The Transfiguration of Our Lord
[Matthew 17:1-9] “And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.…”
Baptized into Divine Glory
Jesus is both fully God and fully Man. He is God, the Son of God, made Man. Jesus, the Son of God, therefore has both a fully human nature and a fully divine nature – unmixed, yet inseparable. Christ laid aside the glory of His divine nature for a time, in humility, for our salvation. Yet, on the Mount of Transfiguration, He reveals the glory of His divine nature to three disciples, Peter, James, and John - “He was transfigured before them, and His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became white as light” – divine glory shining through His human flesh.
You, brothers and sisters – and children – you, actually you, you people sitting in the pews – you have been baptized into a share of that Light and Divine Glory. “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” [Galatians 3:27] – and here you see Him shining in divine glory. You have been baptized into what you see on the Mount of Transfiguration today.
Because of Jesus, repentant sinners now have a share in the pure Light of God. On the Mount of Transfiguration in today’s Gospel you see the future (and even the hidden present) into which sinners have been baptized. Thanks be to God.
Seeing God’s divine nature, His glory, His light, has not always been a pleasant experience in the past. When the face of Moses shone with the residual light and glory of God as Moses came down from Mount Sinai to deliver the Law he had received, God’s people could not endure the sight of it. Moses had to wear a veil over his face to shield the people from the glory of God which adhered to him [Exodus 34:29-35].
Moses himself, when he asked to see God’s glory, was told that he could not see God’s face and live [Exodus 33:18-22]. God’s raw glory cannot be endured. And Scripture says that our Lord Jesus “dwells in unapproachable light” [1 Timothy 6:16]. Peter, James, and John became frightened at what they experienced on the Mount of Transfiguration, yet Peter, years later, in the Epistle lesson we just read (2 Peter 1:16-21), does mention what he saw that day and mentions it without fear. Peter says that, because of that experience on the Mountain, he and the other disciples had received the Word of God “more fully confirmed” [1:19]. Peter then speaks of “a lamp shining in a dark place” and of “the morning star” (a bright light) rising “in your hearts” [1:19]. The Apostle Peter knows that the light which he saw in the face of Jesus on that mountain is light which is for you.
And, in fact, just a few verses before our Epistle lesson in 2 Peter 1:4, the Apostle Peter tells us that through “the very great promises” of God, you “become partakers of the divine nature” – the very nature he saw in Jesus on that mountain. In Jesus, through God’s promises of the Gospel, that formerly unapproachable light becomes approachable and shareable.
In Jesus, God’s Light will be approachable for you. Scripture says that the preaching of the Gospel opens our eyes, so that we may be turned from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God and receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are made holy by faith in Christ. [Acts 26:18]. This was told to the Apostle Paul when He saw Christ in great light which blinded him.
You who believe and are baptized into Christ are made anew for that light of God’s divine glory which shines in the face of Jesus - “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” [2 Corinthians 4:6].
Why does this matter? What does it mean? Here is what this all means for you and me, for the guilty sinner: Despite the bleakness of your present, your future is secure. Despite the bleakness of your near future, your eternal future is secure. Despite your current darkness, your future is Light.
Though your immediate future – the immediate future of your body and its health – the immediate future or present state of your mental health – the present state or immediate future of your family’s well-being – though these things be a dark road, a depressed road, an uncertain road, your future is a share in the formerly unapproachable light of God in Christ. In the New Heaven and the New Earth [Revelation 21:1], you will see the face of God, and you too will shine like the sun [Matthew 13:43]. You are made partakers of, participants in, that divine glory.
Though your present is darkened by the strangling grip of sins of the flesh and the flesh’s temptations and of evil or angry thoughts - and though you walk clouded and fogged in mind by the words and ideas of a dark world around you – nevertheless, you are baptized and believe in Jesus (Mark 16:16). Your present might be dark for a while still. But your future is already hidden in the Light and the Bright Glory Cloud of God (Matt. 17:5).
When those three disciples - Peter, James, and John – stood on the Mount of Transfiguration witnessing the shining face of Jesus, God enveloped them in a bright cloud of His glory and thundered at them, “Listen to My Son” – “This is my beloved Son …. Listen to Him.” At this the disciples “fell on their faces and were terrified” [Matt. 17:5,6].
In our sins and weaknesses which still remain, God’s voice is still a thunder and a fright to us. Though a share in His glory is already ours, we are not yet ready for the Mount of Transfiguration. As Peter, James, and John laid face down and terrified, the great glory ceased and “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.” [Matt. 17:7,8] They saw no one but Jesus in His humility once again. They saw only Jesus on His way to the cross.
As you wait for the glory of the future “then”, keep your eyes fixed only on Christ Crucified for you during this present “now”. At peace and freed from terror, see God only in Jesus Crucified for you. Only through Jesus hanging on the Tree on Mount Calvary can sinners come to the Mount of Transfiguration unscathed. Your mind being set too much on glory now leads either to despair and fear or to pride and being puffed up. Fix your eyes only on Jesus Crucified.
The body of Jesus has carried your sins. The blood of Jesus has been shed through His pierced flesh for your sins. By His body given and His blood shed, the sinner’s sins are forgiven, wiped clean, forgotten. By Jesus Crucified on Mount Calvary, the sin of the guilty Man and the guilty Woman is washed white that they may then, and only then, enter into the pure light of God.
Through Jesus Crucified, sinners have indeed been made partakers of His divine nature and have been baptized into His divine glory. Scripture says that “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” [Romans 8:18]. Your dark road ends in Light. So brothers and sisters, and young children, keep your eyes always on Jesus Crucified for you and thus take comfort that your future rests in His Light of the Transfiguration. Amen.