Matthew 17:1-8. And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. 3 And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 5 He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” 8 And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.
Transfigured (metamorphoo): to change into another form, to transform.
The scene on top of the mountain that day was truly incredible. It was something straight out of the Old Testament. Jesus, Peter, James, and John go up on the mountain and there they see Jesus transfigured. Changed. Jesus, the light of the world, is physically transformed into bright light like the sun. God’s glory cloud envelops them. Even Moses and Elijah show up. And God’s voice is heard – This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.
In many ways Jesus’ experience on the mountain mimics Moses’ experience on Mount Sinai. Moses prayed, “Lord show me your glory,” and God did it, declaring his name and his salvation to Moses (see day 34).
Exodus 34:6-7. The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious… forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty.
But there’s one big difference between what happened to Moses and what happened to Jesus. Jesus didn’t have to pray to see the glory of God. He didn’t ask God to transfigure him. He transfigured himself. How? Because he is our glorious God. He is the God of Exodus 34 that forgives every sin and punishes every sin at the same time.
This foreshadows the cross. At the cross, Jesus fully displayed the glory of God. At the cross, every sin was forgiven and every sin was punished. All of God’s goodness, his great grace and mercy, and his great holiness and justice, was seen in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Six days before the transfiguration Jesus told his disciples that he was going to die in Jerusalem. Peter tried to rebuke Jesus for saying this. But Jesus insisted that he MUST die for our sins.
Matthew 16:21-23. 21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!
Then comes the mountain top. Then comes the transfiguration. Jesus’ glory is displayed and the Father’s voice is heard – Listen to him. Don’t rebuke him. He’s my beloved son (Ps. 2), my servant who pleases me (Is. 42). He’s right. He MUST die for you. And his dying IS his glory. His dying IS God’s glory. Because God’s glory is the collision of his mercy and his justice.
The transfiguration is God’s approval of the cross.
But here’s the truly incredible thing. Transfiguration isn’t just for Jesus. It’s for you and me. It’s for all who are in Christ. The word metamorphoo is used twice in the Bible to describes us. Here they are:
2 Corinthians 3:18. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.
Romans 12:2. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind..
We too are transfigured into the likeness of Christ’s death. If the transfiguration on that mountain top is the Father’s approval of Christ’s crucifixion, then the transfiguration of our minds and hearts is the Father’s approval of our own crucified lives.
You see, your transfiguration into Christ-likeness is not simply about you becoming more morally upright or pious. And it’s not about acceptable “Christian” behaviors or rule keeping. It’s about glowing with the love of Christ. It’s about shining a sacrificial life for others. It’s about knowing that the beloved Son that pleases God is alive in you so that God’s grace can now envelop all that come into your cloud of glory. It’s about the process of dying to your selfishness and resurrecting unto the glory of a grace filled life. It’s about “to live is Christ.”
Is your life one of transfiguration? Why or why not?
You in Christ
In Christ you ARE being transformed. How does this give you hope today?
Christ in you
Where can you see transformation into the love of Jesus happening in your life?
Playlist: Songs of transfiguration.