Q&A: Transfiguration

Transfiguration

Question

What is the significance of the transfiguration?

Answer

The Transfiguration is a fascinating event that appears in Matthew 17, Mark 9 and Luke 9. In all three accounts, the literary arrangement of material seems to indicate that the Transfiguration was intended to reassure the disciples (as well as the readers) of the truth of Jesus' statement that he was about to bring his kingdom (Matt. 16:24-28; Mark 8:34-9:1; Luke 9:23-27). Specifically, Jesus spoke of his coming in glory, and of the blessings that he would bring to those who were faithful to him, as well as of the curses he would bring to those who were not. In the transfiguration, he revealed that glory (Matt. 16:27; Mark 8:38; Luke 9:32) to the disciples in order to encourage them of the truth of his former statement. Then the Father confirmed Jesus' statement and revelation of glory (Matt. 17:5; Mark 9:7; Luke 9:35).

In the Father's statement that the disciples pay attention to Jesus above Moses and Elijah, it also seems designed to show that Jesus was superior to all of Israel's prior revelation (Moses was the preeminent author of the Law, and Elijah was the preeminent prophet -- "the Law and the Prophets" was one way of referring to the Old Testament in those days [cf. Matt. 7:12; 22:40; Luke 16:16; Acts 13:15; Rom. 3:21]), as well as to Israel's prior leaders. Because Jesus had the Father's blessing and sanction, and because the Father thereby confirmed all that Jesus said, the disciples/readers were/are to believe all that Jesus said, and to obey him without question.

The importance of this event, both as confirmation of Jesus' ministry and as encouragement for his followers, is shown by the fact that the Father spoke directly to the gathered disciples. Only twice in the Gospels does the Father speak directly and audibly: at the Transfiguration, and earlier at Jesus' baptism (Matt. 3:17; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22).


Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Finance and Administration at Third Millennium Ministries.