The story of the transfiguration appears in all three of the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke). Its purpose is to confirm, in the moments before Jesus starts his journey to the cross, that he really is God’s Messiah, the incarnate God, and the one who establishes God’s Reign among human beings. It is a watershed moment in these Gospels, because from this point on, Jesus predicts his death a number of times, and moves inexorably toward Jerusalem where that death will occur. The startling truth about Jesus’ Messiahship is not that he revealed God’s glory, but that an inherent part of this revelation was his death. All the Gospels agree that God’s glory shines most clearly through Jesus on the cross. And for us God’s glory shines most clearly through grace, compassion, forgiveness, and justice brought to those who are broken, marginalised and oppressed by sin and by human systems of power.

This moment also links to the start of Jesus’ ministry. At the beginning of the season after the Epiphany, we explored Jesus’ baptism. There are a number of parallels between that moment and this one. In both, God’s glory is seen. In both, God’s voice is heard. In both, Jesus is declared to be the fulfilment of God’s promise to save humanity and establish God’s Reign. The baptism was the start of the work of Jesus’ life. The transfiguration is the start of the work of Jesus’ death. And both of these moments were affirmations from God that would carry Jesus through great trials – the baptism for the trial of the wilderness temptation, and the transfiguration for the trial of the cross. In these last few days of Epiphany, and into the beginning of Lent we will explore the glory of God and how it sustained Jesus and can sustain us.

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