The Transfiguration of Jesus at the Mount of Transfiguration

The transfiguration of Jesus is one of the important moments in the bible. It was a physical manifestation of Jesus’ divinity, and it was a powerful experience that left an unmistakable mark on those who witnessed it. Jesus’ transfiguration is a significant biblical event that reminds us of His power and glory, and it serves as a reminder that He is the Son of God. Many branches of Christianity celebrate this event with the Feast of the Transfiguration.

After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.
Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

Matthew 17:1-9, NIV
Expansive picture of nature with the Mount of Transfiguration in the background.

What is the Transfiguration of Jesus?

The synoptic Gospels refer to an event known as the Transfiguration of Jesus. This event tells of a time when Jesus took three disciples, Peter, James, and John, up onto a high mountain to pray and was transfigured before them. His form was radiantly transformed; his clothes became white as the light and his face shone like the sun. 

While his disciples stand below, Moses and Elijah then appear with Jesus and speak with Him. 

While Moses and Elijah spoke with Jesus, His disciples approached and Peter asks if He would like them to prepare three tents, one for each of them. As Peter asks, a bright cloud covers them and a voice speaks “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

The disciples fall to their feet, terrified, but after reassurance, they look up and see no one but Jesus standing before them. They come down the mountain and Jesus instructs that they do not speak of what they’ve seen “until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

What are the Synoptic Gospels?

The synoptic Gospels are the first three books of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, and Luke. They are called the synoptic Gospels because they give similar accounts of Jesus’ life and ministry. The Transfiguration account is found in all three Synoptic Gospels. Each tells the story with slightly different details. 

What is the Meaning of Transfiguration?

The contextual definition of transfiguration is “a complete change of form or appearance into a more beautiful or spiritual state.” 

White clouds against a clear blue sky.

What is the Significance of Jesus’ Transfiguration?

The significance of the revelation of Jesus’ eternal glory is not only reinforced simply by his transfiguration, but also by the company that joins him on the mountain, and the words from the Lord himself in the bright cloud above.

As Jesus stands atop the high mountain, with Moses and the prophet Elijah at his side, he stands as a bridge between man and divinity. He is the presence of God on earth and without the sacrifice he is soon to make, there is no eternal life for us.

To put it bluntly, the ultimate significance of the transfiguration is that it shows us proof that Jesus is the Messiah and Son of God, that he is the fulfillment of the law and of the prophets, and that he will ultimately sacrifice himself on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins.

The Transfiguration is also a reminder of the hope we have in Jesus. Just as Jesus’ physical appearance was changed on the Mount of Transfiguration, so too will our physical bodies be changed when we see Him. We will be given new, glorified bodies that will never grow old or experience sickness and death.

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

1 Corinthians 15:51-52, NIV
A heavenly representation of Jesus about to pick up a cross.

References to the Resurrection

The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ on the cross is mentioned several times during this event. When Jesus is joined by Moses and the prophet Elijah, they speak to him about his “departure.” Later, on the way down the mountain with Peter, James, and John, Jesus asks them to speak nothing of what they’ve seen “until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” While they may not have necessarily understood his meaning, Jesus’ words would soon come to fruition when he does the impossible and rises from the dead three days after his crucifixion.

While they are on the mountain, the book of Luke states:

Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem.

Luke 9:30-31, NIV

The Symbolism of Moses and Elijah

Moses and Elijah are both important figures of the Old Testament, and in the same way God speaks to Jesus here, He has also directly spoken to both of the men that accompany him.

Moses is considered the giver of the law after receiving the 10 commandments, while Elijah is one of the most notable prophets. The symbolism of them standing with Jesus during his transfiguration shows that not only is he fulfillment of the Law and the prophets, but after the Lord speaks through the cloud, it is clear his sovereignty stands above theirs and all others. Jesus is supreme and uncontested in his divine importance.

“This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

At the baptism of Jesus, we see similar reinforcement of who Christ is and his significance within the Bible and Christianity.

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”
Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.
As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

Matthew 3:13-17, NIV
The Church of Transfiguration against a blue sky and partially covered by a hill in the foreground.


Within modern understanding, the Mount of Transfiguration is primarily understood to have been one of two locations:

Mount Tabor: This was the first of the two mounts to be identified as a potential location and referenced as such by many texts outside of the Bible. This is also the location of The Church of the Transfiguration.

Mount Hermon: This is the highest mountain in the area, and as the book of Matthew states these events took place on “a high mountain” it is feasible that this was the mountain spoken of in scripture. This mountain is also located near Caesarea Philippi, where Jesus had previously been.

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Matthew 16:13-16, NIV

Other Mentions

For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice 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.

2 Peter 1:16-18, NIV

These events give Christians a glimpse of the glory and joy that awaits us in heaven. It is a reminder that Jesus has the power to change us completely and that He is worthy of our trust.

This article references verses written from the New International Version (NIV) translation of the Bible.