Summary: Stories like the story of the Transfiguration bring us closer to God and draw us farther away from the world. We need to figure out how to listen for God’s voice among the noise of our worldly lives.
Have you ever had an experience that was so powerful that it changed your life? I have-that’s why I’m able to stand before you today and preach the good news. Jesus had several powerful experiences, including his Transfiguration, which we heard about in Mark 9:2-9.
Transfiguration is a believer’s spiritual transformation into the image of Christ. Mark’s version of the transfiguration story offers a glimpse of Jesus’ divine nature and his radiant, divine glory. He radiates light from the inside. In the future kingdom, Jesus’ glory will not be veiled. It will shine like a thousand sons. No one will be able to mistake it.
Moses represented the Old Testament law, Elijah represented the prophets. Together they represented the Old Covenant. In Old Testament scenes where God revealed himself, human audiences were often at a loss for words. Peter was also at a loss for words, so he said the first thing that came to his mind. Mark argued that Peter spoke out of great fear. He was scared by what he saw.
Holy moments can do that to us. Words can bring healing, and the right words at the right time can bear holiness, light and life, but words said quickly and too easily can distract us and allow us to avoid whatever it is we might feel in the words that were not said. In cases like this we have the ingredients we need for Christ’s glory to be seen and transfigure the time. Then we can see Christ’s glory in our ordinary time. As long as we continue to do ordinary things, Christ will be present. As long as birth, deaths, hope, despair, courage, fear and faith are with us, Christ will be with us.
Peter was amazed by what he saw. He did not want to leave. That’s why he offered to build the three shelters. God had to bring Peter back to reality by telling the disciples to listen to Jesus. You can’t really blame Peter for wanting to stay on the mountaintop. All of us have had mountaintop experiences that we did not want to see come to an end. These experiences could be anything from the birth of a child or grandchild, our wedding or any other life-changing event. They provide stability and assurance that our world is intelligible, orderly and has value, if only for a short time. The problem is that we can’t stay on the mountaintop. The past can never be preserved, and we as faithful people must live in the present. We have to come down and get back to the mundane reality of everyday life. It is in everyday life where we have to do the work God has given us to do.
There was an expectation among the Israelites that Elijah would appear just before God sent the Messiah and restored the reign of the Lord in Israel. Moses promised the people before he died that God would send a prophet like him at a time in the future. That moment happened during the transfiguration, and the disciples were scared as they saw Jesus for who he really was. Their physical sight gave them the gift of spiritual reality, and it was too much for them. Something very powerful and life-changing was happening before their eyes.
Jesus’ glorification is like dessert that is served as part of a meal. It has to come at the end. Jesus glorification needs to come after his suffering and death. If we start with the desserts, we may never get to salvation events. If we focus our attention only on the desserts, we will find a lot of people who are pretending to be Christians, not really believing in or serving Jesus, not really willing to deny themselves and carry their crosses, but seeking an escape from their problems.
The cloud confirmed that Jesus’ transfiguration was a re-enactment of the Covenant given to Moses on Mount Sinai in Exodus 24. Moses and Elijah conveyed the law, but Jesus was the law. Peter would remember this event years later because it revealed to the disciples that Jesus is the son of God. This experience is not meant to diminish the importance of the law and the prophets. They work together and with the revelation of Jesus as the son of God. Moses and Elijah were important, but they are not as important as Jesus.
Jesus sought help from the scriptures for understanding his life and mission. He knew how to listen to them and how to interpret them in relation to what they said. For him they were not merely sources in the present. They spoke of God as our creator, sustainer and redeemer, the loving giver of bread and forgiveness and protection from evil; the one who calls us into relationships of love to him, our neighbours and ourselves.