As we celebrate the Transfiguration of Our Lord today, we read an excerpt from The Big Book of New Testament Questions and Answers.
2 Peter 1:16–21
The glory that was revealed in Jesus during His transfiguration points toward His most glorious appearance of all—when He was dying on the cross for our sins and was resurrected. As we prepare to enter the Lenten season, we look toward Good Friday and Easter just as Jesus, atop the Mount of Transfiguration, looked toward His Passion in Jerusalem.
17:1–13 Why does the transfiguration happen; what is the significance?
This event took place just before Palm Sunday and Holy Week. Like Jesus’ Baptism, this occasion has to do with God revealing and confirming the truth about His Son. Jesus’ Baptism marks the beginning of His public ministry, includes the voice of the Father saying, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” and is immediately followed by a very serious trial in the desert. Jesus’ transfiguration marks the end of His public ministry, also includes the approving voice of the Father, and is followed by the most serious trial of all, Jesus’ suffering and death. Like the voice of the Father, Moses and Elijah are also there to confirm the identity of Jesus and the fact that He is fulfilling all that the Law and the prophets have written (more on this below). I suspect that this reconfirmation of Jesus’ divine nature is especially important because the disciples will be sorely tempted to give up hope during Jesus’ arrest, trial, suffering, and death.
17:1 Why did Jesus only take three disciples with Him?
I know of no place where the Bible provides a direct answer to this question. Paul mentions Peter, James, and John as “pillars” of the Church (Gal 2:9), and the Old Testament is full of examples of layers and subdivisions for the sake of good governance (Ex 18:21–25; Nu 31:48; Dt 16:18). The notion of these three apostles being pillars of the Church is curious given the differing life spans of these men. James was executed by Herod relatively soon after Jesus’ ascension. Peter was executed in Rome around AD 67. John lived to the end of the first century. So, perhaps Jesus chose these three to bear witness to extraordinary revelation from Jesus, to lead the group of apostles, to serve as pillars of the Church, and to represent the various lives, characteristics, and life spans of all the faithful people who would follow.
17:3 Is Moses and Elijah’s importance in the Old Testament the reason why they appeared with Jesus?
Yes. God gave the Ten Commandments through Moses (Jn 1:17; 7:19) and Elijah was chief among all the prophets (Mal 4:5; Mt 11:14). Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus because He is about to finish His work of fulfilling all that the Law demands and all that God promised through the prophets. Interestingly, Moses and Elijah appear together again in Rv 11:3–6. Here they are described as olive trees. As olive oil was burned in lamps to make light, so also Moses and Elijah (the Law and Prophets) provided the light of God’s Word. They are not mentioned by name but according to significant events in their history (Moses and the plagues, Elijah preventing the rain).
Devotional reading is from The Big Book of New Testament Questions and Answers pages 85–86 © 2015 Michael Eschelbach. Published by Concordia Publishing House.
Selected Hymn Stanza
O Father, with the eternal Son
And Holy Spirit ever one,
We pray Thee, bringing us by Thy grace
To see Thy glory face to face.
Hymn text is from LSB 413:5.