Summary: This message casts light on the event known as the Transfiguration.
Text: “There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light” (Matthew 17:2).
You have heard this Scripture many times. Have you ever thought about what it really means? The word “transfigure” means to radically change in appearance.
The American Heritage Dictionary defines transfiguration as “a radical transformation of figure or appearance; metamorphosis.” The word metamorphosis is a big word, but we all learned about this during our school years. We might have forgotten the word, but we can recall a prime example of the process.
We all have seen the butterfly. It is usually very pretty in color and neat to watch as it goes from one plant or flower to another. The truth of the matter is the butterfly was not always pretty. There are 4 stages to the life cycle of the butterfly. There is the egg; larva; pupa, and then the adult.
When the egg hatches, a caterpillar emerges. We have all seen a caterpillar in our day. After the caterpillar becomes fully grown, a change takes place. It forms itself into a pupa or cocoon. The outside changes are visible, but the real change is taking place inside the cocoon, also called a chrysalis.
Inside the cocoon, the caterpillar is changing into a beautiful butterfly. This change is called metamorphosis. This is a radical or drastic transformation or change from caterpillar to butterfly.
When Jesus went upon the mountain with His three disciples a transformation or metamorphosis took place. The Scripture about the Transfiguration occurs in Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-8, and Luke 9:28-36. The three disciples actually saw as Jesus was glorified.
These three disciples, Peter, James and John knew Jesus only in His human form, but He was more than that. He wanted His disciples to see Him in His heavenly glory so that they could better understand Him. Jesus needed to demonstrate His deity or divinity or His holy being to His disciples.
“Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves” (Matthew 17:1). This was six days after Jesus had informed His disciples about His death and His Resurrection.
Why would Jesus take the disciples to a high mountain? Why didn’t He just call them aside or why didn’t Jesus meet with them in a room and carry through with the Transfiguration? He must have had a reason or maybe many reasons He chose the high mountain.
Jesus chose the mountain because He wanted a private place for what was about to happen. The Transfiguration had to happen away from the public because many did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah. Besides that, you may recall that whenever Jesus talked to the Father through prayer, he always did so in private.
He knew that in privacy there would be no distractions, thus He would give all His attention to the Father. Also, the Father would be able to direct all His attention to the Son.
If we are going to have a transforming or changing relationship bringing us closer to God, we must ascend higher by lifting up our heart and looking beyond what the world has to offer. Jesus took His disciples up to the top of the mountain, but we don’t have to do that. We can seek a private place so as not to be distracted and we can pour out our hearts desire to the Father and He will hear us and we will be transformed as He changes us from the inside out.
Our bodies will remain the same, just as Jesus’ body remained the same when He was transfigured. The real change will take place in our heart and that change will radiate from us to people around us.
Jesus physical body did not change into a spirit. His weak looking human body which was about to take great abuse appeared in power and in glory.
“His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light” (Matthew 17:2). The disciples knew Jesus by His face just as we recognize people by their face. If we saw a picture of someone from the neck down, there is a good chance we would not be able to recognize them. A person’s face is the identifying part of his or her body.
Jesus’ face shined like the sun. The sun is bright and the sun is powerful. When His face shined in His glory, it indicated to the disciples a tremendous amount of strength. His face was bright and very clear.
Think for a moment when the sky is cloudy. The sun is still up there, but because of the clouds it is not visible. When the cloud barrier separates, the bright sun then shines forth through the separation with a great amount of light, heat and radiance. Jesus’ radiant face was like the sun breaking through the clouds.