LEAD STORY – TRANSFIGURATION
After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them.”
(Mark 9:2 NIV84)
One of the wonders of the created world is the process of metamorphosis. When God called into existence the creatures that swim in the sea and fly in the air (on creation day five), He gave to some the amazing ability to change from one form into another as part of their life cycle. One example is the monarch butterfly, which has four stages in its life cycle: egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, and adult butterfly. A truly remarkable change!
Each year, on the last Epiphany Sunday, the Christian Church recalls the biblical account of the remarkable metamorphosis of Jesus (also known as the “Transfiguration”). One day while He was walking with three disciples on a mountain in Galilee, His lowly appearance was changed. His clothes started to dazzle with whiteness. His face began to shine as bright as the sun.
Jesus’ metamorphosis was, of course, far different from the change that occurs with creatures like the butterfly. For one thing, it happened instantaneously, not gradually. Then, too, Jesus’ metamorphosis did not involve changing into something He wasn’t previously. Rather, it was a revelation of what He already was: God’s all-glorious Son! Whenever Jesus preached a sermon or performed a miracle, people could sense this. “There is something special about Him not visible to our eyes” (Matthew 7:28-29, Luke 8:25). That something “special” was that He was their Messiah in Whom all the fullness of the Deity was living in bodily form (Colossians 2:9, Philippians 2:6-8). It’s just that, during the period of His life on earth, He chose (for the most part) to conceal His divine majesty from their view so that He might live in lowliness, serve them in love, and offer His life as a ransom on the cross.
How did Jesus’ transfiguration happen? Simply put, it happened by an act of His own will. He who made the decision to hide His divine glory during the time of His earthly life decided to uncover it for a moment in full view of His wondering disciples. Why? He wanted to strengthen them for the ordeal they would soon experience at Jerusalem, where they would witness their beloved Master taken prisoner, mocked, abused, crucified, and buried in a grave. In the face of “contrary evidence” (what their eyes would see) and what unbelieving enemies would wrongly claim (He’s an imposter), Jesus wanted to bolster their trust in Him as their almighty Lord come from heaven to deliver them from sin, death, and Satan. He also wanted to instill in their hearts the certainty of their own eventual metamorphosis on the Last Day, when He would return in majesty and invite them to live with Him in Paradise with glorified bodies fashioned to be just like His (1 John 3:2, Philippians 3:21). All this thanks to His successfully accomplished mission as their heaven-sent Redeemer.
Jesus’ transfiguration holds the same significance for you. As you hear again the account of His transfiguration on that mountain of Galilee, may it heighten your appreciation for His work as your Savior. May it bolster in you the certainty of His identity as God’s dear Son in Whom the Father is well pleased, Who came here in love to redeem you. May it also be a source of comfort to you through the duration of your trek across the plain of life (in which you may have some ordeals to weather and troubles to cope with), knowing that your metamorphosis will happen, too, when your Lord returns to receive you to Himself and causes you to shine like the brightness of the sun in your Father’s kingdom (Matthew 13:43).
Thomas Schuetze is pastor of St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church in Lakewood, Colorado.