Matthew 17:1-3 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.
Epiphany is all about seeing Jesus as the Christ, that is the Savior of the World, the Messiah. People didn’t follow Jesus, just for the miracles, because if all they are, are miracles, then it was just good show, and after a while people will move on to other entertainments. Miracles are something more, the point to something beyond themselves. What do I mean? Consider a stop sign – it is more that a piece of metal, 8 sided, painted red, with the word stop upon it – rather, it points out that this is a controlled intersection, you do not have the right of way, and you are to stop until it is clear before proceeding across. All the things that Jesus did are, in a similar way, signs, they point beyond the events. They point to the true nature of Jesus, and they point to the reason why he came from heaven to earth, they point to God’s promise of salvation, and show how Jesus brings the fulfillment of that precious promise.
Throughout Epiphany we have been hearing a message, it answers the question –Who is Jesus? It all began with the wisemen, who is Jesus that they should come from afar to worship him? It continues with Baptism, who is Jesus that the heavens should open, and a voice should declare, "This is my beloved son." Who is Jesus, that John the Baptist should say of him, "Behold the Lamb of God." Who is Jesus, calling disciples to follow him, to become fishers of men. Who is Jesus who preaching good tidings of great joy.
Who is Jesus, he is the light of the world, and the light of our lives. Who is Jesus, he is the one who called us out of darkness into the new life, who opened to us the gates of heaven, who forgives our sins, who brings peace with God, who gives us our daily bread. And though there has been so much to show us who Jesus is, and what he has come to bring, we still need to see just a bit more, so that when we are faced with temptation, we might make the right choice, turning from sin. Turning from selfishness, and turning to follow our Savior on the way of life.
Is temptation a big deal? YES! For if we turn from God, and turn to sin – well, the wages of sin is death – not just an end of this life, but an end also of any hope of heaven – the wages of sin, is hell, and that is no myth – it is real and everlasting punishment. The whole point is to choose life, and life comes by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
And so that we can once more see Jesus, and who he is, we look once more, and see again, something which point beyond itself. We are taken up a mountain, and there before our eyes Jesus is transfigured. Where before we had seen a man who did great things, and there was no doubt that God was with him. Now, in this moment, we see his glory – and it is not the glory of a hero. It is not the glory of a star. What we see is so much greater than any earthly glory, that it is clear that this can be nothing other, than the glory of God. And this is a new thing. Never before has anyone seen the Glory of God in human flesh appearing.
How great is this glory, if it is greater than any glory of man. So also is it greater than the glory of any angel. How great is the glory of an angel? So great that people are filled with fear. So great that people drop everything to listen. So great that people fall down to worship at their feet. And as great as the glory of an angel might be, the glory of God in Christ is millions of times greater still.
We may encourage one another by reminding each other that we are the light of the world, and so we are in Christ. But here, in this instant, we see the fullness of the light wherewith we shine. And this is what the disciples who were with him found so overwhelming. Not surprising, Moses saw a portion of the glory of God, and he found it overwhelming. Elijah saw a portion of the Glory of God, and he found it overwhelming. And now on the mountain, Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus. We do not know how they knew that it was Moses and Elijah, but it is not surprising that it would be Moses and Elijah, for who else in all the history of man, had seen God face to face, and lived? And both Moses and Elijah pointed to one who would come after them, one who was greater, one who did not just see the glory of God, but who was the Glory of God in human flesh. And that there would be no doubt, again the heavens were opened, and again a voice came from heaven – and we still hear these words – "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased, Listen to Him!" What else can we do, where else can we find such gifts?