Transfiguration Sunday is an annual reminder of that moment on the mountain before our Savior set His face toward Jerusalem and the cross. It is a fitting reminder, on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, of the glorious and heavenly goal toward which the Savior’s suffering and death led – to the glory of Easter morning. At the end of the hard path lies heaven itself.
Matthew, Mark and Luke all record this event. “He was transfigured,” is the way Mathew and Mark put it. They use a word from which we get the word “metamorphosis.” Jesus’ appearance is changed, transfigured, transformed before their very eyes.
“His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.” For one brief, shining moment, He lifts the veil of His self-imposed humility. He gives Peter, James and John a glimpse of His glory as true God, the second Person of the Holy Trinity.
He appears in shining splendor with Moses and Elijah who talk with Him about His departure, literally, His “exodus” which He is about to accomplish at Jerusalem – His entire work of redemption.
Luke’s account provides one other angle to this great event. Luke tells us that our Savior “went up onto a mountain to pray. As He was praying, the appearance of His face changed, and His clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning….”
“Teach us to pray,” the disciples once asked Jesus.
They were quite confident that He could. They saw Him do it often enough. They saw in Him One who came from the very presence of the Father. They perceived that He had something – an inner life, an inner peace – that remained untouchable amid the storms of life. They wanted this for themselves.
So Jesus gave them a blueprint for their prayer life, the Lord’s Prayer.
Throughout the four Gospels we meet a Savior who walks in constant fellowship with His Father. He rises early, before the sun is up, and goes off to lonely places to pray. He often leaves behind the crowds who press upon Him and finds some cave or corner to be alone with the Father.
Before the major events of His ministry, such as the appointing of the twelve apostles, He spends the night in prayer. There is that quiet prayer He utters at the grave of His friend, Lazarus, before casting His sovereign word into the dark of the tomb to snap the chains of death. There is the High Priestly prayer in the upper room before He goes forth to betrayal, arrest, the crown of thorns, the cross and empty grave. There is His agonizing prayer in the shadows of Gethsemane: “Not My will, but Thine be done.” There are the short but powerful petitions sent heavenward from the very cross itself.
On a high mountain, He is transfigured “as He was praying,” says Luke.
In the Scriptures, God talks to us. In prayer, we talk to God. This two-way conversation – listening to what God has to say, and responding to that in our prayers – is a transfiguring thing for us too. The closer we stay to Christ, the more we take on His features and reflect His grace.
In regard to a little parable about a persistent widow and an unjust judge, we are told that Jesus told this parable so that we “should always pray and not give up.” Good things happen as we are praying!