Text: Deuteronomy 34:1-12
Date: Transfiguration + 2/7/16
Time. Ever since God created “Yom,” the day, time, He called it very good. In our experience, however, time has proven anything and everything from beneficial to an outright threat. To the youngster time seems to drag on and on. “Are we there yet?” To the oldster it seems to go by too fast. “Where has the time gone?” To everyone, however, the plodding, methodical passage of time mystifies us and sometimes seems to imprison us. To break through the confines of the clock has challenged and fascinated everyone from Olympic runners and race car drivers to creators of the most captivating works of fiction.
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was a sure-fire return to the thirty-year-old epic space film series. Also thirty years ago The Doc and Marty in “Back to the Future” went both back and forward through time in an entertaining trilogy; in a DeLorean powered by a flux capacitor and finally even more mysteriously missing the prediction of the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series…by only one year!
Trivial however were their adventures compared to the prophet Moses (1393-1273 bc). Today we heard about Moses’ death. Though at the age of 120, his eye yet undimmed, and vigor unabated, “there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, none like him for all the signs and the wonders that the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, and for all the mighty power and all the great deeds of terror that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.” Nevertheless, Moses was also a sinner. And according to God’s Word, “you sin, you die.” Yet the death of this one, Moses, was shrouded in mystery as we are told it was the Lord Himself who buried him, possibly in a way that He could also raise him from the dead to be numbered with Enoch and Elijah who were glorified without either death or burial.
Now, when thinking of physical death, I quite often think of our experience of sleep. That is when we fall asleep the very next thing we know we awaken to a new day. We’re not necessarily aware of the passage of six, eight or ten hours. Is this a hint that the sleep of death for the Christian, the sleep that includes the fullness of joy in the Lord’s presence, will be but a mere moment, the next thing we know it is the last day the resurrection of all flesh? Doc and Marty are pikers compared to the 1300 years that went by between Moses’ death and burial on Mt. Nebo and his appearance on the mount of Transfiguration of Our Lord on Mt. Tabor or Hermon. Given a glimpse of the promised land and then gone, the next thing he knew was that he was looking at that same promised land but now with God standing there with him, Jesus in all His divine glory.
It was by this great Passover Lamb (Exodus 12) that God saved Moses, this serpent raised in the wilderness (Numbers 21) now on a cross that salvation has come for the whole world. So Moses and Elijah spoke briefly of Jesus’ coming exodus, His departure by way of His suffering and death on the cross which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Strange word, don’t you think? His suffering, death and cross an “accomplishment”? But yes. According to the divine plan of God promised from the beginning to Adam and Eve in the garden, carried on through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, now the Son of David and Son of God has come, has come “to proclaim good news to the poor,” “to proclaim liberty to the captives…to set at liberty those who are oppressed” (Lk 4), in other words, to free all men from the curse of sin by the accomplishment of His mission, the atonement and forgiveness provided by His own holy sacrifice of blood for us and for our salvation.
Today we hear the voice of God declaring of Jesus, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” And we are now ready, whether you think so or not, ready to descend the mountain with this vision imprinted on our memory, this vision to direct us as we get down to the business, the Lenten business, the Ash Wednesday business of renewed repentance and faith. It’s still true, you know, a lot of what we are still has to go, has to be dealt with, has to “be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires,” that “a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever” (Small Catechism).
The Lenten discipline is no light or easy matter. It’s serious business. Our sin still so easily besets and stains us. It is only as we follow our Savior through His own suffering, teaching, admonishing, promising, His own endurance of the punishment of our sin, His bloody death and burial that the faith God has implanted in us can be renewed, reawakened and grow in strength, wisdom and holiness, in an Easter faith that keeps the vision of the truth of the Gospel.
Remember the admonition of the eye-witness Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, writing to us:
“To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
“For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.” (2 Peter 1)
Take this vision with you into your Lenten discipline and into the rest of your days that you may be sons and daughters of your heavenly King and live and reign with Him forever.