This morning we come to the climax of the Epiphany season in which we have the feast day of the Transfiguration. This morning we see Jesus take Peter, James, and John his first three disciples up upon a mountain. At the top of this mountain they see Jesus, his face is shining brighter than the sun and he dressed in white clothing which is shining and all his bright glory is radiating from his presence.
At the top his this mountain Jesus is joined by the two VIP’s of God’s OT people. Moses, the supreme law-giver who represent the first five books of the Bible. And also Elijah, who is the prophet par-excellence, who represents all of the prophets who spoke of the Messiah – the Savior of the world who would come into the world. This morning we have the whole Bible represented in these three men. And these men are having a conversation and speaking of what is to come. Moses and Elijah are conversing with Jesus about the completion of God’s plan.
That Jesus will be handed over to be crucified, to die for the sins of the world, and to be raised on the third day – thus putting an end to death and delivering forgiveness of sins and everlasting life to all believers. And up on this mountain the disciples are loving every moment. They are having a spiritual mountaintop experience – all is going right – they are with God – hanging out with Moses and Elijah and things are looking good. So good that Peter wants to have a camping party and make three tents – and stay there. As Peter was still speaking, the Scriptures say “a bright cloud overshadowed them, and God the Father spoken from the cloud saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” The disciples, terrified by the holy presence of God, hit the deck and throw themselves on their faces in fear.
They fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. No moses, no Elijah. Jesus the face of Christ, stooping down to lift them up.
Jesus tells them not to tell anyone of the vision until after He is raised from the dead. They quietly descend down the mountain and the slow journey starts to another mountain – high up on the mount of Golgotha where all things will be made new.
Today we observe the feast day of the Transfiguration. But what does it all mean? The scriptures point out this morning that the Transfiguration is on the sixth day. If you remember from Genesis it was man who was created on the sixth day. This was the first time God did not say it was good but said for the very first time “It is very good.” He created man to live forever in paradise, created man from the dust of the ground to live, worship, and have pure delight in the presence of God for eternity.
But paradise was short-lived. For God did not create man from the dust of the earth just to stick him right back in it. But that is not God’s fault that is ours. It was not long before we turned away from his life giving Word and death entered in. Ever since, humanity has been languishing in the curse caused by our own sin. We are all growing old and weak from our sins. Marriages are fractured, Backs are sore, our eye sight is getting worse. Even in our relationships we so often grow cold and callous.
The Transfiguration takes place on the sixth day to show up what our future looks like. Jesus is shining like the Sun to show us what God’s plan for us is. Because quite frankly, you don’t shine like the sun. You’ve rained on more than your fair share of parades. You can be dark, dim, and cold to those whom God has called you to love the very most. Your appearance isn’t dazzling like the transfiguration because sins sully our own appearances. We are not adorned in dazzling white but have been horribly damaged by the darkness of sin and the blackness of our own cold hearts.
That is why Moses and Elijah are encouraging Christ to press on – to fulfil the entire Scriptures by reversing the curse of sin which has marred man’s existence since that dreadful day. So this morning we see the dazzling presence of Christ – shining brighter than the sun – clothes white as light. All to show us what we too will look like when this valley of tears is ended and God ushers us into his presence when He comes again.
But before we can be transfigured like Christ, first he needs to be disfigured by sinful man. This Transfigured sinless Son of God must be disfigured by our sins. He must carry our sorrows, bear our shame, and be beaten and marred beyond human semblance. Bearing the curse for rebellious and sinful man. He must take our cold callous hearts and in exchange give us his heart of gold. He must be disfigured at the cross – until as the scriptures say he appeared as a worm and not a man. With no semblance or beauty that we should desire him. A man to whom people would look away from.
He must be left in a tomb for our sake. To rob death of its power. To burst open the gates of hell and to disfigure Satan until he has lost all power over the sons and daughters of God. And he rises victoriously on the third day, destroying death, and showing us what our future will look like.
The transfiguration points to the cross and resurrection which is the fulfillment of everything that Moses and Elijah ever spoke of. Jesus is our bread from heaven. His blood is the Red Sea which ushers us into the promised land. Christ is our fiery chariot ride to heaven. Now that Christ has come – they fade into the distance and all we see is Christ.
Just like, St. Peter who threw himself down in fear at the Transfiguration, Christ knows all the things that terrify you. He knows how afraid and faithless you can be. Like Peter, Jesus knows what a fair-weathered disciple you are. But He is still with you.
The risen Christ speaks the same words to you this morning that he speak to Peter. He says to you “don’t be afraid.” Your future is good and it’s secure. Your sins are forgiven. You life has been redeemed. Trust in me.”
Even though you can’t see through the clouds of confusion caused by the troubles and changes of this dying world, you should nevertheless see Christ. And like Peter you gaze at the loving face of your Savior. A Savior who goes to hell and back to claim you as his own. And this morning he reaches out to you to feed you gifts from heaven. To give you himself and all that he is – His righteousness – His innocence – His blessedness – His holy body and blood. Everything God could possibly give you He does. He calls you His own.
And the Father speaks the same words to you that he speaks to His Son. You are my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased. And just like the disciples we can head down the mountain to our ordinary lives – knowing that someday – when our work is done. We too will shine like the sun in His glorious Kingdom. In the name of Jesus. Amen.