Some years ago, I stood beside a creek, where a little five-year-old friend was playing. Noticing a bunch of tadpoles, I scooped one up in my hand and showed it to him. “See this tadpole–it will turn into a frog.” He looked up at me with a wrinkled brow, shook his finger at me and repeated forcefully, “No, it won’t!” When I thought about what I’d described, it was pretty hard to believe! The process is called “metamorphosis” in biology, the changing of one natural form into another. It is the same Greek word used in the Gospels to describe the transfiguration. When it comes to understanding this, we are all spiritual five-year-olds.
Jesus had been in the area of Caesarea Philippi. After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.
Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters-one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”
It is very difficult for us to understand God. But Jesus is God – somehow in our minds we like to separate the Son and the Father and make them two different persons. But Jesus is God!
There are several points that take place we do not want to miss. In the transformation, Jesus’ clothes get dazzling white. It shows the purity of God.
God is without sin. In Revelation, God is portrayed on the throne in dressed in white for power and justice. Then a cloud appears that covers Jesus and the two prophets. The cloud has always represented the presence of God. When Israel was wandering in the wilderness a cloud journeyed with them everywhere they went. The cloud shielded them from the heat during the day. It became a pillar of fire to warm them at night. When Solomon dedicates the Temple in Jerusalem, the glory of the Lord fills the temple with the presence of the cloud. Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus. Two men who have unusual deaths. Moses who dies alone on top of a mountain overlooking the promised land. God buries Moses’ and then sends an angel to get his body. Elijah who does not die at all but is taken up in a chariot to Heaven. Elijah never tasted death.
An eleven year old young man named Landon stood in front of his mom one day and said, “I wish I could write a letter to Luke.” His mother could see the tears her son was holding back. Nine months earlier, Landon’s friend Luke had died suddenly of a brain hemorrhage. Landon’s grief was deep, unreachable. His mother longed to ease his pain, though she could do nothing except hold him when he wept. She thought, maybe writing a letter was a good idea. She handed Landon paper and colored pencils. “Tell Luke how much you miss him and how much you love him. Tell him you haven’t forgotten him.”
Landon wrote the letter. A long one. The completed paper was a work of art. He wrote each line in a different color and carefully drew an elaborate border around the edge. It was a love letter …a message from earth to heaven. Landon folded the paper carefully, and together they asked God to give Luke its message. But somehow, that wasn’t enough. “What I really want to do is tie my letter to a balloon,” said Landon. “I know it can’t really get to heaven, but…” He left the sentence unfinished.
His mother drove him to the store. There, Landon chose a neon pink helium balloon to carry his letter. Then they drove up a steep butte at the edge of town. It was peaceful on top, offering an endless view of high desert and mountains. A gentle breeze was blowing, and when Landon released the balloon, it instantly danced away from his fingers. They watched it silently.
Up, up, up. It climbed quickly as if it knew the importance of the mission.
“I wish something would happen so I could know God got the letter,” Landon said. His mother wished something would happen, too, but her practical side spoke, assuring Landon God would give Luke the message regardless of what happened to the balloon. “I know, but I still wish I could see something…” Landon said.
The sky was covered with thick, heavy clouds, and the balloon grew smaller and smaller as they watched. Then suddenly, just as the balloon was leaving their vision, an opening appeared in the clouds. The balloon sailed through.
They stood there speechless. “Did you see that, Mom?” Landon whispered reverently. “God got my balloon.” And as they drove back down the butte, his mother knew the message had been delivered.
It is hard to imagine what Jesus looked like when He was transfigured, or changed in form. A display of God’s glory in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. Sometimes our faith needs the “shot-in-the-arm.” A transfiguration can bring the needed courage that our faith calls for.
The Transfiguration concludes with God’s voice speaking from the cloud which marked God’s presence. The same words where spoken at Christ’s baptism and a continuing reminder of God’s presence with them. For there is coming a time when in the clouds we will see the Master!