Monday, February 27, 2017
OnFire Encouragement Letter
OnFire #347 Transfiguration
I have these regular moments when Jan will tell me something, and I wonder, why? And then later, it becomes clear. “I have a dentist appointment tomorrow,” means she needs the car and I must plan some other way to get around. It usually takes some time for me to connect her details to my life.
This sometimes happens when we read scripture. Why do we have that story? Why was it so important to include it? The implication to us is not always immediately clear.
The transfiguration is one of those accounts. The gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke all include the story that Jesus took Peter, James and John to a mountain in order to pray. During that event, Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus, who was changed – transfigured – before them to display his true glory, and the voice of God the Father was heard from heaven saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (Matthew 17:5*)
The event was obviously significant, but why?
It revealed Jesus’ identity. People were always wondering who Jesus was. At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry people asked, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” (Luke 4:22). After performing miracles, some speculated Jesus was a prophet like John the Baptist, Elijah or Jeremiah. But a few, like Peter, began to believe that he might actually be the Messiah (Matthew 16:13-20).
The glory of the transfiguration and the voice from heaven confirmed this for Jesus’ inner circle. To be called “Son” was to identify Jesus as having the very character and nature of God the Father. The implications were incredible, because they could only either be true, or highly blasphemous. The disciples listened to Jesus and tucked this away until after the resurrection.
It highlighted Jesus’ role. The presence of Moses and Elijah suggested that the Law and the Prophets of the Hebrew scriptures looked to Jesus for fulfillment. The old must give way to the new. We’ll see this again in the Last Supper, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:20). No longer would we relate to God through the Law of the Old Testament with its sacrifices at the temple, but instead through Jesus.
It marked a turning point. Remember the voice at Jesus’ baptism? “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17) In the same way that Jesus’ baptism marked a stepping off from his early life to his public ministry, the transfiguration marks a change in direction from his ministry to the cross. Jesus did not die because he was caught in the politics of the day. Rather, his goal from the beginning was always the cross.
This made a huge impression on the disciples. Decades later Peter wrote about the event:
“For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.” (2Peter 1:16-18)
John also reflected on that day: “We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
For me, the transfiguration is not just an “interesting” account, but rather provides another brick in the foundation of a stronger faith in Jesus.
It holds together. In a world which seems to be fragmenting, with alternate truths and personal realities, “truth” does not often hold together. Rather, it changes to suit the day, and sows doubt, discord, and division. But here we have the voices of the Old Testament pointing to Jesus, joined by the Heavenly Father, leading to the cross, and confirmed by the resurrection. Something in my soul relaxes, breathes deeply, in the calm reassurance of this coming together of history around the transfiguration.
This helps me. I hope it helps you. Be on fire.
OnFire is a letter on faith and character written by Troy Dennis. Married to Jan, Troy is a chaplain and has more than 20 years of pastoral experience. This letter published Feb 27, 2017. *New International Version. To subscribe, unsubscribe, or reply, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Blog located at www.onfireletter.blogspot.com