1. The Transfiguration of Jesus recorded also by Mk. 9:2-8 and Lk. 9:28-36 occurred about a year before Jesus' death, north of Israel near Caesarea Philippi (now in Lebanon), on a mountain which cannot now be identified. It occurred six days after Peter's confession, Mt. 16:13-20. On that occasion Peter proved to be a hindrance to Jesus, Mt. 16:22-23. He and two other disciples were to be witnesses to the transfiguration, II Pet. 1:16-18, and to be strengthened in their faith.
2. The glory of the Lord appeared to Moses on Mt. Sinai, Ex. 24:13-16. But Moses gave the Law only. Elijah the prophet was victorious on Mt. Carmel, I Kings 18:19-46, but he only prefigured John the Baptist. In our text Jesus appeared with Moses and Elijah to Peter, James and John as a foretaste of eternal glory. Luke tells us that Jesus spoke with Moses and Elijah about His suffering, death and resurrection.
3. The Transfiguration of Jesus proves that He is true God and true man. His divinity shone through His humanity on this occasion. But evidently Moses and Elijah strengthened Jesus for His suffering and death.
4. We do not know whether or not the three disciples heard the conversation of Jesus, Moses and Elijah. But the sight made them ecstatic. Peter wanted the occasion to last but Luke says that he did not know, hereof he spoke. The three did hear what the Father said. This caused them to fall down in fear. Then Jesus approached them and said: "Rise up and quit fearing." Like the disciples, we are fickle. One moment we are in ecstasy. Another moment we are afraid. Then Jesus comes to us and says: "Quit being afraid."
5. Read II Pet. 1:16-21. The sight of the Transfiguration strengthened them for what lay ahead. But they always remembered what the Father said: "This is My Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Be hearing Him." The Father was pleased and satisfied with the person and work of His Son. He directs our whole attention to Jesus Word. Jesus comes to us only through His Word, not in visions.
6. Moses and Elijah were prophets of God who showed people their sin. But only Jesus could cure sin and bring it to an end. Now we have the message of both, Law and Gospel. We use them for ourselves and to build the Kingdom of God on earth.
7. John, who witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus, wrote later: "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." Jn. 1:14.
8. Rev. 1:13-16 portrays Christ in the state of glory and is very likely a picture of what the three disciples saw. I Jn. 3:2 tells us: "Beloved, now we are the children of God, and it has not yet appeared what we shall be. We know that when He appears we will be like Him because we will see Him as He is." No wonder Peter wanted to build three tents for Moses, Elijah and Jesus! He wanted this to continue. But the Father said: "Peter, you listen to Jesus' Word." Often we long for the gIories of heaven. But the Father says: "Not yet. Just listen to My Son." The Bible assures us that when we die we will see the glorified Jesus. We will not be afraid because we too will have glorified bodies. We will be everything that Jesus is except that we will not be God.
9. Twice, on other occasions, a voice came from heaven about Jesus: when He was baptized, Mt. 3:17, and shortly before Jesus' death, Jn. 12:28.
10. A German theologian remarked that what the Father said in vs. 5 of our text contains three parts: the first from the Psalms (Ps. 2:7: Thou are My Son), the second from the prophets (Is. 42:1: In Whom My soul delights), and Moses (Deut. 18:15: Listen to Him).
11. Peter, James and John were Jesus' witnesses on three important occasions: Mk. 5:37; our text and Mt. 26:37.
12. The verb "appeared" in vs. 3 is used in the Bible of actual heavenly appearances. Also of God at Acts 7:2 and Jesus, Acts 9:17. It truly happened.
Theme: The Meaning of the Transfiguration
What happened on this occasion is unique in the history of the world. Many things in the life of Jesus are absolutely unique because He is unique. And all the uniqueness of Jesus has meaning for us. We wish to learn from this uniqueness.
I. IT TELLS US WHO JESUS IS
A. He is the One Who was prophesied. At the end of this occasion the Father from heaven said to all mankind: "This is My Beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased. Hear Him." The voice from heaven came on two other occasions in the life of Jesus: when He was baptized, Mt. 3:17, and a few days before He suffered and died, Jn. 12:28. And these words are a summary of several OT prophesies concerning Jesus. Ps. 2:7 (a prophesy of Jesus) says: "I will declare the decree: The Lord has said to Me 'You are My Son, Today I have begotten You'." (See Hebr. 1:5). Secondly, Is. 42:1 (also a prophesy of Jesus) reads: "Behold My Servant Whom I uphold, My elect One in Whom My soul delights." Thirdly, Deut. 18:15 (cf. Acts 3:22) says: "The Lord Your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me (Moses) from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear."
B. He is true God and true man. In many places the OT foretold that the Messiah would be true God and true man in one person. For example, Is. 9:6 where He is called child and God. Gabriel told both Mary and Joseph that He would be the God-man. His many miracles proved that. When Thomas called Him "My Lord and my God" Jesus did not deny it. On the occasion of our text Jesus' divinity shone through His humanity and even His clothing. Only His human nature was transfigured. It assured the disciples that the One Who would suffer was the God-man.
II. IT TELLS US WHAT HE DID
Six days before the transfiguration (Mt. 16:21-23) Jesus not only told His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem to suffer much from the elders, chief Priests and scribes and that He must be killed and on the third day must arise from the dead. This was offensive to Peter. And, though he meant well, Jesus told Peter that his thoughts were of Satan. Jesus had to carry out His mission. Not even Peter was to stop Him. In this same account Luke tells us that Moses and Elijah spoke, on this occasion, with Jesus about leaving this life, which means His suffering, death and resurrection. Even in a moment of great glory on a mountain top, the Gospels direct our attention to the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world. Jesus came not to be served but to serve, to give His life as a ransom for mankind. That's what the transfiguration is about.
III. IT TELLS US WHAT WE HAVE TO LOOK FORWARD TO
Rev. 1:13-16 gives us a glimpse of what the glorified Lord Jesus looks like. The dying Stephen (Acts 7:56) saw the glorified Jesus standing at the right hand of God. When Saul was converted He was given a glimpse of the glorified Lord (Acts 9:3-6). At II Cor. 12:1-5 Paul tells us of the glimpse of heaven which he was privileged to see. At Jn. 14:2-3 Jesus tells us: "In My Father's house are many apartments. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you I will come again and take you to Myself so that where I am you may be also." And I Jn. 3:2: "Beloved, now we are the children of God, and it has not yet appeared what we shall be. We know that when He appears we will be like Him because we will see Him as He is."
The transfiguration of Jesus tells us the important things: The Lord Who saves us by His Word now and promises to take us to Himself when we die. We can't stay on the mountain top. We still must suffer in the valley but the crown of life awaits us.