And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.
(Matthew 17:1-13 ESV)
Six days after Jesus had predicted that some of His disciples would see Him in all His glory, He led three of them, Peter, James, and John, up a high mountain and fulfilled this prophecy.
While on the mountain Jesus was transfigured before them. We know little about what this means other than what the gospel writers tell us which is simply that Jesus’ face shone like the sun and His clothes became white as light. I’m sure there were other details but these men were likely too awestruck to remember anything more specific.
The Greek word translated “transfigured” is μεταμορπηοο (pronounced: met-am-or-fo’-o) and is the word from which we get our English word “metamorphosis” which means “a change of the form or nature of a thing or person into a completely different one”. This is the word we use to describe the change of a caterpillar into a butterfly: an entirely different creature.
Jesus, who up until this point has been seen only in human form, now revealed to three of His closest disciples His divine radiant glory. This was, to date, Jesus’ most obvious confirmation of His deity. He showed Himself for who He truly was – God.
This was not a miracle. This was the temporary cessation of a miracle. The miracle was that God placed Himself into a human body and walked on this earth for thirty years with His glory shielded from the eyes of those around Him. The transfiguration is Jesus pressing the pause button on His humanity and letting His divine nature be exposed.
As we’ve learned, at this point in His ministry Jesus is no longer teaching the masses. He is spending these last six months of His life preparing His twelve disciples for the time when He will leave this earth. He’s told them that He was going to Jerusalem to be arrested, beaten, and crucified. After following Him for over two and a half years the disciples were likely discouraged at that news. Perhaps they were wondering if they had wasted these many months following someone who was a fraud.
Jesus had already given them some words of encouragement and will continue to do so. But the events in today’s passage would have left no doubt in the minds of Peter, James, and John that Jesus was God, just like He said He was, and that there was hope.
Sometimes we can get discouraged when life doesn’t go the way we expect. Maybe we lose a job. Or a relationship goes south. Or we get a scary medical diagnosis. It’s okay be discouraged at times, but God does not want His children to be hopeless or disillusioned.
The transfiguration was Jesus’ giving hope to disillusioned disciples. Today we have the Bible, filled with story after story of who God is and offering us hope in God’s eternal plan for His children.
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