If God Were Allen Greenspan
It use to be E.F. Hutton, now it's Allen Greenspan. When he speaks, people listen. Greenspan can drop a comment here or a half-sentence there and send the stock market roaring one way or the other. People hang on every word that comes from the mouth of Allen Greenspan because he speaks about money. If only God where Allen Greenspan, then we would hang on every Word of His. We would notice that our text is one of only 3 places in the New Testament where God the Father speaks directly from heaven, and maybe then we would think what He has to say is important.
But all He says at first is, "This is My Son, whom I love." That's old news. The disciples had heard this 2 years earlier at Jesus' baptism. The disciples had even confessed this since then. Nathaniel said when being called, "You are the Son of God." After Jesus walked on water the disciples said, "You are certainly God's Son!" And just prior to coming up this mountain Peter said, "You are the Son of the living God." However, much of the time the disciples didn't listen to Jesus like the Son of God He was. They tired to correct Him when He spoke about His suffering and death. They thought He was mistaken when He said to feed the 5,000 and the 4,000. They thought Jesus was wrong when He said someone in a crowd touched Him.
If Jesus just said more useful, practical things, the disciples would have listened to Him. But He went on and on about the Father and His love, about His suffering and dying, about relieving heavy burdens. Did this keep the crowds coming back for more? Not hardly. If fact every time the crowds did gather, Jesus said something to drive them away. And even when His Word's rang with God's authority, He kept doing un-God-like things like sleeping, hungering, thirsting, and running from His enemies.
Today, the Father shows them Jesus is His Son. The Father shows them Jesus is God on earth in flesh and blood. He is the God Moses met on Mt. Sinai and Elijah on Mt. Horeb. Jesus is the God who shaked and baked Mt. Sinai and ripped apart Mt Horeb. Jesus is the God whom even holy angels can't bear to look driectly at in all His glory!
But if you listen only to this much of what God says, you still haven't heard the Gospel. Hearing that Jesus is God the Son can only push your face into the ground as it did the disciples because we are no different than they are. We haven't treated Jesus as the Son of God. No, we've questioned Him, been disappointed in Him, challenged Him no less than Satan by saying, "If you really are the Son of God, then do thus and so for me!" There is no Gospel per say in the fact that God takes on flesh and blood and walks among His people. The pagans know gods like this too.
No, the Gospel is in the next words: "in whom I am well pleased." That's how the King James and the revised Beck Bible translate it. Your insert says, "with Him I am well pleased." But that's no gospel. So what if the Father is pleased with Jesus. He should be, Jesus is perfect. He doesn't sin, doesn't doubt, doesn't worry like I do. Telling me God the Father is pleased with God the Son doesn't comfort me but confronts me with the fact that there is no way the Father can be pleased with this sinful son.
But the Father telling me He is pleased in Jesus does comfort me because my Baptism places me in Jesus, my absolution places me in Jesus, and Holy Communion places Jesus in me. Since I am in Jesus, and God is pleased in Jesus, that means God is pleased with me! You know how that works with kids. On the days you're pleased with them, can they do any wrong? Yes, but if they do, you wipe if off as you would a smudge on their face. When you're pleased with them, you love to just watch them play, or eat, or sleep.
And that's how it is with you and your heavenly Father. In Jesus He is just pleased as punch with you. He gets a kick out of watching you mow the yard, make the beds, wash the dishes, eat your meals, or just sleep. He's not waiting for you to do something to please Him. He's already pleased with you in Jesus. He just can't find any reason to be displeased with you, not in Jesus. There's just no reason there. Your sins, your outright failings are no more than smudges that He easily wipes off for Jesus' sake.
Friends, this is the real Gospel of the Son of God, but many of you have a fake Gospel. You think if you let Jesus be the Lord of your life, you can have peace and joy. If you would just change your heart toward God then God would change His toward you. As much as you love Jesus or let Him work in your life, that's how much He'll love you and be at work. This is not worth listening to because it's not the real Gospel. It talks of Jesus loving me, dying for me, forgiving me. So far so good, but it shows me a Jesus who has all of these gifts in His arms; but they're only for me, IF. This is not the Gospel. The Gospel isn't a Jesus with His arms full of gifts. The Gospel is a Jesus actually giving gifts. We walk around with a conscious that keeps kicking us for all that we are not, because we've picked up a fake Gospel. Jesus has forgiveness, grace, and mercy all right, but He doesn't actually give them to me unless I ask sincerely enough, repent enough, believe enough. This Jesus doesn't actually give anything to me, He just offers it IF I need it, and as a Persian proverb says, "He who says, 'I will give it, if you need it,' doesn't really want to give it."
But this isn't the true Jesus. The true Jesus died for ungodly sinners while they were still His enemies. The true Jesus is in the lives of sinners in Baptism; He's not tiptoeing around the outside saying come and get me. The true Jesus sends our sins away as far as east is from the west by the power of His Word not by the power of our repentance or faith. The true Jesus places Himself on our altar for sinners to eat and drink for the forgiveness of sins. He's not up in heaven waiting to be pulled down by our decisions, your prayers, my repentance, or our faith.
Having placed us firmly in the Gospel, what's the last thing God says from heaven? "Listen to Jesus." The invisible Father points us to the visible Son. How many times have you heard people say, "God told me," or "I think God would want me to do this or that"? The true God points us to Jesus and says, "Listen to Him." The true God directs you to Jesus' Words and deeds recorded in Scripture not some feeling or belief you have in your heart or head.
What a comfort that is. Imagine if you didn't know you were suppose to listen to Jesus to hear God. You might turn to your own heart or mind and be ruled by your fears, doubts, or religious opinions. You might see a spring tornado roar through your subdivision killing dozens and think, "God's telling me He is angry with me and hates me." You might see a lab report and think God is telling me I am sick as a punishment for my many sins. Without the Words of Jesus delivered to you in sermons, services, and Bible classes, you would be stuck with a silent God in whose mouth you would put your own words, opinions, and ideas.
And friends, be assured you would get it wrong. Peter does. When God shows Him the wondrous truth about who Jesus is, what does Peter think God is telling Him? Do something for Jesus. Build shrines. Now that's a very pious thought, but that's not what God wants. God wants to do for sinners not for sinners to do for Him. Isn't that what Jesus, the One we're suppose to listen to said? "I came not to be served but to serve."
We will get it wrong if we try to figure out what God is telling us in His power or might partly because His Words can only terrify us if He speaks directly to us. What did the disciples do after the Father spoke from the cloud? "They fell facedown to the ground, terrified." It's just like when God spoke from Mt. Sinai; the people begged God not to speak anymore to them directly but only through Moses. If God would speak to us directly from heaven we couldn't bear it. So He wraps up His Words in flesh and blood, in Bread and Wine, in Water and Spirit. All of this we can bear, because He comes not in terrors as the king of kings but kind and good with healing in His wings.
The Word from heaven flattened the disciples. They were terrified out of their wits and fell to the ground. Doubtless the last words of God from heaven really got them. "Listen to Him." You know they hadn't. They had nodded off in sermons. They had walked away while He was teaching. So there they cower waiting for God to strike them dead, as they know He should. But listen to Jesus. He says, "Be risen; You can get up, it's all right. You don't have to be afraid." What if they had stayed there saying, "No, Jesus I can't! You don't know how many sermons I haven't listened to. You don't how many times I've walked away from your Word." O yes, He does, and still Jesus says, "You can get up and you don't have to be afraid."
This is pure Gospel, and it's spoken to sinners. It's not based on what they decide, ask or promise. It's based on what Jesus says. He says, "I can get up and I don't have to be cowering in my sins. He says I don't have to be afraid of God, but I can live with a God who is tickled pink to give me heaven. He isn't waiting to see if I can pass this or that test; on the contrary, He can't wait to give heaven to me. He says, Take it right now; it's yours in Jesus."
If God were Allen Greenspan, the whole world would listen to Him, and they would hear God saying, "Listen to Jesus." And then they would hear Jesus saying, "He who listens to my pastors listens to me." And far from being burdened or threatened by that Word from Jesus, they would then rejoice when they heard their pastor preaching and teaching the Gospel or saying, "Take eat; take drink. This is the Body and Blood of Christ for the forgiveness of all your sins." They would rejoice, because regardless of where the stock market was going, they would know where they were going. Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Transfiguration (2-6-05); Matthew 17:1-9