I love words. They have so much power whether they are spoken or written. You may be familiar with the saying “The pen is mightier than the sword” and in many cases that’s true. Whenever I approach a passage like this, one of the tools that I use in my study is a dictionary (or Google ;)) to get a fuller picture of the words that I’m reading. So, for this passage, I pulled out my dictionary and looked up the word “transfigured” and this was my favorite definition: to transform into something more beautiful or elevated. That’s exactly what happened to Jesus on the mountain. The disciples saw Him in a more beautiful state than they could even imagine and He was elevated in their eyes. The word transfigure also means to change the outside to match the inside. In this context, Jesus’ veiled divinity by being fully man but also fully God is removed and Peter, James and John saw Him in His glory.
Over the years I’ve read many different commentaries about this passage and the importance of it. Some say that the appearance of Moses and Elijah (two Old Testament greats) was to encourage Jesus as He moved closer to the time of His crucifixion. Some say that the purpose was for Jesus’ inner circle to see Him in His glory to strengthen their faith for what was to come. God is the ultimate multi-tasker, so it makes sense to me that multiple purposes could have been going on at the same time. In this one event, both heaven and earth bore witness to Jesus as Messiah.
I would love to know the specifics of that conversation between Jesus, Moses and Elijah. All we get from this passage is that Moses and Elijah appeared and began talking with Jesus. But then Peter, in his excitement, starts talking. We can see his nervousness and impulsiveness in what he says. My heart goes out to Peter. It probably would have been better if he had just been silent, but I sure get his nervous chatter. And then God stops the chatter by telling them to listen to His son. They look around and suddenly they only saw Jesus. Only Jesus.
Many times when believers experience a time of deep connection with Jesus it’s referred to as a mountaintop experience. Those times often occur during things like mission trips, when we are fully entrenched in serving and our everyday life is far away. But then we come back home and the demands of life return and that intense experience moves to the background. We can’t build a shelter on the mountaintop any more than Peter could, but when the experience is over hopefully what we see is a fuller picture of Jesus. Only Jesus.
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