On this Sunday before the start of the Lenten season, the Church has always tipped its hat to the account of Christ’s transfiguration.
The Gospel of Matthew says that Jesus took Peter, James and John up a high mountain by themselves. “There He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.”
There are several lessons in this event:
First, Christ is God Himself. Years later, Peter would write about this day on the mountain: “We ourselves were eyewitnesses of His majesty…we ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with Him on the sacred mountain.” John, too, would write: “We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only who came from the Father.”
Secondly, Christ is our Savior. We can arise and go to our Father, unafraid, certain that He will smile upon us because He says He is well-pleased with His beloved Son who was born to be for us what we were not, to do for us what we could not, to die for us that we might not, to rise for us when death said we would not. We “listen to Him” when we listen to the Scriptures.
Thirdly, Christ has prepared for us a place in a very real heaven. Here are Moses and Elijah in glory – incontestable comfort that those who have gone before us in the faith are not dead but live with God, and God’s own guarantee that Christ shall, as St. Paul put it, “change our vile bodies and fashion them like unto His own glorious body,” or as the apostle John who himself stood on this mountain later wrote: “We know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”
Fourthly, Christ is our brand new life here and now. The word Matthew uses for “transfigured” or “changed” occurs two other times in the entire New Testament. Both times, it describes the transfiguration, the change that takes place in you and me when the Holy Spirit gave us to see Jesus clearly as God’s Son, our Savior, our eternal life. In Romans 12 Paul says: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed – transfigured – by the renewing of your minds.” And in 2 Corinthians 3, when Paul compares the glory of Moses with the surpassing glory of Christ, he says: “We, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed – transfigured –into His likeness with ever increasing glory which comes from the Lord.” In other words, when we keep company with the King of glory, we take after Him, become more and more like Him.
When the disciples looked up, says Matthew, “they saw no one except Jesus.” In the end, this is the only thing that counts – to see Jesus clearly. This begins when we open the Scriptures and, as the Father said, “listen to Him.”