Jesus, having just told His followers to deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow Him, makes a promise; “there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God” (27). This promise refers to the inauguration of the kingdom of God through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. But before these events, Jesus gives three of His disciples a glimpse of His glory through transfiguration. This morning we will examine what happened and what it means.
Jesus’ Transfiguration: What Happened?
What do we mean when we say that Jesus was transfigured? Transfiguration is a changing of form. In order to help make this transfiguration make sense, let’s start in the beginning. Paul writes in Philippians 2:6-7 that Jesus “was in the form of God…but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”
Before Jesus was born, He existed at God the Son and had the form of God. At the birth of Jesus, the Son “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). When Jesus was born He took on human form. When Jesus walked around on this earth, He had both the form of God and the form of man. It is important to note that it was His human form that was visible. In our passage this morning, Jesus’ Divine form was visible. He briefly changed (transfigured) from the human form to the Divine form. Let’s take a closer look at this event.
Jesus’ Appearance. Luke writes, “As He was praying, the appearance of His face was altered, and His clothing became dazzling white” (29). Matthew writes, “His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became white as light” (Matt 17:2). Mark writes, “His clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them” (Mark 9:3). Jesus’ appearance was radically changed. His Divine form shone through the human form and His glory was physically manifested.
Jesus’ Visitors. Luke writes, “Behold, two men were talking with Him, Moses and Elijah” (30). Why did Moses and Elijah visit Jesus? Why these two men? These two men are significant because for the 1st Century Jew these two men represented the Law and the Prophets. Matthew and Mark write that they were talking with Jesus. Luke tells us what they were discussing: they “appeared in glory and spoke of His departure, which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem” (31).
Peter’s Confusion. Peter, heavy with sleep, said “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for You and one for Moses and one for Elijah” (33). Luke tells us that Peter was “not knowing what he said” (33). Mark writes, “For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified” (Mark 9:6). Peter, James and John were very confused.
The Father’s Command. God the Father spoke to the three confused disciples and said, “This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!” (35) When the voice “had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen” (36). The Father directs the disciples to Jesus and affirms His role.
Jesus’ Transfiguration: What does it Mean?
The transfiguration of Jesus is a testimony to us that Jesus is who He says He is. Who testifies during this event?
- First, Jesus Himself testifies when His appearance changes. He unveils His glory for His disciples to behold and reveals a side of Him of which they were not aware.
- Second, Moses and Elijah testify. As the representatives of the Law and the Prophets, they show that the Law and the Prophets point to and affirm Christ. Luke writes, “the Law and the Prophets were until John [the Baptist]; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached” (Luke 16:16).
- Third, the Father testifies when He says, “This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!” (35). The Father makes it clear that Jesus is the Chosen One, the Beloved, the Redeemer. It is through Jesus that salvation and reconciliation is offered.
After the transfiguration we hear the testimony of John and Peter, two of the three eyewitnesses. John says, “we have seen His glory” (John 1:14). Peter writes, “we were eyewitnesses of His majesty…when He received honor and glory from God the Father” (2 Peter 1:17).
The transfiguration of Jesus is a fascinating and remarkable event in the life of Jesus. It is a moment in which the curtain is pulled back and for a brief moment we get a glimpse into the glory of Jesus. The transfiguration of Jesus serves as a testimony to the Church that Jesus is the Divine Son of God who has come to us to bring redemption.
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
Questions for Reflection
- Transfigured means to “change form”. What form did Jesus change from and what form did Jesus change into?
- What is significant about Jesus’ transfiguration?
- Who testifies on behalf of Jesus?
- What command is given during the transfiguration?
- What do we learn about Jesus through His transfiguration?