O Death, You’ve Lost Your Sting!

Before going into Jerusalem to be crucified, Jesus takes James, John and Peter up a mountain and something wonderful happens. We refer to the event as the transfiguration of Christ because before their eyes, Jesus’ appearance changes. Luke 9:28-36 states, as he was praying, Jesus’ face was altered, his clothing became dazzling white, and two other men appeared and were talking to him. These two men were recognized by the disciples as Elijah and Moses. How they knew this is a mystery to me. In some images I’ve seen, Moses is portrayed holding two stone tablets, but that seems cumbersome to me. Nevertheless, the passage goes on to say, these men spoke to Jesus about his departure and what he was about to accomplish in Jerusalem.

Peter, James and John, were naturally astonished by the scene and suggest they build a monument to honor the moment. At which, Moses and Elijah disappear and God’s voice is heard from heaven saying,

This is My Son, My Chosen One, listen to Him!

Previously when I read this passage, I was struck by God’s interruption, directing my attention to Jesus. No doubt, the voice of God affirms Jesus’ deity. But the thing which astounded me as I read these verses this morning, were the simple words, ‘they were talking together...’

As Jesus prayed, his physical appearance transformed to his true form, his glorious form. Not only this, but two men who were thought to be dead – or at least taken to heaven already – stood with Jesus talking! What were they talking about? That which Jesus was about to accomplish in Jerusalem… 

In the Old Testament, as well as in the New, God is refered to as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The reference is not past tense, but present. God is a God of the Living. Although Moses and Elijah no longer walked among the living, they were (are) able to appear before Peter, John, and James and have a conversation about an event which is about to take place in our timeline.

I love this! I am a science fiction fan. But unlike Star Trek and Star Wars and even C. S. Lewis’ space trilogy, this event actually happened! And it has changed the way I look at the physical world and at death.

Jesus refered to dead as people asleep. He woke a number of people from sleep in front of the disciples before. They witnessed Lazarus walk out of his tomb with his burial cloths still clinging to him (John 11:38-44). Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:21-43) and the widow of Nain’s son (Luke 7:11-17) were both told to rise by Jesus after they had been pronounced dead.

It seems, all Jesus has to do is speak and death is swallowed up by life. Our Savior is Marvelous! Scripture tells us Jesus conquered death – he frees us from the fear of death (2 Timothy 1:10; Hebrews 2:14-15). The transfiguration demonstrates his authority over death and it gives us hope as we anticipate our own physical demise. Death is not the end of life for the believer, it is the beginning of a different life – life beyond the limitations we experience now.

I Corinthians 15:55-56 (NASB) describes the alteration we will experience, which will take place ‘in the twinkling of an eye,’ like this:

For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

The cross of Christ, the death and resurrection of Jesus in history, makes this transformation possible. If Jesus had not paid the price of our disobedience with his perfect life and sacrificial death, we would have no hope of a future. Death is the judgment for disobedience or sin. But God demonstrates his own love for us in that when we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8 NASB). 

The resurrection assures us God accepted the payment! We have the promise of eternal life if we acknowledge our sin and accept Jesus’ death on our behalf (John 5:24).

As unfathomable as it may seem to you today, when we pray, we speak to a glorified Jesus, just like Elijah and Moses on the mount of transfiguration.  And one day, we will converse with him face to face. Amen!

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