SEVERAL TRUTHS THAT CHRIST'S
TRANSFIGURATION SHOWS US
28About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. 29As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. 30Two men, Moses and Elijah, 31appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. 32Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. 33As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, "Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah." (He did not know what he was saying.)
34While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35A voice came from the cloud, saying, "This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him." 36When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves, and told no one at that time what they had seen.
(Brief portions adapted from Siegbert Becker's The Word Goes On, Northwestern Publishing House, 1992)
Christ's "transfiguration" means that Peter, James and John once personally saw Jesus manifest the very glory of God. It wasn't the form in which they were accustomed to seeing Jesus. Although glory had always belonged to Him, Jesus laid it aside and appeared as an ordinary human at most times. - The event of His earthly transfiguration was itself brief and unsustained, but there are several important truths that it shows us...
THAT JESUS IS GOD
First is that Jesus is God, and that fact was completely unveiled by both His glorious appearance and the Heavenly Father's words, "This is .. My Son..."
(IN A MANNER BEYOND HIS MIRACLES)
The Church's "Epiphany Season" comes to its close on Transfiguration Sunday and is immediately followed by Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. During the Epiphany season some of the Lord's miracles are often highlighted in the appointed Gospel readings. Each of His miracles points to the truth that Jesus is True God with the Father and Holy Spirit. John's Gospel concludes by stating that he wrote about Christ's "signs" so that we "might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God."
For many decades there has been a concern with the tendency of some churches to promote what boils down to a mere "social gospel." It's a viewpoint that sees Christ's miracles more as parables meant to urge us into acts of social welfare, rather than as factual events. The Lord's feeding of the 5,000 should teach us to feed the hungry and help the poverty stricken, for example. Healing the sick teaches us that we need to build hospitals. Calming the storm should move us to study weather patterns more diligently so we might learn to manipulate the weather for mankind's benefit. - Those sorts of lessons are how to make the miracles relevant to our times, some say, - and the chief concern of the Church is to help those in physical need.
As noble as those ideals may be, such advocates miss the point that Jesus is shown to be God(!); for no mere mortal such as you or I is able to do those kinds of works as He did with a mere word. Even if all the other miracles were only meant to urge our similar acts of love, though, we're pulled up short by Christ's transfiguration! It fed no one and cured no illness! It helped no one's earthly needs at the time. Instead it impressed on the disciples the truth proclaimed out of the cloud that overshadowed them and from which they heard the Voice saying, "This is My Beloved Son..."
(IN A MANNER WHICH IS WELL-ATTESTED)
The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke each give fully developed accounts of the occurrence. John alludes to it in a number of his writings, and Peter took special pains to assert that the event was no fairy tale in his Second Epistle. (Matthew 17:1-9, Mark 9:2-9, Luke 9:28-36, John 1:14, 2 Peter 1:16-21, 1 John 1:1-2)
There were several direct witnesses to what happened, who not only saw but also heard what was going on. The various Bible references to the event are in agreement with each other, too, concerning the details. - It all therefore comes down to the point that we're invited to put our stock and faith in Jesus Christ being God! That's an important fact shown by His transfiguration.
THAT JESUS WAS TO FULFILL THE "LAW AND PROPHETS" BY HIS DEATH
AND RESURRECTION, WARRANTING HIS RETURN TO HEAVEN'S GLORY
The event was also a preparation for Christ's death. - It was shortly before that day on the Mount that Jesus first clearly spelled-out for His disciples the impending necessity of His suffering, death and resurrection. Luke Chapter 9 informs us that the discussion with Moses and Elijah concerned the "departure" Jesus was to "bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem." It could accurately be translated as the death He would accomplish, which is a pretty stark way of putting things! - Without the transfiguration it would sound like the suicide plan of a desperate man, but with the manifestation of His glory we can recognize that no authority on earth could have sent Him to the Cross if He didn't wish to go. No power in the world could rob Him of His life if He chose not to die.
It was His committed plan, though, and in accordance with all that was foretold about Him in the Law and in the Prophets! - Moses wrote the Books of the Law, and Elijah is representative of the Prophets. The Lord's glorious appearance with them tagged Him as the One appointed to fulfill "the Law and the Prophets" (as He claimed He came to do in His Sermon on the Mount - Matthew 5:17-18).
When the three disciples saw His glory, it helped prepare them for the day when they saw His agonized praying at Gethsemane, and when they saw Him hang and die on the Cross. With Divine Power Jesus then reclaimed His life, and the disciples could finally put it all together. -- They knew it was God Himself who had suffered so intensely while praying in the garden. It was God who died on the Cross! - They understood and could proclaim, then, why such suffering and dying could pay for the sins of the world.
Jesus died, not because He owed for any sin of His own, but because He so greatly loves us who are poor, lost sinners. He IS God the Son, whose bleeding and dying and rising again was sufficient to gain the hope of Heaven for us, because it fully redeemed us from our sins and is the only thing that ever could.
Christ's transfiguration shows us secondly, then, that He is the Fulfiller of the Law and the Prophets by His death and resurrection, - and that warrants His return to Heaven's glory from which He came. But there's one more thing! ---
THAT JESUS INTENDS TO SHARE HIS GLORY WITH SINNERS SUCH AS US
Peter and the others were of course unable to stay on the mountain because Jesus still had to complete the plan for saving us, but that in no sense detracts from the wonderful moments they were privileged to experience. The whole event shows us that Jesus and the Heavenly Father are not only willing but deliberately intend for sinners such as us to have a part in Heavenly glory!
What the disciples saw is what we will see when we're finally freed from the sorrows of this life. The appearance of Moses and Elijah, gone from this earth for hundreds of years and yet fully alive, shows that there is life that follows. The glory that enveloped them gives a glimpse of what kind of life it will be, too. Something wonderful beyond our imagining!
Moses was prohibited from entering the Promised Land because of his sin, but through his faith God brought him to Heaven, nevertheless. Elijah once ran away from his prophetic calling, yet was carried to Heaven in the fiery chariot. James and John were called the "sons of thunder" for their vengeful attitudes, and many are quite familiar with Peter's brash personality. The experience shared by them all, though they were sinners, was to be included in such a gracious disclosure of Christ's glory and who He is!
That gives us a real handle on knowing what God desires for our individual futures, no matter what earthly sufferings we may have to endure before that time. And no matter that we, too, are poor, miserable sinners who deserve nothing of God's favor!
Never stop repenting and confessing your sins to God. Never let go of the faith in Christ that His Holy Spirit has given you. Because, as surely as we share in Christ's death through our baptisms and faith, He wants and intends for us to likewise share in His spectacular glory!
We should of course be involved in helping the hungry and poor and sick. No question about it! The real hope of this world's poverty stricken people doesn't lie in job training or welfare programs, though. Real hope for the terminally ill isn't found in Social Security's death benefit, either.
The hope for all people, whatever their circumstances, is in Jesus Christ alone, who paid for their sins to give them hope:--> the hope of taking part for all eternity in exactly what the disciples saw and heard that day on the Holy Mountain!