God put Abraham to the test. He called to him, "Abraham!", "Here I am!", he replied. Then God said: "Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him up as holocaust on a height that I will point out to you."
When they came to the place which God had told him, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. Then he reached out and took the knife to slaughter his son. But the Lord's messenger called to him from heaven, "Abraham, Abraham!", "Yes, Lord", he answered. "Do not lay your hand on the boy," said the messenger. "Do not do the least thing to him. I know now how devoted you are to God, since you did not withhold from me your own beloved son." Abraham looked about, he spied a ram caught by its horns in the thicket. So he went and took the ram and offered it up as a holocaust in place of his son.
Again the Lord's messenger called to Abraham from heaven and said: "I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you acted as you did in not withholding from me your beloved son, I will bless you abundantly and make your descendants as countless as the stars of the sky and the sands of the seashore; your descendants shall take possession of the gates of their enemies, and in your descendants all the nations of the Earth shall find blessing - all this because you obeyed my command."(P) The word of the Lord.
I believed, even when I said, "I am greatly afflicted." Precious in the eyes of the Lord is the death of His faithful ones. (R)
O Lord, I am your servant; I am your servant, the son of your handmaid; you have loosed my bonds. To you I will offer sacrifice of thanksgiving, and I will call upon the name of the Lord. (R)
My vows to the Lord will I pay, in the presence of all His people, in the courts of the house of the Lord, in your midst, O Jerusalem. (R)
Brothers and sisters: If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but handed him over for us all, how will He not also give us everything else along with him?
Who shall bring a charge against God's chosen ones? It is God who acquits us. Who will condemn? Christ Jesus it is who died - or, rather, was raised - who also is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us.(P) The word of the Lord.
Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on Earth could bleach them. Then Elijah appeared to them along with Moses, and they were conversing with Jesus.
Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, "Rabbi, it is good that we are here! Let us make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." He hardly knew what to say, they were so terrified. Then a cloud came, casting a shadow over them; from the cloud came a voice, "This is my beloved Son, listen to him." Suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone but Jesus alone with them.
As they were coming down the mountain, he charged them not to relate what they had seen to anyone, except when the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant.(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
After Moses had led the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt, God reminded them that it was He, the Lord of their ancestors, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who saved them and wanted them to offer their thanks and to freely trust Him in providing all their needs. But despite their deliverance, the people were engaged in merely complaining, murmuring and grumbling about every hardship they encountered in the desert.
God, therefore, disciplined them severely for their complaints but not in his full wrath nor did He destroy them. He gave them rules, commands and laws so that they would love Him, serve Him, obey Him and walk in His ways; so that they would live and be able to go over and take the land of their ancestors. And through Moses, He continued to instruct the Israelites in several other important areas, such as worship, rituals, festivals and so on. Particularly, He exhorted them to remember and celebrate His mighty act of saving them from the hands of Egyptians - the miracles, signs and provision, Exodus (12:31, 43).
However, after the deaths of Moses and Joshua, who had succeeded Moses and led them into the promised land, the people returned to serving and worshipping other gods. God once again allowed them to suffer the consequences. They again cried out to the Lord for help and, He provided them judges to lead them into righteous living, Judges (1:1-3-6). But sadly, time after time, they turned their backs on the Lord and returned to their lives of wickedness. However, keeping His part of the covenant with Abraham, God sent them kings and prophets to confront and correct them, and save them from their enemies, but they persisted in idolatry, injustice, immorality, disobedience and rebellion. Hence, and eventually, God Himself came to earth in the person of Jesus Christ, and chose to gradually reveal Himself to His people, although not all at once.
As it was important for the world to know the truth about Jesus and believe that Jesus is God in the flesh, the good news was first made known to the Jewish shepherds on the very day He was born. Then 40 days after His birth, He was taken to the temple and dedicated to God in obedience to the Jewish law and there, God led Simeon and Anna to recognize Jesus as the Lord and the Messiah, Leviticus (12:4-5). Later, perhaps a few months or possibly a year later, according to the gospel of Matthew, He revealed Himself to the wise men or magi, Matthew (2:1-18).
Thus, God made known that He came to "save" the whole world, not just Israel. Then at His baptism in the River Jordan, Jesus manifested Himself as the Only-Begotten Son of God the Father, duly consecrated by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it shouldn't surprise us that Jesus once took with Him his disciples, Peter, James and his brother John, and led them up a high mountain so as to reveal Himself to them in a special way, Mark (9:2); Matthew (17:1). However, Jesus' manifestation of Himself to His disciples was a very different kind of a revealing - Jesus transfigured to manifest His majesty and glory.
To understand the transfiguration, we must know the context. Just before the event, Jesus talked to the disciples about His approaching death. He had told them that He was going to suffer greatly, be rejected by the leaders of their own people, be killed and then rise again after three days. But the disciples found it difficult to understand that Jesus would be killed and then resurrected, Mark (8:31-38).
Further shocking them, Jesus told the disciples that they too must be prepared to suffer. We can imagine the disciples' confusion and dismay as they heard Jesus' extraordinary words about His suffering, death, and resurrection and also about their hardships. Aware of their confusion and fear, Jesus wanted to offer them some hope. The disciples desperately needed it. So, He led his disciples to a high mountain. The gospels do not say which mountain it was. Christian tradition identifies it as Mount Tabor, near Nazareth. Some modern scholars point out to Mount Hermon, 16km. north of Caesarea Philippi.
Leaving this controversy momentarily, it would be apt to highlight the role of mountains as very significant places in the Scriptures. For instance, Abraham prepared to sacrifice Isaac on Mount Moriah. Moses received the Law on Mount Sinai. Elijah enjoyed victory over King Ahab's priests on Mount Carmel. Jesus was crucified on Mount Calvary and He ascended to heaven from the Mount of Olives. So, it is no surprise that Jesus brought three of his disciples, Peter, James and John on top of a mountain to reveal Himself to them.
While praying, Jesus was miraculously transformed before their eyes. Matthew records that Jesus' face shone like the sun, and his clothes became brightly white, Matthew (17:2). Mark writes, "His clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them", Mark (9:3). And then two figures appeared, identified as Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Luke reveals in his gospel that Elijah and Moses discussed with Jesus regarding His suffering and death. The disciples were terrified but, at the same time, they found themselves on holy ground. After all, Jesus had appeared alongside Moses and Elijah, the two most important prophets and highly revered leaders of the Jewish nation.
Many things made those two ancient prophets great. Most of all, as mentioned in the Bible, each shares a moment of striking intimacy with God. Moses conversed with God face to face, as a person would speak to their friend, Exodus (33:1-12). Elijah, like Moses, enjoyed great intimacy with God. He encountered God in a strange sound of sheer silence, at the entrance of Mount Horeb and, it happened at the lowest moment in Elijah's life, 1 Kings (19:11-13). Remember the story? Elijah had to run into the wilderness because King Ahab's wife, Jezebel, wanted to kill Elijah for discrediting her god. Elijah ran and hid in a cave and there, in the still silence, he heard a gentle whisper; he knew it was the Lord.
Moved by what he witnessed as the appearance of Moses and Elijah with Jesus, Peter proposed to build three tents for them - one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah. We don't know exactly what Peter meant, but a cloud came over the mountain and the voice of God spoke in their presence: "This is my beloved Son, listen to him". That is, God the Father affirmed that Jesus was His Son and admonished Peter and the disciples to hear Him gladly. After the voice had spoken, Moses and Elijah disappeared, leaving Jesus and the disciples with Him.
What is the message for us?
Jesus had brought the disciples to the mountain to reveal His glory to them. And now, they were indeed given a glimpse of Jesus' future glory in His resurrection. When one is close to God, this is what happens. The impossible things become possible and everything changes. For example, Moses' face was radiant after speaking with the Lord, Exodus (34:29, 33-35). Elijah was so intimate to God that he bypassed death and "was taken up into heaven in a whirlwind", 2 Kings (2:11). The transfiguration of Jesus also led the disciples to experience a total transformation. Their lives were changed so that they could follow Jesus in faith through the hardship ahead.
Intimacy with God is not reserved just for a chosen few. God desires intimacy with all His children. Let us develop intimacy with God so that we can grow in our walk with Christ, successfully tread through the path of life's issues, and experience God's purpose for our lives. The more time we spend with God, the closer and more real He will be to us. The more time we spend in intimacy with Him, the more we will experience the reality of His power and presence in our life.
We all face varying levels of hardships and immense struggles. Sometimes our struggles are so intense that the very foundations of our faith can be challenged. In those times of uncertainty and despair, let us always remember that Jesus provides a word of assurance and hope. He wants us to hold on to the truth. He wants us to listen to Him and follow Him.
We may already have seen glimpses of the goodness of God many times in our lives. There are times when He allows us a glimpse into the deeper spiritual matters so as to encourage and strengthen our faith. The Lord knows what we need and exactly how to equip us for the tasks ahead.
Hence, let us continue in the hope that one day we will see His radiant glory: we will see Him as He is.(P) Amen.
God Bless You!