Weekly Meditation: 26th February 2017

Exodus 24:12-18

Psalm 99

2 Peter 1:16-21

Matthew 17:1-9

The Transfiguration is one of the few ‘other-worldly’ events in the earthly life of Jesus.  He was a real human being amongst fellow-humans, and to most outward appearances he was no different from anyone else; he ate and drank, felt hungry, became tired and experienced grief and pain. Even many of his miracles were performed in such a matter-of-fact manner that only the results were amazing – not their execution.

The Transfiguration was quite different, however; so different that many years later, Peter -  one of the witnesses of that event - felt the need to insist that this was no ‘cleverly invented story’  (2 Peter 1:16). Peter, in writing his second letter to those who ‘through the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ have received a faith ‘as precious as ours’ (see 2 Peter 1:1), gives a careful and lucid account of the Transfiguration, emphasising Christ’s ‘majesty’ (v 16), the ‘honour and glory’ conferred to him, and God’s words confirming Jesus as his Son (v 17).  Peter testifies that he himself had heard God’s voice (v 18). Peter, who had been confused, incoherent and terrified by the Transfiguration itself (Matthew 17:4, 6), with hindsight understands its significance.

To Peter, the story was importantbecause it vindicated the words of the ancient prophets, which he compared to light relieving the darkness until the coming of the dawn and the morning star – Jesus (v 19). The prophets had not written from guesswork, nor had they set down merely their own thoughts. God’s Holy Spirit had inspired their writing (v 20-21). 

It was therefore fitting that, at the Transfiguration of Jesus, Moses appeared, representing the Law, together with Elijah who represented the prophets (Matthew 17:3). Jesus’ earthly life and ministry was the fulfilment of the Law that Moses had instituted. During his life he kept the Law perfectly, fulfilled its purpose and ultimately made it obsolete (see Romans 10:4, Galatians 3:19, Hebrews 8:13). Similarly, Jesus fulfilled the many prophecies that had foretold not only his coming but many details of his life, death and resurrection.

The Transfiguration was also a statement of Jesus’ divinity. God shares his glory with no one (see Isaiah 42:8), but here we see Jesus wearing God’s glory comfortably, like a garment to which he is entitled (Matthew 17:2, 5). It is the same glory that Moses and the Israelites saw on Mount Sinai. There, it settled like a cloud over the mountain while Moses spoke with God and, to the waiting Israelites, it looked like ‘a consuming fire on top of the mountain’ (Exodus 24:17).

The Psalmist also gives us a glimpse of God’s glory (Psalm 99). Here, God is ‘exalted over all the nations’ causing them to tremble and the earth to shake (99:1-2). He is ‘Holy’, drawing all ‘to worship at his footstool ... at his holy mountain’ (99:5,9).

The Transfiguration shows that this glory was invested in a man, our Saviour. The events of the Transfiguration confirmed to the disciples that Jesus truly was of God. They were also a means of strength and comfort for Jesus as he journeyed towards Jerusalem for the last time, to face his trial and death (see Luke 9:30).      

Susan Thorne