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.
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.”
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.