The transfiguration helps us understand our Savior
Updated: Mar 25, 2018
“Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.”
2 After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. 3 His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. 4 And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.
5 Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)
7 Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”
8 Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.
9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
Dear Friends in Christ:
My wife and I enjoy hearing the stories of the Olympians. Their dedication to their profession is inspiring! When you get to understand the athletes, you find yourself cheering for them no matter what country they are from! In the game of life, everything depends on us understanding our Savior. But how much do you really know about him? You know where he comes from. You know what he did while he lived here. But do you really understand him?
The transfiguration helps us understand our Savior
He reveals his glory
He clears up our misunderstandings
He prepares us for lent
A week before these events, Jesus had asked his disciples, “Who do people say I am?” You remember that Peter responded and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Then Jesus began to teach his disciples that “the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected … and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.” Peter vehemently disagreed with Jesus! Jesus responded not only to Peter but to all the disciples that they must deny themselves and take up the cross and follow him.
These disciples didn’t get it. They had a lot to learn about Jesus. Jesus literally took Peter, James and John by the hand and lead them up a high mountain where they were all alone. These three men had seen Jesus raise Jairus’ daughter from the dead – a sign of Jesus’ glory. They also watched Jesus pray in Gethsemane, be betrayed into death, and die! They had a lot to learn about Jesus!
We carry our Christian baggage around as though we were so smart! We think we understand Jesus so well when all we really understand is that Jesus doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve! If we understood Jesus better, our lives wouldn’t be such a mess. If we understood Jesus better, we wouldn’t blame him when we don’t get our way in life. If we understood Jesus better, we wouldn’t struggle with putting other things before him in our lives as much as we do! We have a lot to learn about Jesus!
“There he was transfigured before them.” Each of the gospel writers describe the brilliance of Jesus appearance a little differently: “clothes dazzling white, whiter than you could bleach them … face shone like the sun and his clothes as white as light … clothes as bright as a flash of lightning.” Jesus was transfigured that his disciples might see his glory. Peter wrote about this sight in his second epistle when he said, “we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” John wrote, “We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father.”
For most of his 33 years on earth Jesus emptied himself of the use of his divine glory. He masked his divine glory behind his human nature. Not now! Not on this day! “And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses who were talking with Jesus.” Luke tells us that the “spoke about his departure which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem.” Moses had received the law of God from his own hand. Elijah had zealously defended that law in an age of widespread unbelief in Israel. These two Old Testament giants agreed with the plan that Jesus would go to his death in Jerusalem. Both of them new God’s law only condemned mankind. Both men knew that Jesus was the only hope for sinners. He had to go to the cross to pay for sin.
The transfiguration of Jesus reveals Jesus’ glory, but the disciples didn’t get it! Peter wanted to “freeze the scene” so to speak. He wanted to “pause” such a spectacular sight and keep this glorious moment intact forever. It certainly was good for Peter and the other disciples to be there at the transfiguration to clear up their misunderstandings about Jesus, but they had a lot to learn! In a short time, Jesus would endure the brutal agony and indignity of the cross. This glimpse of Jesus’ glory was meant to remind them and us that Jesus was and ever is the eternal, almighty, Son of God.
But Peter wanted to hold on to the glory that day and avoid the impending cross. Remember how vehemently Peter disapproved of Jesus talking about his suffering and death. “No, this shall never happen to you!” he said. Peter’s desire to hold on to this glory was as much a temptation to Jesus as that of Satan when he had said to Jesus, “All this I will give you if you will bow down and worship me.” But this was Peter. It wasn’t the first time Peter spoke when he should have been listening; and it wouldn’t be the last! There was so much for him to learn!
Jesus’ transfiguration clears up our misunderstanding of him and prepares us for the season of lent. “Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: ‘This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”
The cloud links this event to so many important occurrences in the Old Testament. Each time this manifestation appeared the Lord God was present in a very special manner and he was announcing that he was about to go into action in a supernatural way. The LORD was going to do something special, something momentous, something pertaining to the plan of salvation! That is how it was here. God is moving his plan of salvation a significant step forward – one step closer to the cross! The Glory of the LORD enveloped the six of them and prepared these three disciples for the season of lent!
The voice from the cloud was the voice of God the Father. He repeated to phrases he had spoken at Jesus’ baptism: “You are my Son … “whom I love.” Jesus is God’s perfect Son and he is mankind’s perfect Savior. The Father added the phrase “Listen to him!” Nothing prepares us for the season of lent better than the words our heavenly Father spoke at the transfiguration of Jesus!
So many voices clamor for attention! Listen to Jesus. He speaks to you in his Word. Don’t pay attention to the lies and deceptions others declare in the name of religion. Listen to one voice! The words Jesus speaks are life. He words save you because his words point you to his works on your behalf. Some people give things up for lent thinking that it “clears their minds of distractions.” Or, it reminds them all the things that Jesus gave up to die on the cross. God isn’t asking for any sacrifice for you during lent. He asks you to listen to Jesus!
“Suddenly when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.” Perhaps the disciples had hidden their faces from the remarkable, yet terrifying sight of Jesus’ transfiguration. But we are told that when they looked up again and looked around everything had returned to normal. The cloud was gone. Elijah and Moses were gone. The transfiguration had ended. They only saw Jesus.
The disciples had not understood why Jesus had to die. He had also told them that he would rise again. They didn’t understand that either, as you well know! “As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.” Many in Israel did not understand Jesus or his reason for coming into the world. News was spreading that he was a miracle worker. His healings and his control over nature could be misinterpreted. It was only after his resurrection, the ascension and the sending of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, that his purpose became clear to the disciples. Then it was appropriate for them to “go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.”
There is so much we don’t understand about Jesus. But the more time we spend listening to him, the better we get to know him. As we listen to him, he will tell us his story. It is a story that began in glory and made its way resolutely to the cross to suffer and die for all of us. It is a story that reaches its fulfillment with his victory on Easter morning and his return to glory on Ascension Day. Knowing Jesus story makes us want to cheer for him. We cheer for him with much more gusto than we cheer for the Olympian because we know that hidden in his story is our story. He came to save us all. “Lord, it is good for us to be here!” Amen.
“May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.”