Summary: Transfiguration Sunday: What a sight they saw! But in His transfiguration, the disciples, and we, can see the magnitude of the sacrifice on the Cross and how it is far superior to the work of the Law and the Prophets.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. (John 1:1-5)
Our Gospel Lesson today conveys one of the most amazing stories in the New Testament. Jesus had spent his time bringing God’s message of forgiveness and reconciliation to the people. And even though he showed them many signs and wonders, many failed to recognize his true identity. But today, three of Jesus’ closest disciples, Peter, James and John were about to get undeniable proof of Jesus’ identity. They had followed Jesus to the top of a mountain. And while there, they were privileged to see and hear things that both terrified them and confirmed Jesus’ reason for coming. Let’s read about it: [Read Gospel Lesson together here]
I want us to consider four things from this mountaintop experience: The change, the company, the cloud and the command. First let’s talk about the change: When Peter, James and John arrived on the mountaintop with Jesus, He changed right in front of them. The word often used to describe what happened to Jesus is that He was ‘transfigured.’ The root of the word comes from the Latin and literally means a change in appearance. The Greek word that means the same thing is, ‘metamorphosis.’ This is what happens to a creepy, slimy worm as it rests in a cocoon and emerges as a lovely butterfly. Jesus’ transfiguration or metamorphosis before the disciples actually shows us His real appearance – His glory as the Son of God.
The brightness of Jesus’ appearance suggests the Shekinah of God’s presence. His clothes turned a dazzling white, whiter than anyone could humanly get them. Jesus’ appearance changed not because of something from the outside – but because of Who He was inside. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness…” (John 1:1, 4-5a) You see beloved, Jesus could change because He Himself is the light.
Next let’s talk a bit about the company. When Jesus changed into the radiant One, all of a sudden next to him stood Moses and Elijah. These two prominent Old Testament figures are usually seen as representatives of the law and the prophets. Moses was the lawgiver. He received the Ten Commandments directly from God and gave them to the people. He established the system of laws and regulations that the people were to live by. But these laws were not meant to save the people. They were meant to lead people to God. The second lesson today tells us: “To this day the same veil is still there when they read the Old Testament. It isn’t removed, because only Christ can remove it. Yet, even today, when they read the books of Moses, a veil covers their minds.”
The other company present with them was Elijah. He was an Old Testament prophet mighty in deed and word. God did amazing things through Elijah. In many ways, Elijah was the quintessential prophet – God even raised a young man from the dead through Elijah.
Both Moses and Elijah ended their stay on earth in ways that were quite out of the ordinary. Moses climbed Mount Nebo and after God showed him the land that the Israelites were to enter, Moses died. God Himself buried Moses. In fact, the Scriptures say, that to this day no one knows where God buried Moses. (Deuteronomy 34:1-6) And as we read in the Old Testament Lesson, Elijah was simply taken by God. “A chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.” (2 Kings 2:11)
Now the Law, exemplified by Moses, and the prophets, exemplified by Elijah, were not to be the final word from God. The transfiguration of Christ revealed his divine identity. And this revelation of Christ’s divine identity was God’s way of demonstrating that, as the long-awaited Messiah, Jesus would be the fulfillment of both the Law and all of the prophetic promises. Jesus was not just rehashed leftovers – some kind of divine reincarnation of Moses or Elijah. No, He came to become that divine Redeemer where all the currents of prophecy and law would flow.
Jesus told his disciples: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17) After his Resurrection Jesus told his followers: “…This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” (Luke 24:44)