Understanding the Transfiguration:
How was Christ transfigured before them?
1. In the glory of his person (Matthew 17:2).
It was a metamorphosis - a change from within. The glory of his eternal Sonship shone through the veil of flesh so that the disciples might see who he really was- both God and Man in one Person (see John 1:14 and John 1:18).
2. In the splendor of his countenance (Matthew 17:2).
“His face did shine as the sun.” When the face of Moses shone after conversing with God, it was borrowed radiance. However, Christ's glory and splendor, like the sun’s, was underived. That which was already there shone forth in unexcelled splendor. Consider Acts 26:13, “At midday, Oh king I saw in the way a light from heaven above, the brightness of the sun shining around me.”
3. In the brightness of his garments (Matthew 17:2).
Matthew describes his garments as being white as light. Mark describes them as being exceedingly white as snow.
Details of the Transfiguration:
1. His face did shine as the sun.
Revelation 1:16 says, “His countenance was as the sun which shineth in its strength.” We read once more of that resplendent countenance. Revelation 20:11 says, “Before whose face the heavens and the earth fled away.” At this time, the blaze of deity will so stream from His face as He sits as judge in order that the earth and heavens will flee away, unable to bear such dreaded majesty.
2. His raiment was as white as light.
Pure light of the sun is not just one color, but rather is the perfect blend of the sevenfold beauty of the colors of the rainbow. So it is with the person of Christ who embraces every excellence of deity, holiness, love, majesty, grace, wisdom, truth, and power.
3. Moses and Elijah were talking with Christ.
They were at home in His presence. Our loved ones are “absent from the body, but at home with the Lord.”
4. Behold a bright cloud overshadowed Him.
This was no mountain mist, but the Shekinah glory.
The heavens shall glow with splendor
But brighter far than they
The saints shall shine in glory,
As Christ shall them array.
The beauty of the Saviour
Shall dazzle every eye,
In the crowning-day that's coming
5. This is my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
In the Old Testament, when the cloud appeared in the tabernacle and in the temple, the priests could not minister because the glory of God completely filled the place. This was the same glory that enshrouded the Lord. The voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, hear Him.”
These words were spoken of our Lord twice - first at His baptism, then again at His transfiguration. The first commendation was at the beginning of His public ministry. The second commendation came in the third year of ministry, approximately eight or nine months before His death. As the Father looked forward, not only to the Cross, but also beyond it to the Throne, He was pleased with His Son. Can we do less?
6. The Conversation.
The conversation revolved around the subject of his death (see Luke 9:30-31). They spoke of his death and its accomplishments. They spoke of the coming kingdom, both physical and spiritual.
7. Peter’s Proposal.
“Let us make three tabernacles…” (Matthew 17:4). Peter wanted to stay in such glorious company, but he erred in putting the prophets on the same plain as Christ. Heavens’ reaction, “behold a bright cloud overshadowed them,” and a voice spoke saying, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased, hear him.”
Jesus Christ is unchallenged in his preeminence. He is the expressed image of God, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father, Heir of all things, King of kings and Lord of all. He is God over all, blessed forever. At this burst of glory, the disciples “fell on their faces, overcome with awe.” When they recovered, “they saw no men, save Jesus only.”
8. Mount of Transfiguration and the Hill of Calvary.
Let us compare and contrast the majesty and glory of the Holy Mount and the humiliation of Calvary.
- On the mount, the Lord’s face shone as the sun. On the Cross, His visage was marred more than any man's.
- On the mount, His raiment was white as light, exceedingly white and glistening. On the Cross, His garments were taken from Him and the soldiers gambled in order to possess them.
- On the mount, there stood with Him two men - two of the greatest. On the Cross, there were crucified with Him two thieves.
- On the mount, He was wrapped in Shekinah glory. On the Cross, He was clothed in darkness.
- On the mount, out of the cloud came the voice of infinite pleasure. On the Cross, out of the darkness came the anguished cry of desolation, “My God, why have you forsaken me.”
Both of these scenes feature the same Christ. Let us bow our hearts and worship Him. 1 Timothy 1:17 says, “Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
Interpreting The Transfiguration:
Read Matthew 16:28 and Matthew 17:1-8. Prior to this startling revelation, the Lord had been conversing with his disciples regarding the opinion men had formed of His person and character. Some of the people said that he was John the Baptist, others that he was Elijah or Jeremiah (see Matthew 16:13-14). But he was also anxious to hear his disciples’ appraisal of who He was. Peter, speaking for the disciples, made that glorious confession, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (see Matthew 16:16; Hebrews 1:1-3). However, it is questionable whether or not the disciples realized the implications of such a statement. Therefore, six days afterwards, the Lord took Peter, James and John up onto this high mountain.
The key to the interpretation of this passage is found in Matthew 16:28, “There are some standing here that will certainly live to see the Son of man coming into his kingdom.” These words were intended by God to reveal the glory of the Lord in the coming kingdom. Peter, writing 30 years later, said, “We have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, for we were witnesses of his majesty when we were with him on the holy mount.”
Let us consider this from the dispensational aspect. Moses and Elijah represent the two groups of believers who will share the kingdom with Christ. Moses represents those who have died in faith, not raised in glorified bodies. Elijah, who was translated to heaven, depicts all believers who at the rapture, will be caught up to heaven without passing through death (see 1 Thessalonians 4).
Peter, James, and John, who beheld the Lord's glory and heard the Father's voice, speak of Israel being restored to the Lord in the latter day, and then of Israel entering into the blessings of the millennial kingdom. The scene at the foot of the mountain illustrates the effects of the Second Advent, namely, the binding of Satan and the troubled nation’s deliverance from his power. [Consider briefly the spiritual aspect: Occupation with the glorified Christ is the necessary prelude to service for Him.]
Applying the Transfiguration:
Salvation is found in Christ alone. This blessed one, co-equal with the Father, Lord of all, is also “the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world” (see John 1:29). “Once, in the end of the age hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (see Hebrews 9:26). There is only one way. There is only one name. There is only one mediator. There is only one Savior.