For the time that is ours to share today, we will notice from Luke 9:28-36 that everything changes with God.
I was in sixth grade sitting in a circle of chairs with many other middle and high school students for our Wednesday night youth Bible Study. My youth pastor said, “Today, we are going to discuss the transfiguration of Jesus.” We all looked at each other with uncertainty, confusion, and some skepticism.
I remember asking two questions saying, what exactly does this word mean? Someone else in the room asked, how could this happen?
The word transfiguration actually means a complete change in form or appearance into a more beautiful or spiritual state. We often think of Jesus who transforms us, not Jesus who also is transformed. However, in Luke 9:28-36, we notice that everyone in this narrative receives a transformation!
Luke, the physician, offers an account of the actions of Jesus from 7 BC to 26 AD for 24 chapters in the synoptic Gospel according to Luke. Today we rest and await the transformation on a very high mountain with Jesus, Peter, James, John, even Moses and Elijah. And we will notice that change indeed can occur in each and every one of our lives.
The exciting mention of the transfiguration of Jesus is not only mentioned here in Luke 9, but we also see it in Mark 9 and even in Matthew 17. In this exciting narrative repeated three times in the Bible, we are called to notice that everything changes with God. So, after foretelling his death and resurrection, Jesus begins in verse 28 sharing,
28 Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30 Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. 31 They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.
Friends, notice with me, in verses 28-31, the immediate changes that impact the future. As we reflect on change, many of us have a love-hate relationship with change. This is due to the presence of what is lost while also embracing what is gained. In Luke 9, specifically in verses 28-31, Peter, John, James, and Jesus immediately experience a shift in their normality. After predicting his own death Jesus with three of his disciples, they go up to a very high mountain to pray.
But while he is praying, immediate changes occur. His face changes, and a wardrobe change occurs. His clothing has become as bright as a flash of lightning. The norm they were used to immediately shifts, and they witness Moses and Elijah having a table talk with Jesus.
Moses and Elijah are important ancestors who have transitioned, and now they are speaking, I mean having a conversation on a mountain with Jesus. The shift is immediate, and they don’t have time to get ready or even adjust. It just happens! And these changes will impact the future of the entire world.
Friends, we too can experience sudden changes in our lives, and we do not always have the luxury to prepare for what takes place. Think about it. People can transition suddenly. People get promoted suddenly. You can be in a car wreck suddenly. Some people even win the lotto suddenly, and even experience unexpected blessings that come from God suddenly.
The more we live, the more we have the chance to see good and bad changes occur in our lives. The change presented in these verses provides immediate shock but leads to the desired future of Jesus, showing the world the love of God. This immediate change will impact the future so much so that it will lead humanity into a relationship with God.
Friends, I hate to upset your equilibrium, but allow me to say that change and comfort aren’t usually friends at first! Peter, James, John, and Jesus are experiencing change without the comfort. Jesus is changed while praying, and Peter, James, and John are having their norms destroyed when all they bargained for was a little prayer time with Jesus.
Is this change uncomfortable? Yes, but the greatest blessings of change are not experienced initially but over time. Praying Jesus now has dazzling white clothes, and his face is greatly changed. The transfiguration of Jesus is immediate, but the beauty it will bring in the future is worth the initial discomfort, as we will see.
Friends, we’ve seen the change that will impact the world, but notice with me also as the narrative continues how in verses 32-33 we notice an unhelpful response to change. The narrative continues beginning at verse 32, saying these words,
32 Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33 Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said.
As we encounter changes and transitions in our lives, we often attempt to fix our discomfort. We try to fix our pain and fill our voids ultimately to make us feel better. But we need to understand that with change, there will be some discomfort, but we must learn to trust the divine amidst the pain.
In Luke 9:32-33, Peter, James, and John are sleepy. They are so weighed down by sleep that it’s as if they’ve taken NyQuil on an empty stomach. But they push through their desire for rest and notice Jesus standing with two faithful men known from the Old Testament, Moses and Elijah.
If you’re like me, you bring your questions to the text and begin saying, how can ancient truth-tellers stand presently with Jesus? Well, Moses and Elijah being present with Jesus is intentional because they represent the law and the words from the prophets that point directly to Jesus. These two Old Testament truth-tellers standing with Jesus at this time represent how Jesus is the fulfillment of both the law and the words said by the prophets.
Notice how God through Christ has all these intentional footprints of fulfillment set up, and suddenly over-zealous Peter offers a well-intended response saying, Hey Jesus, it is so awesome that you were up here on this mountain with Moses and Elijah. Okay, how about we make tents for you Moses and Elijah and you to live in?
However, the crafting of tents to dwell in was not needed, primarily due to the whole reason that Jesus is on earth is to die for the sins of humanity and to show us God’s love. Therefore, the tent was not required, but trusting in God is always welcome. Trust, not a tent, would have been the helpful response.
Friends, Jesus isn’t interested in us attempting to fix our own problem. Instead, Jesus desires that we trust God, that we trust God’s word, and that we trust in God’s provision to change every single thing for the better. No, this doesn’t mean that God desires for us to divorce any responsibility in the matter or in our lives. However, it means that our faith in God through Jesus can fix more than our hands, more than our intellect, even more than our network.
You know, as I continue living, I’ve learned that ambition is fantastic, but there is a way that ambition can become unhealthy. Unhealthy ambition is where one desires to achieve something so badly that you will function outside of God’s will to achieve it. Having ambition is good, but everything that we do, everything that we say and all that we are must be viewed through the lens of God’s will. For this to happen, we have to reach the end of ourselves, to hear and to gain approval from God.
You know, as I continue to read this narrative, I like to ask the question, what would have happened if Peter asked a question to Jesus instead of offering a statement? What would have happened if Peter calmed down a little bit and thought back to Luke 9:21, when Jesus spoke all about his death?
Friends, we can learn from our overzealous brother Peter right here, if we learn not to believe that we have all the answers, not to believe that we know exactly what is best, and instead rest and ask and follow God’s instructions. May we come to the end of ourselves to look to God for instruction so that God may change our lives for the better.
Within this narrative of Luke 9:28-33 we’ve seen what change looks like and we’ve even examined how Peter offered an unhealthy response. But suddenly, the narrative shifts and in verses 34-36 we gain instructions on how to deal with change. Beginning at verse 34 the narrative says,
34 While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud.
35 Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” 36 When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.
Consistently throughout our lives, change occurs. People live, and people transition. We are all getting older, whether we would like to admit it or not. Seasons change, and as the hymn writer would suggest, “Time is filled with swift transitions.” [https://library.timelesstruths.org/music/HoldtoGodsUnchangingHand/ accessed November 30, 2021.]
Therefore, we need to understand precisely how to cope with our ever-changing environment. Within the verses of Luke 9:34-36, notice Peter’s unhelpful response to build three tents for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, not knowing that soon they all would reside in a building not made by human hands. Suddenly, God changes Peter’s desire to cope with change his own way and James and John’s having no clue as to how to deal with dazzling white clothes on Jesus and the sighting of two brothers who transitioned many years ago. Friends, understand this is so much to conceptualize and is even more to process, and they can’t do it alone.
But God, filled with empathy and compassion, interrupts the unhelpful responses to change and says, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” This interaction between Peter, James, John, Jesus, and now God, shows us that dealing with change properly cannot be handled apart from listening to the instruction and wisdom that comes from God.
Friends, Jesus is the power and the wisdom of God. This is why, in 1 Corinthians 1:25, Paul says, “For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.”
You may ask, “Okay. What does that mean?” It means that our best cannot beat God. All the wisdom in the world cannot outmatch God’s wisdom. To handle the constant change in our lives, we must constantly and consistently flood our minds and lives with the wisdom and instruction that comes from God.
Although God gave Peter, James, and John the way to deal with this sudden change at the time of the transfiguration, it could not be fully conceptualized until the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.
This was more than dazzling clothes and a quick sighting of some ancient heroes of the faith, but we see through the transfiguration that God changes everything. He changes everything by his presence. Everything by his voice. Everything by simply God being God!
You know, I’ve always been intrigued by the operation of an oven. That’s why my mom would often have to say, “Josh, keep your hands off of the oven.” But an oven, it can be heated and adjusted to various temperatures so that what is placed inside of an oven can either be burnt to a crisp, or the oven can cook our favorite dishes in such a way that they taste just right. But when the oven is in operation, whatever goes inside changes over time.
Friends, allow me to share with you that God is always active and in operation, and whoever and whatever spends time near God will eventually be changed over time.
God changes more than clothes into a dazzling white wardrobe but
God also changes hearts.
God changes minds.
God changes lives.
God changes relationships.
Our God changes circumstances.
God changes problems into blessings.
God changes pain into purpose.
Our mighty God changes unbelief into belief
And failures into steppingstones that lead to success.
The transfiguration of Jesus presents an immediate change but also a challenge. And the challenge is for us to rely on God above what we know, above what we’ve learned, or even above what we think is best.
The instructions of God work best when followed. My prayer is that we would have ears to listen, feet to follow, and hearts that believe that God indeed can change everything! Amen.