• The Transfiguration

    Posted Aug 10th, 2017 By in Pastor Brian's Blog, Why We Believe What We Believe With | Comments Off on The Transfiguration

    Jesus’ transformation powerfully testifies … that it is in Jesus where heaven and earth meet.

    My wife wondered to me if the lady in front of us on our hike was a Christian. “Why do you say that?” I wondered back. “Her shirt,” my wife said, “it says metamorphosis.” An astute observation indeed. At its most baseline meaning the word just means transformation and can refer to almost anything: people, organs, plants, and butterflies. But it is also a profoundly Christian word—a word that we get in English from Greek, the Greek word which is used to describe—among other things—the transfiguration of Jesus. And after six days Jesus took with him Peter, and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured (Gr. metamorphoomai) before them (Mk. 9:2). The importance of this is attested by the fact that each of the synoptics record the mysterious and monumental event (Matt. 17; Mk. 9; Lk. 9). It is often regarded as one of the five great milestones in the life of Jesus, the others being his baptism, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. Also telling of its importance is the prominence this day has been shown in Christian liturgies—in many traditions this Sunday is given its own unique liturgy—and Christian feasting—in many traditions the Transfiguration is one of the great Christian feasts—and Christian art—the subject of many wonderful pieces.

    The metamorphosis of Jesus is rich in substance and meaning. For starters—like at Jesus’ baptism—the Trinity is on full display. Here we see Jesus, high and lifted up, and we hear God the Father again speaking— “This is my beloved Son, listen to him—and we hear of a cloud overshadowing them—a reference to the Holy Spirit. Additionally, Jesus’ transformation powerfully testifies to the disciples present and to us that it is in Jesus where heaven and earth meet. In Christ the eternal and temporal meet and in Christ we are represented before God and, through Christ, given access to God. He is our bridge.

    Additionally, the transfiguration of Jesus points us forward and shows us what we too will become. Here he shows us what human nature glorified looks like and offers to us a glimpse of what we too will one day share in. He is our older brother and he is destined to be the firstborn among many brothers (Rom. 8:29). We shall be like him (1 Jn. 3:2) John tells us.

    Over the years I’ve seen C.S. Lewis quoted a bunch from his The Weight of Glory and have myself on occasion re-quoted him—most often the one on page 2 about us being half-hearted creatures content to fool about with drink and sex and ambition while infinite joy is being offered to us, like a child content making mud pies in a slum when a vacation at the sea is offered—but it wasn’t until recently that I actually tolle lege took it up and read. Toward the end of his first address from which the book derives its name, he asks the “so what” question: what does all this musing on future glory mean? He suggests it means that we will interact with our neighbors differently and see them for what they will one day become.

    It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if
    you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.   His last two sentences are these,

    Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbor he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ here latitat—the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.

    It’s to this that the transfiguration of Jesus points. It points to the day when he would be fully gloried in himself and to the day when we will be fully glorified in him. No wonder Lewis called it the weight of glory, for it is weighty indeed.

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    Brian
    Pastor of New Life La Mesa Presbyterian Church in San Diego, CA.

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