"But Now I See"#85-24
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on February 11, 2018
By Rev. Dr. Ken Klaus, Speaker Emeritus of The Lutheran Hour
(Q&A Topic:But Now I See)
Copyright 2019 Lutheran Hour Ministries
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Text: 2 Corinthians 4:3
Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Dear Lord, life is filled with sadnesses, disappointments, and people who let us down. Grant that we, who once were blind, may clearly see our Lord and Savior and worship Him as Your Son, whose life was offered as the only sacrifice which could forgive our sins and rescue our lost souls. As we think upon the salvation He has earned, let us realize and remember: He is the only One who will never let us down. Lord, grant this gift to us all. Amen.
I'm not much to look at, so you can forgive me if I share that the middle-aged, slightly-heavy, Scottish woman who strode out from behind the theater's side curtain wasn't much to look at either. She sported unkempt hair and wore a gold lace dress which was not entirely flattering. Those who saw her rolled their eyes and giggled a bit. Nobody expected much of anything from the lady who probably had come, the victim of some friend's wrongful urging. That was the way it was on April 11, 2009. That was the way it was when Susan Boyle opened her mouth to sing.
What people heard amazed them. Those who were there in the audience went absolutely crazy. People started standing on their feet, applauding, yelling, stomping their feet. The sophisticated judges ended up apologizing for having judged a book by its cover. Her video clip quickly became the most watched piece of film in YouTube history. Her first record broke all sales records. What I'm saying is Susan Boyle surprised the world. She was not what we expected her to be; she was much, much more. And that's an unusual thing, you know-for something or someone to be better than we had expected. Sadly, all too often, we are disappointed.
It's been a number of years since we went to war with Iraq's President Saddam Hussein. Even so, I remember a young man who stopped in my office. Clad in an Army uniform, the private appeared to be the very epitome of the clean-cut, all-American who proudly defends his nation, his freedoms, and our righteous interests around the world. I asked why he had come and he replied something like "My unit has been called up to fight. We leave on Friday."
I told him that we would remember him in our prayers. Then he put his head down and said, "I don't want to go." I acknowledged that his attitude was perfectly natural. Nobody ever wants to go to war.
"No," he said, "you don't understand."
You see, he had joined up after high school, but he hadn't joined up to go to war. He had enlisted to get some college benefits and health services and insurance and have a steady income and because, quite frankly, his girlfriend had a thing for "guys in uniform." But he hadn't enlisted so they could send him half way around the world to fight. I have to tell you, that day, that boy was a disappointment. Oh, there are two other things you ought to know about him. First, he gave me permission to share his story with you and, second, that young man went, and he fought, and he came home with more than a few of his officers and fellow enlisted men singing his praises.
I'm sure you agree it's a rare thing for someone or something to be better than we expected. Over the years, I have seen a steady stream of disappointed couples. The handsome, tuxedo-clad groom who had been blissful at his wedding when he promised lifelong love to the most wonderful woman in the world says, "I was conned. She flimflammed me. She's not the girl of my dreams, she's is a mean-spirited, continuously crabby, grumpy nightmare."
Not to be outdone by her once beloved, the bride responds theologically by asking, "Pastor, doesn't the Bible say we reap what we sow? Maybe he's only getting back from me what he's given to me. All I can say is my knight who once was in shining armor looks pretty rusty."
Now you may be blessed with a wonderful marriage, and such insults may be completely foreign to your ears. But I'm more than sure you have had a confidant reveal your secrets; you have had a friend turn on you; you have had a trusted comrade break his promises, and there's probably more than one family member who, in a silent, subtle way, has disowned you. You have had bosses who let promises go unfulfilled and companies that demanded much but responded with little. So maybe you won't argue so very much when I say people can be disappointing.
I know the Lord Jesus wouldn't argue with me-not on that point, anyway. He wouldn't argue because during His life He was a continuous disappointment to those who knew Him. The fourth chapter of Luke tells of the day the Savior returned to His boyhood home of Nazareth. At first, the locals were proud of the local boy who was making good. But when Mary's Son made the claim to be the Messiah, His old-friends, His childhood playmates, rose up as one and tried to murder Him. The apostle John tells of two different days when Jesus healed two different people. The first was a man who had non-functioning legs, while the second was a blind man. Jesus healed both these people and for His troubles incurred the wrath of the Pharisees who were disappointed he did "these things on the Sabbath." So great was their disappointment, they set into motion a plan to have Him killed.
Jesus often was a disappointment. At the time Jesus was preaching repentance and calling people to be the forgiveness He alone can give, the center of the Jewish world was in Jerusalem. There, in the great temple, with many traditions and much pomp, the priests led the Jewish people in sacrifices which were supposed to keep Jewish eyes focused on the coming Messiah. Sadly, over the years that purpose had been misused; the meaning had been lost. Worship had become a mere matter of proscribed formalities.
That being said, Jesus breathed new life into the religious leaders. This He did by raising Lazarus from the dead. It was a miracle the priests couldn't explain away. Disappointed in Jesus and the events He had unleashed, the leaders came together and said, "If we let Him go on like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation." And with that, John 11 tells us, "From that day on they made plans to put Him to death."
Although being disappointed in Jesus was generally confined to Jesus' enemies and those who wished to murder Him, the Redeemer did manage to confuse some of His closest followers. When John the Baptizer was boldly witnessing from Herod's prison, his mind started wandering, and he began wondering: "Is it possible I was wrong? Is it possible Jesus isn't the Messiah?" He sent messengers to Jesus to discover if He was the One, the promised Messiah, or should they be looking for someone else? John died knowing the truth; He died having heard Jesus' answer: "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by Me."
That day, to John, Jesus gave more than the Baptizer had ever expected.
On a day-to-day to day basis, it seems as if the Lord's disciples were always working in a dense fog whenever it came to Jesus, His intentions, or His purpose. There are reasons for that. First, while Jesus did fulfill all the Old Testament prophecies about the Savior, He didn't always do what people expected the Messiah was going to do. He didn't behave like the Jews expected their Messiah to behave. He didn't raise armies; He didn't flex His muscles, throw off the tyranny of Rome, and re-establish a new kingdom of David.
This oddness was for Jesus' disciples, and for the crowds, and the religious leadership of the Israel, a great hindrance to them acknowledging Jesus' work and word. It also explains why the disciples wander about in a fog. It's why they get things so very, very wrong. Think about it. Although Jesus never requested it, or showed a desire for it, the disciples tried to keep mothers and children from their Lord's blessing; James and John were fully prepared to rain brimstone on a village in Samaria. When they were caught in a squall on the Sea of Galilee, they come to Jesus and say, "Don't You care?" This they say to Jesus, the Son of God who cared enough to live, suffer, die, and rise so they might be saved. And they, of course, regularly argued about who was going to be the greatest in the Kingdom after Jesus got rid of the Romans.
The disciples didn't get it. They had to have been a bit of a disappointment. Even after the Lord's resurrection, they still didn't understand why their Rabbi had come. That's evident from the question which they asked immediately before His ascension. They wanted to know if He was, at this time, going to restore the Kingdom to the children of Israel.
So, there you have it. The most important Person who has ever lived in this world, He around whom the calendar revolves, and upon whom forgiveness depends, was a disappointment to His enemies and confusing to His friends. Little wonder people today question and have doubts about Jesus' plan and purpose. The novice believer sometimes longs for a defining Scriptural moment, where the Person and purpose of the Redeemer is clearly identified.
My friends, there is such a moment; there was such a place. It was on the Mount of Transfiguration, where Jesus and His three closest disciples, Peter, James and John went, so the Holy Spirit could remove their doubts and clarify their vision. It was an impressive period of time, and look as you will, you shall not find its like anywhere in Scripture. It begins with Jesus' apparel being transformed. For years, various detergents have claimed they will get your clothes whiter than white. According to John, the Lord's clothes did exactly that ... whiter than any bleach could make them ... but there was more there was a brightness to them.
As the disciples watched, they realized they were not alone. Moses and Elijah had joined them, and they were talking with the Savior. You remember Moses, the Hebrew who had been raised as an Egyptian and was called by God to lead the children of Israel out of slavery. Year after year, Moses led God's whining, complaining, doubting, fearful people. Moses, whose leadership had been questioned and rejected numerous times by the people, was trying to help Jesus. Would he not have much to say to the Savior?
Then there was Elijah. Elijah also could provide insights for the Savior as He prepared to complete His work of sacrifice. Those two had much in common. Jesus had raised a young man from the dead, so had Elijah. Jesus had traded Scripture verses with the devil, and Elijah had shown the courage to taunt the priests of Baal in a God-to-idol showdown. But now, at this particular moment in the Savior's life, Elijah could speak of something special: loneliness. In His suffering and death, Jesus would be very much alone. Although the Lord had assured Elijah there were others who had not shown allegiance to the demon-deities, Elijah also had felt loneliness.
Peter, James and John could only stand there slack-jawed, watching the two most famous men in their nation's history speak to their Rabbi as if they were old friends which, of course, they were. No doubt those two passed on assurances that the victory the Savior had come to win would become a reality. Scripture does not say how long the vision-like reality continued. We only know that it ended when a cloud covered the trio. From within the cloud came a voice, the voice of the Father. He spoke to the trembling followers of His Son, and gave them some advice. "This is My beloved Son," the Father says. "See Him. Listen to Him." It was God's way of saying, "My Son is far more, far better, than you think He is."
And He is, you know, better, that is. In the 1970's, Arthur Burns was a Jewish economist who had quite a solid reputation. He was an advisor to presidents, and wielded considerable influence in the nation's capitol. From 1970 to 1978 he was the chairperson of the Federal Reserve. Once, Mr. Burns was asked to pray at a gathering of evangelical politicians. Quite frankly, nobody knew what kind of prayer this Jewish economist would come up with. Burns surprised everybody by slowly beginning this way: "Lord, I pray the Jews would come to know Jesus Christ." He paused for a second to let his words sink in. He began again: "And I pray that Buddhists would come to know Jesus Christ." People looked at each other across their tables. Burns began again, "And I pray that Muslims would come to know Jesus Christ." And then, most shocking of all, Burns said "And Lord, I pray that Christians would come to know Jesus Christ."
I thought that prayer was cute. Cute, but disappointing. You see, the Jesus Christ Mr. Burns wanted everyone to meet was a good man, a great man, a wonderful teacher, a brilliant moralist, an insightful philosopher, and an all-around nice guy. But if that's all Jesus is when you meet Him, He will be a disappointment. Because He is just one of many high-level teachers, moralists, philosophers, great men, and nice guys that this world has produced.
What we need is a Savior. We need the innocent Son of God who, in order to save us, took our transgressions to the cross where He finished them off. We need the perfect Son of God who resisted every temptation that we found to be so tempting. As the Father urged on the Mount of Transfiguration, we need to hear His Son, the only Person who can honestly say, "I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?" Then, having heard Him, we need to join with Martha and give a resounding, "Yes!" "Yes, Lord; I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world."
In this world you will meet many people who will not be what you expect, and they will disappoint you. You will deal with all kinds of folks who will, both deliberately and unintentionally, let you down. But today, you have seen the Son of God who has conquered death so you might live forever. I don't know what you may have thought of Him in the past, but I pray today you will think of Him as Your Savior and Lord. If you do, you will not be disappointed. To that end, if you would like to know more about your Savior, please call us at The Lutheran Hour. Amen.
Reflections for FEBRUARY 11, 2018
Title: BUT NOW I SEE
Mark Eischer You're listening to The Lutheran Hour. That was Pastor Ken Klaus, and Dr.
Dale Meyer joins us now. Dr. Meyer, I'm curious to hear your thoughts concerning the transfiguration of Jesus.
Dale Meyer: Mark, it's a fascinating story, and I'll admit that as I've gotten older it fascinates me all the more. In many of our churches that follow the historic lectionary, today is the day when transfiguration is observed.
Mark Eischer: And again, what do we mean by a lectionary?
Dale Meyer: Well, liturgical churches have selected certain Bible readings to be used on given
Sundays and also on festival days. Normally, this is an Old Testament, an epistle, and a Gospel
lesson. Today, it happens to be the Gospel of the transfiguration from St. Mark.
Mark Eischer: What do you find most interesting about that account?
Dale Meyer: There are a number of things. First, let me say that transfiguration is observed this Sunday to shift us from Epiphany into Lent. We go from the glory down to the suffering and the cross, which is exactly what the story of transfiguration is about. Jesus appears in glory but along with Moses and Elijah, they talk about the death that He is soon going to experience.
Mark Eischer: His departure.
Dale Meyer: His departure. In fact, the word is "exodus" in one of the accounts, his exodus. That's fascinating. But, another fascinating thing for me is the ancient fathers of the church said that Mark wrote his Gospel based upon what St. Peter had told him. Peter was an eyewitness to everything about Jesus and he shared that with Mark, so the Gospel of Mark really is, in some ways, the Gospel of Peter. In fact, in 1 Peter chapter 5 verse 1, Peter says, "I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed." Peter is referring to what he actually saw on the Mount of Transfiguration. The same happens in 2 Peter, chapter 1, beginning at verse 16, and he talks about seeing the transfiguration. He was there, along with James and John.
Mark Eischer: In Mark 9 verse 7, it says, "A cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud."
Dale Meyer: That's another reason why this account is so fascinating to me. Think about clouds in the Bible. On Mount Sinai, thunder, lightning, and a cloud settled on the mountain. I'm going to talk about that in several weeks in my message. Then in Exodus chapter 40, what does it say? "The cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle." Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.
Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out until the day that it was taken up. "For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day and fire was in it by night in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys." This cloud is the presence of God.
When we fast forward to 1 Kings, chapter 8, Solomon is dedicating the temple. The temple is filled with a cloud. Now, in the transfiguration there is a cloud. At the ascension, Acts chapter 1, we hear that His disciples were watching. Jesus has lifted up and a cloud covers Him. The cloud is the presence of God, and that's fascinating to me because He's close.
Exodus 33 tells us that no one can see God and live. That's because we're sinners. I mean, if God shows Himself to us ...
Mark Eischer: Incinerated.
Dale Meyer: Yeah. The sinners are incinerated. Really. That's great. That's great, Mark. What does He do? He comes close, but He veils Himself. He hides Himself in the cloud and when the Lord comes back on Judgment Day, He's going to come on the clouds. Now, on the Mount of Transfiguration, getting back to that, "The cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud. 'This is My beloved Son. Listen to Him.'" No one can see God and live. But what does God do? He draws close and He speaks to us.
Mark Eischer: In His Word.
Dale Meyer: In His Word. Then He narrows that down even more and he says, "Listen to My Son." When we approach the Bible, it's not just the Bible and the Bible is God's Word, but we read it with an eye toward Jesus because that's the instruction out of the cloud: "This is My beloved Son. Listen to Him."
I've got an example of how Peter did that because remember Peter was there, and he took that word from the Heavenly Father to heart. In 1 Peter, chapter 1, Peter quotes Isaiah 40. It says, "All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls but the Word of the Lord remains forever." Now that's a famous passage. It talks about our mortality. I remember the hymn "Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise" by Chalmers Smith that says, "We blossom and flourish like leaves on a tree, we wither and perish, but naught changes Thee." Isaiah is talking about God. This is God's Word, but it's fascinating to see what Peter did with that. Immediately after quoting Isaiah chapter 40, 1 Peter says this, "And this Word is the good news that was preached to you." That's a direct reference to Jesus Christ. What Peter does is take the Old Testament and he interprets it in the light of Jesus' coming. He does that at other places.
The point being that, yes, the Bible is the Word of God, but when we go at it, if we're going to follow the Heavenly Father's direction on the Mount of Transfiguration, we not only listen to His Word, but we listen to it specifically with an eye toward Jesus. This is the Old Testament and the New Testament as well. In the Old Testament, for example, we have the prophecies of the suffering Servant. Well, we look at those prophecies from Isaiah chapter 53, for example, and Peter quotes that, too, in his epistle. We look at that and we say, "Oh, yeah. That's about Jesus." We see the Old Testament, as the new, through the lens of Jesus, and Peter learned that lesson when he was on the Mount of Transfiguration. We've got the evidence in his epistle that he understands it's all about Jesus.
Mark Eischer: That one verse in that story really gives us a guidance, a lot of guidance for daily living.
Dale Meyer: Absolutely. First of all, when God seems distant, when the days are dark, He's actually close. God is omnipresent, so He's not gone when you're having a tough time. In fact, the biblical record tells us that when the cloud came, He was very close to His people. We should understand that when we're having dark days, God's not far away. He's close. But what He wants to do is to encourage us, and to explain to us what's happening on the basis of His Word. We read the Word of God, especially in our tough times, with an eye toward Jesus who is the suffering Servant, who endured so much that we remember the Lenten season for us and for our salvation. This is very practical advice. It comes out of that one verse in the transfiguration account that can help us our whole life long until we, in our turn, see the glory face to face.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"O Wondrous Type, O Vision Fair" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)