그와 같은 형상으로(Transformed into His Likeness) 신현철 목사
성경: 출애굽기 34:29~35, 고린도후서 3:12~18
Today is the day that we celebrate Jesus’ transfiguration. In chapter 9 of Mark, we see Jesus going up a high mountain with Peter, James, and John. There, he transfigured before them: his clothes became dazzling white; Elijah and Moses appeared and began talking to him; and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my son, whom I love. Listen to him!” (Mark 9:7).
However, compared to when Jesus healed the leprosy patient, or when he chased the evil spirit out of a person, or when he resurrected a dead person; the transfiguration doesn’t seem like much. In fact, events like when he calmed the storm or fed the multitude seemed to have shown Jesus’ abilities and his Messiah-like qualities better.
Why? Because in today’s light, clothing becoming white or faces glowing, don’t seem like a miracle. Think about what’s possible with the modern make-ups. One can get rid of wrinkles, redraw their eyebrows. With plastic surgery, more is possible, and you become a whole different person.
As an aside, one day, the priest saw that a new person came to the early morning service. After the sermon, he went to her to introduce himself and to ask whether she has just newly moved into the area. However, he soon realized that she was the Deaconess who has been coming to that church for years but because she came to the service with no make-up, the pastor wasn’t able to recognize her.
Because changing appearances seems so easy, the transfiguration that occurred in Mark, doesn’t seem like a big deal.
Jesus’ life is usually described in terms of five big events: the Incarnation, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, the Transfiguration and the Ascension. Thus, although this transfiguration doesn’t seem significant, it should be seen as a very crucial incident.
Furthermore, the transfiguration doesn’t only appear in Mark but also in chapter 17 of Matthews, and chapter 9 of Luke. All the authors of the Synoptic Gospels have included this event. Additionally, even in Peter II chapter 1 verses 17 to 18 say, “For he received honour and glory from God the Father when the voices came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.
We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.” Peter, as a person who was there in person is showing the great importance of this episode.
Even Paul, who wasn’t with Jesus during the transfiguration has recorded this event, “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (Corinthians II 3:18). The ‘transformed’ here means ‘transfigured.’ In other words, through this verse, Paul is talking about what had occurred on the mountain top.
In today’s sermon then, I’d like for us to look at why the transfiguration is illustrated as such an important event in the bible. I’d like for us to see what it means to transfigure and what it means for it to have occurred.
Exodus chapter 34 shows the equivalent to the transfiguration episode in the Old Testament. In the chapter, we see Moses receiving the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai.
However, technically, this is the second occurrence as in the first one, when Moses came down the mountain, he found that the Israelites had made a bull in gold and began to serve it. Moses, angered by the scene, threw the stone tablet with the commandments on it and thus in Exodus chapter 34, Moses has gone up to receive the commandments again. Later, “When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with two tablets of the Testimony in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the LORD” (Exodus 34:29).
“The people of Israel would see the glow of his face. So he would put the veil over his face until his returned to speak with the Lord.” (Exodus 34:35)
The funny thing about the word ‘radiant’ here is that the origin of the word also means a horn. Thus, in the Vulgate translation, it said that a horn grew on Moses’ head and consequently, in England during the 11th century; people drew and sculpted Moses with a horn. Even Michelangelo, when he sculpted Moses, gave him two horns.
It is not important whether Moses’ face was radiant or whether he grew a horn but it is important for us to look at the fact that Moses radiated after meeting Jesus and that he covered it with a veil because the Israelites were unable to look at Moses’ face. Paul writes, “We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away” (Corinthians II 3:13).
In other words, the reason Moses covered himself with a veil was because instead of focusing on the words of God, the Israelites were too busy looking at the radiance from Moses’ face. Despite the fact the radiance was a reflection of God’s glory, and was bound to fade away, the people were frenzied with excitement over it and thus, Moses simply covered himself.
While reading the words, I thought that Moses must have been a very good person. Although when he was young, he was very hot tempered, as shown by when he killed an Egyptian and when he threw the stone tablet after observing what the Israelites were doing, he knew what was important. He knew that the people had to focus on the words, not on him. He didn’t even try to boast by showing off the radiance, instead, he hid it.
It’s difficult to find such a person in today’s word. A true servant of God, who is not focused on showing himself off and who does not try to be the centre of everyone’s attention. A true servant of God hides himself but tries to do everything in his power to illustrate God and who he is.
I hope that our church will be full of people like Moses. They are not people who seem like everything but turn out to be nothing, but a person, whom when the veil is lifted, radiates like the sun. The person possesses this glowing power and abilities but is modestly hiding them and is intent on serving God.
But 2 Corinthians 3:13 says, “We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away.” I have just told you what Moses did (putting a veil over his face) was a good thing. Why does Paul say “we are not like Moses”?
The reason is in verse 14. “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.” Moses had covered his radiant face so that people would pay attention to his words, rather than to his face. But the problem did not go away, as people began to pay attention to the veil that was covering Moses’s face. That is why “the same veil remains when the old covenant is read.”
Isn’t it ironic? Moses used a veil to cover his radiant face so that people would pay attention to God’s words. Instead, people began to pay attention to the veil…
That is why Paul the Apostle says “their minds were made dull.” The word ‘dull’ originates from the word ‘stone.’ Paul is saying that the veil would not work since people’s minds are stiff as a stone.
There is another reason the veil should be taken off. Verse 18 says, “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
I think that the use of the plural form, “we,” is important here.
In the Old Testament, only a certain person, a special person such as Moses, was able to directly meet with God. That was why Moses had a face that was radiant. On the other hand, the people of Israel could not look at Moses’s face because it was too bright for their eyes.
But after the New Testament, we are becoming to “reflect the Lord’s glory” and “are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory.” We no longer need to hide ourselves with veils because we are all being transformed into the Lord’s likeness with glory, and all of our faces are thus radiant.
We can look at Mark 9:9 in a similar manner. “As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.” Why did Jesus tell them not to tell anyone what they had seen (the Transfiguration)?
He did this because people were not able to fully understand it at that time. Jesus knew that people would not fully understand the supernatural and glorified change in the appearance of Jesus on the mountain without first knowing about the Christ’s suffering on the cross and His resurrection.
But now we know Jesus Christ’s glorified change through his death and resurrection. So now we should take off our veils. We should actively live a life that reflects the glory of the Lord. Our unveiled faces reflect the glory of the Lord and so we should show our transformed faces to the world.
All of our faces are becoming radiant. We are all being transformed with ever-increasing glory. There is now no need for us to keep hiding our faces with veils.
So what should we do so that our face reflects the glory of Jesus Christ? What should we do so that we are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory?
Last Sunday, I went to Seattle Brothers’ Church for a mission trip. There were many interesting things that happened there, but particularly memorable was a conversation I had with my fellow church members during the ferry ride.
During the conversation, a church member talked about his friend who had been baptised Catholic and were christened Stephen.
His friend did not seem to know that Stephen had suffered martyrdom by being stoned to death. So, he told his friend how Stephen had died, and then his friend seemed uncomfortable. He continually talked that Stephen must have been a very special person… He reasoned by saying that Stephen had a radiant face as that of an angel even in his most painful moment even though all people cannot avoid suffering in agonies of pain when they die.
Truly, Stephen was a person with a radiant face. According to Acts 6:15, “All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.” Acts 7:55-56 shows why Stephen’s face was like that of an angel: “But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. "Look," he said, "I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God."”
Further, Acts 7:58 says, people “dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.”
So Stephen saw the Lord, and Saul saw Stephen. Stephen’s face reflected the Lord’s glory and Saul’s face again reflected that glory that was reflected by Stephen face. Saul who had seen Stephen’s face became Apostle Paul. In 2 Corinthians 3:18, Paul says, “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
Beloved church members, what had changed that stubborn and obstinate Saul was the Lord’s glory that was reflected by Stephan’s face. That glory had transformed Saul into Apostle Paul. This kind of event does not come from a man’s attempt, but through the Holy Spirit. A face that changes the world is like Stephan’s face. It is a face that looks up to the Lord wherever and whenever, even at one’s most painful moment… I hope that our faces also become like that of Stephen, the one that reflects the Lord’s glory.
The word, ‘transfiguration’ is formed by combining the two Greek words, μετα- (‘meta’ meaning ‘form’ or ‘essence’) and μορφή (‘morphe’ meaning ‘to change’ or ‘to go beyond’). In other words, a transformation or a transfiguration suggests going beyond an original form and essence and changing into a new form.
The Transfiguration in Matthew 17:1-9 is not the only time the transfiguration of Jesus Christ occurred. His incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension to heaven are all transfigurations of Jesus Christ. That is why the ‘transfiguration’ is the key word that describes Jesus’s life.
This is the same for Christians who believe in Jesus Christ. Becoming a Christian is just as same as the Christ’s transfiguration. This is because both result in a radical change of an essence.
I earnestly hope that we can all be transformed thoroughly and fundamentally into a new person. Through this experience, I hope that our faces become like Stephen’s face that was able to change Saul into Paul. I hope that we are able to show our radiant face and shine light toward the dark world.
Moses hid his face behind a veil in order to show the Lord to the people. Paul wrote that we should take off our veils and show the Lord’s glory to the world. Whether we should keep our veils on or take them off does not matter anymore.
The important thing is that in the end, we should be able to show the Lord’s transformation to the world. I hope that we are all transformed into the Lord’s likeness and are able to reflect the Lord’s glory.
I hope that we will transform in such a way through the Holy Spirit.
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