What Did the Disciples See at the Transfiguration of Christ?


We continue today to meditate on the topic of Jesus being God. We have been saying the last few days that the Holy Scriptures, Old, and New Testament, prove that Christ is God in the flesh, coming into the world for a specific purpose—that of being the sacrificial Lamb of God who would pay the sin-debt of all who put their faith in Him.


On one occasion, Jesus took three of His disciples to the top of a mountain. While they were there, something happened to Christ that the three witnessed. Christians call this event the Transfiguration. Here’s what the scripture says:


2And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. 4And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. 5And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” 8And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only (Mark 9:2-8).


Mark uses the Greek word, Metamorphoo, translated into the English word transfigured. We get our word, metamorphosis, from this Greek word to describe the change that takes place when a caterpillar morphs into a butterfly. The word means to change form, to alter fundamentally, a change of place or condition. God revealed to the three disciples the true essence of the Lord Jesus, His divine glory that was not manifest while He walked with us, but now witnessed by the three disciples who were with Him.


Let’s look at a passage that will help explain what was happening. Paul the Apostle, writing to the church at Philippi, tells us about Christ in this way:


Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness (Philippians 2:6-7).


The Greek word translated as made himself nothing is the word Kenoo. The word means to empty, to void, to make empty, to be without content, to be made ineffectual. It means to empty something of its power, to render insignificant, to cause to be irrelevant. The mystery of the Gospel is that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself (2 Corinthians 5:19). When Jesus left heaven and the glory He had with the Father, He became fully man to offer Himself as a substitutionary sacrifice, voluntarily accepting the restrictions upon Him as a man without laying aside His nature as God.


At the same time as becoming a man, He was fully God. In the passage about the transfiguration, not only did the disciples see Christ as He really is, but at the same time, they saw two others, Moses and Elijah, in the glorious state they now have in the realm beyond the flesh. This change of nature or metamorphosis will also take place in the believer in Christ. The Lord was encouraging the disciples that, in their denying of themselves, an inner glory would be the result, and this glory from God would be manifest in the future, just as Elijah and Moses' were. What God is doing on the inside of us, i.e., shaping and molding our inner spiritual life, will come to the outside. How glorious will that time be! Keith Thomas