Summary: A look at the meaning of the transfiguration of Jesus. How we are transfigured in God’s eyes because of Jesus, his fulfillment of prophecy and his death and resurrection for us.


MATTHEW 17:1-9

Stephen Becker, M.Div.

St Peter’s Lutheran Church--Elk Grove, CA

February 3, 2008

Tonight in our reading from Matthew’s Gospel, we read of the transfiguration of Jesus; the Savior goes up on a mountain with Peter, James and John and he begins to glow so brightly that Matthew describes as “His face shone like the sun.” Then all of a sudden, there is Moses and Elijah there talking with Jesus. Now, I don’t know about you my friends, but let me tell you something, if I go up on a mountain with this guy that I am pretty sure is the promised Messiah, and then all of a sudden he’s a glow-in and talking with Moses and Elijah—the greatest heroes in the history of Israel, well I don’t blame them for hitting the ground and hiding their faces. There is something really big going on here…something so big that these Apostles just don’t get it. Instead of asking Jesus, “Lord what’s up? Why are you glowing? And who are these dudes that suddenly appeared here from no where, liked having beam down from the starship Enterprise?,” instead Peter asks, “Hey Lord I see you have a couple of important buddies there with you, can I build you guys a each your own cabin to stay in?” This was so overwhelming for the apostles, these men, that they did not understand what really was going, what God was doing right here, and in fact what God had been doing throughout the history of Israel and was now bring to a head right here in Jesus, Moses and Elijah. In fact, it’s so big, God actually spoke from heaven and said audibly, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to Him!” These guys hit the ground like soldiers when they hear, “incoming…” They were terrified. Things were going on around them, and things weren’t as they seemed. Tonight, I want to wade through this amazing Transfiguration of Jesus to see exactly what was going on here, and I especially want to find what this all means for you and for me right now, right here. Let’s open with prayer…

I heard a story recently about a terrible fire in a chemical plant. Several area fire departments responded to the blaze, and quite a crowd from the entire area gathered at a distance to watch. The media was there in helicopters and satellite remote trucks. The president of the company was among the crowd, and he was frantic. He gathered together the chiefs of all the fire departments and explained to them that in the midst of the inferno was a safe that contained all the company’s super-sensitive documents including the top-secret formulas for all their best-selling products. He pledged to give a $500,000 donation to the fire department that brought the blaze under control and saved all the super-sensitive documents in the safe.

The chiefs rallied their firemen and women, pulled out all the stops attempting to bring the blaze under control, but it wasn’t happening. The fire continued to rage. After quite some time the crowd heard another siren in the distance that kept growing louder. Before long this old beat up, dilapidated 1930’s style fire engine filled with a bunch of men in their 60’s and 70’s came roaring through the crowd, right past all the other fire departments. The truck didn’t even slow down as it burst through the front door of the plant and right into the middle of the blazing inferno. Everyone, firefighters, media members and the crowd just gasped thinking about what these guys did. However, before long the fire was under control and this group of aged firefighters stumbled out the front of the plant coughing. Everyone cheered their heroic effort. They saved the safe. A few hours later in front of the gutted plant the president of the company handed the 82 year old chief a check for half a million dollars. In the press conference that followed, one reporter asked the chief what they planned to do with that incredible reward. He didn’t even hesitate. “These guys already told me they want to buy a new fire engine that has some brakes!”

Talk about being accidental hero’s! In fact, who here saw the movie a few years ago called “The Accidental Hero?” It’s a movie about a guy who is having a really heated argument with his mom that ends up causing terrible car accident. He walks away from the accident and she’s left in a deep coma. And when she wakes up, she can’t remember the accident, so this guy’s got to decide whether he’s going to tell his mom what really happened.

My point here in telling the story of these crazy old firemen and the movie, both about “accidental hero’s” is that it shows that how at times what we see and believe on the surface is entirely different than the reality of the situation. And when I study my Scripture, like for example in studying this text of Jesus’ transfiguration, what we see on the surface doesn’t even begin to teach what is going—what God is doing in the story. I mean, on the surface, Peter seems like he’s an idiot…he doesn’t get it! Here is Jesus glowing like the sun, talking with Moses and Elijah, and Peter wants to build them a house. I mean, imagine being there and seeing Jesus shine like the sun. It really begs the question, “what’s happening here? What is God doing here? And what does it to me?” What’s the theology here? You know in the church sometimes when you use the word theology, people’s eyes start to glaze over. They think you are going to start using big words like propitiation, sanctification or transfiguration, or maybe even “he’s gonna throw some Greek words out as us any minute here.” But in reality, we Christians talk about theology all the time. The word theology simply is describing what we know or believe about God. In fact, I am going to throw some Greek out here at you: theo comes from the Greek qeou:, meaning God. The logy part of theology is from the Greek logoV…meaning Word. So literally, theology is or are the Words about God. So what do we learn about God here in the transfiguration of Jesus? What are the words—the logos—here about God in Jesus’ transfiguration?

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