Summary: The transfiguration of Jesus both connects him with Moses and at the same time marks the end of the Old Covenant. Paul's commentary on the transfiguration also helps us understand our call to transformative ministry.
There is one Sunday of the year that is referred to as "Transfiguration Sunday". Like Christmas, Easter, and other special days, this particular Sunday commemorates a special event in the life of our Lord. On this Sunday we read scripture that tells of something wonderful witnessed by Peter, James and John. They had climbed a mountain to pray with the Lord and watched as Jesus' face begin to change and his garments began to glow. This in itself must have been a strange and wonderful sight… but the significant of what was happening is even more wonderful. Today, I would like to explain its significance.
The story begins in the Old Testament where something similar happened with Moses. In Exodus 34:29-34 (NASB), we read the following account of what happened many years earlier on Mount Sinai:
29 It came about when Moses was coming down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the testimony were in Moses’ hand as he was coming down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because of his speaking with Him. 30 So when Aaron and all the sons of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. 31 Then Moses called to them, and Aaron and all the rulers in the congregation returned to him; and Moses spoke to them. 32 Afterward all the sons of Israel came near, and he commanded them to do everything that the LORD had spoken [a]to him on Mount Sinai. 33 When Moses had finished speaking with them, he put a veil over his face. 34 But whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with Him, he would take off the veil until he came out; and whenever he came out and spoke to the sons of Israel what he had been commanded,
Now let's compare this with what happened on another mountain many years later when like Moses, Jesus appeared to shine brightly, so brightly as to astonish and even frighten Peter, James and John. We read of this in Luke 9:28-36…(NASB)
28 Some eight days after these sayings, He took along Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And while He was praying, the appearance of His face became different, and His clothing became white and [a]gleaming. 30 And behold, two men were talking with Him; and they were Moses and Elijah, 31 who, appearing in [b]glory, were speaking of His departure which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and his companions had been overcome with sleep; but when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men standing with Him. 33 And as [c]these were leaving Him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three [d]tabernacles: one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—not realizing what he was saying. 34 While he was saying this, a cloud [e]formed and began to overshadow them; and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 Then a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!” 36 And when the voice [f]had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent, and reported to no one in those days any of the things which they had seen.
Was this a random event or was it something of deep meaning that our Heavenly Father was revealing to the Lord's disciples. Let's turn to the Apostle Paul for an explanation. In 2 Corinthians 3:11-18 (NKJV) he writes:
11 For if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious.12 Therefore, since we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech— 13 unlike Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away. 14 But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. 15 But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. 16 Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
The message being given is that there is a New Covenant replacing the Old. Moses is no longer to be thought of as the chief prophet. Moses and Elijah are subordinate to the Lord Jesus. By showing the Lord shining as had Moses, Jesus is first of all shown to be equal to Moses as the sign is the same. But when our Heavenly Father proclaims "“This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!”, Jesus is shown to be superior to Moses. The new covenant of grace had begun replacing the old covenant of law. And lest there be any misunderstanding on our part the very next statement in the account given to us by Luke is: "And when the voice [f]had spoken, Jesus was found alone.