1 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.” (ESV)
Did you know that the prayer known as the Collect of the Day gathers together or collects the main themes of each Sunday? Today’s Collect gives us four themes. In the glorious transfiguration of His beloved Son, God the Father 1) confirms the mysteries of the faith by the testimony of Moses and Elijah and 2) wonderfully foreshows our adoption as sons of God by grace. And in Holy Baptism, God 3) makes us co-heirs with King Jesus in His glory and 4) will bring us to the fullness of our inheritance in heaven. That’s a lot of good news for this Transfiguration Sunday.
On the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus gives a glimpse of the glory He has had for all eternity as the Son of God. But our Lord’s transfiguration also gives us a glimpse of the glory we will share with Him in the resurrection on the Last Day. And so, we celebrate not just a historical event from long ago but also Jesus coming personally to us, to dwell in us as our Lord and Saviour. Here is how Paul describes this good news: Christ in you, the
hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).
On the Mount of Transfiguration, we see Moses and Elijah showing up. Now, think of it: Moses died some 1400 years earlier. Elijah did not actually die—he was taken up into heaven in chariots of fire—but that was almost 900 years earlier. And now, here they both are! With Jesus, on the mountain, seen by three witnesses: Peter, James, and John. Moses and Elijah do not appear as some sort of hallucination. No, they are really there, actually present. What does this tell us about life after death? It tells us that eternal life is real! Death was not the end for Moses and Elijah. In fact, the continuing and never-ending reality for all of God’s people—Old Testament and New—is not death but life, life beyond the grave, life in heavenly glory. That is God’s promise, and it is attested to by the presence of these two men of God, Moses and Elijah.
Notice also that they are standing there with Jesus, and then after a while the disciples look up and see Jesus only. This shows that the promise of eternal life is connected to and focused in and fulfilled by none other than our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Moses and Elijah are there only because of Jesus.
The same is true for you! Death will not be the end for you. Death will not separate you from your Saviour. Just as Moses and Elijah were with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, so also you, when you die, you will be with the Lord in Paradise. Life everlasting is in store for you. That is your hope, the hope of glory.
In His Transfiguration Jesus does indeed give us the hope of glory. First, we see two saints—Moses and Elijah—not dead, but very much alive, just as in Christ we too will live forever. And then, we see Jesus Himself transfigured, just as in Christ we too will be raised in glory on the Last Day. At our Lord’s Transfiguration, His form was changed, His face shone, even His clothes became radiant. As the Son of God from eternity, Jesus has always possessed heavenly divine glory. But when He came in the flesh—during the days of His humiliation—Christ Jesus emptied Himself and made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant. The glory was put under wraps. Jesus hid His divine glory. But now, just for this moment, Christ’s glory shines forth, and the disciples get a glimpse of it.
The Transfiguration is a glimpse of Jesus’ eternal glory and also a preview of Christ’s glorification, beginning with His resurrection. The disciples will see Jesus again in a glorified state, when He appears to them after rising from the dead. 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.” The Transfiguration points us to Easter and Christ’s resurrection.
By pointing us to Christ’s resurrection, the Transfiguration also points us to our own resurrection. For you and I were joined to Christ in Holy Baptism. In our Lord’s Baptism, the heavenly Father said of His only-begotten Son: This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased. So in our Baptism, the Father takes us as His own dear children, beloved also, adopting us by grace and making us co-heirs with King Jesus in His glory. In Baptism, Christ [dwells] in you, the hope of glory. Even now, we have an inheritance awaiting us in heaven. Even now, as we endure trials and tribulations, we live in the blessed hope of the resurrection of the body to life everlasting. Even now, as we struggle against the weakness of our flesh, we are partakers of the glory of Christ, who dwells in us in Holy Baptism.
At the Transfiguration, Christ’s clothes became radiant, intensely white, as light. So in Holy Baptism, you are clothed with the pure robe of Christ’s righteousness. Your sins, though they were scarlet, have become as white as snow. No one on earth can cleanse you that pure and holy—only God can! This God did for you in your Baptism, which joins you to Christ and makes you co-heirs with King Jesus of His glory.
The Transfiguration is a glimpse of Jesus’ eternal glory and also a preview of Christ’s glorification, beginning with His resurrection. And now, we live in the Good News that we will see Jesus in His glory, not for a fleeting moment, but forever. Not only will we see Jesus in His glory, but we will also experience for ourselves the glory of being raised to life eternal. And we do not even have to wait, for we have already been raised in Christ in our Baptism. Baptism is our Transfiguration by which we shine in Christ’s glory even as this glory is hidden behind our weakness and trials. Yes, our Baptism is our Transfiguration which points ahead to our own resurrection. This is the hope of glory you have right now; as a baptized child of God, you have the sure hope of the resurrection. Christ’s Transfiguration, then, is a preview of that glory that comes when He rises from the dead and of the glory that will be yours when He raises you from the dead.
In His Transfiguration Jesus gives us the hope of glory. This hope of glory is ours through Christ dwelling in us through Holy Baptism. Baptism—that is where God makes us co-heirs with King Jesus of His glory. That is where we receive the gift of eternal life, so that death will not be the end of us, so that we will be raised to heavenly glory, with our resurrected bodies glorified, transfigured by Christ’s glory.
But the Transfiguration also shows us that all this glory must come through the cross. Shortly after the Transfiguration, Jesus says to His disciples: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day (Matthew 17:22-23). Now why is this? Why must the glory come through the cross? Because there is no other way for Jesus to accomplish His mission, which is to save sinners, to redeem fallen mankind.
That is why Christ came, to do that job which we could not do. And it would require His death to accomplish it. The wages of sin is death; that is what we have earned by our rebellion against God and by the selfishness, hatred, and lack of love we all manifest each day. Now multiply that a few billion times over for a lifetime of your sins and the sins of all sinners for all time, and you see the tremendous burden and mountain of sin that has to be covered and atoned for, if sin is to be forgiven and the judgment of death satisfied.
There is only one way for all that sin and death to be taken care of, dealt with once and for all, and that is through the death of Christ, God’s Son. His holy precious blood is of such worth, such infinite value, that when He pours out that blood on the cross and offers His life as the perfect sacrifice for sin—all of it—that that is how there is now a basis for forgiveness: Christ has objectively atoned for all the sins of the whole world. It is done, it is finished, the price for the world’s forgiveness has been fully paid for by Christ on the cross. Thus, without the cross, there is no hope of glory—there is only the prospect of eternal death and damnation. But with the cross, through the cross, there is forgiveness, and with forgiveness—where sin is taken care of, there death is taken care of also, and life reigns in its place.
In the Transfiguration, Jesus gives us the hope of glory. And beyond His Transfiguration through His death and resurrection, Jesus gives us the blessed hope that death will not be the end of us, that there is life beyond the grave, eternal life. We are given the hope of sharing in the resurrection of Jesus.
And this hope—the sure hope of glory in Christ—will give you the strength you need to carry on through all the tough times of life. And so do not lose heart. For though they may seem so heavy, your trials are light indeed compared to the eternal weight of glory which is yours in Christ Jesus. And so, in your struggles, look not to things that are seen, to things that are transient. Look rather to the things that are unseen, to the things that are eternal. Look up to Jesus, the King of Heaven, who in His Transfiguration has given you a glimpse of His glory. Christ your King now dwells in you through Baptism. And so now, in Him, you live in the hope of glory. Oh, right now, what you see with your eyes are your sins and your weaknesses, struggles, and adversities. The hope of glory in Christ is now hidden from your eyes. But this glory will most certainly be openly revealed in you on the day of glory, when your King will raise you from the dead to live with Him forever in His blessed Kingdom. Praise be to God! Amen.