God Gives the Messiah Hope

When Jesus was anointed with the Spirit at his baptism, the Holy Spirit led him into the wilderness in order to be tested. When the disciples finally confessed Jesus as the Messiah, they were shocked to hear that now Jesus must suffer and die before the glory of the kingdom comes into the world.

At the moment when Jesus turns his face toward Jerusalem and his eventual death, he takes three disciples—Peter, James, and John—onto a high mountain to pray. The disciples, however, sleep, and ultimately Peter says or does something awkward.  These particulars anticipate what will happen in the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus will go there to pray, take these same three disciples with him, and they will sleep while he prays, and Peter will say and do something awkward. Jesus now climbs this mountain in order to pray and prepare himself for the coming trials that will test his commitment to the mission of God.

At the same time, this moment on the mountain anticipates his resurrection and ascension into glory. Two figures appear with Jesus, a cloud appears, and glory surrounds Jesus. The glory of this transfiguration, this metamorphosis, is the glory of the resurrection, ascension, and the second coming of King Jesus. Suffering, though necessary, is not Jesus’s final destiny. 

When God transfigures Jesus, the appearance of Jesus changes. Though, in the present, he lived in an Adamic, dying body, his transfigured appearance was one of future glory, the glory of the resurrected Christ. This was a proleptic event in the life of Jesus. In other words, it was the experience of his future glory in the present, the experience of the glory of his resurrection, ascension, and future second coming. In answer to his prayer, the Father encouraged the Son to complete the mission. Jesus is assured that the cross will not be the final act in God’s drama, and the grave will not have the last say.

The transfiguration is a foretaste of the future. Though he will suffer, Jesus will rise again. Though the creation, including human bodies, is bound over to decay, the resurrection of Jesus promises a different future for the creation. The kingdom of God will, one day, fully come. It came in prospect on the Mount of Transfiguration; it came through the Holy Spirit at Pentecost; and it will fulyl appear when Jesus returns again.

We stand where the disciples stood. We anticipate death but hope for glory. We lose our lives in order to save them. We follow Jesus to the cross, and we hope for the resurrection. We give up the whole world in order to follow Jesus that we might gain it in the kingdom of God. We believe in the promise of God, we follow Jesus as his disciples, and we wait in the patience of the Holy Spirit for a new heaven and a new earth.

His transfiguration not only promised Jesus a future. His future is our future, and ultimately his transfiguration is our transfiguration as our resurrection bodies will be just like his. Death will not win, and the graves will be emptied. That was the hope of Jesus, and it is our hope as well.

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