Today we celebrate the feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This feast of transfiguration is something that is shrouded in mystery for many of us. It is an event in the gospels that almost defies our understanding. But this event in the life of Our Lord has some things to say to us.
We see that the Lord took Peter, James and John with Him to a high mountain. These three men were part of His inner circle. He often took them to places to pray and to teach them and allow them to see things that were not revealed to His other disciples or followers just yet. As they traveled together up the high mountain we are told that something almost magical happened. “He was transfigured before them, and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became white as light.” We can only imagine what beauty these disciples would’ve witnessed. It was as if the Lord was glowing from within! We know that Jesus is referred to as the light of the world and it seems that at this moment the light could barely be hidden at all.
The event gets even better. While this transfiguration has occurred two visitors come to Jesus. One of these visitors is Elijah the prophet and the other is Moses the law giver. One represents the law and the other represent the prophets. As you know the Old Testament is often broken into three parts (the law, the prophets and the wisdom literature). Now we know that Elijah never died as we read in 2 Kings 2. But we know that Moses did die! He died and was not allowed to enter into the land promised to the Israelites.
Now that brings us to an important matter of Orthodox Christian doctrine. The intercession of the saints. It is clear that while Moses died he was now appearing directly to the Lord and speaking with Him. Many Protestant groups will tell you that the idea of saints as intercessors is ridiculous or that it is equal to speaking to the dead. Well we have to be consistent. Either the Lord spoke to the dead or He spoke to a saint who was quite alive. Let’s hear what the New Testament teaches about this; “For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living” Romans 14 and “And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” John 11.
So we see in these verses that the truth is not so cut and dry as some would have you believe. The Lord Jesus spoke to Moses who had died thousands of years earlier and yet we celebrate that moment in the life of the Lord because we understand that Jesus Christ is the Lord and the king of all the living and the dead and because we know that God is not the God of the dead but of the living! So when your protestant friends who mean well tell you that speaking to saints and asking them to pray for you is wrong…you can remind them that Jesus spoke to Moses and it is recorded in the gospels.
What is more important in this story is what it tells us about Jesus Christ. He reminded His disciples that while He was with them healing the sick, feeding the poor, teaching and preaching in every place, He was not a mere human. Shortly before His betrayal the Lord gives the disciples this mere glimpse into the glory, the power and the holiness that are the Lord’s. It is a reminder that at times the disciples were rather casual in their understanding of Jesus. We sometimes think about and talk about Jesus Christ rather casually. It’s as if we forget who we are actually dealing with.
One Sunday as we finished the liturgy after everyone received their blessed bread and went to coffee hour a new visitor came up and after exchanging pleasantries he asked “Is all this necessary?” By “all this” he meant the vestments we wear, the liturgy we sing, the gold-plated vessels that we use, so on and so forth. I tried to explain to him that we do these things because we are not at liberty to change what has been faithfully handed down to us. But in retrospect I think I would’ve answered him differently. I would’ve said “we come here to worship the God who made heaven and earth and everything within, who became a man and suffered shame and death for our salvation and you wonder if all this is necessary? The truth is that much more is necessary, and fitting for a king but this is the very least we can do to begin to approach the majesty and holiness that belong to the King of kings and the Lord of lords who loves us and visits us every Sunday.” To me, this man had approached God in a very casual way.
I say this to bring us back to the point, prhaps the disciples had become casual in their understanding of Jesus Christ and the transfiguration was a strong reminder that He was holy and that He was God even before the crucifixion and before the resurrection. It was the Lord Jesus who made those events special, and not the other way around.
Finally, we are also reminded that what the Lord has; His holiness, His light, His divinity, He doesn’t keep to Himself. Because they belong to Him, He can share them with us by His grace. No one can ever give you something they don’t have…(that is why all religions are not equal). Christ is the source and the giver of light. May the Lord Jesus give us the light of the transfiguration and make each of us children of the light. AMEN.
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