Summary of passages: Matthew 17:1-8: Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him up on a mountain where he was transfigured before them. Moses and Elijah appeared, talking with Jesus. Peter offered to build each a shelter. God enveloped them in a cloud and said “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” The disciples were terrified. Moses and Elijah had disappeared. Only Jesus remained.
Mark 9:2-10: Same exact story except here BSF has us reading what happens next (which they don’t in Matthew) and we learn that Jesus tells the disciples not to speak of what they have seen on the mountain until he rises from the dead, an expression which baffles the disciples.
Luke 9:28-36: Same story except Luke says it was 8 days and not 6 days and does not use the word “transfigured”. Instead, he says how Jesus’ face changed. Jesus, Moses, and Elijah spoke of Jesus’ departure. Peter seems to be confused.
3a) A mountainside
b) Jesus, Peter, John (the brother of James), James, God, Elijah, Moses
c) He had been teaching his disciples about his death for the people and saying how some of them won’t face death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.
4a) Jesus was a ball of light and his clothes were the purest white. He dazzled and sparkled and was probably a most incredible sight.
b) Peter saw firsthand the majesty of Jesus and God. He received honor and glory in that moment in the cloud.
c) Both. Why else bring the disciples if it was just for Jesus? The disciples needed to see it as much as Jesus needed to experience it.
5) Matthew 24:30; 26:62-64: In the future at the Second Coming, we will all get to see Jesus in his power and glory coming on the clouds in the sky. He will sit at God’s right hand.
John 1:14: John says how he has seen Christ’s glory who came from the grace and truth of the Father.
John 17:1-5: Jesus asks to be glorified in his presence with the glory he had before the world began. I am assuming to become a man then Jesus wasn’t in all of his glory until the transfiguration.
Acts 26:13-14: Paul recounts how Jesus appeared to him in a light from heaven that was brighter than the sun.
Philippians 2:9-10: God exalted Jesus to the highest place (like in the Transfiguration) and gave him the name that is above every name so that every knee shall bow.
Revelation 1:13-17: Jesus is white and his face was shining like the sun in all of its brilliance. He was dressed in white and his eyes were blazing.
Conclusions and End Notes: There is a TON here and I will do my best to explain it.
Transfiguration means “a change in form or appearance.” The term is used specifically in the Bible here to only mean this one occasion. It was an actual physical change as we read. It was from the inner soul though and not dropped from heaven. The radiance had always been there just now it is shining forth, taking on characteristics of the resurrected body.
Why now did the transfiguration occur? For both Jesus and the disciples. For Jesus he was encouraged for he was about to go to the cross. For the disciples it confirmed the necessity of the cross and Jesus’ death. Here the suffering is linked with the glory.
Zondervan’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary by J.D. Douglas and Merrill C Tenney says this: “It was the crowning with glory of the perfect human life of Jesus, God’s stamp of approval on his sinless humanity. This established his fitness to be our sinbearer on the cross and an entry for Jesus into the glory in which he would reign–a manifestation of the king coming into his kingdom (Matthew 16:28).”
Scholars believe this fulfills Jesus’ prediction in Matthew 16:28 right before this that some of them will see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom. Luke calls this in 9:27 “the kingdom of God”.
Why only John, James, and Peter? Well, we’ll never know but scholars say either to keep the word from getting out since Jesus tells them to tell no one or because these three needed to be watched. I would say he chose these 3 out of God’s grace to witness such a moment.
The discrepancy in days is a matter of translation details again. The Greek word means “about a week” so it was translated as 6 in Matthew and Mark and 8 days in Luke.
Again, the Greek verb for “transfigure” suggests a change in the inmost nature. Scholars believe Jesus hid his glory until this moment.
Also, we can’t read this chapter without remembering what happened just before. Scholars say this must fulfill Jesus’s words in 16:28. When the apostles wrote, it wasn’t broken up in chapters and verse. This only occurred beginning in the 16th century, a full 1500 years after these words were first written.
Why Moses and Elijah? Scholars say because Moses embodies the Law as the first great lawgiver and Elijah represents prophecy as the first great prophet. The Old Testament meeting the New Testament so to speak.
Some say Moses represents those who have died and are going or will go to heaven (Jude 9) and Elijah represents those who won’t face death at the Second Coming but will go to heaven as well (2 Kings 2:11).
Note Elijah and Moses only talk with Jesus, not the apostles.
It is pointed out by Mark and Luke that Peter has no idea what he is saying. Would you? You just saw Christ in all his glory. I’d be dumbfounded as well. It probably would have been best for Peter to remain silent but as we saw when Jesus walked on water, that wasn’t him.
Yet the effect of Peter’s words put Jesus as equal with Moses and Elijah which as that time was important. As we all know, he is above them but back then the Jewish people revered Moses and Elijah as right under God.
The cloud is the same as in the Old Testament when God speaks. This is to shield man who cannot see God’s glory.
Here, God interrupts Peter and rebukes him [can you imagine? being rebuked not only by Jesus but by God himself? I'm pretty sure I would have soiled my pants! Poor Peter! Not something I want to be remembered for.] once again, saying that Jesus is above Moses and Elijah, above the Law and the Prophets.
Note that God uses the Word here: Psalm 2:7; Isaiah 42:1; Deuteronomy 18:15. It’s so cool how God is the Word and has been since the beginning and that is all that is needed.
God says to listen to Jesus. It’s all about Jesus.
The disciples fell in fear at God’s voice once again. We are to be in awe of Him and have a healthy fear.
The disciples needed the reassurance of who Jesus was (the Messiah) right after Jesus told them of his forthcoming sufferings for their sake.
Only Jesus remained. He is sufficient. He is enough. He is all we need now. We have no need of Moses and Elijah. Jesus is enough.
Fun Fact: This was the only time Jesus appeared different than a normal human being. He had none of the glory usually associated with God (Exodus 40:34).
Fun Fact: The title “Son of Man” is used about 90 times in the Gospels for Jesus. It was first used in Daniel 7:13, which introduced the Messiah who would rule all of history.