Grace and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our text this morning is the gospel reading, Matthew chapter 12.
Here on the mountain Peter, James, and John found themselves witnessing the unveiling of God’s heavenly glory. There was no time to rest, Jesus was now on His way to Jerusalem where He would face death by crucifixion. Moses and Elijah knew that; that’s why they did not stay there with Jesus any longer than they did. The One standing there before them in all His glory, the transfigured Christ, would soon be betrayed, convicted, brutalized, and executed.
Recently, Jesus had asked His disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” and, more importantly, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter, speaking for the entire group, said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” And now, 6 days later, Jesus gave His 3 most trusted disciples proof of His divine nature and His heavenly glory.
This brief event, the transfiguration of our Lord, is one of the high-points of our entire church year. This is the climax of the Epiphany season, the season of Christ being revealed to the nations. Here on the mountain, Peter, James, and John see Jesus as He really is, in all His heavenly glory.
Jesus is the Son of God, and as such, shares the same essence and substance as His Father, our Creator. Jesus is also the Son of Mary, and as such, shares the same essence and substance as His mother. Jesus is that perfect and miraculous union of God and man, of divine nature and human nature.
As He set-out to do His work, Jesus only used His divine powers on special occasions, like today. On this day, high up on the mountain, Jesus allowed Peter, James, and John to witness His true nature, to see better this miraculous union of God and man that is Jesus of Nazareth.
Now, you may wonder why Moses and Elijah were there; what did they have to do with Jesus and the disciples? Moses had been up on Mt. Sinai with God. There God gave Moses the 10 commandments, the 10 moral laws for God’s people to live by. And, Moses had led the people of Israel out of Egypt, tempered them for 40 years in the Sinai desert, then led them to the land, which lay before them just as God had promised to give to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their descendants, now as numerous as the stars in the sky.
Elijah, also, had been on the mountain with God. Elijah had challenged the priests of Baal to a sacrifice competition. You remember this, both Elijah and the priests of Baal built stone altars, stacked wood on top, then the sacrifice to be offered as a burnt offering. Then each one would ask their god to miraculously light the fire and receive the burnt offering.
The priests of Baal went first; they cried-out to their god for hour after hour all day long. They chanted, they sang, they danced, they prayed and they shouted, but nothing happened. Then it was Elijah’s turn. He ordered that his sacrifice be doused with water; so much water that they had to dig a moat around the altar to contain it. Then Elijah cried-out to God. And in an instant divine fire from heaven comsumed the sacrifice, the wood, the water, even the altar itself. The fire burned so hot the stone altar was consumed. There was no longer any question which god was the real God, and which god was a lie.
Now, today, Elijah is back on a mountain in the presence of God’s Almighty Son, representing all of the prophets through whom God had promised to send a Savior, prophecies which Jesus fulfilled perfectly. Jerusalem is where His mission would culminate. There Jesus would be betrayed, suffer, die, and rise alive from the grave, just as Elijiah and all the prophets had foretold.
Returning to our text, we read, “ 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!” That was the same voice that spoke when Jesus was baptized. Here the Father speaks of His Son, the One He chosen to redeem us from sin and give us victory over death. Yes, He did save us, He did win that victory we cling to, victory over sin, death, and the devil but it cost Him His own life. ( NPR story)
The Transformation was for Jesus then what it is for us today: the transition from Epiphany (revealing Christ to the nations) to Lent ( Christ’s death & resurrection for the nations). Over the next 6 weeks we will hear once again how Jesus Christ accomplished this Transformation. How Jesus reached-out and put His arm around you, leading you from the darkness of this world into the light of His world; from this world of death into His world of life – everlasting and perfect life! Thank you God for what You have done for these, my brothers and sisters in Christ, and my friends. Amen!