Old Testament: Exodus 24:8-18 (Transfiguration: Series A)

Reading Time: 7 mins

Before we set out for the Lenten journey though, we meet with God on this mountain, at this moment, and in this holy gathering where our vision is transformed, looking forward to Jesus and knowing He will lead us all the way from death, to life, to a new life now, and a life in the Promised Land of Heaven forever.    

In chapter 24 of Exodus, we have some key details and events which move us along in this redemption narrative that sets us up for the transition from Epiphany to Lent. “First, chapter 24 brings to completion the sealing of the covenant which had been first announced in 19:3.”[1] The largest result of this first move in the account is because Moses is the mediator between God and Israel. This can be a theme to help with setting up typology or even gospel foreshadowing in the form of Gospel Handles for the sermon. “Secondly, chapter 24 serves as the connecting link with the preceding themes of the book while at the same time pointing forward to the succeeding themes. The chapter forms a bridge to the account of the ascent of the mountain to receive the instructions for the tabernacle.”[2] As a result, this text forms a seasonal bridge to the ascent of Jesus on Mount Tabor and ultimately to Calvary so we can receive the Gospel of God which saves us.

In terms of a helpful sermon structure to get toward the Gospel in a typological way for this text, I would suggest a Dynamic Structure which is Imagistic. Mainly an Imagistic structure called The Central Image. “This sermon structure uses a single image throughout the sermon and fosters devotional contemplation of an image. In the opening of the sermon, the preacher describes the image for the hearers,”[3] which in this case would be the picture of the Mountain. “The preacher then uses that image as a source for continuing devotional contemplation throughout the sermon. The image serves as a lens through which one views the textual exposition, the theological confession, the evangelical proclamation, and the hearer interpretation of the sermon. Having a single image lends coherence to the sermon.”[4] In this structure, the sermon would start from the text with the image of Mount Sinai, where they have access to God with the blood (verse 8) and God is gracious and invites Moses and the elders to commune with Him on the Mountain (verses 9-11). God in His mercy does not strike them down for being in His presence. Homiletically, opportunities abound to talk about communing with God or even communion. This development of the image from the text is helpful here for the theological confession of the sermon. Then the sermon progresses as you go to Mount Nebo in the Pisgah Valley (Deuteronomy 34:1-12) which is developed with a story about George Periman (which I have for you in a moment), or one like it. Continue to follow the image as it brings us to Mount Tabor from our assigned Gospel lesson in Matthew 17:1-4. Again, a way you can develop the moment is anchored in a story lie the one about George Periman. The illustration of my visit with George brings us finally to Mount Calvary and the conclusion of the sermon.

So, as you return to the image of the Mountain periodically throughout the sermon, you could possibly approach the picture of a mountain in one of two ways: Through a single focus or a multiple focus. I am suggesting for this sermon a multiple focus so,

“Each time the preacher returns to the image, he focuses upon a different aspect/place and time in the Bible of that image. The preacher may begin by looking at the whole image and then focus upon one detail and then another. Or he may look at smaller details and, in the conclusion of the sermon, consider the image as a whole. If the image is displayed, the preacher may crop the image so only a small detail is revealed, helping the hearers focus upon that particular aspect at that point in the sermon. In terms of the progression of the sermon, the image itself serves as a map of the ideas of the sermon, each portion meditated upon at different points in the sermon.”[5]

Therefore, with Mount Sinai to set the frame, we use the liturgical context and the story of George Periman (again, or one like it from your experience) to walk the hearers through the text, slowing down the progression of the biblical story with George’s story, to meditate upon various people like as Moses, Elijah, Jesus, and even ourselves and their experiences of the event which all took place on a mountain.

On a side note, I find stories are the best way to take people through thoughtful experiences of images. I also always like to leave you a story, so you have something to use or connect the concepts of the sermon.

On a side note, I find stories are the best way to take people through thoughtful experiences of images.

His name is George Periman, and having received his permission I would like to share with you his story. George is a north Idaho, jack of all trades, all American tough guy. There was no job he would not be willing to tackle, and he loved hard work. However, in the wintery years of his life, his body betrayed him with something the doctors could only describe as Parkinson’s like symptoms. What that means is he was “all there” in his mind, but his body had a habit of betraying him. You see, he would stall-out. He would either have the hardest time getting started or he would be going along and, if he were interrupted or distracted, he would stall-out and have the hardest time starting up again. The only thing these doctors could think of doing for his situation was to give him a walker (the idea of which made him furious) that would project a thin, red, laser line on the ground every time he would hit the brakes. So, when he would stall-out he was instructed to hit the brakes, and just focus on the thin, red line and keep telling himself to step over the line. It worked, for the most part, and it kind of drove him crazy. After a while, he just did not want to go out anymore. Since this included church, I would bring church to George and his wife in their assisted living facility.

I remember this one particular time I was visiting the Periman’s, and the Transfiguration was my text for the Sunday sermon. Being an active preacher, I would often share my sermon devotionally with those who could not make it to church. When I came to visit George with this text, I realized I did not have any good news to share with him. For sure it was a solid sermon theologically because it had the requisite amount of Law and Gospel and the correct teaching of how the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah) testify to Jesus. But for that reason, it did not really speak into George’s life. Cut to the quick and realizing I would be guilty of “singing songs to a heavy heart,” I prayed God would help me find a way to share this with George.

After Confession and before Communion, George shared that he had a struggle he just could not shake. One day he got so frustrated with his body not doing what God had made it to do that he actually swore right in front of his grandson! The sincere shame he felt prevented me from trying to minimize his guilt. He knew he wanted to be a better role model for his grandson. He felt like he failed. To this I shared with him that there was somebody in the Gospel lesson from the Transfiguration to whom he could really relate. To his surprise, he asked who? “Moses,” I said.

 Moses was a man who knew what it was like to get frustrated with his situation. He felt like he could not get Israel going through the desert. All he wanted to do was get to the Promised Land, but they kept stalling out. Moses even called down a curse one time at the waters of Meribah (Exodus 17) when the people complained about the water and Moses struck the rock and said, “I’ll give you water,” and for that failure to properly revere God as holy, at the end of his life Moses did not get to cross over into the Promised Land. Moses felt like a failure at the end of his life. So, as he stood there at the top of Mount Nebo in the Pisgah Valley, he looked out and saw the Promised Land. All Moses wanted to do was to cross that thin, blue line called the Jordan. But no. He died there believing failure is how his final days of ministry would be remembered.

But then I told George: “But you know Moses made it to the Promised Land!” He looked at me with confusion as to what I could mean. I asked him to remember who was present with Jesus at the Mount of Transfiguration. We both talked about how Moses was there. The phrase I wanted him to focus on was: “Yeah, Moses was there... because Jesus got him there.” We talked briefly about Elijah as well, who at the end of his ministry actually believed he had failed too (1 Kings 19:4) and left the Promised Land (2 Kings 2:8) getting a CASEVAC[6] out of there. But I assured George that even Elijah made it back to the Promised Land.

By this time, George had caught on and said with me, “Yeah, because Jesus got him there.” I told George that Moses and Elijah made it to the Promised Land not because of what Jesus did on Mount Tabor though, but because of another mountain Jesus went up on later. The reason anybody makes it to the big “Promised Land” in Heaven is because of Jesus shedding His blood on Mount Calvary. As a result of Jesus death on that mountain and because of what He did on the third day in rising from the grave, we are invited by God to hear and believe the best news, which is what I got to share with George. I told him that even though I was uncertain as to whether or not George was going to keep having this frustrating illness and even if he died from it, he too will make it to the Promised Land. With conviction in his eyes, he said, “Yeah, because Jesus will get me there.” To be honest, I cannot think of the Mount of Transfiguration the same again. There is hope for people who have highs and lows in life and with the Lord as well. Everyone who has struggled, suffered, or experienced failure has good news. Those who have Jesus will make it to the Promised Land because Jesus will get us there.

It is a fair Gospel to preach to those who are leaving Epiphany on a mountaintop in Tabor and are about to travel to Mount Calvary through the penitential valley of Lent. Before we set out for the Lenten journey though, we meet with God on this mountain (Exodus 24), at this moment, and in this holy gathering where our vision is transformed, looking forward to Jesus and knowing He will lead us all the way from death, to life, to a new life now, and a life in the Promised Land of Heaven forever.    


Additional Resources:


Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Exodus 24:8-18.


Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Exodus 24:8-18.


[1] Brevard S. Childs, The Book of Exodus: A Critical, Theological Commentary, ed. Peter Ackroyd et al., The Old Testament Library (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004), 502–503.

[2] Brevard S. Childs, The Book of Exodus: A Critical, Theological Commentary, ed. Peter Ackroyd et al., The Old Testament Library (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004), 502–503.

[3] https://concordiatheology.org/sermon-structs/dynamic/imagistic-structures/central-image/

[4] https://concordiatheology.org/sermon-structs/dynamic/imagistic-structures/central-image/

[5] https://concordiatheology.org/sermon-structs/dynamic/imagistic-structures/central-image/

[6] CASEVAC is a military term for casualty evacuation or the emergency patient removal of the dead and injured from a combat zone.

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