First, if this passage from Hebrews 3 shines any further light on the Transfiguration account (Luke 9 is already quite bright!), it is how on the mountain Jesus is showing us where following Him leads to in the end. No wonder Peter wanted to stay. He did not understand yet how much suffering came before that glory, but Peter knew in some small way that with Jesus, whom death could not hold, it is up and out into a much bigger country! Our “heavenly calling” (v. 1) means we are headed for something terrifying and tender and bright beyond imagination. The theme for this Sunday is loudly eschatological.
But there are some other things going on in the Transfiguration which the Epistle helps us sort out. The Church confesses Christ as the Father confesses Him: He is the beloved Son, to whom we are to listen. I cannot help but hear Isaiah’s voice: “Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the voice of His Servant” (Isaiah 50:10a)? When we consider where the Transfiguration falls on the calendar and contemplate the discussion in Luke 9 about Jesus’ exodus, we are generally drawn to preach this happy Sunday on the miraculous transfiguring itself or Jesus’ now-determined march toward Jerusalem. And rightly so!
However, the Father’s command to listen to Jesus is easily overlooked. The writer of Hebrews wants to remind us Jesus is both the Apostle and High Priest of our confession. We have just gone through a few Gospel pericopes of Jesus’ teaching. This would be a good time to press not merely our people’s obedience to Christ’s preaching, but our confession of faith based on Christ’s preaching. What hope do we have if Jesus is the Messenger of God the Father? He is the preacher greater than Solomon, the Prophet greater than Moses, the High Priest greater than Aaron. If the Church is, as Luther insists, the little lambs who hear the voice of their Good Shepherd, the preacher must consider what we have heard Him say and what we have failed to hear. If God has built the whole world, what part of our lives does He not address? What in our little lives has caused us to shut our ears to His voice? What lies have we heard? Are my momentarily afflictions in this present life so great that I cannot imagine it all turning into an incomparable weight of glory? Are we sinning and shutting our ears to His commands? Are we living as if this life is our happy end? The preacher may want to consider what hope and comfort the Transfiguration of Christ offers for faint-hearted souls like us, who selectively listen to Christ’s commands and promises.
The comparison with Moses is helpful. Moses was faithful over God’s house, which I take to be a reference to the people of Israel and their worship in the tabernacle (οἶκος) Moses had built. Moses gave the Law from God concerning worship, feasts, the specifications for the tabernacle, etc. But now Christ is sent from the Father and has come not only to build a tent (Peter’s mistake), but God’s house of living and eternal stones. Preachers often miss the connection between His transfiguration and His mystical body, the Church. The Transfiguration is about our eternal calling as adopted sons and daughters in Christ.
On the mountain, we see Him unveil—if only for a moment—what was always in Him: glory as of the only Son of the Father (John 1:14). But His metamorphosis is more than a revelation of His divine nature. It is also a revelation of why He came. He has come to do His Father’s will. Think Isaiah 53:10! Think glory made known in weakness! The Eternal Son is sent by the Father to preach good news (Apostle) and to reconcile the world to the Father through the altar of Golgotha (High Priest). According to the text, God the Father made His faithful Son to be the Apostle and High Priest of our confession. He was made for this. In every way was found faithful (πιστὸν ὄντα τῷ ποιήσαντι αὐτὸν in v. 2)! Therefore, to see Jesus on the mountain, shining like the sun, and likewise to see Jesus being led like a lamb to the slaughter, is to see our lives wrapped up impossibly in His. The Father’s will is to have us as His own! Our Brother, who shares in our flesh and has become one with us, now by His death and resurrection, He makes us one with Him. Think of His promise in Holy Baptism! He is both our Pastor and Priest, who teaches us and prays for us and with us.
If you preach on this text or allow this text to shape your proclamation of our Lord’s Transfiguration you will be emphasizing not only the hope of our eternal calling, but the voice of the Father which points us to the voice of the Son as our Teacher and Catechist of our confession. He is also the High Priest who has made for us a way to the Father through His own flesh. So, you will have reason to contemplate on Transfiguration Sunday what it means when Hebrews 3:6 says, “…we are His house.”
Concordia Theology: Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Hebrews 3:1-6.
Text Week: A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Hebrews 3:1-6.