The biblical story of the Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-43a) — proclaimed today – appears in each of the four Gospels as an important moment in the life of Jesus and as evidence of His divinity. After Jesus performs a series of miracles and foretells His own death, Jesus leads just three of His disciples, Peter, James and John, to a “high mountain.” This is where the Transfiguration takes place in which His physical appearance was radiantly transformed.
The transfiguration of Jesus Christ was a powerful demonstration of His divine nature and manifestation of His glory, which Jesus possessed prior to coming to earth in His human body.
It’s impossible to appreciate what’s going on with the Transfiguration unless we consciously factor in the reality that this remarkable scene takes place just a few days after Jesus had, for the first time, told His disciples He was going to die. And when Jesus told His disciples that He was going to die, they were understandably petrified.
In fact, Peter, speaking for the whole group, grabbed Jesus and said, “Far be it from you [to die], that cannot happen.” Jesus was, of course, upset with Peter and told him, “You savor the things of man and not of God.”
This (Transfiguration) is about three years into the three and a half year public ministry of Jesus. The Transfiguration took place after months and years of those twelve disciples following Jesus. They had seen first hand His miracles. They had done miracles in His name. They knew something palpably and objectively about the power and the reality of who Jesus was, and yet, when He began to talk about dying it was staggering to the disciples and they began to wonder if Jesus really was the Messiah. Therefore, for that reason, Jesus took the three: Peter, James and John, up a high mountain apart, away from the other apostles.
Jesus takes Peter, James, and John into a very secluded place and He begins to pray. He asked His disciples to pray with Him and instead they fall asleep. Then, as they wake up, they see Jesus standing before them with an indescribable manifestation of light and glory which will be His when He reigns as King in the days to come. Jesus had temporarily laid aside that external glory and for just a few minutes as they watched they see Jesus transfigured.
The caterpillar had become a butterfly. The one who had so carefully veiled His physical glory took it to Himself for a brief moment. The whole purpose of that experience was to reinforce the staggering faith of the disciples. That’s exactly what Peter gets out of it when he remembers it and says “We did not bring you cunningly devised fables, we made known to you the power of Jesus because we were with Him on the holy mountain. We know He is the Messiah and will reign as Messiah because we saw His physical glory.”
The point of the Transfiguration was to reinforce the staggering faith of the apostles. As Jesus, Peter, James, and John return from the mountain, they find the other apostles trying to drive a demon out of a man and unable to do so. When they ask why the exorcism won’t work, Jesus says it is because of their staggering faith.
What staggered their faith? It was Jesus’ message that He is going to die and that is exactly what the Transfiguration is all about. In such an interesting and compelling way, the Transfiguration illustrates what a careful, sensitive, creative and resourceful teacher Jesus was.
Jesus had been trying to get His impending death across to the disciples and sees how desperately crippled they are by the announcement. So He is sensitive enough, some days later, to provide a huge visual and physical lesson, where God showed forth the Glory of His Son.
The Transfiguration was meant as much for you and me as it was for the three disciples and everyone else who would come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah.
Today marks the end of ordinary time, and on Wednesday of this week, our attention is drawn to the 40 days of Lent. Throughout Lent, as we witness Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem, and witness again what is about to happen, remember this day when Jesus was seen radiant in all of His glory.
The Transfiguration will help Jesus through the days ahead.
The Transfiguration will help the disciples and all followers of Jesus through the days ahead.
The Transfiguration will help us as we journey through our Lent and continue to carry the Cross God that has given to each one of us.
Let’s be in prayer for each other.
Peace friends, chuck.
The Rev. Joani Peacock, Editor for Emmanuel Voices: A Parish Blog