A Sneak Peek of Jesus' Glory
March 19, 2023 Speaker: Jonathan McLeod Series: The Christ
Topic: Jesus Scripture: Luke 9:28–36
The Point of the Transfiguration
The event we read about in Luke 9:28-36 is known as the transfiguration of Jesus. The Gospels of Matthew and Mark also include this event, and—unlike Luke—they both use the word “transfigured” (Matt. 17:2; Mark 9:2). According to dictionary.com, “transfigure” means “to change in outward form or appearance.” Luke writes that “the appearance of [Jesus’] face was altered” (v. 29).
What was the point of the transfiguration?
Verse 28 begins with the words, “Now about eight days after these sayings ….” What sayings? In verse 20, Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” And Peter answers, “The Christ of God” (v. 20b). Then Jesus tells them, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (v. 22). The transfiguration acted sort of like a teaser trailer (i.e., a 30-second sneak peak of an upcoming movie). The transfiguration gave Peter, James, and John (and us, the readers) a sneak peak of what would happen beyond the suffering and death of Jesus.
Eight days after this conversation with his disciples, Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up a mountain. The purpose for going up the mountain is for Jesus “to pray” (v. 28).
As Jesus is praying, the appearance of his face is “altered”—transfigured—and his clothing becomes “dazzling white” (v. 29). The NIV says his clothing becomes “as bright as a flash of lightning.”
We’re also told that two men are talking with Jesus. Who are these two men? Moses and Elijah (v. 30). And what are they talking to Jesus about? “His departure” (v. 31a). Jesus’ departure is to be accomplished where? “At Jerusalem” (v. 31b). Remember that Jesus said that he “must go to Jerusalem” (Matt. 16:21). This is God’s plan.
The departure of Jesus refers to more than his death. It also includes his resurrection and ascension, which also take place “at Jerusalem.”
As all this has been happening, Peter, James, and John have been sleeping (v. 32a). Imagine their surprise when they wake up! They see “the glory” of Jesus and the two men—Moses and Elijah—who are there with him (v. 32b).
As Moses and Elijah are leaving, Peter says to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents [i.e., shelters], one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah” (v. 33a). Luke adds, “not knowing what he said” (v. 33b). Apparently, Peter’s idea isn’t a good one. Why not? Is it because Peter wants to prolong their stay, delaying Jesus’ departure. Is it because Peter is giving equal status to all three: Moses, Elijah, and Jesus?
As Peter is speaking, a cloud—picturing God’s presence—comes and overshadows them. As you can expect, the disciples are afraid (v. 34). Think about what the OT says about being in the presence of a holy God!
Then a voice comes from the cloud—the voice of God the Father. He announces, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” (v. 35).
What’s the significance of Moses and Elijah? Just two random guys from the OT? One popular view is that they represent the Law and the Prophets (i.e., the two divisions of the OT). The Father puts the words of Jesus on the same level as the words of the OT when he says, “Listen to him!”
After they hear the voice, everything returns to normal (v. 36a). The cloud is gone. Mose and Elijah are nowhere to be seen. And Jesus’ appearance is no longer transfigured.
Luke writes that Peter, James, and John “kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen” (v. 36b).
A Message of Hope
I said before that we could think of the transfiguration as a sneak peek. The transfiguration was a sneak peek of Jesus’ future glory.
The transfiguration gives a message of hope. Remember that the transfiguration took place eight days after Jesus had talked about suffering and dying in Jerusalem. Going to Jerusalem will result in suffering and death, but it will also lead to resurrection and ascension. The journey through suffering and death leads to glory.
We can always look beyond the present troubles to future glory.
Future Glory Won’t Disappoint
I asked ChatGPT to give me some examples of times when people got a sneak peek of something highly anticipated. What I noticed is that a lot of the examples were of movies people had been very excited about (e.g., The Rise of Skywalker) but didn’t live up to expectations.
[Read Heb. 12:1-3.] Jesus was willing to endure the cross because of “the joy that was set before him.” That joy included the glory of being “seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” I also think the joy he was looking forward to included sharing that glory with us.
The glory that awaits us won’t disappoint. So don’t “grow weary or fainthearted.” Don’t give up. Keep on going. Don’t abandon Jesus. Don’t stop following him.
The sneak peek of the transfiguration was meant to encourage us. Yes, on our journey there might be disappointment. There might be trouble. There might be danger. But the end is glorious.
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