Last Wednesday, at about midnight, one guy shoved something up my dad’s nose, another person shoved something down his throat, and then the kicker – this guy took a knife and cut my dad’s midsection wide open. And we thanked him for it.
Now, don’t be offended, but if I were hanging out at your place, and at about midnight, you told me you just got a new set of steak knives and offered to go out into the garage and cut open my stomach – I don’t think I’d take you up on that.
So what gives? Why did my dad let that guy in a white coat, the guy he had only met a couple times, cut him open? Well, we trusted the doctor. The board had certified him. This great hospital had vetted him and hired him. He’d been doing this for a couple of decades. So we trusted him. And he cut open my dad. And he’s planning to do it again, at least once, maybe twice more.
So what does this have to do with you? I bring all this up because I want us to think about how we act when there is someone we can trust. There’s a difference between that doctor in that state-of-the art operating room and you in your garage. So today – think about who we have to trust in.
Our text is Matthew 17:1-9, the account of the Transfiguration — where Jesus shows just who we are trusting — God. But first, understand the context. This takes place right after Jesus had told the disciples he was going to Jerusalem to be arrested and killed, and Peter told him, "No way!" You see, Peter wasn’t quite ready to trust that Jesus knew better than he did what was needed. So Jesus shows some proof.
Now, of course, we’ve played Peter’s role here plenty, haven’t we? Whether it’s not standing up for our faith when society tries to shout it down, or failing to do what God’s Word tells us to when it comes to loving unconditionally and forgiving freely — even just not prioritizing time in God’s Word — we demonstrate that we don’t trust Jesus to know what will be best for us. So, in our text today, he shows us proof.
Matthew 17:1 records, "He (Jesus) led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light." Realize what this was. Proof. Jesus was showing his credentials. Here stood true God with them. Think about what that was shining. Realizing who was talking to them, they had no reason not to trust.
And so the disciples, like we would’ve, fell to the ground. But, then, just like we do so often, Peter got over that awe a little too quickly, and started telling Jesus how this should play out. "I’ll build some tents and we can stay here". Seems like a harmless offer, but understand – he was imposing his plans instead of letting God dictate. (Sound familiar?)
So look at what God did: Matthew 17:5 — A bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!"
Listen to him, not Peter. But this booming voice wasn’t just to put Peter in his place and stand up for the one who had never failed in the past. It wasn’t just to answer doubts and questions that were circling now. God was dropping those disciples to their knees in awe to prepare them for something.
Why now? God knows when we need something. Jesus was about to go through hell – literally. And it wouldn’t be much better for his followers. These disciples would feel much of the same pain, watching him die and then giving their own lives as well. These three men needed this for what they had coming.
So do we. We need regular reminders – in Bible study and worship. We need those visits from a friend with God’s word when we’re struggling. You see, God knows what we’re about to go through. And he prepares us with his Word.
It’s here in His Word that we see the Son shine proof – proof of who He is, true God become man to be our substitute. Proof of his grace, that he willingly sacrificed to pay for our sins, because we couldn’t handle it. And proof of His love – that he comes to us with reminders of who He is and what that means for us.
And he’s not finished with the proof. We see it in the results, too. You know, if I would have had doubts about the medical professionals wheeling my dad into the operating room in Arkansas, those doubts would have vanished pretty quickly — as I saw him steadily improve from the moment I got there, as he was removed from the ventilator, then came out of ICU, then was able to sit up again, and now even walk around. Seeing the success of the surgery, my trust in that doctor is even greater now for the next surgery.
Now think about what we’ve seen from God. We’ve seen his power in our own lives — from the gifts of certainty in our Baptism, comfort in our failures, peace through our struggles, and now even more.
We see proof of God’s love, proof of who He is, in how he affects His children. We see it in the love that we show to one another — in the mom, with her baby on her knee, telling him about this Jesus, in the dad, talking to his daughter about what it means to be a Christian young woman.
Proof of his love — in the daughter, reading the grace of the Psalms to her dying mother. In the friend, lifting up her brother or sister in Christ before God in prayer, calling on all the legions of angels to protect and guide. Proof of his love – in you.
The Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Worship every Sunday at 8 & 10:30 a.m. Full sermons and more information can be found at www.abidinggrace.com.