- Exodus 24:12-18
- Matthew 17:1–9
By Rev Heeyoung Lim
In Exodus 24:12, the Lord said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone with the law and commandments I have written for their instruction.” Moses obeyed God’s command to climb the mountain, where he would receive further directions from God. In verses 15 to 16, when Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai. The cloud covered the mountain for six days, and Moses was invited to enter the cloud on the seventh day. Moses entered the cloud and stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights.
God’s glory meets Moses in shadow and light. The mountain was filled with the glory of the Lord for six days, and God began to speak to Moses on the seventh day. After 40 days, when he came down with the stone tablets of God’s covenant, his face shone with brilliance. It was because Moses spoke with God. Moses needed obedience and a waiting time to receive the word of God. The covenant between God and man is based on trust and spiritual fellowship, and His words invite us to Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. In Christ, may we reform our spiritual life through mountaintop experiences with Jesus.
Matthew 17 is Jesus’ second formal presentation about his coming suffering, death, and resurrection. On Transfiguration Sunday, we celebrate the true glory of Jesus, and we look back how memory and reflection on them change us. The light of Epiphany culminates in the dazzling vision of Jesus on a mountaintop. In Jesus’ transfiguration moment, heaven and Earth, history and future, all come together with Jesus’ face like the sun, his clothes like the light, a bright cloud, prophets, and a voice from above. The nature of Jesus as God’s son is revealed through God’s voice and mountaintop experience.
In today’s text, the mountaintop is a place of sacred mystery of holy presence, a place of community across time when God’s people’s past and present meet, and a place of silence and witness for listening to Jesus. God says of Jesus, “Listen to him.” We live in a misty time where lies often cover the truth, and noise interrupts the voice of the Lord, and the world is full of confusion. How do we “listen to Him”? Do we invite others to do the same? What do we hear in these foggy times?
Peter, James, and John accompany Jesus up the mountain after hearing the news of Jerusalem and Jesus’ imminent death. They begin to look for alternatives, desperate for a second opportunity, a way to stop time. They want to build a safe place away from the coming reality, to be content in the moment, saving Jesus and themselves from the suffering to come. However, it was not the will of Jesus.
This moment of transfiguration affirms Jesus’ divinity. On the other hand, it begins to give the disciples eyes to see God’s light in the chaos to come with the name of death, loss, fear, resurrection, and the work of the early church. The challenge to the disciples is to live in a world without Jesus’ bodily presence.
We glimpse that moment in our lives and understand that where there is suffering, there is Holy Ground in Christ. We experience God’s presence in suffering and sacrifice and promise and potential of our lives. The transfiguration invites us to live in the light of the glory of Jesus Christ. As the light shines in our hearts, the incarnate God is made real in our daily lives.
The disciples saw His glory, and Jesus said he would return in glory. Later he would enter his glory after his suffering on the cross. This is glory that belongs to the heavenly reign. What do we see in the world? The Transfiguration gives the disciples a glimpse of Jesus’ future glory and the faith to follow Jesus to the cross. With the disciples, we are witnesses to Jesus’ light. We’ve journeyed with Jesus as he lived the light of God’s love among us. We are called to carry that light to others.
Jesus can be described as a place maker and place changer in terms of the light, change, and transfiguration. By Christ, the mountaintop became the place of true glory. Everyone needs rooms and spaces to be loved and healed and rested. Jesus was sent into the world to love and save people, to make disciples and challenge injustice, and to give healing and hospitality and light. Jesus calls us to be disciples and stewards of our places that we might follow in his steps. May we see our churches and communities be re-engaged in places where God leads us, connected with others in the love of God, and provide real hope in the glory of Christ.
God prepares people in the transcendent encounters of our lives to endure the world. The world can sometimes break us but is never beyond God’s redemption. These sacred encounters may happen on mountaintops with the light for some, however, for most, they happen in any place where we make a space for Jesus or the Holy Spirit to be present. May we discover Jesus and listen to Jesus’ words in our lives and ministries.
Jesus’ divine sonship is recognized by his disciples and confessed. In Matthew’s Gospel, the meaning of sonship and cross are emphasized, and the transfiguration confirms Jesus’ identity as the glorious Son of God. For the disciples who are present and Jesus’ followers, the moment is a sign of new life that awaits Jesus beyond the cross.
The disciples’ vision on the mountain is a confirmation of Jesus’ identity and a preview of the glorious form of life that they will experience in the kingdom of heaven. Peter offers to build shelters, the voice, however, drives the disciples prostrate to the ground. Jesus’ teachings had also been filled with warnings of suffering and death, so there is little wonder they are overwhelmed with fear (v.7). Jesus comes to his fearful followers and commands them to rise and not be afraid. The disciples now see only Jesus who alone is with them (v.8).
May we look to the Lord, see the world through the Lord’s view, and believe in and follow Him rather than walking the path of faith in our own way. Among the many voices of the world, may we listen to Jesus’ words and live out the gospel. Let us listen to the voice of the Lord and look where the Lord directs us. May we turn away from the false glory the world is trying to see and behold the glory of Christ who was forsaken, rejected, and killed on the cross. As we enter the Season of Lent, what echo of God’s glory do you carry with you? May we thank Jesus who loves and saves us and focus more on the Lord in the season of Lent.
No matter what, we cannot separate from the light that God will shed on our path because God finds us wherever we are. God will find us when our hearts are broken and when we discover joy. He encounters us in places where we seek Him and in places even where we flee from Him. May we prepare to journey with Jesus during Lent. He says to us, “get up and do not be afraid”. The message of transfiguration is a sign of hope for Jesus’ followers of a glorious risen life without fear with Jesus. May we maintain a clear vision of the glory and power of God and remain faithful even through hardship.
Thanks be to God! Amen.
(Ref. Bible, commentaries, theological books, UCA materials)