Summary: The transfiguration of Jesus teaches us about the glory of Jesus.
In our study of The Gospel of Luke we come to one of the most significant events in the life of Jesus. The twelve apostles had been with Jesus now for more than two years, and they had witnessed his astonishing preaching and amazing miracles, exercising power over nature, demons, diseases, and even death itself (see Luke 8:22-56). But, as commentator Philip Ryken wrote, “Of all the things the apostles witnessed, none was more spectacular than their vision of the glorified Christ.”
Let’s read about Jesus’ transfiguration in Luke 9:28-36:
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. (Luke 9:28-36)
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). The culmination of God’s creation was Adam and Eve. They were created to be in a relationship with God and to find their greatest joy in him. Initially, Adam and Eve apparently met with God in person. But after they sinned, “they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (Genesis 3:8). The greatest blessing known to Adam and Eve was to be in the very presence of God. But because of their sin, God banished them from his presence.
However, throughout redemptive history God periodically revealed his presence. This became known as “the Shekinah glory, the visible presence of God in a luminous cloud.”
God’s people Israel first saw the Shekinah glory of God after their Exodus from Egypt and while they were on their way to the Promised Land. “And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night” (Exodus 13:21). Commentator Kent Hughes says, “God palpably demonstrated his presence by a pillar-shaped cloud that radiated a fiery luminosity.”
Moses was the one whom God raised up to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Moses wanted to see the face of God. But God said, “You cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live” (Exodus 33:20). However, God added, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen” (Exodus 33:21-23). When God passed by, the divine hand was lifted, and Moses saw the back of God. Then God told Moses to write down the Ten Commandments on two tablets of stone. Moses did this and remained on the mountain forty days without eating and drinking anything (Exodus 34:28). “When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God” (Exodus 34:29). Moses had to wear a veil over his face as his face shone so brightly because, having been in the presence of God, he reflected the glory of God.
Then God had his people build a physical location for his Shekinah glory. The first “building” was the tabernacle, a tent that was constructed during the forty-year Exodus of the Israelites. When the tabernacle was built, we read these words in Exodus 40:34–35, “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” God was present in the tabernacle and wherever the tabernacle was located, God was said to be present there.