Updated: Feb 2, 2021
Matthew 17 New International Version (NIV)
The Transfiguration 1 After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3 Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. 4 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.” 5 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!” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” 8 When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus. 9 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.” 10 The disciples asked him, “Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?” 11 Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. 12 But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.
Luke 9:28-36 (NIV)
The Transfiguration 28 About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. 29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. 30 Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. 31 They spoke about his departure,[a] which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. 32 Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. 33 As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what he was saying.) 34 While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and covered them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” 36 When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves and did not tell anyone at that time what they had seen.
These are the Gospel recounts of the Transfiguration, which is defined in a Bible context as, “The sudden emanation of radiance from the person of Jesus that occurred on a mountain.” Still, the word generally means, “A marked change in form or appearance; a metamorphosis,” while also a word indicating, “A change that glorifies or exalts.” The misunderstanding of these eyewitness accounts in Matthew and Luke’s Gospels is the readers place much faith in Jesus being transfigured, while disregarding how the story is telling the faithful that they too must display “a sudden emanation of radiance.”
It is also not coincidence that Moses and Elijah were seen in the same glow as Jesus. Moses sat with God on the high mountain and in the tent of meeting. Afterwards, his face radiated so much it frightened the Israelites; so he began wearing a veil. When Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind, his attendant, Elisha, went with him to watch. Elisha said to Elijah, “Please let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.” If he saw the Ascension, his request would be granted. He saw and it was.
By three disciples (attendants on the high mountain) seeing Jesus alongside Moses and Elijah, God was showing them Jesus too had a “double portion of the Holy Spirit.” Because Jesus’ “face shone like the sun,” just as did that of Moses, Jesus was talking with God.
When one recalls how Elijah told Elisha, “You have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so,” this was God speaking through Elijah, knowing Elisha’s devotion. In the case of the Transfiguration, three disciples had seen Jesus as a heavenly spirit, along with Moses and Elijah, which meant the three disciples would also receive the same reward after Jesus Ascended. They saw because of their faith, so they (like Elisha) would likewise receive a double portion of spirit (the spirit of soul and the Holy Spirit of eternal life). Therefore, Jesus asked them not to talk about this gift before the other disciples would witness his Resurrection and Ascension, after he had been “taken away” by death.
When Elijah said to Elisha, “You have asked a hard thing,” one should never begin thinking that receiving the Holy Spirit is as easy as being the attendant for a prophet. All of the disciples were not to be granted that reward, because one would choose the flash of silver over whiteness “as bright as a flash of lightning.”
It must be grasped that Moses was a flawed human being, as he had murdered in anger. He fled to his father’s land in Media, where he would see the burning bush and begin speaking with God. Elijah was of low parentage, who possibly gave him to the temple to serve, much in the same way that Samuel was given over as a child. It was after Elijah had established himself as a servant to YAHWEH that he began to hear the voice of God speak to him. In a similar manner, the baby Jesus was born of a woman (Mary) as human and therefore born flawed.
All three would devote their lives to YAHWEH and, being forgiven of human sins, they began hearing his voice speaking to them. As such, when Moses would hear God and go to the Israelites, Moses spoke the word of God, not that of a flawed human being. Likewise, when Elijah went before Ahab and spoke the word of the LORD, it was not a simple human being speaking his mind. Jesus also spoke what God told him to say; and Jesus always said, “Verily I say,” because God only speaks the truth. Therefore, when Peter interrupted Jesus after he, James and John saw Jesus in a heavenly state of presence with the LORD, it was God that spoke: “This is my Son, whom I love, whom I have chosen; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
When the three disciples heard the voice of God rumble from the cloud, they hid their faces. When they next looked up they only saw Jesus. Jesus was just as filled with the Holy Spirit then as before, but they could no longer see beyond the present and physical. God had allowed them a glimpse of His heavenly presence in His Apostles, like Moses, Elijah, and Jesus. God allowed this because of the devotion the disciples had shown.
Jesus brought them to the high mountain for that purpose. Jesus wanted them to experience how they too would speak the word of the LORD when they would become Apostles. … when they too would renew the presence of Jesus on the earth. God would just as boldly state His support of them, repeating, “You are my son, whom I love, whom I have chosen; with whom I am well pleased.”
When Christianity spread across the pagan lands of Europe, it was not because men boldly claimed to others, “I know some stuff. Listen to me!” No one will follow such a braggart for long.
No, Christianity spread because Apostles spoke before others, just as Jesus spoke, telling the truth and explaining the Holy Bible in ways that opened the eyes, ears, and hearts of those who would listen. They listened because God spoke to them from a cloud saying the same thing as heard Peter, James, and John. New Christians have always heard a voice frighten them awake, saying: “This is the word of the LORD being spoken. Listen to it!”
Sadly, these days there are few Apostles still speaking the truth. A millennium of persecution has taken its toll. Often we hear welcome words, followed by tears and an emotional plea to send money, so more emotional words can be spoken by false prophets. When true Apostles do speak, they are rejected, simply because Christianity is seen as myth. People have come to think that the truth of God is only found coming from the mouths of unicorns. The transfiguration cannot be explained by priests as anything more than a warm and fuzzy feeling, one impossible to fully explain. This failure is because we have become a product of this “think with the brain” and “give money as a statement of heart” society.
We have the Egyptians to the left of us and Ahab and Jezebel to the right, stuck between a rock and a hard place, with no one who can hear the voice of God … well no one who is willing to listen for it.
An Apostle knows first-hand what the transfiguration means. However, to say it is the presence of the Holy Spirit coming into one, taking complete control, because one is completely devoted to God … that will sway no one today.
It is like saying, “I have caught the transfiguration in my hands. Want to see it? Then, once hands are opened … POOF! … its gone. It is still there. It is just behind the veil that keeps others from being frightened that holiness is in their presence.
“Get up. Don’t be afraid. Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead in you.”