“Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.” (Luke 9:28-36, ESV)

The traditional “Church Calendar” recognizes the last Sunday before Lent as “Transfiguration Sunday.” The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke all record the event we know as The Transfiguration.

“Transfiguration” means “to be changed into another form or to be transformed.” (Mt. 17:2, Mk 9:2, Rom 12:2, II Cor 3:18) The way Luke describes the transfiguration, “becoming different”, teaches us several things especially regarding transformation.

The transfiguration was not an isolated event, it happened “about eight days after” some things Jesus had been saying. In verses 23-27 we read about these sayings of Jesus; “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”

These were hard sayings, unexpected, difficult to receive and somewhat unwelcomed. Peter had confessed that he believed that Jesus was the Christ of God. Then Jesus began to teach the disciples that He “must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” Using the terminology of crucifixion, Jesus then told those who were to follow Him that they too must be prepared to suffer. The transfiguration occurred “about eight days after these sayings”, in connection with these sayings and in contrast to confusion and despair these hard sayings produced.

Secondly, although the transfiguration was not an isolated event, it was and exclusive event. Jesus only invited Peter and John and James to go up the mountain to pray with Him. Peter had a hard time denying himself and even denied Christ three times to “save himself.” John was Jesus’ most beloved disciple and would outlive Peter and James, though he would know many times of self-denial, cross bearing, exile and loss. James would become the first of the Apostles to actually lose his life for the name of Christ. These three would be witnesses to the Kingdom of God in Christ. As Peter wrote 35 years after this event, “For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.”

Thirdly notice that “as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white.” In prayer we draw closer to the realities of the Kingdom of God, Truth of God and the Glory of God. Prayer is not so much something we do as it is something we become, closer to God.

Next we should reflect that the three disciples were challenged by this experience as well as changed. They were challenged by their drowsiness, the flesh warring against the spirit. They were also challenged by their lack of understanding of the Word of God.

They were changed as they witnessed Jesus change before their very eyes and saw Moses and Elijah with their physical eyes, not just the eyes of faith. Then, just as Peter spoke up about building three tabernacles to preserve this event; a cloud overshadows the disciples, a voice speaks out of the cloud and Moses and Elijah disappear leaving Jesus alone with His disciples.

Moses represented the Old Testament Law of God. Elijah represented the Old Testament Prophets of God. Jesus Christ, of course, fulfilled both the Law and the Prophets. It’s interesting to notice that both Moses and Elijah were conversing with Jesus about His departure. The focus of their conversation with Jesus was His soon to be accomplished death.

The Cross is the fulcrum upon which all of redemption is balanced. Thus Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (I Corinthians 1:18)

The appearance of Moses pointed to the Law, which Jesus fulfilled. People, like the apostles, get stuck in legalism and miss the point of the Law. The Law was good, as far as it went in revealing God’s holiness and man’s sinfulness. Jesus, God’s Son and Chosen One, is “the end of the Law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4). Listen to Jesus to get to the point of the Law.

Elijah represented the prophets of old. Prophecy commands repentance and points ultimately to Jesus. People, like the apostles, sometimes get stuck on prophecy, especially regarding the “end times”, and forget about life in real time. Listen to Jesus, God’s Son and Chosen One, and obey His commands in the here and now.

The disciples were beginning to be changed as they saw the Old Covenant begin to give way to the New Covenant. They kept silent for a time, then they spoke of and wrote of this experience. Let us be faithful to see and testify to Jesus Christ, God’s Son and Chosen One as we live in these days of the New Covenant, until He comes.

Christ shone through Jesus at the Transfiguration; let Christ shine through us.