“And Peter answered and said to Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. For he wist not what to say; for they were sore afraid.” Mark 9:5-6 (Read 2-10)
What do we learn from Jesus’ transfiguration? Why do we consider it just before we enter the season of Lent and focus our attention on Jesus’ innocent sufferings and death for the sins of the world? And, why must we, like Jesus’ three disciples, go down from the mountain?
First of all, we learn that Jesus is indeed the eternal Son of God for His disciples saw His glory – a glory which was hidden from their eyes during His earthly ministry. And, God the Father spoke from the cloud of glory, saying, “This is my beloved Son: hear him.” Cf. Deuteronomy 18:15; Mark 1:11; John 12:28.
Secondly, we learn from the transfiguration the truthfulness of the Scriptures and all they teach concerning Jesus and the Christian Faith. As Peter wrote in 2 Peter 1:16-21, Biblical Christianity is not some cunningly devised fable to deceive the world. Jesus is indeed the Son of God and His doctrine is true. Peter, James and John were there on the holy mount. They saw Jesus in glory and they heard the testimony of God the Father concerning His Son.
Thirdly, we learn from Jesus’ glory, when compared to the fading glory which shone on Moses’ face in Exodus 34:29ff., as well as the fact that Moses and Elijah spoke to Jesus “of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem” (Luke 9:30-31), that the purpose of the Old Covenant was to point people to the New Covenant which Jesus would put in place by the shedding of His blood upon the cross.
Fourthly, we learn that, as Moses’ face reflected the glory of the LORD after he communed with the LORD in the tabernacle of meeting, so we, when we commune with our Lord Jesus through Word and Sacrament, reflect more and more the glory of our Savior. Cf. 2 Corinthians 3:18.
Fifthly, we learn that Moses and Elijah also appeared with Jesus in glory. They were glorified and so also will we who believe be glorified with our Lord Jesus when He returns for us in clouds of glory. Cf. Revelation 7:9-17; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:35ff.; 1 John 3:2.
And finally, we learn that, though it is wonderful to be on the mount and see the Lord’s glory, we have to come down into the valley of this world. As Jesus descended from the mountain to bear the sins of the world and to suffer and die upon the cross, so also we are called to take up our crosses and follow Jesus (cf. Mark 8:34). As long as we live in this world, we have work to do here in the valley. We are called upon to “go … into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). We are to preach “repentance and remission of sins” in Jesus’ name to all nations (Luke 24:46-47) that others, too, might see Jesus for who He is and place their faith in Him. We are to proclaim the glorious Gospel of Christ Jesus that others, too, might partake of His glory.
Yes, “it is good for us to be here” and we need to be here that we might be assured of who Jesus is and what He has done for us, but we also have work to do down in this world that others might learn of Jesus and partake of the glory which awaits all who trust in Him!
O glorious Jesus, Son of God and our Savior, You have shown us Your glory that we might know You and have a glimpse of the glory to come, but You humbled Yourself and went to the cross that we might have pardon and forgiveness and be raised up in glory on the Last Day. Grant that we hear Your Word, trust in You and proclaim Your glorious Gospel to the world. Amen.
Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.