[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. 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.
9 And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.”
Co-heirs with Christ
“And He was transfigured before them, and His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became white as light.”
I too would like to share in this glory of the Lord, but I do not want to share in His cross. The conversation six days before this event of the Lord’s transfiguration light and glory was a conversation about His cross. [Matthew 16:13-28]
Six days prior, Jesus had asked the disciples, “Who do men say that I am?” And then Jesus asked, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter made the great confession: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Glory. The Son of God. But then Jesus speaks of His coming cross.
“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.” Peter did not want to confess this! “Far be it from you, Lord!” – “No cross, no death! Far be it!”
In His rebuke of Peter, Jesus reminds Peter that he must “think the things of God” and not just think in a human way. And then, in addition, Jesus tells all the disciples about their cross – “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
With Christ comes a cross. With Christ for me comes a cross for me. And, just as with His cross on the third day came resurrection, so after your crosses comes a sharing in His glory. A sharing in the same glory of God His Father that He has and that shined in and through Him on that Mount of Transfiguration. His glory is for you; and before it comes, a cross.
Brothers and sisters, the crosses you face – in the forms of various physical and mental sufferings – are scary. Christ prayed regarding His cross, “If it’s possible, Father, let it pass from me” – He was in great anguish because of the knowledge that His cross was approaching – “but nevertheless, Father, not as I will, but Your will be done.” A hard prayer. Our Lord Himself needed the strength of angels: “And there appeared to Him an angel from heaven, strengthening Him.” [Luke 22:43]
“Take up your cross and follow me” is no easy thing. It’s seriously hard business. All suffer. But to receive our suffering as from God and to love Him still and trust Him that His will is best – this is the cross, and it’s hard.
It is therefore helpful – as it was surely, eventually helpful to Peter – to see ahead of time the glory in which we will share. Glory seen by those three eyewitnesses – Peter, James, and John – and expressed to us in the Gospels.
It is helpful also to know that, because of your Baptism, it is indeed His cross that is working great benefits in the crosses you bear.
The cross of Jesus has worked the greatest benefit: Salvation for sinners. Your sins were put to death in His flesh on His cross. The Price paid. Sin atoned for and therefore pardoned and forgotten by His death.
Forgiven. Yet, today, I still live in my flesh – full us sins still – and would be rid of these sins which oppress me. Forgiven, but I also want to be helped. I want these clinging sins – and this clinging doubt and unbelief and weak faith – all that is wrong in me – I want it to be put out of me. I want it all to be put to death and for me to live more and more in His goodness – to grow up more and more into Him.
This is the work of cross and resurrection – death and glorification – at work in you day after day. Cross and resurrection – my flesh and mind and will being put to death, His life and His faith and His love rising up in me – me decreasing, Him increasing in me. Me dying, His glory being made alive in me.
This is the will and desire of the Christian, of the new man born in us. This is the promise of your Baptism. “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” [Galatians 2:20]. You have been “buried with Him in baptism” [Galatians 2:12]. “We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing.” And, “If we have been united with Him in a death like His, we will certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.” [Romans 6:5-6].
The transfiguration in today’s Gospel – His face shining like the sun; His robes as white as light – is a glimpse of the glory of God that exists in the Son of God, Jesus, by nature. This glory He set aside to face His cross for you. This glory He took up again when He was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father. This glory, like His cross, is your inheritance.
Jesus inherits the Father’s glory by nature – it’s always His. You inherit that same glory – glory which will glorify your flesh in the same way – because you are now adopted as sons and daughters of God through Jesus. The Son is now sharing His inheritance with you – cross and glory.
“You are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God” [Galatians 4:7]. “We are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him” [Romans 8:17].
I want His glory, but I fear bearing that cross today. Yet, because He bore it, Scripture now gives us these words to speak on our lips regarding cross and glory: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” [Romans 8:18]. “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” – “So, we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day” [2 Corinthians 4:16-17]. Cross, glory.
Jesus’ face shone like the sun. His robes became white as light. Scripture speaks of this exact same transfiguration glory for redeemed sinners “Then the righteous – righteous by ‘the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ’ – will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” [Matthew 13:43; Romans 3:22]. “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” [Revelation 7:14]. As bright as the sun and robes as white as light.
This glory is the inheritance of your current cross-bearing flesh. May God grant that the eternal weight of this glory to come would make lighter your burdens of today. Amen.