The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
Deuteronomy 34:1 Now Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho. And the Lord showed him all the land, Gilead as far as Dan, 2 and all Naphtali and the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, and all the land of Judah as far as the western sea, 3 and the Negev and the plain in the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, as far as Zoar. 4 Then the Lord said to him, “This is the land which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants’; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there.” 5 So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord. 6 And He buried him in the valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor; but no man knows his burial place to this day. 7 Although Moses was one hundred and twenty years old when he died, his eye was not dim, nor his vigor abated. 8 So the sons of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days; then the days of weeping and mourning for Moses came to an end. 9 Now Joshua the son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands on him; and the sons of Israel listened to him and did as the Lord had commanded Moses. 10 Since that time no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, 11 for all the signs and wonders which the Lord sent him to perform in the land of Egypt against Pharaoh, all his servants, and all his land, 12 and for all the mighty power and for all the great terror which Moses performed in the sight of all Israel. (NASB)
Christian hope is faith looking forward. For it’s part Christian faith looks backwards in time to Christ. Hope is all about future. Faith is rooted in the past. The present is where the two (faith and hope) meet and overlap. Today, is the end of Epiphany. For the past seven weeks of Epiphany we have looked back at some of the things that Jesus said and did that showed Himself to be the Son of God in flesh Who came into the world to save both Jew and Gentile.
The transfiguration of Jesus recorded in the Gospel lesson further demonstrates that Jesus was and is the Son of God, the Holy One of God, fully divine while at the same time fully human.
In the transfiguration of our Lord Jesus we also get a look of our future for the Bible teaches. Romans 8:29-30 “For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” This morning we end the season of Epiphany by looking forward to what God is giving and is going to give us in Christ Jesus.
Enter the Old Testament lesson this morning. “Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo . . . 4 Then the Lord said to him, ‘This is the land which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, I will give it to your descendants; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there.’ 5 So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord. 6 And He buried him in the valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor.”
There sitting on the top of Mount Nebo Moses looks over the promised land knowing that he will not enter that land, but will in fact die in just a few moments. After 40 years as an Egyptian prince, 40 years in exile as a shepherd in the wilderness, and after 40 years of wilderness wanderings with all of its hardships and heartbreaks, Moses will not be permitted to enter the land that had been promised to his ancestor Abraham.
Other than Jesus and King David, we know more about Moses than any other person in the Bible. His life was stunning and a picture of both the Law and Gospel of God. Imagine what Moses must have thought about as he sat on Mount Nebo looking over the promised land.
Moses’s journey began floating in a basket on the Nile River. He was rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter. For forty years, he lived as a prince in Egypt, then one day in an effort to protect an Israelite slave who was being beaten by an Egyptian, Moses murder the Egyptian and is forced to flee into the wilderness.
For forty years he lived in the wilderness. He became a shepherd for the flocks of Jethro and too one of Jethro’s daughters, Zipporah, to be his wife. Then at the age 80 Moses while out tending to the flock he saw a bush burning without being consumed. The Angel of the Lord spoke to him and sent him back to Egypt to free the Hebrew people from their slavery and save them from eventual extinction.
Soon he would stand before Pharaoh and speak the words God had given Him to say. “Let my people go.” The staff turning into a snake, the Nile turning to blood, the ten plagues, the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart. God’s instructions for the first Passover lambs to be slaughtered and the blood place on the door, then resulting death of every Egyptian firstborn. Then, the moment they all had waited for. The exodus, the parting of the Rea Sea, and the drowning of Pharaoh’s armies.
Having been saved through the water and God’s Word, the Lord leads them back to the place where Moses had be drafted to be the deliver. God leads them back to the mountain of the burning bush. This time the whole mountain was on fire and covered in smoke and clouds.
God summons Moses to make his way up the mountain and meets him again. There He gives Moses the Ten Commandments. Then there’s the falling away and the golden calf, the intercession of Moses that restrained the wrath of God, the snakes and the bronze serpent that saved the people, the construction of the tabernacle per God’s instructions, the anointing of Aaron and his sons to serve as priests, the fire of God that consumed the sacrifices, and the glory of God that filled the temple and Moses’s own face.
Then the first attempt to bring the people into the Promised Land. Moses sent twelve spies into the Promised Land. Two came back with a report and full of faith that they take the promised land as God had instruction. Ten came back in fear and encouraged retreat. The people listened to the ten and doubted the promise of God. As punishment the Lord God gave them forty years in the wilderness. The entire generation of doubters would never see the promised land. The entire generation would have to die off before the Israelites could enter in.
The meant forty years of hardship, temptation, manna, quail, and protection. It also meant forty years wherein Moses was given to write the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy). Forty years to establish the traditions, liturgies, and sacrifices of proper worship services. Forty years of funerals for those who had refused to enter the promise Land as commanded.
At the age of 120 Moses now sat that the edge of the Jordan River, “undimmed, and his vigor unabated,” (v 7) and looking over the promised land, a land that not even he would never step foot in.
With all that has happened, all the he had done, and more importantly all the Lord God had done for and through him, Moses prepares to die. Moses is an Old Testament Christian. He believes what God has given him to write. There is a promised Messiah. God the Father will send God the Son and the Promised Messiah will arise from within the promised land. Thus on Mt. Nebo the Lord God Almighty intends for Moses to die as he had lived, in the intersection of faith and hope, of the past and the future.
We know what Moses could have looked back on as he sat there on Mount Nebo. Moses could look back on his life and reviewed the thousands of ways that the Lord God had blessed him, kept him, and delivered His people. But we also know what he was looking at too. It wasn’t just the landscape.
As Moses sat there on the edge of death, the Lord God has Moses look to the things to come. Moses, there on the top of Mount Nebo, looks across and sees the mountains of Judah, where Bethlehem lays and where Jesus will be born. There, flowing below him was the Jordan River where John will preach “A baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” and tell his disciples, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” (Jn 1:29) There he sits overlooking the river in which Jesus will be baptized into our sin and into His offices of Prophet, Priest, and King.
There is the wilderness of Judea where the devil will tempted Jesus for forty days and nights. To the north is Galilee where Jesus will teach, preach, heal, cast out demons, and call His disciples. Further to the north is the mountain where Jesus will be transfigured and will shine in all His glory. You see Moses will one day enter the land of Judah. Verse 30 of the Gospel lesson this morning. “And behold, two men were talking with Him; and they were Moses and Elijah, 31 who, appearing in glory, were speaking of His departure which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.”
There in the hills directly in front of Moses is Jerusalem, the city of peace, the city of the great King, where Jesus will suffer and die, will be lifted up on the cross, taking God’s wrath in Moses’ and our place. There, too, is the grave that will be empty. There is the Mount of Olives where Jesus will ascend to the Father’s right hand to rule and reign over all things for the sake of His Church.
Yet, for Moses on Mount Nebo the best is yet to come. Dying there on Mt. Nebo was not the end and Moses knew it. It was the intersection where faith and hope were meeting and the past and the future were being fulfilled.
Moses is an example of faith and hope. Moses died looking forward to Christ, to Jesus’s transfiguration, death, resurrection, and ascension. Moses look forward to the day he would be wrapped in the righteous robe of Jesus Christ.
As Peter opened his mouth to speak, a cloud descended on the Mt. of Transfiguration. The cloud that once filled the Temple surrounded the Jesus and the disciples and God the Father preached from that cloud: “This is my Son, whom I have chosen. Listen to him!”
At those words, everything went back to normal. Moses, Elijah, the cloud, and the Father’s voice all gone. The shining stopped. Only the ordinary looking Jesus stood before them and now it was time to go to Jerusalem to be crucified, sacrificed for the sins of the world. Now it was time for Lent and passion week to begin.
Jesus’ Transfiguration underscores His utter uniqueness. He is greater than Moses. He is greater than Elijah. He alone is God in human flesh. He alone is the chosen, elect Son. He alone is the Christ, the anointed servant of God who suffers for the sin of the world. He alone is the Savior. He alone will pull you from your grave, lift you up to His holy mountain, and give you a glory that is not your own. He will give you the glory of Christ.
Christ’s transfiguration will one day be yours. He is the Son/Sun. He is the Light. He is the Lamp. And we will reflect His Light. The Transfiguration of our Lord is was a sneak peek of what is yet to come and what now is by faith. This glory is yours in Christ.
May the Peace that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.