What does life look like beyond the grave? Jesus gave us a brief glimpse in the Transfiguration on the Mount.
To encourage us to look beyond this life.
We will look at the transfiguration and its application in transforming our lives today.
A pastor’s disciples
Jesus had thousands of listeners, over a hundred disciples, the twelve and inside the twelve, three were chosen for special training. The three were Peter, James and John (Matthew 17:1). Is this time with three key leaders a model of how pastors ought to operate? Is a pastor’s job to spend equal time with everybody or special time with key leaders? Is the whole church the pastor’s flock or a special group of disciples? Is it then up to that special group to provide for the rest of the flock? Why were the three chosen? Were they the right choice? They were as awkward as any group of ordinary people. Jesus’ little church contained twelve men and several women. It was as small as many country churches today, yet even there, he spend extra time with an inner core.
The word translated as “transfigured” (μετεμορφώθη, metemorphōthē) in Matthew 17:2 is also used in the letter to the Romans about us being “transformed” by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). It is the root of the word metamorphosis and means to change form in keeping with inner reality. We also are being “transformed” into the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18). So the transformation that took place on the mountain top is also occurring in each one of us gradually. As Peter, James and John saw the transfiguration a transformation was occurring in their lives. As Moses’ face shone like the sun after being close to God, so too did Jesus’ and so too will ours. A life that is close to God is a shining light in a dark world and will soon shine forever.
Preview of the end of our story
Some of us don’t like movies like Titanic or Romeo and Juliet. We already know the end is bad and prefer a happy ending. How many of us are similarly tempted to inquire whether a book ends well or in tragedy? Somebody once said the same thing about the Bible. They had read the end of the book and it was good. In Matthew 17:2-3 Jesus showed a few of his disciples a preview of the end of the book. He revealed the happy ending for two of history’s greatest prophets, Moses and Elijah. We may wonder about things like heaven and the afterlife. This life is not forever. Anti-aging creams only disguise the inevitable for a short while. Nothing can really return us to our youth except the resurrection. The happy ending is that glory awaits the faithful.
Jesus speaking with "dead" people
In Matthew 17:3 is a vision of Jesus speaking with Moses and Elijah. The week before this, Jesus had predicted that some of his disciples would not die before having see him coming in his heavenly glory. Jesus was clearly superior to both Moses and Elijah. Both Moses and Elijah prophesied the coming of the Messiah, yet they disappeared and only Jesus was left "to carry out the final act of deliverance". The three disciples heard God's own voice telling them to listen to Jesus. The disciples had seen Jesus in his true glory, shining like the sun, a vision that would remind them of glory beyond suffering. Previously the disciples had been shocked and disappointed to find out that their Messiah must suffer and die. Just like the disciples, we too can so easily overlook Jesus' present majesty.
Moses, Elijah & Jesus
In the transfiguration on the mount (Matthew 17:5), we read of Jesus being paid a visit by Moses and Elijah. Moses represents the law and Elijah represents the prophets, the two major divisions of the Old Testament. We are not told the content of their conversation. Perhaps part of it included their names, because the disciples knew who they were. The grouping connects the three, but only Jesus remains indicating his superiority. The words of God confirm this. In a red letter Bible, we should also pick a color for the words of God. The present imperative active voice of the original Greek is: y’all keep on listening to Jesus. Bible reading is important but faith comes by hearing (Romans 10:17) and hearing what Jesus taught comes by being at a church where Jesus is preached each week.
Let us look beyond the decaying body of our earthly existence to the joy of our metamorphosis into joyful, bright children of God for eternity.