Americans have a fascination for hidden glory.
Consider a show like American Pickers. Mike and Frank (and now coworkers) go junking. They drive across America and pull over whenever they see a house where junk has begun to accumulate in the yard. After talking to the homeowner, they are given permission to pick. Sometimes, the homeowner even takes them back to a barn overflowing with junk. Once they find a spot like this, they sort through the trash looking for treasure.
On one episode of American Pickers, Mike and Frank dig through a salvage yard; forty acres of junk. At the end of the day, however, they have uncovered treasures. They found a rare farmer’s mini-bike and, after paying for it, take it back to their shop to be restored.
Or consider a show like Antiques Roadshow. Although we are not sorting over junk, people are going through their home, hoping to find something of hidden value. Paintings and doorstops, quilts and rocking chairs are brought to a convention center and experts examine the material. Viewers delight in the rare occasions when something valuable has been found.
On one episode, a woman who purchased a painting for $6 at an estate sale in Dallas discovers that she now owns an abstract painting by the Cuban artist Felipe Orlando worth around $4,000 dollars.
Shows like this fuel our fascination with hidden glory. The goal is to discover the diamond in the dirt, the treasure that has been hidden in plain sight, and rejoice at our good fortune.
This fascination with hidden glory is why it is so hard for us to respond to the transfiguration of Jesus. That glory would be hidden in the figure of Jesus is not surprising to us. We believe in treasures hidden in plain sight. But our response to this appearance of glory is the problem.
Our fascination with hidden glory has trained us to want to extract the glory from the rest of the world. Mike and Frank dive into a junk yard, find their treasures, and then leave the rest behind. People come to the Antiques Roadshow and hope to walk away having found one thing that is worth keeping. The goal is to find the glory and leave the rest behind.
With the transfiguration, however, God has a different plan. He has something else in mind. Rather than reveal His glory only to leave the rest behind, God reveals His glory only to impart glory to the world.
Rather than reveal His glory only to leave the rest behind, God reveals His glory only to impart glory to the world.
Finding His glory, we are tempted to leave the world behind, delighting in our good fortune. But God invites us to do something different. God calls us to find His glory and go into the world and share it with others. Instead of delighting in our good fortune, God invites us to delight in His good grace.
God has a glory which belongs to Himself only. He alone is God. He alone has created all things. As God proclaims through His prophet Isaiah, “I am the Lord; that is My name; My glory I give to no other” (Isaiah 42:8).
In the transfiguration, God’s glory is enfleshed in Jesus Christ. First, Luke records how the face of Jesus is transformed (9:29a) and then his clothing begins to radiate light (29b). Second, when Peter and the disciples awaken, Luke tells us they see “His glory” (9:32). Third, when Peter wants to make three booths to honor Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, Luke reports that God the Father hides everything from their view and calls them to see Jesus alone and listen to Him (9:34-35). God in His glory has indeed come among us in the person of Jesus Christ.
But this glory, once found, is not to be extracted from this world. Rather, God comes in glory to impart glory to the world.
In creation, God crowned His creatures with His glory. As the psalmist says, “You have made Him a little less than God and crowned Him with glory and honor” (Psalm 8:6). After humanity’s fall into sin, God comes to redeem His people, to give them the honor of being His people, living in His Kingdom, and delighting in His glory. In God’s design, the entire earth will be full of His glory (see Numbers 14:21). This is foretold by the prophets and celebrated by the psalmists (Isaiah 6:3; Habakkuk 3:3; Psalm 57:6 and 72:19). God’s glory will extend to the ends of the earth.
God in His glory has indeed come among us in the person of Jesus Christ.
So, in this text, we see Moses and Elijah in glorious splendor (9:31). They have been given glory by God. God has chosen to bring them into the work of His Kingdom, and they share a moment of holy conversation with Jesus.
Jesus comes in glory to do God's most glorious work. Not to find people worthy of His praise and extract them from the world but, rather, to find people worthy of damnation and impart forgiveness, life, and salvation to them. This is God’s most glorious work: To save sinners. This is the mission of Jesus. “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (19:10). And this is the joy Jesus brings us today. He assures us that by His death and resurrection, our sins are forgiven, and our lives have meaning in the Kingdom of God.
Like Moses and Elijah, our lives are embedded in God’s Kingdom. They have a glory given to us by God. Even now, Jesus works through us as He uses His people to extend His Kingdom and, finally, on the last day, bring His glorious salvation to the ends of the earth.
So, come today and listen, look, and see a glimpse of the glory of God. But do not try to take His glory out of the world. Rather, take it into the world. You have been given a glimpse of glory, the glory of forgiveness, that you can share with those around you in the world.
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Luke 9:28-36.
Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Luke 9:28-36.
Lectionary Podcast-Dr. Peter Scaer of Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, IN walks us through Luke 9:28-36.