Jesus had a close group of followers, and three disciples were his inner circle: Peter, James, and John. After having spoken about his death soon to come Jesus took these three up a mountain: ‘There Jesus was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light’ (Matthew 17v2). Jesus’ physical transformation helps the disciples look back: this visible change was a reminder of the glory he had before becoming a man. As the second person of the Trinity, he is fully God and fully man. Yet it also points forwards to his future exaltation. Following his death and resurrection Jesus would ascend to his home in heaven. The heavenly Jesus would continue his work on earth, providing forgiveness of sins through his perfect sacrifice and there he intercedes for us.
The sight was amazing, but there was more to come: ‘Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus’ (v4). These Old Testament characters represented the Law and the Prophets which both bore witness to the future Messiah who would fulfil the Old Testament. An Elijah type figure would prepare the way for the arrival of the Messiah (Jesus explained it was John the Baptist v10-13). The disciples were stunned. Peter suggested they could build shelters – a sort of memorial for each one of them: ‘While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (v5). The voice of God endorses Jesus his Son, superior to Moses and Elijah. His disciples must take great care to understand and respond to him as the Messiah.
Jesus revealed his divine glory in his transfiguration. Those who behold his glory will be transformed by it. In other words, once we’ve glimpsed the greatness of the Lord Jesus, then our lives can never be the same again.
The marking of this event (6th August) celebrates the revelation of the eternal glory of the Second Person of the Trinity, which was normally veiled during Christ’s life on earth. Symbolically, August 6 works well as it precedes the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross on 14th September by 40 days. As a result, it connects the transfiguration to the cross of Jesus Christ and helps us to see the glory in both.
During the summer there are often fewer of the usual scheduled activities. This could be your opportunity to read one of the Gospels to see either for the first time, or to see afresh, the glory of Jesus. But then if you do that you may well find that life changes for good.