28 Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. 30 And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33 And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. 34 As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” 36 And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.
Jesus’s central message was clear and simple: “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15). A kingdom is a place under the rule of a king, and when Jesus spoke about “the kingdom of God,” He was speaking about the blessings of life under the rule of God.
Those who live under God’s rule belong to His kingdom, and Jesus made it clear that this privilege is open to all. The condition of entrance is that you repent and believe the good news. You cannot enjoy the benefits of the kingdom if you will not bow to the King.
The Faith of the Apostles
Jesus invited many people to follow Him, but He designated twelve of them to be His apostles. Their special role was to be with Jesus, to preach, and to cast out demons (Mark 3:14–15). They were privileged to see Jesus’ miracles and to record what He said and did.
As they traveled with Jesus, He taught them to obey God, to love one another, and to live a life of faith under the rule of God.
When Jesus was alone with these disciples, He asked them, “Who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:15). Peter stepped forward and spoke for the others: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (16:16). After three years with Jesus, the disciples were convinced that He was the Promised One to whom the whole of the Old Testament had pointed.
Jesus chose this moment to tell His disciples what lay ahead: “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life” (Luke 9:22).
Jesus knew what lay ahead of Him. The suffering He endured on the cross did not take Him by surprise. He was prepared for it. He had come “to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45), and He went to Jerusalem to fulfill that purpose.
A Glimpse of the Future
About a week later, Jesus took three of His disciples on a prayer retreat. They climbed a mountain together, and when they arrived at the top, Jesus gave Peter, James, and John a glimpse of the future. While Jesus was praying, “the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning” (Luke 9:29).
An awesome brilliance radiated from Jesus, and it is clear that the three disciples were at the limits of vocabulary to describe how He looked. Mark records Peter’s recollection, saying that Jesus’ clothes appeared “whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them” (Mark 9:3).
We call this event the Transfiguration. Jesus was showing His disciples the glory that He would enter after His death and resurrection. The disciples needed to see this. In the next few days, they would see the face of Jesus battered, bruised, scourged, and beaten. He would be so disfigured as to become unrecognizable (Isaiah 52:14).
A crown of thorns would be forced onto His head. And after six hours of hanging on the cross, the light in His face would go out, and His eyes would be darkened in death. The disciples needed to know that this would not be the end, so Jesus gave them a glimpse of the glory that lay beyond the cross.
Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared with Jesus. They shared in the glory that was radiating from Him. This must have been completely astonishing to the disciples. Fifteen hundred years had passed since the death of Moses, and about seven hundred since the death of Elijah, and yet here they were sharing in the glorious splendor of Jesus.
It was more than the disciples could take in at the time, but it was the clearest indication that death would not be the end for Jesus or for His people. Great glory lay ahead.
The Awesome Cloud
But the most dramatic moment in this whole experience was still to come. As the disciples were talking with Jesus, a cloud enveloped them. They immediately recognized what was happening. The presence of almighty God had come down to Mount Sinai in a cloud when He gave the Ten Commandments to Moses. The same cloud of God’s presence had filled the temple in the days of Solomon. Now the cloud of God’s presence was coming to them. The disciples were terrified and fell on the ground, until Jesus lifted them up (Matthew 17:6–7).
When God came down to meet with Moses at Mount Sinai, He spoke with an audible voice. Now the audible voice of God was heard again: “A voice came from the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him’” (Luke 9:35).
A View from the Third Mountain
The disciples could not have asked for a clearer vindication of their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. They had seen the pattern of opposition to Jesus from people who claimed to be experts in the Law of Moses. But now they had seen Moses himself appearing as a direct witness to the claims of Jesus.
More than that, God the Father had spoken in an audible voice affirming that Jesus is indeed His Son and directing the disciples to listen to Him. Some regarded Jesus as a great teacher, a miracle worker, or a prophet. Others dismissed Him as demon possessed. But God the Father affirmed Him as His Son.
Later, the apostle John wrote these words about Jesus: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
The glory of the Transfiguration prepared Jesus and the disciples for what lay ahead in Jerusalem. That story takes us into another dark valley.
- In what ways is Jesus like us? In what ways is He different from any other person who has ever lived?