Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.
It’s not enough to see something happen. It’s not enough to be part of an event. We also need to know the meaning of what’s happening.
A person transported from the times of the horse and buggy days to today may watch as green and red lights blink at an intersection. But if he is going to drive on our roads, we surely would hope that he knows what those lights mean—especially the red ones.
Three disciples of Jesus were allowed to be present at an event that would have fit well into the old TV series called The Twilight Zone. For a brief time, the gulf separating the eternal heavenly and the temporal earthly was bridged. Moses and Elijah, who had left this earth millennia before, stood before Peter, James, and John to chat with Jesus. Then, someone else joined them, speaking from a bright cloud. He called Jesus his Son. This was God the Father, maker of heaven and earth.
The disciples knew what they saw on the Mount of Transfiguration. But what did it mean? It doesn’t surprise us to learn that they were flabbergasted. It was a “shock and awe” experience. But they were further confused by what Jesus said as they were walking away. He commanded them not to say anything to anyone about what they had seen, “until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.”
“Risen from the dead?” What did that mean? They were familiar with instances of a dead person coming back to life on earth. They knew it had happened in the Old Testament. With their own eyes, they had seen Jesus bring dead ones back to life. Yet, this was different! This referred to Jesus rising from the dead. But it had just been powerfully proven to them that Jesus was the Son of God. To think that he would die was incomprehensible to them—until Good Friday.
Saint Peter says it wasn’t until the work of Jesus was completely over, and he had gone back to heaven, that things became clear.
Jesus was true God! That was the meaning of the transfiguration to the dazzling bright clothes and face of Jesus, and the voice from the cloud.
They learned something else. Jesus was going to die!
That was something they just could not wrap their heads around. He was only in his 30s. He wasn’t sick. They depended upon him. They expected him to rule all things just as he ruled the winds and waves. He ruled over death.
How could he die?
Why would he die?
They would learn. They would learn what his death and resurrection meant.
They would learn to put the lack of understanding aside. They would learn to simply believe what he said.
The transfiguration of Jesus means that the Son of Mary was the Messiah—Immanuel, God with us—who brings us into the fellowship with the holy God and all the armies of heaven. It means we will live forever—just like Moses and Elijah.
The transfiguration of Jesus: it means a lot to us.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, we are glad that you allowed three of your disciples to see that Moses and Elijah yet live, even though they have left this life. We are glad that the disciples could catch a glimpse of your brilliant glory and hear the voice of your Father. We thank you for enabling the record of this to come down through the ages to us. Now we ask that you use the experience of the disciples to reassure and strengthen our faith. Enable us to see the wonder of our God and to look forward to sharing in his glory. Allow us to understand this means that—no matter what might threaten or disrupt our life—we are safe and secure with our Savior. Amen.
Written by Rev. Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.
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