Deuteronomy 34: 1-12
Psalm 99: 1-5
2 Corinthians 4: 3-6
Luke 9: 28-36
“Beauty Beyond All Measures”
Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
Today marks the end of Epiphany. We started with the light of the Advent Star of which the wise men followed, and we end with the light that is Jesus Christ. In fact, we will be concluding this final service of Epiphany with “Shine, Jesus, Shine.” So, yes we will be concluding literally with the light of Christ shining forth. But what do we mean when we claim that Jesus is the light? Many may claim that it is metaphorical, but that is such a lack luster way of thinking that tears away the significance of today’s Gospel. For into today’s Gospel, Jesus is literally a brilliant light that is dazzling. Thus Jesus isn’t just a metaphorical light but is the Light in the same way that he is the Truth, Life, the Way, and the Door. None are metaphorical references but actual revelations of reality.
Actual revelations of reality… there is something to that statement. When you hear the word Transfiguration what are some of the concepts that goes through your mind? Change is what comes to my mind, and with regards to what is happening on the mountain, there is certainly change happening, but what is this change?
Some might read this chapter in Luke and assume that Jesus was physically changing into something different, only to revert back to his original form. Their line of thinking goes an odd direction because they then start claiming that Jesus was something different and that his substance was changed at that very moment, though temporarily. It’s almost as if they are claiming there are two different Jesus’ or that he has a more perfect form thus implying that his current form is not perfect. Confusing, I understand, but basically, the end conclusion is that Jesus is very human, but on the mountain his body transforms temporarily to a more divine form.
When you separate the two then you lessen the original form. If the mountain form is more divine then that would imply that the supposed lesser form, the form Jesus usually takes, is less divine. Does that not sound wrong? Do we not say that Jesus is wholly human and wholly god? If that is indeed the truth then at no point is Jesus more or less divine but is always wholly divine. From birth to mountain to death to resurrection, Jesus was always wholly human and wholly divine; never lacking in one.
Such line of thinking, that Jesus was at one point more and thus also less divine, aligns quite well with the atrocious belief that Jesus was actually just a mere human who upon baptism was adopted by God the Father and became some divine superhuman. That was an actual belief during the early church and quickly stamped out as utter heresy. Sadly the belief wasn’t completely ostracized, for it rebranded itself and became widely popular in the form of Mormonism (Latter Day Saints) and Muhammadanism, a Christian heresy that worshipped Muhammad and is now known as Islam.
So if Jesus was wholly divine at all times of his life on Earth, never lacking in divinity, then what happened on the Mountain when Jesus was transfigured? We know he didn’t transform into a more perfect being. Were the disciples mistaken or drowsy? This is an even worse theory and deserves no further discussion as such is a product that stems from faithlessness. So what does that leave us? What is truly happening at the transfiguration?
What did I say earlier… actual revelations of reality. Though Jesus’ appearance changed does that mean his actuality, his being, changed? No, but in reality what happened is that his appearance changed to conform to reality. The Transfiguration was a revelation of who Jesus was, is, and will always be. He is the light, and the Transfiguration proves that. He didn’t become the light, but he was always the light. The Transfiguration just merely revealed to all who were present the truth of who Jesus really was in a visual format. And just in case those present still didn’t understand, God the Father provided an auditory revelation by stating that Jesus “Is my Son, my Chosen One.”
From our fallen human perspective, without the faith in God that comes from the Holy Spirit, our eyes, veiled by sin, cannot perceive the divinity of God, let alone realize that Jesus is God. Our own wickedness moves us about like an underwater current guiding us away from the intended destination. It is this sin, which we are all born with, that prevents us from seeing reality and perceiving for ourselves a fake reality. It is this veil of sin, which shields our eyes from the blazing light of Jesus, to see only a human being.
It is for this reason we state in the Small Catechism, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.” We are incapable of seeing Jesus Christ. We may see a human, in fact some even claim that Jesus of Nazareth was a myth, but because of our own sinfulness unless God aids us we cannot see the glory of Jesus Christ’s divinity.
Each and every time in the Bible whenever someone sees the truth of Christ’s Divine Kingship or proclaimed such it has always been at the behest of God: Angels speaking to Mary and Joseph; a dove descending with a voice during the Baptism of Jesus; Peter claiming that Jesus is Christ; and today during the Transfiguration. At all these occasions, God revealed the truth about his Son Jesus Christ to us. And after all this, with Jesus on the Cross who just breathed his last breathe, the sky turning dark, an earthquake shaking, the tapestry torn in two, and the saints rising from the grave as if they never died, you have that one Soldier in Mark who said, “Truly this man was the Son of God.”
We need God to reveal the divine beauty of Christ to us, for without his aid, all we see is a mere human. Now lucky us, because of the power of the Holy Spirit which provides us with the faith in the saving grace of Christ who did indeed die on the Cross to wash us of our sins, we are indeed blessed for we know that Christ has saved us. We know of Christ’s divinity. But that is simply because God revealed that to us and on no account of our own power.
Eventually Peter, John, and James, as well as the other disciples and all of mankind, would benefit of this gift if accepted, but for now they would have to wait until the appointed hour. So while they waited, God gave them a most glorious opportunity to see the fullness of Christ’s glory, a beauty that goes beyond all measures. On the mountain, in the presence of Moses and Elijah, the three disciples witnessed not a mere human, their teacher, but saw his fullness. Yes Jesus’ appearance changed, but such a change was to only emphasize the hidden qualities that us fallen humans cannot perceive, that is his divinity.
A momentary glimpse for the three disciples, but definitely a momentous and unforgettable event as proven since it is written in the Gospel. How could they have forgotten of this shocking event? The Light of Christ’s divineness was seared into their memory, burning an imprint that they will hold on to as dearly precious. It must have pained them to keep this event secret, for they remained silent about what happened on this mountain until much later. But what they witnessed was truly a gift.
And know this; this gift of Christ’s revelation is not uniquely given for these three individuals. Each and every one of you who believe in the saving grace of Christ will also benefit from this same gift. Some of you may have already, within a dream, seen the glory of God. If it happened to Paul it can happen to others after Christ. But all of you will indeed see the full glory of Christ, for with due time, all who believe will face Christ in his heavenly kingdom. There you too will see the fullness of Christ’s divineness which is abounding in steadfast love, warmth, and grace. The eternal life that awaits us is a life void of sin and because of such there is no veil of sin that blinds our eyes, thus allowing us to see the brilliance of Jesus and all his glory and might. And if we haven’t yet, there in heaven all will share in the gift that was so graciously given to Peter, John, and James in today’s Gospel.
So as a reminder, Jesus did not become more perfect; he is and has always been perfect. Jesus did not become more divine; he is and has always been wholly divine. Jesus did not become something different; He is and will always be the same. And, through the gift of God, we who cannot by our own power see Jesus as Christ and all his glory are gifted with opportunities to witness the depths of who Christ truly is.
Let us pray,
Dear Heavenly Father, throughout all of history you have opened the eyes of your servants, serving as a light to cast away the darkness that hides the Truth. Continue to open our eyes every waking hour of our lives so that we who are weary never falter in seeing your amazing grace. In your most holy name we pray: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.