Bread – Transfiguration

November 16, 2009


Readings for Monday, November 16 as
    designated by the Book of Common Prayer:
    Rev. 20:7-15; Matt. 17:1-13
    Psalms 89
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In the gospel lesson from Matthew today, in a few words we are provided a glimpse into the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ.  Matt. 17:1-5.  In these few words, Jesus’ appearance is changed from His identity as a simply dressed and unadorned man to His identity as Son of the Father, as God, as one dressed in glory – "This is my Son, whom I love…"  Matt. 17:5.

Not only was Jesus transfigured, but the disciples were transformed.  For those whom Jesus chose, they witnessed a transformation in their thinking.  They saw Jesus communing with Moses (the Law) and Elijah (the Prophets).  They had been thinking that Jesus was a great prophet, perhaps even Elijah (see disciple’s questions about Elijah in verse 10).  However, confronted by Jesus in His glory and hearing from God the Father Himself who identified Jesus as His Son, the disciples’ thinking about Jesus was instantly transformed into knowledge about who He is.  This new knowledge, this new insight, is expressed by the disciples’ immediate reaction to being in the presence of God, falling facedown on the ground, the immediate reaction of anyone who has come into God’s presence.  Matt. 17:6.

Now, this is the uplifting part, the lovely part.

But we are also presented another transfiguration today, where Jesus’ appearance changes into the Judge.  In Revelation, we read:  "Then I say a great white throne and Him who was seated on it…The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books…If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire."  Rev. 20:11-15  This "book of life" is different from the "books [of deeds]," in that the only people listed in the book of life are those who have believed in Jesus Christ ("All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast — all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.")  Rev. 13:8.

Not so uplifting, not so lovely.

There might be some who object to my apparent sloppiness in the use of "transfigure" and "transform." After all, transfiguration is a change of appearance without necessarily a change of substance (Jesus was and is God whether He "appears" to be or not.  It is just easier to recognize Him in certain ways than others.)  Transformation, on the other hand, is a change of substance, which may or may not be accompanied by a change of appearance.  And yet, when we are transformed into a new man by rebirth through belief in Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit, we are often transfigured into a different appearance, one which exudes confidence, courage, grace, and love.  And often when we are confronted with one who has been transfigured (changed appearance), we ourselves are transformed, recognizing that there is something different about the transfigured person which we want and need.  When Jesus is transfigured before us from a good teacher or prophet into God, we are transformed.

It took Jesus being transfigured for the disciples to fall to their faces in worship of God.  Not only did the disciples get to walk with Jesus and visit and talk with Him, but they also got a good whack from the transfiguration two-by-four in order to wake them up to who Jesus really was.

What is it going to take for us to recognize who Jesus really is, so that we readily fall on our faces in worship of Him?  Is it going to take walking with Him and talking with Him?  Is it going to take standing with Him on a high mountain?  Is it going to take Jesus appearing as the Son of God, resplendent in glory?  Or is it going to take Him appearing as Judge, reading from the books [of deeds]?

Let us pray that it is not that last event, because by the time He appears as Judge and starts reading, it will be too late.  Instead, pray that you will recognize Jesus now for who He is, that you will respond by taking the gift of grace and salvation He offers, and that, as a result, your name will be read by Him as Judge in His Book of Life.

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