The Transfiguration

Matthew 17:1-8
And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” 8 And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.
     The story of Jesus' Transfiguration gives us not just a glimpse into the divine nature of Christ, but also invaluable life lessons on faith, spiritual awareness, and the ultimate fulfillment of God's plan. Jesus' face radiates like the sun, and His garments take on an ethereal, dazzling white. The Creator of the universe offers a heavenly "sneak preview" of Jesus' true nature. John 1:14 provides a potent parallel, stating, "The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." This isn't just a poetic way of affirming Jesus' divinity; it's like a divine footnote to the Transfiguration. It underscores the awe-inspiring fact that the man standing before Peter, James, and John is also the One who was with God in the beginning and through whom all things were made.
     In this majestic moment on the mountaintop, the fullness of Jesus' identity is on display. It's as if God is saying, "This is My Son—not just a great teacher, not just a prophet, but the Word made flesh. The One and Only who embodies the divine glory, grace, and truth I intended for humanity to know." Imagine the impact this had on the disciples—what it would be like to stand in the presence of unveiled Divinity. Their Rabbi, their friend, is now revealed as God incarnate. But this isn't just for their benefit; it's for ours too. The Transfiguration serves as a cornerstone that cements our understanding of who Jesus is, inviting us to move beyond seeing Him merely as a historical or ethical figure.
     The Transfiguration is not just an isolated event to marvel at. It's a window into understanding Jesus as God Himself chose to reveal Him: fully human, yet fully divine. And thanks to scriptural affirmations like John 1:14, we're given a roadmap that points us toward recognizing Jesus as the One and Only from the Father, full of grace and truth. In doing so, we're invited into a deeper, transformative relationship with Him—one that changes not just how we see Jesus, but how we see ourselves in relation to the divine.
     The insights of great theologians like Athanasius and Thomas Aquinas offer us invaluable lenses through which to understand Jesus' unique dual nature as both fully divine and fully human. These men didn't merely see the Transfiguration as an anecdotal story or a miraculous event; for them, it was a theological epicenter that affirmed Christ's mysterious and unparalleled nature.
     Athanasius, a pillar of the early church, saw the incarnation of Christ—God becoming human—as a monumental act of divine condescension to sanctify humanity. His seminal work "On the Incarnation" captures this beautifully when he states, "He was made man that we might be made God." In other words, through Jesus taking on human form, we are given the opportunity to partake in the divine nature. The Transfiguration, in this context, is a glowing testament to this transformative reality. It's not just Jesus who is transfigured, but it's an invitation for all of humanity to be transfigured—elevated and sanctified—through Him. Athanasius would likely see the Transfiguration as a pivotal moment where the divine plan to sanctify humanity is vividly portrayed.
     On the other hand, Thomas Aquinas, one of the intellectual giants of the medieval church, viewed the Transfiguration as a perfect demonstration of the harmonious balance between Christ’s divine and human natures. In his magnum opus, the "Summa Theologica," Aquinas argues that the glory of the Transfiguration was always within Christ but remained concealed to fulfill the Father's will. For Aquinas, Jesus didn't "become" divine at the Transfiguration; rather, His inherent divinity was momentarily revealed, confirming that He was always God incarnate. It's like the sun hidden behind clouds; the sun hasn't ceased to be, it's just momentarily obscured. Then, at the Transfiguration, the clouds part to reveal what has always been true.
     For both Athanasius and Aquinas, the Transfiguration is not an isolated miracle but an event deeply entrenched in the larger narrative of salvation and divine revelation. It serves as a living testament to the complex, mysterious, yet coherent nature of Jesus Christ—fully God in His divine glory and yet fully man in His human experiences and struggles. Both theologians remind us that understanding Jesus’ nature isn't a mere intellectual exercise; it's integral to understanding His mission on Earth and, by extension, the nature of the salvation offered to us. In capturing the essence of the Transfiguration, Athanasius and Aquinas help us navigate the beautiful complexities of Christ's identity, steering us towards a more profound, awe-filled relationship with our Savior.
     The Transfiguration is far more than a distant historical event or a mere theological concept; it's a life-changing, experiential playbook that speaks into our lives today. This transformative moment challenges us on multiple fronts—it deepens our understanding of Jesus' dual nature as both human and divine, it serves as a clarion call for spiritual vigilance, and it invites us to be more receptive to God's voice amidst the cacophony of our daily existence. Just as Peter, James, and John had their spiritual eyes opened in a profound way, we too have the opportunity to witness God's glory in diverse aspects of our lives. Whether it's in the still, small voice of prayer or the magnificence of a sunset, God's glory is ever present and just waiting for us to take notice.

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