The Transfiguration Bible Story Study Guide

The divinity of Jesus Christ was unveiled in the Transfiguration

Jesus’ Transfiguration

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Jesus’ Transfiguration in the Bible marked a significant phase in Christ’s revelation as the Messiah and the Son of God. The Lord’s glory was revealed not just through miraculous deeds, but in a more personal, tangible way. When Jesus transformed in appearance, his visible glory represented the presence of the kingdom of God among his people.

Key Takeaways: Jesus’ Transfiguration in the Bible

  • At Jesus’ Transfiguration, the Lord appeared in his true form as the Son of God and the disciples saw his preexistent glory.
  • The members of Jesus’ inner circle (Peter, James, and John), were eyewitnesses to the Transfiguration.
  • The Transfiguration is described by Matthew, Mark, and Luke, with the most detailed account given by Luke. The agreement in all three records of the incident is remarkable.
  •  The Transfiguration is a preview of every believer’s own future transformation in glory.

Scripture References 

The Transfiguration is described in all three Synoptic Gospels: Matthew 17:1-8, Mark 9:2-8, and Luke 9:28-36. There is also a reference to it in 2 Peter 1:16–18:

For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain. (NIV)

Jesus' Transfiguration Story Summary

Many rumors had been circulating about the identity of Jesus of Nazareth. Some thought he was the second coming of the Old Testament prophet Elijah.

Jesus asked his disciples who they thought he was, and Simon Peter spoke up, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." (Matthew 16:16, NIV) Jesus then explained to them how he must suffer, die, and rise from the dead for the sins of the world.

Six days later, Jesus took Peter, James, and John to the top of a mountain to pray. The three disciples fell asleep. When they awoke, they were astounded to see Jesus talking with Moses and Elijah.

Jesus was spectacularly transformed. His face shone like the sun, his clothing was dazzling white, brighter than anyone could bleach it. He spoke with Moses and Elijah about his crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension in Jerusalem.

Peter suggested building three shelters, one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah. He was so terrified he did not know what he was saying.

Then a bright cloud enveloped all of them, and from it, a voice said: "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him." (Matthew 17:5, NIV)

The disciples fell to the ground, paralyzed with fear, but when they looked up, only Jesus was present, returned to his normal appearance. He told them not to be afraid.

On the way down the mountain, Jesus commanded his three followers not to speak of the vision to anyone until he had risen from the dead.

Historical Context 

Bible scholars think the likely location of the Transfiguration was Mount Hermon, a 9,200 feet snow-capped mountain, the runoff of which flows into several streams which merge into the Jordan River.

Moses represented the law and Elijah the prophets. Both heralded the Messiah. Jesus, the promised Messiah, is the fulfillment of the law and prophets and is greater than both.

Mountains in the Bible were often places of revelation. Both Moses and Elijah had seen a vision of the glory of God on a mountain, Moses on Mount Sinai and Elijah on Mount Horeb.

Major Themes and Life Lessons

The disciples were terrified by Jesus' transfiguration because they saw a rare peek into God's invisible kingdom merging with the physical realm of earth. Jesus' glory shone through from inside him, revealing him as God in the flesh. The disciples needed the encouragement of this revelation to endure Jesus’ death and their future suffering and persecution.

God the Father appeared as a cloud, a mask frequently seen in the Old Testament. His words echoed the same thing he said at Jesus' baptism. When he ordered the disciples to listen to Jesus, it meant the gospel of grace would replace the law as God's plan of salvation.

Paul wrote about the idea of transfiguration in Romans 12:2 and 2 Corinthians 4:16–17, both times referring to the inward spiritual transformation of believers. When Jesus Christ returns in glory, all of his true followers will be eternally transformed and receive a glorious, resurrected body. Thus, the Lord's transfiguration was a foreshadowing of every Christian's future metamorphosis.

Question for Reflection

In the story of Jesus Transfiguration, God commanded everyone to listen to Jesus. Do we listen to Jesus as we go about our daily life?