Friday, February 1, 2013

The Transfiguration of Jesus

On the Sunday before the first day of Lent many churches celebrate the transfiguration of our Lord.  The word transfiguration means to change in form or appearance in a way that elevates or idealizes.  The transfiguration of Jesus is reported in Matthew 17:1-13, Mark 9:2-13, and Luke 9:28-36.  Following is a portion of the story as told in Matthew 17:1-8.

After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.  There he was transfigured before them.  His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.  Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.

Peter said to Jesus, “Lord it is good for us to be here.  If you wish, I will put up three shelters – one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.  Listen to him!”

When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified.  But Jesus came and touched them.  “Get up,” he said.  “Don’t be afraid.”  When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.

The transfiguration gave Peter, James, and John a look at the glory of Jesus.  This glory which is still hidden from us will be revealed fully when Jesus returns again.  Mark 13:26 says, “At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.”  There was also encouragement for the disciples who were discouraged after having been reminded that Jesus’ suffering and death were fast approaching.  Also, Moses' and Elijah's appearance confirmed Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5:17.  “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.”  At the transfiguration Moses is representative of the Law and the promise of salvation, and Elijah is representative of the Prophets.

As we think about the transfiguration we must remember that this is the second time that God announces that Jesus is His Son and that we should listen to him.  The glory that was revealed that day to Peter, James, and John should also be a comfort to us as we await the second coming, when Jesus returns in all His glory to defeat all the violence and corruption of this world.