Purpose of the transfiguration?

Discussion in 'The Gospels & Acts' started by Tirian, Jul 3, 2013.

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  1. Tirian

    Tirian Puritan Board Sophomore

    Hi all,

    Somebody asked tonight about the purpose of the transfiguration and it dawned on me that I have always just accepted that it did happen but don't really know why it was necessary. Any thoughts? Was there to be a prophecy fulfilled? Why only to some of the disciples and not all? Is there debate about why it was necessary?

    Thanks for any pointers or insight you can share.

    Yours in Christ,
  2. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    It was fitting that a higher degree of Jesus' exalted glory should be made manifest at some point in his incarnation, prior to his resurrection. We can say this because this is what happened.

    It was fitting that this display be shown to a limited number of eye-witnesses,

    1) because of the general craving for exhibitions of a glorious Messiah, which were not to be answered, but refused;
    2) so that those present should report the event verbally, and their testimony believed, which should produce a superior result in the majority; so states Peter, 2Pet.1:16-21.​

    It was fitting that the Law and the Prophets (Moses and Elijah) should attend in a personal fashion to the Fulfillment of their work.
  3. C. M. Sheffield

    C. M. Sheffield Puritan Board Junior

    The transfiguration was what is known in Scripture as a "sign." That is, a Divine authentication of someone or something. In this case, of Jesus as the Messiah. Another sign in the gospels was at the Baptism of Christ. Both involve the Father speaking from heaven. In Christ's baptism, the Father speaks directly to his son "Thou art my beloved Son &c." in the Transfiguration, he speaks about his Son to the disciples, "This is my beloved Son, hear him."

    It is what the Father says that perhaps affords us the best understanding of this event. Jesus had been telling his disciples of his coming suffering and death. But they could not understand it and didn't want to hear it. From the Transfiguration forward, the narrative is heading in one direction: to the cross. The disciples could not reconcile Christ's messianic fulfilment with the prospect of suffering. So in the transfiguration, Jesus is revealed to them in all his glory so that they might see and be assured that he is who they had already confessed him to be--The Christ, the Son of the living God (Matt. 16:16). This will afford them comfort and courage to face what inevitably awaits them in Jerusalem.

    Additionally, Christ is flanked on this mountain by Moses and Elijah. There are various interpretations of why they are present. But again, I believe the words of the Father are helpful in this case. He says to the disciples: "This is my beloved Son, Hear Him." Now what were Moses and Elijah? They were Prophets. And what was Israel's obligation to a prophet? It was to Hear him (Deut. 18:15ff). So in this way, I believe God the father was manifesting Christ to be the fulfillment of the prophetic office, "The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken."

    As he says in Hebrews 1:1, 2, "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds." Whereas God had spoken by the prophets, now he speaks by his Son. And we must HEAR HIM.
  4. Miss Marple

    Miss Marple Puritan Board Junior

    I have always wondered, was Moses in some way translated like Elijah was? Because Elijah went straight to heaven, I understand "how" he could be there with Jesus in apparently glorified body. But Moses confuses me, because presumable he is still in the grave. So what was the appearance, just a vision sort of thing? As opposed to Elijah who was there in the glorified flesh?
  5. C. M. Sheffield

    C. M. Sheffield Puritan Board Junior

    These are indeed profound mysteries.
  6. Tirian

    Tirian Puritan Board Sophomore

    Thanks - that is really helpful. I was wondering why they were given this visual/physical experience at all and why the words from the mouth of Christ weren't sufficient - but what you are saying makes sense. People were expected to receive His testimony & teaching verbally - and because of Christ's love for us in our weakness He gave this experience to the few entrusted to strengthen the many following the end of His earthly ministry (and through the intense events leading up to the end of it).
  7. Tirian

    Tirian Puritan Board Sophomore

    Thanks for your helpful response. In terms of the transfiguration being authentication of Jesus as the Messiah - why was this particular sign necessary? Was there a scriptural requirement for direct Divine authentication via a visually manifestation that was separate from evidences given through the miracles performed by Christ?
  8. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    It was a revelation of His full Heavenly glory, together with Him discussing His "Exodus" with two men who were already in Heaven, as if they were old friends, which they were.

    The miracles were, relatively, partial revelations of who Christ was compared to the Transfiguration.

    The Lord didn't "have to" do this; it was of His grace and mercy to Peter, James and John, in order to strengthen them for His Passion, and, through their testimony, the other disciples.

    M. Rothenbuhler
    Check out the PB search function on Moses' body, Jude, the Devil, Michael, etc.
  9. PaulMc

    PaulMc Puritan Board Freshman

    An interesting verse to consider in light of this thought is Jude 9 (cf Duet 34:6) - apparently Ian Paisley, among others, thought that these verses related to the transfiguration. Although it's just speculation, it does seem to fit...
  10. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    I know many have taken the transfiguration to be a beam of divine glory - Christ's deity shining through the veil of the human nature. I can understand that, but I prefer a different approach (odd though it feels to side with G. Campbell Morgan, from whom I derived it).

    The meaning of the transfiguration is contained in the testimony: he received from God the Father honor and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. That testimony was received at the baptism, when Christ entered upon his public ministry; it is received again here, when his ministry undergoes a change - from this point forward, after this conversation concerning his exodus, he is headed towards the cross. In spite of the temptation by the devil; in spite of the pressures of ministry; in spite of the ignorant adulation of crowds, and the opposition of religious leaders; in spite of the frustrating weakness and ignorance of his disciples, he is still approved as the perfect man, the one who fulfills all righteousness.

    Had he not been our saviour, at this point I think he could have gone to heaven with Moses and Elijah; his righteousness has been tested, and is perfect. But he is the saviour of a sinful people, and so it still remains to suffer and die in their place. Therefore the glory of his obedience is made known only to a limited circle; again it is dimmed, and he descends from the mount to deal with the spiritual incompetence of his disciples, the spiritual weakness of the man with a demon-possessed son, and the spiritual slavery of the son himself, and beyond that to ascend another mountain to be suspended between heaven and earth. Obedience was not enough for our salvation; it had to be obedience to death, even the death of the cross.

    I'm open to correction, but that interpretation seems to account for the pivotal nature of this event.
  11. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    Thank you, Ruben. I very much appreciated that.
  12. Grimmson

    Grimmson Puritan Board Sophomore

    If you all do not mind me saying, but I think the presence of Moses and Elijah represent that Jesus is Lord of the Old Testament. The “Law and the Prophets” was the phrase commonly used to refer to what we now call today the Old Testament. It would make sense that Moses represents the Law, since he did write it for the people of God and Elijah would be represent the prophets. I think it is significant that the three “tabernacles” were not built, placing Jesus on equal ground with Moses and Elijah. In response to Peter, the Father said “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.” And the Son charged the three disciples to tell no more about the event until the after Jesus’ resurrection. The point I think is that all of the Law and the Prophets speak and point to Jesus, and that Jesus is Lord of all, not the Law and the Prophets being Lord of Jesus, which is why the disciples need to listen to Jesus. This way they can learn how to discern in what way the scripture speaks of Jesus. I think the transfigured Lord, help support this as well as he is in conversation with know citizens of heaven. It would make since that he would be seen in a glorified state in front of these two, instead of being seen as just a man. So what my point? The point of the transfiguration is that Jesus is Lord of all, Lord of Law and Lord of all the prophets, Lord of all the Scriptures, and therefore must be Lord of Jesus’ disciples and our Lord as well.
  13. convicted1

    convicted1 Puritan Board Freshman

    Isaiah 53:2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.

    Now, Jesus as a man, looked like the others. The only one who truly knew who He was, were the ones given to Him by the Father. Even the twelve, at times, wondered about this Man. For whatever reason, He had a special relationship with Peter, James, and John. They were with Him when He was transfigured, when he went in and healed the 12 y/o girl, and right before He was taken into custody in the garden and Gethsemane. So, to make these many words short, it was a TRUE sign to these three that He was who He said He was, in my opinion. But, I guess this could be called an "Captain Obvious" post.
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