Have you ever had a moment when your life was changed? Perhaps it was similar to the Transfiguration. That moment changed the lives of Peter, James, John and Jesus, just like moments in our lives can change us. The disciples were changed from fearful, anxious, inactive cowards to brave, confident, active champions of the faith. We are also transformed when Jesus touches us, and we need that touch badly. We are also encouraged to offer this touch to a world that needs it badly.
I don’t know about you, but I would love to have been the proverbial “fly on the wall” at the Transfiguration. Just think of the history that was being made! Three of the most important figures in Christianity-Moses, Elijah and Jesus-together at the same time and in the same location! No wonder Peter wanted to build three shelters! It was a significant meeting at a significant time in a significant location among significant participants.
Moses and Elijah-the great lawgiver and the great prophet-were probably chosen to join Jesus and the disciples at the Transfiguration as representatives of the Old Covenant. Moses was the one through whom the covenant came, and Elijah was its prominent reformer.
So what were Moses, Elijah and Jesus talking about? Matthew doesn’t tell us, but Luke’s version tells us that they were talking about Jesus’ death. Both Moses and Elijah foretold of Christ’s death, which was Christ’s purpose. His sacrificial death and resurrection paid the penalty for our sins and allowed believers to be reunited with God.
Those present at the Transfiguration provide a picture of the coming kingdom of Christ: Moses represents those who died in Christ; Elijah represents those who will be raptured someday (he had been taken to heaven without dying); the three apostles represent redeemed Israel; and Christ is the King. Jesus’s transfiguration was part of the ongoing story of encountering the mystery of God. Jesus and his words had the same authority as those of Moses and Elijah.
Christ did not come to abolish the Law or the prophets. He did not say that the Law and the prophets had no meaning or value. What he did say was that He fulfilled the Law that we could not keep. The Law had to be kept perfectly. If people broke one law, they broke all of them. In addition, people were not perfect, and they aren’t perfect today.
Mountain top experiences are some of the happiest experiences in our lives, and that’s what the disciples experienced at the Transfiguration. When we are on the top of the mountain, we can listen to and be refreshed by God. We are pulled out of the ordinary life and changed in faith. Only then can we have a Christian life. Unfortunately, we can’t live on the mountain top forever. We have to face the valleys in our lives, and these valleys are the lowest and most disappointing times in our lives. It is at those times when we as believers can feel and see Jesus reaching out, taking us by the hand and saying, “Arise, and do not be afraid.”
God interrupted Peter’s brief, awkward speech with His own announcement. Out of the bright cloud-no doubt an appearance of the glory that in the Old Testament signaled the presence of God Almighty-God affirmed Jesus and commanded the disciples to hear him. Although Moses and Elijah stood with him in that moment, all attention was focused on Jesus, God’s only Son. Jesus was superior to both Moses and Elijah. Jesus as God in human form was the greatest in the kingdom. God told the disciples to listen to Jesus so that they could understand his purpose. The disciples recognized in this moment what every believer must acknowledge and what every tongue will someday confess; that Christ alone is Lord, the glory of God the Father.
Some people contradict Jesus, and when they do, they contradict the truth. At the Transfiguration, God made it clear that Jesus speaks the truth with authority, and we should listen to what he has to say. Our love for God is shown in how we listen to God. Our view of Jesus is shown in how we listen to him. Worship is more than Jesus listening to what we have to say about him. It involves listening to what Jesus has to say about us and himself.
The Transfiguration has been seen by some Biblical scholars as a glimpse of the kingdom or a preview of the Kingdom’s power. This glimpse was secured by Christ’s death and resurrection, and was clearly stated when Jesus told the disciples not to say anything about the vision until after His resurrection. The glory of the Transfiguration would then be seen by all of the disciples in the risen Christ.
All of us need to see God’s glory before we see hard times. We need to remember God’s presence and purpose when we face life’s challenges. The Transfiguration links the seasons of Epiphany and Lent. It reminds us that just like God was with Jesus all the time (and especially in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before his death), God is with us all of the time.
The Transfiguration proved that Jesus was the Messiah and the Son of God. The response of the disciples is the same response we have. Just as they fell on their faces, we fall on our faces in worship. When we do, Jesus reaches out, touches us and says, “Arise, and do not be afraid.” The Transfiguration assures us that God has affirmed Jesus and our humanity. Jesus recalls our humanity and affirms our nature with His divinity. The Kingdom of God has entered the world in human form through Jesus, and we are called to witness to that Good News.
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