLORY!
1. You can imagine how hard it is for the three disciples to understand all this.
J. In the closing moments of what seems to have been a short encounter, Peter gets excited…
1. Wants to hold on to this experience
2. Build three shelters for Moses, Elijah and Jesus
3. Stick around longer and really bask in this glory.
4. But just then a cloud descends on them and the voice of God speaks.
a. And when the voice of God speaks, Peter’s quiets down.
K. It’s almost as if God says, “Shut up, Peter!”
1. You’re about the miss the point of the most remarkable experience of your life.
2. So just shut up and listen.
L. Well, that’s not exactly what Luke says happened, but it’s close.
1. From the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him.
M. And then Luke tells us, “When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of these things they had seen.
N. What a profound instruction from God on this pivotal day.
1. This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him.
a. Almost the exact words spoken at Jesus’ baptism
b. Meant, of course, to remind them of those earlier words and the link between the two experiences.
O. Listen to him!
a. What was something in the recent context that the disciples were having a hard time listening to?
P. Oh yeah, all that stuff about suffering and death and that his disciples would have to take up their cross daily in order to really be his disciples.
1. They didn’t want to hear that.
2. Remember, in Matthew’s account, Peter outright rebukes Jesus for saying those things.
Q. But a voice from heaven tells them, “Listen to him!”
1. The things Jesus is saying are not incompatible with his Messiahship.
R. In fact, I think Luke would have us understand one more thing about this.
1. While this is, truly, a story of God’s glory revealed
2. But the greatest glory has not yet been revealed
3. That is still coming
4. The Greatest glory to be revealed in Jesus would happen a little while from now, on a very different hill, called Golgotha.
5. It is to that hill that Jesus and his disciples now turn
6. And we follow them on this journey as we enter the long season of Lent – a 40-day march to the cross
7. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves
8. Jesus and his disciples will be down the hill to the valley of suffering and pain and cross bearing soon enough.
S. For now, let’s pause in the presence of God’s glory and with these three apostles, stand in awe of God’s mysterious glory.
III. Conclusion
A. Luke tells this story, not to help us understand Peter and “what he must have felt”
B. But rather to confirm in his community the way in which God, through Jesus, was continuing the story and bringing it to a marvelous climax.
C. We cannot hear this story and understand that Jesus is some new kid on the block, introducing a radically new religion.
D. No, Jesus is both in continuity with and greater than all the law and the prophets
E. What God was up to in Jesus in those days was precisely the plan of God from the beginning – that all the world would be reconciled to God’s-self through his Son, his Chosen.
F. Today, we stand in continuity with that plan of God!
1. And our witness is to this Christ – Messiah – the Chosen One of God – glorified in our midst by His death and resurrection.
2. We give witness to this glorified Christ with our faces turned toward the future in which we will all stand before his glory.
Benediction – May God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, direct us with the holy light, not to hide in our dwelling places, but to share with a stumbling world the Good News. Alleluia! Amen!

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