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The Transfiguration

March 25th, 2012

There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.

Matthew 17:2-3

Before the cross there must be some witness to the real identity of Christ. God knows how weak our faith is, how we find some explanation around every miracle, how we find some excuse for every sin, and how we find doubt in the face of every witness from above. Jesus just took three with Him to some nameless mountain to reveal Himself in His glory to them.

The glory of the Lord is extremely different from whatever we might consider glory from an earthly point of view. We tend to think of power, God emphasizes compassion. We think of money, jewels, houses, cars, and untold wealth, God thinks in terms of being a father to the fatherless. We imagine crowds and popularity, God considers the praise of His holy angels, as well as sincere prayers from the mouths of babes and infants. We imagine convenience and servants, God focuses on sacrifice and service for others. All that the world considers “glory” is at best a fleeting vapor, and at worst an illusion.

Two considerations are helpful to understand this event. First, is the fact that it followed the announcement at Caesarea Philippi of His coming rejection, death, and resurrection. We know that Peter disagreed with such a thought, and it is reasonable to suppose that other disciples also were offended at the thought. Plainly they were too grounded in earth’s culture, and even though they were speaking of the nation of Israel and there were biblical reasons to believe in the fulfillment on earth of Old Testament prophecy regarding the Messianic reign, it was wrong for them to think too highly of earth. So, for just a brief period, we are not told how long, perhaps just a few minutes, the curtain was pulled back and they caught a glimpse of the glory of Christ. Then, perhaps for the first time, they could begin to understand why an earthly kingdom, any earthly kingdom, would not appeal to Christ. He had a greater vision.

Christ’s mission was to bring others into the kingdom of heaven, and then they had an idea of what it might be like – just a glimpse, but a real glimpse. Many have speculated as to the significance of Moses and Elijah being present. Why them? Of all those in the Old Testament, why not Noah, Samuel, David, or Isaiah? Some consider the symbolism of Moses and the Law and Elijah the age of the prophets. Others suggest that Moses symbolized all those who had died on earth, and Elijah represented all those who had been transferred to heaven without death. What is certainly taught by their appearing is the singularity of the work of God that culminated in Christ, and whatever significance is found in these two the overriding message was that all believers in God who had gone before, and all that would come after, would find their unity and identity in the work of Christ.

Second, that, as Luke recorded, the transfiguration of Christ took place “as he was praying” (Luke 9:29). No greater picture exists in Scripture of the significance, reality, and potential of prayer. You have seen the simple believer in Christ bow his head and utter a prayer and, perhaps, you didn’t think much of it. Perhaps you discounted it entirely as a mere religious exercise. You have led in prayer, perhaps, and voiced a blessing over food or an opening prayer for a meeting, and you were more concerned about being heard by people than by God. These thoughts are, unfortunately, too commonly found in our hearts. Prayer, public and personal, is an essential aspect of the Christian faith, and no sincere prayer in Jesus’ Name is said in faith but that the omnipotent and holy God of eternity hears. Prayer is not a withdrawal from worldly pressure to collect our thought, nor a method of meditation within our own minds. Prayer is conversation with the Almighty.

A reality of the glory of God is the presence of love. Jesus stated in His prayer to the Father on the night of His betrayal, “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world” (John 17:24). The glory of God can be seen on earth, and Christ did reveal His glory through His ministry, His teachings, His miracles, and His conversations. His very coming to earth, let alone His dying on Calvary, was a message of love and therefore of the glory of God. The transfiguration did not bestow on Christ that which was not previously there, rather it allowed the disciples to see that which heaven had known all alone. As God confirmed, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Listen to him” (Matt. 17:5).

Suppose it would be possible for just a few minutes to see with our physical eyes the opinion of heaven of one another. If for just thirty seconds our faces either shone or did not, our clothes were either white as the sun or remained as drab as dirt, and God would express His love and say, “Listen to him,” or He would not. What do you suppose God would say about you?

Prayer:

Lord, we need Your grace. We dare not stand before You or before the devil in our works or self righteousness. Examine our hearts, Lord, that we might understand their condition. Amen.

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