Figuring out Transfiguration
February 7, 2016
Rev. Michael A.Trask
In the Gospel of Luke and Matthew and Mark, The Transfiguration of Jesus comes directly after that moment in Caeseria when Jesus turned to his disciples and said “Who do you say that I am?” And Peter the apostle, without skipping a beat answered “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.” And at this Jesus said, according to Matthew, “Upon this Rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” He was referring to Peter’s confession…. that Jesus was the Christ…. the world’s only Savior….. and the Son of God.
Eight days later, There would come an event that would demonstrate the truth of what Peter confessed. Jesus led Peter together James and John up on a mountain, and with their own eyes, they would see Jesus transfigured in splendor. The Confession that Jesus is the Christ and the son of the living God, would be built would be confirmed in real-time for these three.
Confirmed in three different ways. First way. His appearance. The first thing the account says is that his face was altered and his clothing was dazzling white. Moses would glow whenever he went into the presence of the Lord, Angels also reflect the radiance of God. That’s why people are are so frightened whenever they see one. When any being enters the presence of God, they come away glowing. Revelation says that when we are all in heaven, “we will need no sun or moon, because glory of God will be the light and Jesus will be it’s lamp.” (Rev. 21:23) The difference here on the mountain is that Jesus was not absorbing; not reflecting this glorious light but rather that he was the source. “His face and garments like the Sun shined with unborrowed light” as we sang just a moment ago.
So his appearance in glory showed that he was God….anybody, upon seeing this, would know and feel and sense that this was God. that is the first way that his identity as the Christ of God is confirmed… by his appearance.
The Second way is found in two gentlemen from the Old Testament era who stood with him: Moses and Elijah. Now Moses, before he died, had told his fellow Israelites to look for someone greater than he in the future and that they should listen to him. (Deut. 18:15) So for Moses to be standing there, the most prominent figure in all of Jewish teaching… and not be the main deal, but merely a side show…bathed in light but not the source of light Told Peter James and John that that Jesus was the one that Moses had spoken of.
And Elijah, The prophet Malachi declared that the Great Day of the Lord would be at hand when Elijah returned (Mal. 4:5). And he returned… right here and right now on this mountain. And he also was obviously not the main deal… bathed in glory, but not the source of glory.
So both Moses and Elijah were like big pointing arrows. Saying “this way “ “this way” “This is the One!” Any Israelite who had spent any time in synagogue would instantly get it. And just in case they didn’t get it, The voice from heaven put it into words: “This is my son, the chosen one, listen to him!”
Which leads us to the third way in which Jesus’ identity as the Messiah sent from God is confirmed. We’ve hinted at it…already…. The voice that said “this is my son.” The same thing that was said at Jesus baptism is now repeated it, but this time it was directed at the disciples who would be charged to build up the church. At his baptism, the voice came from up above in heaven, but here it was from the cloud that presently enveloped them. God was right there…with his own voice…making sure that they knew Jesus’ true identity.
A week earlier, Peter had confessed that he believed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God. This was now confirmed in real-time on that Mountain. Jesus is the Christ That is, Jesus is The Messiah, and Savior. He is the only one who would be provided. There would be no other saviors. Just him. Peter would in midst of Jewish authorities would Later say “There is Salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mean by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) Jesus also would say “I am the way and the truth and the life no one comes to the Father except by me.” (John 14:6) He is THE Christ.
But he was also God. Why is there such a big deal made over the fact that he was God? Why is that important? That was the main message of the transfiguration. That the Christ, the messiah, the Savior was God. And why in it’s history, has the Holy Christian Church put forth 3 different creeds, The Apostles, the Nicene, and the Athanasian, all of which make it exceedingly clear that Jesus is God? Why is it so important that the Savior of the world be God?
Look at all of human history and you’ll see why. Read the news and you’ll see why. Watch the candidates and you’ll see why. Walk among the tombstones in the Graveyard and you’ll see why. After World War two the Humanists boldly proclaimed that man is his own Savior. So how have we been doing? Indeed, we’ve made a good hard try. Indeed, there have been some rather impressive attempts, but the task is too difficult and too large in scope for us to handle. As advanced as we are in our civilization, and however beautiful we have managed to make things, we have not succeeded in changing what’s inside of man.
We thought that we were coming to the end of racism… a post-racial world. We were wrong. Racism seems stronger now than I can ever remember it.
We thought that if took care of the basic needs of people that that crime would be diminished. But some of the worlds greatest crimes are committed by those who already have everything they ever wanted.
We thought that we had Peace and Love all figured out. But there is no peace. And Love is rarely seen and is not even appreciated.
The evidence is quite clear. If ever a man is going to be helped, something more than man is needed. And that something more is Jesus. Jesus is our God and creator entering our race to take care of the internal problem that plagues us all: our sinfulness. He would leave the mount of transfiguration and set his face toward’s Jerusalem where the rage of humanity would take him and nail him to a cross. There he would die for a world of sin. And it was not just a man who died…but God. This means that his sacrifice was sufficient for all people in all times. Sufficient also for you. You may think that there is some sin that you have committed that cannot be forgiven but you’d be wrong. The Son of God, died for you.
The contrast between Jesus at his Transfiguration and Jesus on the cross could not be greater. He went from, shining, dazzling, glorious, powerful… to grimy, sweaty, bloody, dying. The son of the living God became the God who dies. This not only shows his great love for us but shows us something very very sublime. Every religion in the world and every aspiration of man seems to be guided by the thought that we can some how raise ourselves up to reach for God. But it is here in the once transfigured now dying Lord that we learn that just the opposite is true. We do not ascend to God, God comes down to us. We do not save ourselves; God saves us. Salvation does not come by our deeds, but by the deeds of a God who loves us. This truth is so sublime; so counterintuitive that we can only understand it if it revealed to us. And it has been revealed to us and with Peter we confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God…..Our Savior… the world’s Savior… the only answer to a world of Sin. AMEN