Matthew 17:1-5. 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.”
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 as he passed by in bright light.
But there’s one big difference between what happened to Moses and what happened to Jesus. Jesus didn’t ask to see the glory of God. He didn’t ask God to transfigure him. He transfigured himself. How? Because Jesus is the glorious God of Exodus 34 that passed by Moses.
But the transfiguration of Christ is about something more than the bright light of God’s glory. Christ’s transfiguration foreshadows the cross. At the cross, Jesus fully displayed the glory of God. At the cross all of God’s goodness, grace and mercy, holiness and justice, were all seen in the sacrifice of Jesus.
Six days before the transfiguration Jesus rebuked a misguided Peter for trying to prevent his death 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!
But then came the mountain top. Then came the transfiguration. Jesus’ glory displayed and the Father’s voice heard – Listen to him. Don’t rebuke him, Peter. Listen to him. He’s my beloved son (Ps. 2), my servant who pleases me (Is. 42). 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.
But here’s the truly incredible thing. Transfiguration isn’t just for Jesus. It’s for you and me too. 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…
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?
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