Transfiguration Sunday 2022
The transfiguration Luke 9: 28-36
28 About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. 29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. 30 Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendour, talking with Jesus. 31 They spoke about his departure,[a] which he was about to bring to fulfilment at Jerusalem. 32 Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. 33 As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters – one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ (He did not know what he was saying.)
34 While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and covered them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 A voice came from the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.’ 36 When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves and did not tell anyone at that time what they had seen.
Jesus the Fulfilment
While we are looking at the gospel of Luke this year in our lectionary for year C, it is important to mention that the story of the transfiguration does not just appear in Luke. This is such an important story that it is mentioned in all three of the Synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke. Some modern theologians have said that it is one of the accounts in the bible whose significance is the most underrated. So why this strange story, of Jesus, up on a mountain, talking with Moses and Elijah, transfigured until he shone dazzling white in glory, and a voice speaks from heaven : This is my son. Listen to him? Why it is important? Why is it recorded? Who was it for?
And First of all, why Moses and Elijah? Why were they the two whom God would have meeting with Jesus in this miraculous event? The fact that it was Moses and Elijah would have been a huge thing for the disciples to see. I have in other sermons likened this to seeing Elvis alive and walking down the main street today. It would have been shocking. These were the big two in Jewish history!
Moses. He was the great law giver.
He was also the great emancipator, the one who led the Hebrew nation out of Egypt in the great Exodus to freedom.
Elijah the super-prophet who didn’t die but got the chariot ride express to heaven. Both were men who had spoken with God on a mountain.
But both were men who fulfilled very different roles.
And then the other player in the story, the voice from Heaven that said “This is my Son”. This is also very significant.
And the significance is that here in these three players, these three figures, you have three components of a title that would be fulfilled by the Messiah, the one who they were waiting for, the one who would come in the Lord’s name. And they would show that this one was Jesus. We will come back to this title later.
Luke tells us that they were talking about Jesus’ departure. Now remember, the gospel of Luke shows that Jesus is the fulfilment of the Old Testament, of the prophecies, the writings, the law. He was the one they had all been looking forward to. So when Luke records this detail, that they were talking about Jesus’ departure, The word used here in Greek is Exodus. Jesus was talking with Moses and Elijah about his exodus, (and Moses knew a little something about Exoduses, didn’t he?) Jesus’ exodus, his departure would be greater than that of Moses, because the first Exodus (or road out, way out) led a single nation to freedom from slavery, and eventually to God’s promised land. Jesus’ Exodus was a way out of slavery to sin and Death for ALL people.
Jesus was a new Moses, bringing a new exodus, and a new freedom from slavery, this time to sin.
Now the Jewish people also knew that God had said through his prophet Malachi (right near the end of the Old Testament,
4 “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.
5 “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. 6
and he said that they should “Listen to him”. So when he says this is my son whom I love “Listen to him”, he was pointing out to them that this is the one Malachi was talking about.
So Jesus is the fulfilment of prophecy.
Jesus is our Great High Priest: the job of the priests was to make sacrifice for sins, and to mediate between God and people: that was another part of the significance of having Moses there too. Moses was not a priest, but through him and his brother Aaron God set up the sacrificial temple worship system. Jesus’ priesthood would be a far greater one, because never would another sacrifice have to be made.
And the words of God from the cloud point to something else. When he said this is my son. Now from the earliest days when Israel had wanted kings, the kings had acknowledged (well at least the faithful ones had) that they were not in charge of Israel. God was in charge, and they were the next highest representative under God. They had been called “Sons of God” (2 Sam 7:14)
So the title that had been associated with the Messiah was one that combined three roles in a way that no one else in the history of Israel was able to do. He would be prophet, priest and King.
Prophet, Priest and King.
We have in the other two readings the symbolism of the glowing face of Moses, reflecting the glory of the light of God, so that it needed to be veiled.
But the light was coming from INSIDE of Jesus, not reflected. The light that was the symbol of glory, and of divine power.
Jesus was and is the DIVINE Prophet priest and King.
Jesus is the fulfilment.
The fulfilment of prophecy:
The fulfillment of the hoped for kingship,
The fulfilment of the law and the sacrificial system.
And this proof that Jesus IS the fulfilment, in every way, of every hope for the coming Messiah was important. But for who?
These were proofs, not for the whole people, not for the whole Jewish people, not even for all of the disciples, but just for the inner core of Peter James and John. Some of those who were to become the leaders of the early church.
What was this event of the Transfiguration for?
This was a light for Dark times.
The disciples kept this to themselves, and did not tell anyone what they had seen: Until later.
This event was the light they needed in the darkness of Good Friday.
This was the light and the proof they needed when their life went from a light on a hill to the darkness of a tomb with a stone rolled in front of it.
After that time, and the resurrection that came with the light of that glorious Sunday morning, the disciples would be transformed, from hiding cowards and deniers and abandoners to fearless missionaries and martyrs willing to go to their deaths with Jesus’ name on their lips.
They too were transformed, like Jesus on that mountain.
This is for us too, for dark times. In uncertain times, in Covid times, in war times, in doubt times. God is still in control. And he still has a plan. And we still belong to Jesus. The messiah, the saviour: Prophet, Priest and King.
Thanks be to God!