Showing posts with label Transfiguration. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Transfiguration. Show all posts

Monday, April 29, 2024

The Fall and Transfiguration of Time

The Biblical Fall
is not an event in time.
Time itself is a fallen state,
in which everything tends
toward decay and death.
But in the Incarnation,
divinity is united with humanity,
God with humankind,
and eternity is united with time,
so that time itself is transfigured
and the world is healed.

Our Lord Jesus Christ is the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world,” as the book Revelation tells us. He is at once the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last (Revelation 1). He who is the firstborn from the dead is the firstborn of creation (Colossians 1). Indeed, Christ Crucified and Risen is the foundation of the world, the beginning and completion of all creation. Lord Jesus, seated on the Throne of Heaven and Earth, declares, “Behold, I make all things new” (Revelation 21:5). And that includes us.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

The transfiguration of time takes place within time, from the inside out, through the mutual indwelling of time in eternity and eternity in time. John the Elder tells us, “The darkness is passing and the true light is already shining” (1 John 2:8). 

We presently find ourselves in that curious transition of what is coming to pass into what is eternally so, and all of creation waits in eager anticipation together with us.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. (Romans 8:18-22)

Monday, November 7, 2016

Becoming Our True Selves
Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. (Colossians 3:9-10)
We are included in Christ from the beginning and reconciled to God by the death of Christ (see Chosen in Christ for the Unity of All Things). But there is still a putting off and a putting on we must do. We must “put off” our old self, our false self — it does not correspond to who we really are in Christ. And we must “put on” the new self, our true self, which is “being renewed in knowledge” in the image of our Creator (who is revealed in Colossians 1 and elsewhere as Christ). It is a process of becoming what has always been true of us, letting the reality of that truth change us so that our way of life begins to catch up with who we really are and were created to be.

We are “being renewed,” Paul says. There are a couple of things to note here. First is that it is in the present tense, which indicates that it is not yet a completed work but an ongoing one. In other words, this renewal is a process, not a once-and-done event. It takes place over time. Second, it is in the passive not the active voice. That is, it is not something we do to, for or in ourselves but something that is done to, for and in us by another. This relieves us of an impossible burden, for we could no more renew ourselves to the image of our Creator than we could have created ourselves in that image in the first place. But it is a work that God is graciously doing in us by the Holy Spirit, conforming us to image of his Son.

We are being renewed in “knowledge.” The Greek word is epignosis, and for Paul it is not about knowing God merely in our head but in our whole being. We have always been chosen in Christ, but now we begin to realize and experience what it means to be in Christ, to know and be known by him. This growing realization, which comes by the working of God within us, changes us. “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind,” Paul says (Romans 12:2). The Greek word for “mind” here is nous and in the context of the gospel encompasses not only the intellect but the soul.

We are created in the image of God is so we may know God, experience God, fellowship with God, participate with God and express God to the rest of creation. This is a divine gift from the Father, through the Son, by the Holy Spirit. The image according to which we are being renewed, the image of our Creator, is the image of Christ, who is the perfect expression of God and in whom all the fullness of divinity dwells in bodily form (Romans 8:29; Hebrews 1:3; Colossians 2:9). This divine renewal, then, must be the work of the God by his Spirit:
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, reflecting the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory into glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:17-18)
By yielding to this transformative work of God’s Spirit, we “put off,” or let go of the old false self and “put on,” or welcome the true self so that we may become who we really are, the person god created us to be from the beginning, bearing fully the image and glory of God. This is true freedom.

Monday, February 8, 2016

The Glory of Christ Changes Us
When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the LORD. When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him. But Moses called to them; so Aaron and all the leaders of the community came back to him, and he spoke to them. Afterward all the Israelites came near him, and he gave them all the commands the LORD had given him on Mount Sinai. When Moses finished speaking to them, he put a veil over his face. But whenever he entered the LORD’s presence to speak with him, he removed the veil until he came out. And when he came out and told the Israelites what he had been commanded, they saw that his face was radiant. Then Moses would put the veil back over his face until he went in to speak with the LORD. (Exodus 34:29-35)
The blue jeans I wear are the Walmart special, called “Faded Glory.” I don’t like to wear new jeans that are deep blue, so a brand that comes pre-faded works just fine for me. But the truth is that all blue jeans will eventually fade in the wash, with very little of the original “glory” left in the end.

Moses had a fading glory. It was fresh when he first came down from Mt. Sinai with the tablets of the Law. His face was radiant then, so full of light and glory that the people were intimidated by it, afraid to come near. But when Moses finished speaking to them, he covered his face with a veil. There were apparently several cycles of this: Moses spoke with the Lord and his face became radiant, then he spoke to the people with his face unveiled, then he covered it up again. The apostle Paul understood the reason for this: the glory faded away because it was but a shadow that would one day give way to the reality of what it represented, and to a glory that endures.
Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:12-18)
The “hope” Paul has in mind here is the expectation of the enduring glory of the new covenant mediated through Jesus Christ. The old covenant, mediated through Moses, was glorious but transitory. The Law cannot change us; it can only point out our need for change. It cannot give us life; it can only point out our deadness. It cannot create righteousness in us; it can only condemn us for our unrighteousness. It cannot redeem us — but it can and does point us to Jesus our Redeemer.

When we turn to the Lord Jesus, the veil that covers our heart is removed so that we understand the Scriptures through the lens of who Christ is and what he has done. He is the reality of which the Law could only ever be a shadow, and what was veiled in the Law is now made clear in him. So the glory of the Law was never meant to endure but faded with the coming of Christ, to whom it was always pointing.

The Law of Moses was written on tablets of stone, but what we need is the Spirit of the Lord, who comes to write God’s law on our hearts. Indeed, he gives us a new heart and puts his own Spirit within us (see Ezekiel 36:25-27). Where that happens — as it does when we turn to the Lord Jesus in faith — there is true freedom, for the Spirit of the Lord transforms us.

Christ dwells in us by the Holy Spirit and when we contemplate him, we are contemplating who we truly are in him and who he is in us — and we become what we behold. It is as if we were looking into a mirror and the image that appears there changes our own appearance. In the Transfiguration, the glory of Christ appeared visibly, revealing his divinity in the form of his humanity. Likewise, as we look to Christ, we are changed by the splendor of his radiance, transformed into the image of him who is the perfect image of God, revealing with ever-increasing glory who God always meant for us to be.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

We Shall See Him as He Is

“Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”

About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. (Luke 9:28-31)
The Transfiguration of Christ is found in Matthew and Mark as well as here in Luke. In all three, the sequence of events leading up to it is the same: Peter receives the revelation that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. Jesus foretells his impending death, then speaks to his disciples about the need to deny themselves, take up their cross and follow him. This is followed by the statement that some standing there would not die before they saw “the kingdom of God” (Luke), “the Son of Man coming in his kingdom” (Matthew), “that the kingdom of God has come with power” (Mark). About eight days later, Jesus takes Peter, James and John with him to the mountain to pray. The Transfiguration, then, is a very powerful revelation of the kingdom of God and the glory of Christ the King.

Jesus was deep in prayer when his face and clothes became radiant with light. Moses and Elijah appeared suddenly, also full of glory and splendor. Moses was the great Law-giver and Elijah the great prophet of the Old Testament. They were conversing with Jesus about his “departure,” which would soon be accomplished at Jerusalem. They had both had unusual departures themselves: Moses was buried by God and nobody ever found the grave, and Elijah did not see death but was translated to heaven in a “chariot of fire” in the middle of a whirlwind.

The word Luke chose for “departure” is significant. It is the Greek word exodus, a very evocative term, being the Greek title for the second book of the Old Testament. The book of Exodus was about how God led the children of Israel out of Egypt through Moses.

The exodus Jesus was about to fulfill was his death on the cross but also his resurrection from the dead and his ascension to his throne at the right hand of the Father. It was not a departure through death but a departure from death, for his death became the death of death itself. By his death, we also are set free from death, and from the one who holds the power of death. “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death — that is, the devil — and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” (Hebrews 2:14-15). The exodus Jesus accomplished became our own “deliverance from Egypt,” for in him we are crucified, made alive again and seated in the heavenlies at the right hand of the Father (Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 2:4-6).
Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters — one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what he was saying.) While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and covered them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud.

A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves and did not tell anyone at that time what they had seen. (Luke 9:32-36)
Peter, James and John had been asleep — it was often Jesus’ way to go off and pray in the night or early morning hours — but now they were fully awake, though understanding very little of what they were witnessing. They had missed much of it and by now Moses and Elijah were leaving. Peter, being the earnest and impulsive man that he was, wanted to build three dwelling places: one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah. He did not understand what he was saying — so he went ahead and said it.

At that moment, a cloud came over them and Peter left off what he was saying, terrified as it enveloped him and the other two. The voice of the Father said, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” It was not Moses or Elijah but Jesus alone who is the Son and whom the Father anointed as Messiah. Moses and Elijah — the Law and the Prophets — were always about him, and in him they find their fulfillment. “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe” (Hebrews 1:1-2). Christ is God’s final and complete word. He is the one we are to listen to, and in him we will understand the meaning of Moses and Elijah.

But now let’s consider the transfiguration itself, for Christ is “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being” (Hebrews 1:3). The transfiguration was not a transformation of who Jesus was but a revelation of who Jesus is, a manifestation of his divinity in the form of his humanity. It was his divine glory being revealed for what it is.

In the beginning, man was created in the image of God, to be like God and to bear his glory. However, Paul reminds us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). We have each turned away from God and broken the connection — fellowship with God, each other, the rest of creation, and even our own selves. But God became one of us, joining himself to us in order to reconcile us back to himself, that humankind might bear the divine glory for which we were originally created. That we might, in the words of 2 Peter 1:4, “participate in the divine nature.”

In the transfiguration of Christ, we see what God has always intended for humanity — to conform us to the image of Christ, transforming us as we allow him to renew our minds. He is at work in us not only empowering us with the ability to do what pleases him but also creating in us the desire to do so.

As Christ was revealed in his transfiguration that day on the mountain, that is how we, too, shall one day see him — and we shall be like him, for the revelation of Christ transforms us. “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). Even now, “the darkness is fading and the true light is already shining” (1 John 2:8).

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Between Transfiguration Sunday and Ash Wednesday

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.” (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.) Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus. (Mark 9:2-8)
Last Sunday was Transfiguration Sunday, a celebration of the Lord Jesus Christ in his unveiled glory. Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, a forty day journey with Jesus in the desert, where he was led by the Spirit, tested by the devil and ministered to by angels.

It is an interesting transition between these two days. On the “Mount of Transfiguration,” the glory of God was fully unveiled in Jesus the Messiah, and it shone brilliantly. “His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them” (Mark 9:3). Suddenly, Peter, James and John saw him in a way they could not have done before. To use the words of John 1:18, they beheld his glory, “the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Jesus, in his humanity, was reflecting the glory of God, as we all were created to do. In Genesis 1, on the sixth day of creation, God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground” (Genesis 1:26). We were created to represent God on the earth, to reflect his glory to the rest of creation.

Of course, we have done a miserable job of it. It is hard to reflect the glory of God when he are in rebellion against him. As Paul reminds us, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Like mud on a mirror, sin terribly obscures the divine glory we were created to reflect.

But now on the mount, here was Jesus manifesting the true role of humanity, revealing the dazzling brilliance of God. Moses and Elijah were with him, representing the Law and the Prophets. Peter wanted to make three tabernacles — one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah. But he completely missed the point. Not knowing what to say, he blurted it out.

However, God had his own idea for a shelter and overshadowed Moses and Elijah with a cloud — they were not to be the focal point but were there to direct all the attention to Jesus. That was their role in the history of Israel and in the Old Testament, and that was their purpose here. Then the voice of the Father spoke concerning Jesus: “This is my beloved Son, listen to him.”

We remember all that on Transfiguration Sunday. But then, just a couple of days later, we turn our attention to Ash Wednesday, when we remember our humanity, and the divine glory we have obscured by sin. We are the dust of the earth, for that is the stuff from which God formed us. But our rebellion against God and our failure to reflect his glory has reduced us to ashes.

So Ash Wednesday is a time for repentance. But it is also a time for embracing God’s forgiveness, symbolized by receiving the sign of the cross made upon our foreheads with ashes. And it is a time to consider again, as we enter into the journey of Lent, how God desires to reveal his dazzling glory to us and through us if we will but let him. For we are also the breath of heaven, for it was God himself who puffed into us the breath of life. Then at the end of this journey, suddenly we will look around and no longer see anyone but Jesus. And we will be glad.