Mountains are a beautiful expression of God’s creation. They are great in size but can also be small in size. They can be snow covered year round or green year round. When it comes to the Bible, God uses mountains time and time again to convey His Word of Law and Gospel to His people. Today, as we end the season of Epiphany, we find Jesus on a mountain and things will never be the same again for three of His disciples.
On the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter, James, and John received a preview of heavenly glory. They were privileged to see a display of Jesus’ divine glory, the glory that was His as the Son of God, although it was only occasionally and partially revealed during His time on earth.
There must have been something special about these three disciples of Jesus, for on a number of special occasions did these three and none of the other disciples accompany Jesus. Today would indeed prove to be a very special occasion, as they would serve as witnesses, who in due time, could tell the world what they saw and heard there on the mountain.
There on the mountain, Jesus was transfigured before the disciples. The word would be one that you would recognize, metamorphosis. But this was more than just passing through various stages of evolving like a caterpillar to a butterfly. This was a complete change of Jesus, in that His full divinity became apparent. Matthew says, “his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.” This reminds us of the brightness of Moses’ face when he came down from Mount Sinai, but there Moses was only reflecting the glory of God. It reminds us of the glory of the Lord that shone around the shepherds at Bethlehem on the night of Jesus’ birth and of the bright shining angel at the tomb of Jesus on Easter morning. Here we see the full glory of God reflected in Jesus Christ.
This was a spectacle to see if there was ever a spectacle. We see the human nature of Christ and even His clothing was completely immersed with the brilliance of the divine nature. For most of the 33 years Jesus lived visibly in our world, He emptied Himself of the use of that divine glory. He masked His divine nature behind His human nature. On this occasion the Father permitted His Son’s divine nature to shine through the human shell.
Things start to happen, things that should seem impossible. Following the full glory of God being revealed in Jesus, Moses and Elijah appear on the mountain and begin talking to Jesus as if it’s just another day. Moses, the great representative of the Law, was God’s messenger for the Israelites. He led them to the Promised Land, though he himself was not permitted to enter. Moses died at Moab and was buried by the LORD Himself. Elijah, the great representative of prophecy, also appeared. Elijah was taken up to heaven bodily without experiencing death. Now they both stood before the three disciples talking with Jesus.
As far as Peter was concerned, the sight was remarkable, and it truly was. He wanted to freeze the scene as it was. He wished to put everyday life on hold. He wanted to preserve this glorious moment. Peter wanted to keep everything as it was, so that these famous guests could remain where they were and so that Jesus could remain as He was. Who could really fault Peter for wanting this? When you have Moses, the great lawgiver and face of God’s people, would you want to give him up? When you have Elijah, the great prophet of old, who would want to send him away?
It was “good” for those three disciples to be there, and it is good for us to witness this amazing display of the Savior’s glory. In a short time, Jesus would endure the brutal agony and indignity of the cross. This glimpse of Jesus’ glory was meant to remind the three disciples—and it reminds us—that Jesus was and ever is the eternal Son of God.
If things could not have been extraordinary enough, suddenly “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.”” Here you are on a mountain with Jesus, minding your own business. Suddenly, you see the full glory of God reflected in Jesus. Next, Moses and Elijah appear out of nowhere and begin having a conversion with Jesus. That alone is a sight to behold. But then you hear the voice of God speak. But there would be more to this story, more to this mountain.
The Mount of Transfiguration points us to an even more important mountain, this time, Mount Calvary. Here we see the full glory of God revealed, there on Calvary we see the full love of God displayed. St. Paul says, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Here on the Mount of Transfiguration we see Moses and Elijah. There on Calvary we see Jesus as fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. There on Calvary we see the how far God would go to forgive us our sins — all the way to the cross.
Jesus is shown to be the only one who can deal with our sin. Only Jesus fulfills the Law, has all power, and lives the glory of God. It is only Jesus who can save us from our sin. Jesus worked our salvation for the glory of God. By Jesus’ holy life, death on Calvary, and resurrection is God’s plan of salvation fulfilled. Through faith in Him, you are forgiven and have eternal life.
On the Mount of Transfiguration, Peter sought to stay on the mountain forever with Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. He was focused on the here and now. What he failed to realize was that Jesus was not destined for this mountain, but He was destined for another mountain, one that would bring about salvation for all of mankind.
The voice of God speaks and tells us to listen to Jesus. That means we do not add or subtract from salvation through Jesus Christ. All of Scripture points to Him, including that of Moses and Elijah.
Jesus showed us who He truly is with His transfiguration. His ordinary appearance showed that He is true man. His transfigured appearance showed that He is true God. This will help the disciples survive the events of Jesus’ Passion. This will remind all Christians that their sins are truly paid in full.
So what does this mean for us? It means that the work of Christ is complete. It means that God the Father is pleased with the atoning sacrifice of Christ and that salvation is assured for the believer. It means that salvation is assured for you. From the Mount of Transfiguration to Mount Calvary, we see His glory in the salvation He has won for us. In the name of Jesus, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.