The Transformation of Jesus - His Relaity - My Possibility
Transformation: His Reality—My Possibility (Matthew 17:1-8)
Transformation is both the history of the Christ and the possibility for the believer. The transfiguration was a unique event of revelation concerning the nature of Jesus Christ. But the transfiguration is a prediction concerning the possibility of every Christian. What happened to Christ on that mountain can happen progressively and ultimately to every Christian. Let us look at the transfiguration from both perspectives. The transfiguration reveals the Deity of Jesus Christ and the ultimate possibility for every Christian.
In the Transfiguration the Deity of Christ Shines Out Through His Humanity
Certain circumstances enable us to see more of Christ. Prepared observers in a prayerful place are most likely to see Christ most clearly. Jesus took the inner circle—Peter, James, and John. These three had seen Him most clearly, so they were chosen to see Him most fully. These three were called aside two other times. They saw Jesus superior to death (Mark 5:37-43) and saw Him yield to death (Matt. 26:37). Only those prepared by past intimacy will see more of Christ. Also, they were isolated and alone in a place of prayer and solitude (Luke 9:28). The fullest vision of Christ comes only to those who go with Him into the place of isolation, solitude, and prayer.
The content of the transfiguration itself gives a past revelation about Christ and the future possibility of the Christian. In the past revelation, Christ "was transfigured" (v. 2). The word distinctly refers to an inward change which radiates from the inside to the outside. It is a change not in the superficial, but in the essential. The change touched both His appearance and His apparel. Moses' face had reflected the glory of God (Ex. 34). Jesus' face radiated the glory of God. God gives us "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ" (2 Cor. 4:6). In this, we see not only Jesus' Deity, but God's original intention for humanity.
The content of the transfiguration shows us our future possibility. Looking toward Jesus by faith, we "are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord" (2 Cor. 3:18). Even in this life, we are to experience a transfiguration that radiates and reveals itself. Ultimately "the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father" (Matt. 13:43). Our destiny will be a radiant, luminous kingdom of light where we will "share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light" (Col. 1:12).
We would do well to ask where we are in the personal process of transfiguration. Every authentic Christian should show evidence of transforming change.
In the Transfiguration, the Necessity of the Cross Appears to Humanity
Just as Jesus was transfigured, there appeared two titanic figures from the Old Testament, Moses and Elijah, representing the law and the prophets. What is their significance?
There is an affirmation of the cross. This is a heavenly "summit conference" concerning the cross. Luke states explicitly that "they spoke about His departure, which He was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem" (9:31). For Jesus, it was a conversation of affirmation and encouragement. Moses and Elijah represent the saints of the ages urging Christ on to His final work.
There is an attempted interruption of the cross. Peter's petty parentheses (v. 4) would have kept them on the mountain in the glory of it all. Like all of us, Peter wanted nothing to do with the cross that awaited below. Yet down we must all go to see human sorrow and sin (v. 15), to witness distressing unbelief (v. 17), and to set out for the cross that awaits.
A present perversion of Christianity would keep us on the mountain in the glory without the valley and the cross. "Health and wealth" theology wants all mountaintop and no valley. No cross, no crown.
In the Transfiguration, the Finality of the Christ Appears to Humanity
The acts of God point to the finality of the Christ. A bright cloud revealing the presence of God enfolded them. It is the same bright cloud of the Old Testament which revealed the visible presence of the invisible God (Ex. 24:15-18; 40:35). Such a token most clearly indicated the divine pleasure with the moment. Out of the cloud came a voice. That voice insisted to the disciples, "Listen to him!" (v. 5). Listen to Him when He speaks of the cross, the way of suffering, the necessity of Calvary. Listen to Him more than to Moses and Elijah. Listen to Him and not to Peter. Listen to Him! That voice thunders down the ages to this very morning. "Listen to him!"
The acts of Christ reveal His own finality. "When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus (v. 8). Moses and the law were gone; they had done their work. Elijah and the prophets were gone; they had done their work. There stands Jesus alone, above all, preeminent. May we also look up day by day and see Jesus only. When life is done and we walk through the fear of death, we then feel His touch and look up to see Jesus only!