Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem (Luke 9:28-31, ESV).
Up until now, Jesus’ glory has been quite well hidden as far as appearances go. He’s walked along in ordinary clothes and ordinary shoes. His face and hair were probably rather ordinary, too. There was nothing in His form that shouted “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (Isaiah 53:2). He calmed storms and taught with authority, healed the sick and cast out demons. He even raised the dead! Yet, His glory was not so visible even to those who had witnessed these deeds. In fact, He didn’t look good at all to many. First, the people of His home town of Nazareth rejected Him, even trying to kill Him by throwing Him off a cliff (Luke 4:16-30). The Pharisees and Sadducees constantly accused Him of blaspheming (Luke 5:21) and breaking the Sabbath (Luke 6:2, 7:11). John’s disciples weren’t sure He was the right guy, since He didn’t appear to meet their expectations (7:18-23).
Then Jesus heads to the mountain top and suddenly His appearance is altered and His clothes are dazzling white. He looks glorious as He speaks with God and with Moses and Elijah. Perhaps His face shone like Moses’ did in Exodus 34. Whatever it was exactly, it looked good. So good, that Peter thinks they should pitch some tents and stay there. However, Jesus, Moses and Elijah aren’t interested in staying there. They are, after all, discussing Jesus’ “departure, which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.” So Jesus and the disciples leave the shining glory of the mountain and head back down to where no one knows what Jesus really looks like.
Then things get really ugly. A Samaritan village rejects Jesus, not even allowing him to enter their town (Luke 9:51-56). The Pharisees and Sadducees accuse Jesus of being in league with Beelzebul (Luke 11:14-23). The chief priests, scribes and elders challenge His authority (Luke 20:1-8). Finally, the chief priests, scribes, elders and Pharisees just can’t stand to look on Jesus any longer. So they conspire to have Him killed. So Jesus climbs up another hill and is once again transfigured:
his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance,
and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—
(Isaiah 52:14b, ESV).
The skin of His back was in shreds and seeping with blood from being beaten. The crown of thorns shoved onto His head punctured the skin, causing blood to run down His face. Nails pierced His hands and His feet. His body was likely twisted in pain and agony. A sword pierced His side and caused blood and water to flow out, leaving a gaping wound in His naked body. He was horrifically marred. No longer human-like. Terrifying to behold. Ugly.
And in that ugliness, the glory of the Lord suddenly shines through such that it was visible not only to the three chosen disciples, but to the Centurion standing at the foot of the cross, who knew nothing of that other mountain top. It is visible to us. In that bloody, ugly, transfiguring crucifixion suddenly Jesus’s glory is visible as never before. His glory is His death for sinners. We ugly, sinful, bloody messes. By His glorious death, we too are “transfigured” from sinner to saint. From lost to found. From dead to alive. In Christ, the glorious, beautiful, bloody, crucified Savior.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus Christ, You are the Crucified One, help us always to see Your glory in Your death so that we ugly sinners may also be “transfigured” by You; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
- Did you miss last week’s devotion? You can read it here.
- Beginning on March 12, the Eurasia Blog Wednesday Devotion will reflect on favorite Lenten hymns chosen by our missionaries. There will be audio and even video, so be sure to return here! Next week, there is a special devotion focused on Ash Wednesday.