The Meaning of Christ’s Transfiguration
Matthew 17:1-9 - Transfiguration Sunday - Jan 17, 2016

Dear believers in Christ, Baptized of God,

The transfiguration tells not only of God’s great glory, but the glory which is to come for you and me in Christ. One of the reasons Jesus was transfigured was to show us what to expect in heaven – we too will have glorified bodies. No more aches and pains. No more stiff muscles. No more cuts or bruises. No more surgery. No more physical or emotional pain, but only joy and peace, happiness forevermore. All because Christ has already borne our griefs and carried our sorrows, and by His stripes we are healed.

May this knowledge bring us comfort in the midst of our trials. Through faith in Christ we can know that we will have only glory after we leave this world. Eternal life is far better than this life can ever be. Pain loses its power over us when we realize that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Scripture says, “our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”

Is this relevant? Is it meaningful? All the glories of this world, and all its pleasures and treasures are nothing, and mean nothing, when compared to God’s glory, and the glory He gives us in Jesus.

Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up a mountain to pray. They probably had a feeling something special was about to happen. Why else would Jesus take only these 3 up a mountain? A mountain is the location where special things happened. God gave Moses the 10 commandemnts on Mt. Sinai. Noah’s ark came to rest on Mt. Ararat. Heaven itself is often referred to as Mt. Zion, etc.

But then we learn from the Gospel of Luke that these 3 disciples actually fell asleep on this special trip, while praying. Getting sleepy is natural after having climbed part of a mountain. And everything up to that point was pretty ordinary. Perhaps we too have fallen asleep during a prayer, (not because prayer isn’t very important and special, but as sinners we can view anything that is repetitive as ordinary).

But finally something exciting happens. Something really big, really glorious and glamorous. Jesus finally shows them His great glory. His face shined like the sun. His clothing was as white as the light. And wasn’t it about time Jesus showed them? We walk by faith, not by sight, but couldn’t God just give us a little glimpse now and then, and show us what He really looks like? Finally He does, but what happens? They fall on their faces. They couldn’t even seem to handle it.

How many people say they wish they could just see God? But it’s not what we think it would be. If we could see Him, even for a moment, we too would fall on our faces in fear.

We needed God to come to us exactly as Jesus did - not looking like God. Otherwise we would be afraid. Otherwise, it would be like staring at the sun, and having our eyesight damaged. It would be like Moses at the burning bush, who could not stand to look directly on God.

We needed Jesus to come to us in the lowly town of Bethlehem, and be born of a lowly servant girl Mary, and be laid in lowly manger, in a cattle feeding trough.

Not much is known about His childhood, but we do know that He did not perform a single miracle until He was 30 years old. Just think of that – He had super human strength, all the power of God dwelling in Him, and He didn’t perform a single miracle until the age of 30. He didn’t come to be a perfomer. Jesus came to be born for us without sin, to live for us without sin, to keep the commandments for us without sin. He came to ride into Jerusalem on a donkey as a humble, meek, ordinary looking human being, so that later He could hang on a cross for us all, rise again, and promise we too will rise. We needed Jesus to come meek and lowly, otherwise we would be afraid of Him.

Jesus is the bridge between God and man, the God who we can’t look at directly because of our sin. But Jesus is the go-between, Scripture says, He is the “one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”

So the Father clearly indicates the way to heaven, the way of salvation. He says, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him.” Even at this simple message, the disciples are afraid. They’re afraid even to hear God’s voice. It wasn’t until Jesus, the God-man, spoke, that their fears were removed.

“Arise, and be not afraid.” Our fears too are removed knowing that God became man for us. He didn’t observe us from a distance, He became one of us to bear our sin, and to be our Savior.

“Arise, and be not afraid.” Through faith in Jesus, our sins are not counted against us. They were already counted against Christ on the cross for us. God could have held our sins against us, but instead sent His only-begotten Son to stand in our place. Through Christ He assures us there is no reason to be afraid. He comforts us as though we had never sinned at all. We shouldn’t be afraid even of death because Christ already went through it for us to give us eternal life. We can trust in His mercy and forgiveness.

We may not have a Phd. We may not have half the intelligence that many have. But we all can know and understand that Jesus went to the cross to be everything we need to be saved. His voice, His word, calms our fears, removes our doubts. He says, Believe only, and thou shalt be saved.

The transfiguration of Christ also teaches that we should not be offended at the outward lowliness of His kingdom. Everyone would love to win the powerball and live a glorious lifestyle, yet “For your sakes He [Jesus] became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich.” Although He was the Almighty Son of God, Jesus usually did not show His glory so that He could gain for us the eternal glory of heaven.

Soon after the transfiguration, the disciples were already offended. When Jesus told them of His coming suffering, “they were exceeding sorry.” Many become disappointed today also because Christ’s kingdom isn’t very glamorous. The means of His grace come to us through lowly words, water, bread, and wine. Yet, He assures us the Gospel “is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth.”

Jesus knew they couldn’t handle the great glory of God. So He gave them what they could handle, and what would comfort and strengthen them. He said, He spoke, “Arise, and be not afraid.” Because of His sacrifice, God is at peace with us and our sins are forever forgiven. And “being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

So there is no reason to be afraid. He accomplished all things needful for us to be saved. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." In Jesus’ name. Amen.

“And His face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was white as the light.” - Matthew 17:2

Click here for a higher resolution image (500dpi)