February 27, 2022
The Transfiguration of Our Lord
Text: Deut. 34:1–12, Heb. 3:1–6, Luke 9:28–36
In the name of Jesus, Amen!
Recently, the Chinese ministry has started to study the book of Revelation, the revelation of Jesus Christ to the Church through St. John, known as the Elder or the Theologian as revered in the church of his time. At the very beginning of his visions in the Spirit, he sees the appearance of the exalted Christ, Who once died, was resurrected, and now lives to be Lord of the church and has authority in heaven and on earth. St. John describes Him in this way, “The hairs of his head were WHITE, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun SHINING in full strength” (Rev. 1:14-16). Today we celebrate the Transfiguration of Jesus. We see some similar language describing Jesus when He “took with him Peter, John and James and went up on the mountain to pray”. “As he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became DAZZLING WHITE.” What they saw in that moment was a glimpse of the exalted Christ when He would show Himself to St. John again on the island of Patmos on a Lord’s Day.
What happened in both cases is that Jesus brought the future into the present. He brings that which we are all going to see on the Last Day when He comes again to judge the living and the dead. We also notice that the reactions to seeing the exalted Christ are similar, too. During the Transfiguration, “they were afraid” when God the Father testified that what they saw was really His beloved Son, His Chosen one. When St. John saw the exalted Christ again in Revelation, he simply “fell at his feet as though dead”. This is the reaction that a human being should have when they see the holiness of God and realize their own sinfulness. But there is a difference in degree between these two cases. The more clearly exalted Christ shows us that, the more we realize the holiness of God and our own sinfulness, the stronger reaction we will have to the real presence of our Lord. It’s like looking at a painting, for example. The closer it gets, the more details you will see, and the more of an impact it will have upon you. And the reverse is also true. The farther it gets, the fuzzier it appears to be, and the lesser of an impact it has on people who see it. Jesus’ transfiguration on the mount was before His death and resurrection. Therefore, He only gave these three disciples a glimpse of His exalted state – in church language, “a foretaste of the things to come”. Allow me to illustrate it in this way. Most of the people here may have had an experience of tasting a free food sample in Costco or other local grocery stores. Portions are big enough to allow you to make a decision about the product, but small enough to leave you wanting more. Manufactures estimate that at least 20 percent of the time tasting the sample would end up buying the product, sometimes, with the right product, as many as 90 percent of shoppers purchase the item. Car dealers learned this trick too. It’s one thing to walk around their lot and kick some tires, but if the salesman can get you to test-drive the newest model, he knows that you will begin to imagine yourself as being the owner. He’s well on his way to closing the deal. “Free samples” and “test-drives” are a way to assure us that the product is good and to give us an expectation to materialize our dream of driving that car or having a good time with that food.
Remember, the transfiguration happened eight days after Jesus told the 12 disciples the prediction of His passion, that He would “suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” He also said, “if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Here, He told us clearly the end/the purpose (that is the end result) of following Him, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” He encourages us to think and choose, “For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” When we hear language like this as the disciples did for the first time without true understanding, usually we are afraid, are you not? We fear what our following Jesus will entail. It’s because, we focus on the first part of suffering and death more than the last part of being raised. Is this not one of the reasons that you are afraid to acknowledge Him in front of unbelievers? So, what’s the answer to our problem? Hope, or rather a great expectation of the future reality. In order to comfort these troubled disciples and to comfort us today, Jesus brought three from among them to a mountain and transfigured before their very eyes. He brought the future to the present to let them see a glimpse of the resurrected glory, a foretaste of the things to come so that they could have a bit of blessed and joyous experience of what they would become in the future.
As a matter of fact, He not only brought the future in front of them, but he also brought the past. This is where the future meets the past, when He brought in Moses and Elijah to talk to His sort of “future self”, the exalted Christ about His “exodus”, that is, His death and resurrection. Prophets of old represented by Moses and Elijah foretold the coming of Christ to save us from all our sins by being the perfect sacrifice, the Lamb of God, who would be slaughtered in our place, and on our behalf. The Christ’ Cross on Calvary is right in the middle of history; it is the center of the Bible and of our all theology. That’s what Moses, Elijah and Jesus were talking about and all that we need for our life and for our salvation.
What St. John saw in his vision of the Revelation, however, is the Christ already exalted after the death and resurrection. That’s why he can describe Him much more vividly and in greater details. Even so, what he saw would still be in the future, in the heavenly realm, not to mention what would happen on the last day, thus, St. John still had to use a lot of symbols; nevertheless, what he saw was the exalted Christ after the resurrection. Jesus is exalted to be the Lord of the church, and the Lord of all, the alpha and omega. He comforts those who suffer in the great tribulation, and He conquers and conquers until the judgment day. We ARE in this period of tribulation and conquering, the period that we call “the New Testament era”. The same exalted Christ that John saw rules today. He continues to bring the past and the future to us in the church, to forgive us our sins by His accomplished cross event, to bring us hope, to comfort us by the Gospel and by His body and His blood, and to give us a glimpse of His exalted glory and a foretaste of the feast to come in His Word and His Sacraments.
Thanks be to God! Let us pray and ask God the Holy Spirit today to open our eyes of faith to see the exalted Christ, to realize our sinfulness before Holy God and to gratefully receive Christ’s forgiveness by His body and blood, so that we may boldly confess our faith in Him in any circumstances, have hope and comfort in any sufferings, and bring the love of Christ to anyone who needs it in a great expectation of His second coming in glory and power on the last day.
In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen!