The Rev’d Stephen E. Stults
St. Paul’s Anglican Church
St. Paul’s Anglican Church
Last week we read about Abraham being called upon to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Although in God’s ultimate mercy, he was not required to complete the act, only to show a willingness to do so. Abraham was foreshadowing the complete sacrifice God the Father would perform for us in Jesus. From this, we see that sacrifice is a key theme in Christianity to repair relationships.
In this week’s Gospel, we hear of an event that changed three of the Apostles, James, John and Peter's relationship to Christ. In this passage, we see Christ and the apostles going up into a high mountain, where he is transfigured before them. He is changed from being the great Teacher into something else: deity. From this time on, none of these three men could see Christ in the same way as before.
Imagine the scene: up on the mountain, Christ begins to pray, and as he does, His clothing begins to glisten and whiten, and his face was changed. He is glorified. Next, two men appear with him, Moses and Elijah, who also are in a glorified state. The engage Christ in conversation, talking with Him about his upcoming death in Jerusalem.
The situation is very rich in symbolism and meaning, It affected how the Disciples saw Christ, and how we should see him today.
First, Christ's appearance is not something of this world. His face and clothing take on a otherworldly shine; in fact they “glisten.” What does this mean? Simply, that for a while, Jesus took on a glorified nature, or as one commentator says, a foretaste of the glory to come. He is no longer just Jesus the Man, but now shows his divine nature as Christ the Lord. He appears in a non-earthly form that only those of another realm can take. The disciples cannot make any other claim.
Next, Jesus is joined by two men, Moses and Elijah. This is important to us for at least two reasons. First, it shows Jesus as the living bridge between the Old Testament and the New. Moses represents the Law, while Elijah represents the Prophets.
Here are two pillars of the Old Testament meeting with Him who will establish the New Testament in His Blood.. The validity of the Old and New together is affirmed.
Second, it shows us that the saints of the Old Testament Church will be saved. Moses and Elijah's presence with Jesus affirms this. This is important, for it shows that someday, in God's own time, the vail will be taken away from the Jews' recognition of Jesus. They will see Jesus as the Messiah, and in so doing, will embrace salvation. What we do not know is when.
The question we must ask ourselves is this: how do we see Jesus? Do we see Him merely as the great Teacher? Do we see Him as the great social revolutionary? Do we see him as the compassionate healer?
Yes, we should see him as all of these ways. Yet, there is one more way we must see Jesus in light of this Biblical passage. Recall the last two great happenings in this passage. First, a cloud overshadowed them, causing them great concern, even fear. Many scholars agree that this was the great Glory Cloud that covered the Tabernacle in the wilderness and actually prevented Moses from entering.1 It also filled the Temple and was so dense that even the priests could not minister in it. Called the Shikinah Glory Cloud, it is believed to contain thousands and thousands of saints and heavenly beings. Out of the cloud came a great voice. This voice said, “This is my beloved Son: hear him.”
Considering these events from Scripture, I ask you again: how are we to see Jesus? The answer should be plain. Not just the great Teacher, not just the great Healer, but who He really is, the Son of God. Keep in mind that this event happened a little over a week after Peter's confession that Jesus was the Son of God. Peter was given the faith to say that. Now, in God's glorious Will, Peter actually sees Jesus in His glorified state, as God. What a glorious gift that was!
We should do the same. Yes, we should admire Jesus the sinless man, while we worship Jesus as the true and only Son of God. There is only one Christ, perfect man and perfect God. We Christians are blessed to know both, through the wonderful words of Scripture, and the glorious Sacrament of the Altar. The words of the Bible tells us who He is, and the Sacrament lets us unite with Him in a real and very personal way. Amen.
1Matthew Henry, Luke 9