Transfiguration (Mt 17, 1–9)

Photo by Captureson Photography on Unsplash

Bethlehem Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO
Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO

Jesus’ appearance was changed in front of them, and His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became white like light.


Transfiguration Sunday—now we get to proper glory of Jesus. The glory we expect. Maybe it seems like I was mistaken last week, talking about how that sort of thing isn’t Jesus’ glory. But is Transfiguration Jesus’ true glory? Probably best to look at the text, to the words of Jesus Himself.

“Don’t tell anyone the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.” If this revealing of who Jesus really is—the creator of the Universe—is what Jesus was all about, then why hide it? Why command His disciples to be quiet about it? Because it is exactly like I said last week!

“While Jesus can do every sort of healing, feeding, and raising of the dead we can come up with, that’s not His glory. His Glory isn’t even His Transfiguration…” If it were, Jesus would have made that known. Last week, though, His changing water into wine was only known by His mom, His disciples, and the servant. So also this week, Transfiguration was only witnessed by Peter, James, and John.

They were commanded not to tell anyone what they had seen until Jesus came back to life on the third day. Why? Because resurrection is what Transfiguration is really all about! Jesus wants to be known for coming back to life on the third day. And that’s why He commands them the way He does: “Don’t tell anyone what you saw.” But yet…they still saw it!

2. The Apostles saw Jesus.

Peter, James, and John were Apostles. Apostle means “sent one.” But the Lord Jesus still sends out His preachers, His chosen men, today, and so what gets Peter, James, and John that title is that they saw Jesus raised from the death, along with Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, Judas not Iscariot, Matthias, who replaced Judas Iscariot, and also Paul.

They all saw Jesus after He came back to life but what other things did they see? They saw Jesus change water into wine. They saw Him heal the sick, raise the dead. They saw Him walk on water. They saw Him calm storms. Peter and John saw the trial. John saw the glory of Jesus’ cross, the salvation of all people everywhere. John also saw Him die. Saw the tomb. And again, they all saw Him after He came back to life.

And that’s what the Transfiguration is previewing for Peter, James, and John, that Jesus would rise from the dead and ascend to the right hand of God the Father Almighty. John saw that Jesus in Revelation 1! But in Matthew 16 Jesus told His disciples that He would die and rise. Matthew 17 He tells them not to tell anyone till after Easter, and then later in 17 says again that He will die and rise. The rest of Matthew is Jesus journey from the Mountain of Transfiguration to Calvary.

But this gets us to the other thing that sets the Apostles apart. They heard Jesus. “Listen to Him,” the Father says. So, they did. Listened only to Jesus. He alone they saw. He alone they heard. After the resurrection they did recount all that they had seen and heard, but more on that in just a bit. They heard Jesus teach about His salvation. They were ear-witnesses of Jesus. They also saw Jesus accomplish His salvation. They were then eyewitnesses of Jesus.

Jesus kept His promises. He died and rose. They heard it. They saw it. Preview of it for Peter, James, and John. That’s transfiguration: Jesus would rise from the dead. Promise made. Promise kept.

1. We hear (see) Jesus.

But it’s not just the disciples who see Jesus. You see Jesus, too. You really do, just not in the way you expect. I’ll prove it to you. Close your eyes for a minute. (Don’t worry I won’t throw anything at you.) Just, everyone, close your eyes for a minute.

“After six days, Jesus took along Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up a tall mountain by themselves. And Jesus’ appearance was changed in front of them, and His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became white like light.” You can open your eyes. You saw it didn’t you? At least a little bit? It’s because you see Jesus with your ears!

The Apostles saw it. They then told people about it. They listened to Jesus’ command. Then some of them wrote it down, and now you see what they saw through the word! This is why the Father says, “Listen to Him!” This is why 2 Peter says, “We have something more certain: the prophetic Word.” In the Word you see Jesus. You see what He did. And in the Word you also hear what Jesus said. (Repent of hearing Jesus in your heart. No promise of Jesus to speak to you there. Only in the Word. “Listen to Him!” And that’s why we have “the prophetic word.”)

So, what does Jesus say to you in the Transfiguration, in His doing. Well, you see the promise of resurrection. Jesus’ resurrection. He also spoke about His dying and His rising. Preview of that on that mountain. But the transfiguration isn’t just about Jesus’ resurrection. It’s also about your resurrection, your coming back to life on the Last Day.

“Listen to Him!” “I know My sheep, and I give them eternal life and they will never perish, and no one can snatch them out of My hand.” “Listen to Him!” “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Jesus yours through Baptism and the Word.) ”Listen to Him!” ”Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will bring Him back to life on the Last Day.” “Listen to Him!” “This is My body, this blood, given and shed FOR YOU for the forgiveness of sins.”

And that Jesus’ Transfiguration is a promise of your own: “What we will be has not yet appeared, but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him.” (1 John 3) Our body “is sown into the ground in dishonor, but it will be raised in glory.” (1 Corinthians 15)


Transfiguration. Preview of Easter. We’re on our way to the empty tomb. Peter and James and John saw it all, heard it all. They were eyewitnesses, earwitnesses. Jesus rose and they told all what they had heard and seen. What Jesus did and said for the whole world. What they tell is this:


It’s true! You see Jesus, too. You hear Him. Through the Word you do. You see what Jesus did for you. You hear what Jesus says for you. And the whole “prophetic word,” the whole Bible is all about Jesus’ death and resurrection. Only through the Word you see it.


You receive that through the Word, too. Not just your Bible. Your Baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection. “Listen to Him!” “I am with always.” Baptismal promise. “Listen to Him!” “My body and blood for you for the forgiveness of sins,” “whoever eats I remain with him and I will bring him back to life on the last day.”


And that means, one day will be just like the Apostles. We’ll see Jesus, too.


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