Sermon: The Transfiguration of Jesus

The Transfiguration of Jesus
Luke 9:28-36
RUMC 7 Feb 2015

Transformations are big business.  It seems that on cable television transformation shows, where a team of experts goes in and transforms an old house into a modern marvel of beauty, are quite popular.  The same can be said for plastic surgeons, dentists, cosmetologists, hairdressers, and fashion designers who will transform an average looking individual into movie star quality.  Even Good Housekeeping magazine has devoted January 2016 as the Makeover Issue with ways to help us look younger and do what it takes to brighten up every room in the house.

Laying that aside, in today’s scripture text, we have the amazing account of Jesus’ transfiguration.  This was not a cosmetic make over, but the real thing.  The lesson we can take with us is that as God performed this wonderful miracle for his son, Christ can do an invisible miracle for us– transform our hearts.  And this transfiguration in our souls is a sign of the good things to come in the next life.

My text is Luke 9:28-36. 

Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. 31They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32Now 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. 33Just 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. 34While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. 35Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” 36When 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.
This is the word of God.   Thanks be to God.

Jesus’ transformation or transfiguration was an incredible, religious, mystical experience for three of the Apostles; suddenly, before their very eyes, Jesus changed from a regular human being into the glorified Son of God.  They saw for the first time, beneath his ordinary humanity, the very presence, the very holiness, the very glory of God.  As eye witnesses of our Lord’s majesty, it was a revelation and mystery which could neither be neither explained nor refuted.

The word transfigure comes from the Greek metamorphis.  Meta=change.  Morphis=form.  It is a term that we use to describe the process of becoming transformed from one state to another.  For example in nature:

  • A caterpillar that spins a cocoon will become a butterfly.
  • A cow that eats grass will produce white milk.
  • Black carbon found deep in the earth’s crust, when pressed down under the weight of the rocks and heated by intense temperatures becomes a diamond.
  • Sand or some foreign substance that becomes imbedded in an oyster emerges to become a pearl.
  • A tadpole through its progression becomes a frog

These are some of the transformations of nature that we can see.  There is a transformation in the spiritual realm when God makes alive the souls of his children; then those individuals fully trust in Jesus our Savior and Lord.

Christian author and minister, Tony Campolo once shared this story about a drunk named Joe who was miraculously converted at a homeless mission.  Prior to his spiritual transformation, Joe was a hopeless alcoholic.  But God had a different plan.  During a Christian service at the mission, Joe made a profession of faith.  As a result of his decision to follow Christ, Joe was given strength from the Holy Spirit to resist alcohol.  In his discipleship he had become compassionate and was a regular volunteer at the mission.

No task was too lowly for Joe.  He cleaned up the vomit of alcoholics and scrubbed toilets.  He assisted men who were too drunk to find their bunks and always maintained a smile.  One night at another mission service, an appeal was made for others to give their hearts to Christ.  One alcoholic came forward and prayed, “O God, make me like Joe.  Please make me like Joe” and repeated this over and over.  Finally the director of the mission said “I think it would be better if you prayed, ‘Make me like Jesus’.”  But the man looked up and asked, “Is he like Joe?”

My question is this: If a person didn’t know anything about Jesus, would they want the faith that we have?

For me, my spiritual transformation really hit home when I invited Christ into my heart.  A short time later, my thoughts and attitudes began to change; God had become real in my heart.  And this has stayed with me all these years.

Antonio Stradivarius was a poor Italian violin maker who lived from 1644 to 1737.  To date there are 512 of his violins in existence and they are each worth over several million dollars.  The reason they are so valuable is because of the rich and resonating sound that they produce.  What is more surprising is that these instruments were not made from treasured pieces of wood, but from discarded lumber found in a nearby harbor.  Stradivarius took those waterlogged pieces of wood to his shop where he cleaned them up and made precious violins.

Just as that poor violin maker transformed discarded wood into treasures, God desires to transform each one of us into the treasured image of his Son.

Let me bring this to a close:  The transfiguration of Jesus is like a sneak preview of what it will be like in the future.  And it is a promise that Christ will get us through the valleys.  For those who have lost loved ones; we will see them again; for those who suffer, the pain and the problems of grief, they will go away.

The transfiguration also gives meaning to the importance to what we do as United Methodists in the special projects and the outreach that we do.  It keeps us sharp and maintains that transformative edge in our lives.