Lessons from the Transfiguration

Lessons from the Transfiguration

There are lessons to learn from every passage in the Bible. The incident known as the “Transfiguration” reveals to us four aspects of the glory of Jesus Christ as King. This event is recorded in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke and although the 3 authors do not use the word “transfigure,” they all describe the scene (See Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-13 & Luke 9:28-36).

Mathew and Mark state that the transfiguration took place “six days after” Jesus predicted His suffering and death while Luke says “about eight days after.” However, these statements do not contradict; Luke’s statement is the Jewish equivalent of “about a week later.”

4 Aspects of the Glory of Jesus Christ as King

1) The Glory of His Person

As far as the gospel record is concerned, the transfiguration was the only occasion during Christ’s earthly ministry when He revealed the glory of His person. The word “transfigure” or “transform” gives us the English word “metamorphosis,” which means “a change in appearance that comes from within.” It’s like when a caterpillar builds a cocoon and later emerges as a moth or butterfly, this is due to the process called metamorphosis.

When Jesus transfigured before Peter, James and John, the glory of His person was not reflected, rather, it radiated from within. In other words, the change on the outside that the three disciples saw came from within Jesus as He allowed His essential glory to shine forth (See Hebrews 1:3).

2) The Glory of His Kingdom

The appearance of Moses and Elijah is highly significant. These two particular persons from the Old Testament represent the law (Moses) and the prophets (Elijah), both of which find their fulfillment in Jesus Christ (Luke 24:25-27; Hebrews 1:1-2). Moses had died and his body was buried (Deuteronomy 34:5-6), but Elijah had been raptured to heaven (2 Kings 2:11).

When Jesus returns, He will raise the bodies of the saints who died and will rapture the living saints (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). Every single word in the Old Testament will be fulfilled and God’s glorious kingdom will be established (Luke 1:32-33) as promised. And just as the three disciples saw Jesus glorified on earth, so God’s people will one day see Him in His glorious Kingdom on earth and will actually reign with Him for a thousand years (Revelation 4:4-6).

3) The Glory of His Cross

The disciples had to learn that suffering and glory go together. Peter opposed Jesus’ going to Jerusalem to die (Matthew 16:22) for he was thinking like a human being. After all, most people want to escape suffering and death. So Jesus had to teach Peter that apart from His suffering and death, there could be no glory. Peter certainly learned the lesson, for in his very first epistle he repeatedly emphasized suffering and glory (1 Peter 1:6-8, 11; 4:12-16; 5:1-4).

Discipleship means denying yourself, taking up your cross and following Christ (Matthew 16:24), but you cannot do that if you selfishly stay on the mount of glory. When Jesus said that anyone who wants to be His followers must do the above, He was saying that whatever happened to Him would happen to them as well. If there was a cross in His future, there would be one in their future.

*Note: Today, a cross is an accepted symbol of love and sacrifice, but in those days, the cross was a horrible means of capital punishment. The Romans who came up with this would not even impose it on a Roman citizen, for this terrible death was reserved only for their enemies.

Philippians 2:8-9

By the way, we need to keep in mind that Jesus is talking about discipleship in Matthew 16:24-26, not sonship. We are not saved by taking up a cross and following Jesus, but because we have placed our trust in the Savior who died on the cross for our sins. We become children of God first, and then we become His disciples.

To become a disciple, we need to “turn from our selfish ways” in order to give ourselves wholly to Christ and share in His shame and death, as described in Philippians 3:7-10, Galatians 2:20 and 1 Peter 4:12-16). The good news is, suffering always leads to glory and that is why Jesus ended His sermon with reference to His glorious Kingdom (Matthew 16:28).

4) The Glory of His Submission

When Jesus told His disciples that He would have to suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed but be raised the third day (Matthew 16:21), Peter could not understand why the Son of God would submit to evil people and willingly suffer.

The transfiguration was God’s way of teaching Peter and the other disciples that Jesus is glorified when we deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him. The Christian’s philosophy is “Yield yourself to God!” in contrast to that of the world’s which is “Save yourself!” And so, as Jesus stood there in glory, He proved to the three disciples that surrender always leads to glory.

Jesus, who was in very nature God, humbled Himself and submitted in complete obedience to the Father, even to the point of death on the cross. As a result, God the Father exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name (Philippians 2:6-10). Jesus has set the perfect example of ultimate obedience for us to follow. If we do as Jesus had done, that is, submit to God in all our ways, God is glorified.

Final Thoughts

We may have had glorious, personal experiences of encounter with the Lord Jesus during our devotion and worship; we may even have a spiritual “transfiguration” experience each day as we walk with the Lord. But as wonderful as “mountaintop” experiences are, they are not the basis for a consistent Christian life.

When we surrender our body, mind, and will to God, He will transform us from within so that we are not conformed to the world (Romans 12:1-2). As we behold our Savior in the Word, we are “transfigured” by the Spirit. This experience is known in theology as “sanctification,” the process by which we become more like the Lord, which is the Father’s goal for each of His children (1 John 3:2).

4 Replies to “Lessons from the Transfiguration”

  1. Your article is GREAT, you approach the main concepts about the transfiguration. The Bible is sometimes very hard to understand. I would like to ask you when you wrote “So Jesus had to teach Peter that apart from His suffering and death, there could be no glory” (1 Peter 1:6-8, 11; 4:12-16; 5:1-4), does it relate in some way with all the actual humanity suffering? Does it mean we have to suffer to get the glory of God?

    I am a believer, and sometimes I asked myself, where is God, where is Jesus Christ? Why all these are happening to the human being? Is it because we haven’t learn to follow Him? I think here is my answer: “When we surrender our body, mind, and will to God, He will transform us from within so that we are not conformed to the world.”

    Thank you for this great article.

    1. Hello Maria, thank you for taking the time to read the article.

      I agree with you to some extent that it can be pretty hard sometimes to grasp what the Word of God is saying. In fact, some have given up on the Bible because they claim there are contradictions while others say it’s very deep. But thank God for the Holy Spirit whom the Lord has given to teach us all things. There is also what we call “Hermeneutics,” the art and science of interpreting Scriptures.

      At the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus revealed to His followers the necessity of what He was about to go through. Yes, Jesus had to suffer and die, once and for all but the result is no other than victory — victory over sin and death. But do we have to suffer too in order to share in the glory of God? First of all, we’re living in a fallen world ruled by the prince of darkness. Trials and sufferings are inevitable.

      In my latest article, the Christian’s response to trials, I explained based on the Word of God why even Christians go through various trials and how they are to deal with suffering and difficulty. You can check it out here: https://biblical-christianity.com/the-christians-response-to-trials

      Blessings to you!

  2. Hi Alice,  

    Wow, thank you for your great article about the mysteries of the Transfiguration.  This came at a perfect time for me, as I pray the rosary and it helps me meditate more on this mystery. I didn’t have the depth of your knowledge and am so grateful to have read your 4 aspects of the Glory of Jesus Christ as King. I feel that the modern world needs to hear this, particularly: “The transfiguration was God’s way of teaching Peter and the other disciples that Jesus is glorified when we deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him. The Christian’s philosophy is “Yield yourself to God!” in contrast to that of the world’s which is “Save yourself!” (selfishness).

    How important is it for Christians to pray the Rosary and to meditate on this mystery?

    1. Hello John, thank you for taking the time to read the article, and thank you for your comment and question.

      So how important is it for Christians to pray the rosary and to meditate on the mystery of the Transfiguration? I may not share your beliefs in regards to praying the rosary but let me just say that what happened at the Mount of Transfiguration is something that believers in Jesus should try to reflect upon, especially because this took place about a week after Jesus told His disciples how much He is going to suffer before dying a horrifying death on the cross.

      If we go back one chapter, in Matthew 16:24-28, Jesus said something about what it would take for anyone who wants to be His disciple. Are we up to the challenge?

      Going back to praying the rosary, please allow me to give my reason/s for not practicing it any longer. I was raised in the Roman Catholic Church and so I also used to do it, especially during the month of October which is commonly known as the “Black Rosary” month. Having went to a RC school from primary to my college years, I have gotten used to this practice, along with stations of the cross and confessing my sins to a priest in a confessional box.

      But when I had a personal encounter with the Lord and was born again, I started reading and meditating what God has to say to us through His written word, the Bible, and I was led to believe that praying the rosary is not actually something that the Bible teaches. We are told to pray to the Father directly, in the name of Jesus.

      The history of Christianity also tells us that the early Church never practiced praying the rosary. Apparently, this practice originated only in the 3rd and early 4th centuries, as the RC church under the papal leadership tried to include practices which according to them would help them gain favor from God.

      The truth of the matter is, God sent His Son Jesus into this world to suffer and die for the sins of mankind. And as a result, we have been reconciled to God and have access to His throne. So we can pray directly to the Father, in the name of Jesus.

      We Christians can share in the 4 aspects of the glory of Jesus Christ as King. How? We need to acknowledge that we are sinners, repent of our sins and receive the gift of salvation that He is offering, by faith.

      One last thing, if we look closely at what’s recited in the prayer, “Hail Mary,” we would notice that it is actually a declaration of Mary’s cousin Elizabeth of how blessed Mary was for being chosen as a vessel to conceive and deliver the Son of God into this world.

      Blessings to you John.

      Reply

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