Summary: How can we understand the transfiguration today and why is it important for us?
February 6, 2005
Iliff and Saltillo UM Church
"Transfiguration: What Does it Mean?"
INTRODUCTION: Just prior to the transfiguration experience Jesus began to tell his disciples about his impending death and that he must suffer many things and be rejected by people. He told them that after three days he would rise again. His disciples didn’t want to hear about that and Peter, especially, spoke up objecting to his suffering and dying. After these difficult teachings, the disciples may have felt confused and depressed by all that Jesus was trying to tell them. They couldn’t grasp it because they were thinking in human terms and he was trying to get them to understand in the light of eternity.
Six days afterward, Jesus took Peter, James, and John up to the Mountain to pray. (Mt. Hermon, 9000 ft.) During the night the disciples became sleepy and were dozing off when something happened. Because the very appearance of Jesus started to change right before their eyes, they knew that it was really Jesus. Previously dressed in a dull, dusty robe from the day, he was now wearing a GLISTENING WHITE ROBE that “became DAZZLING white--whiter than any bleach could make it.” His face shone with the glory of the Lord. Luke’s account says that His clothes “became as bright as a flash of lightning.” (Luke 9:29). Matthew describes the transformation as “his face shone like the sun and his clothes became as white as the light.” (Matt. 17:2). It is hard for us to imagine such an experience as this. Scripture says it was a good experience, but it was also frightening to them.
Today I want to look at the purpose of this experience for the three disciples and the purpose of it for us today. Why would there have been such an experience in the first place for these three? Why not the others too? What does it say to us today?
1. Seeing His Divine Nature: This is the second time the Lord took the disciples into a special time with him. Peter, James, and John were the three in the inner circle of the group of twelve and among the first to hear Jesus’ call. (Mark 1:16-19). They may have been:
1. the most READY to understand and to accept this great truth.
2. they headed the gospel lists of the disciples (Mark 3:16) (LEADERSHIP)
3. They were the ones present at certain healings and others were not (Luke 8:51)
The transfiguration revealed Christ’s DIVINE nature to them. The disciples could not be powerful witnesses until they had grasped this truth, and neither can we. We have to know that Jesus has ALL power and ALL authority or else our prayers and or witness is weak. The disciples had to see with their own eyes this divine side of Him. The transfiguration that took place in His appearance showed them that he was no mere man. The change took place GRADUALLY before their very eyes and it started from the INSIDE outward. Matthew Henry comments that “the light shone not UPON Him but from WITHIN him. He was irradiated with celestial glory and it was HIMSELF glorified--not just His CLOTHES. Jesus said, “I AM the light of the world ( John 8:12).
What they saw on that night could help them to understand what happened after the resurrection--Matthew 28:3 says “His clothes were DAZZLING.”
When he changed GRADUALLY, they knew it was Jesus. I John 1:1,2 gives us another reason for this experience. “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard and seen with OUR EYES which we have looked at and our hands have touched--this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared and we have seen it and testify to it and we proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the father and has appeared to us.”
It was Peter, James, and John who were eyewitnesses to bear record of Jesus to the world. They could say, “I saw it with my own eyes. I saw the one who came from heaven. I know wherein I speak.” John was the one who survived them all and told of SEEING HIS GLORY. John 1:14 he said, “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld HIS GLORY and the glory as of the only begotten of the Father full of grace and truth.”
And so did Peter (II Peter 1:16-18). “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus--BUT WERE EYEWITNESSES.”
Story: A cowboy was riding across the prairie and he came across another, who was lying on the ground with his ear to a wagon track. The man on the ground gasped, “Wagon, two horses--one white, one black. Man is driving, smoking pipe. Woman has blue dress, wears a bonnet.”