And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 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.” 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.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified.
But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. 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.” And the disciples asked him, “Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” He answered, “Elijah does come, and he will restore all things. But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist (Matthew 17:1-13 ESV).
Throughout the journey that is the Epiphany season, Jesus has revealed more pieces or clues as to who He is. We had the wedding at Cana where John says He “manifests His glory” and His disciples thereafter believed in Him. We had the Baptism of Our Lord where Jesus took on the sins of the world and was anointed with the Holy Spirit to carry out His work. Yet, His own disciples have remained a bit confused about exactly who He is and what He is about, and of course those more on the outside are also still figuring Him out. But the disciples are getting closer. In the six days before the Transfiguration in Matthew’s Gospel, Peter confesses Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Then Jesus charges them to keep that information quiet. Then He starts talking about how He’s going to die. So by the time the disciples (and we) get to the Mount of Transfiguration, there’s an inkling of Who He is and what that means, but it’s still a bit confusing.
On the Mount of Transfiguration, amid the impressive display of Jesus’ glory and the sight of Elijah and Moses, there is confirmation. As Peter contemplates pressing pause on this moment and leaving it here, the Father pushes the “Go” button. In an expression similar to that which seemingly ONLY Jesus heard back at the Baptism (in Matthew’s Gospel it seems only Jesus makes out the words), God the Father confirms Peter’s confession: “This is my beloved Son!” Yes! Jesus IS the Son of God, and God is pleased with Him and what He has so far done, and what He is about to do. The Father adds: “Listen to Him.” Given Peter’s wish to push pause, the admonition to “listen” is necessary — Peter, along with James and John, is going to hear once again the unexpected. This Son of God, with Whom the Father is well-pleased, cannot stay here basking in this glory moment, speaking with Elijah and Moses. The why and what for of His coming is already underway. Elijah has come; Jesus must go forth to die, to suffer at the hands of those who killed the second Elijah, John the Baptist. Until that moment of death and resurrection, the Mount of Transfiguration cannot be fully understood, the Who and what for of Jesus cannot be fully grasped. So He charges them, again, with silence.
We have been blessed to visit the Mount of Transfiguration with Peter, James and John after the final confirmation is already in place. We have seen and tasted and been brought into the Son of God Who died and rose again to finally confirm the why and the what for of Who He is. He came because of the Father’s love for all of humanity. Separated from the Father by sin, death and the devil, we could not reconcile ourselves to Him. We had not the inclination nor the strength nor the ability. And so He sent the Son, the Beloved one with Whom He is well-pleased, to reveal Himself as Son of God and Savior of the world by dying our death and raising us to newness of life with Him. He came because we needed Him; He came for us. This Savior Who hides His glory in cross and suffering is revealed to us.
Glorious Lord Jesus Christ, continue to bring us into Your death and resurrection so that we, like the disciples, may know You as Son of God, Savior and live with You throughout all eternity; for You live and reign with the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
- Read last week’s devotion.