‘They appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem” (Luke 9:31)
O wondrous type! O vision fair!
Of glory that the Church may share.
Thus we will sing in many of our churches this Sunday, as we look to the great mystery of the transfiguration of Jesus, the glorious radiance on the Holy Mountain. The light brings with it a promise; it is a symbol of the unfolding work of grace.
The story stands at the turning point of Jesus’ ministry, as he leaves the welcoming crowds of the Galilean countryside, the heady adventure of miracles and blockbuster sermons, to make the long trek to Jerusalem. He is embarking on an exodus, as the Greek of Luke’s account reminds us, a journey of redemption, the path that will lead to the final “departure” from sin and death, the path back to the light for all God’s people.
And here, in the presence of his chosen friends, the goal of the path is revealed. Moses and Elijah are there, confirming that this tragedy to come is no mistake, but a mission rooted deep in God’s ancient purposes. And the light, the same light that brightened Moses’ face and carried Elijah to the heavens now shines through the great and final Redeemer. It’s a light that the apostles will see again, shining from Easter’s tomb. It is the great sign of God’s glory, which awaits all who follow this One faithfully to that city for which “the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. ” As the Venerable Bede summarized the event, “By his loving foresight he allowed them to taste for a short time the contemplation of eternal joy, so that they might bear persecution bravely.”
For the apostles are not meant to gaze on the wondrous vision forever. No booths may be constructed on this mountain. Their work lies ahead of them, in the bearing of their own crosses, in the danger that will come for all who keep the faith and serve Christ to the end. But the goal has been revealed. There is light at the end of the lonesome valley; on another holy mountain, the glory of God will return.
Look it Up
Peter’s attempted construction project may point back to the Feast of Tabernacles, described in Leviticus 23:39ff. Why would th.is connection seem appropriate to him?
Think About It
ls the light that shines through Jesus the same as the “light that enlightens every man” described in John 1:9?