By Henry Hopson
Many of the lessons Jesus taught the disciples did not take root until after His ascension and the arrival of the Holy Spirit. Matthew and Mark’s account of the transfiguration is one of those lessons. The Master Teacher first gave the test, then He taught the lesson.
Jesus began by asking the disciples a question. “… Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” Matt 16:13. After listening to the disciples throw out a few names that were rumored among the people, “He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?” Matt 16:15. One disciple quickly responded with the correct answer. “And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Matt 16:16. Jesus confirmed the answer was correct and emphasized to Peter “for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” Matt 16:17.
At this point, the test ends and the lesson begins. I imagine the disciples were still filled with the joy of knowing that the one they had left everything to follow was actually the Christ, the promised Messiah. Like all Israelites, the dis-ciples believed the Messiah would restore the earthly kingdom of David. (Acts 1:6) In fact, some of the disciples had already decided what position they desired to hold in the coming earthly kingdom. (Matt 20:20-21; Mark 10:35-37)
While the disciples pondered over their future in the pending kingdom, Jesus continued the lesson. He advised his twelve students that in the coming days He would suffer many things. From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto His disciples how He must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Matt 16:21. Peter’s rebuke of the Lord (Matt 16:22) is further evidence the disciples did not grasp the meaning of the Lord’s teaching at this time.
Six days later the Master Teacher took Peter, James, and John on a field trip that would give them a glimpse of His glory to come. Matthew states, “And was transfigured before them: and His face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was as white as light.” Matt 17:2. Mark states, “… And He was transfigured before them, and His clothes became radiantly white, more so than any launderer in the world could bleach them.” Mark 9:2-3. The question now becomes, what is the lesson the Master is teaching?
Scripture clearly indicates the disciples were confused about the mission of Jesus. They had trouble grasping how the Messiah, the Son of God, could suffer and die. That was not the road map for the king the Israelites had been waiting for, for generations. Although scripture fore-told it, Israel did not believe the Messiah would suffer. God in His Omniscience, gave them a glimpse of the end result of His Devine plan.
The Greek word for transfigure is “metamor-phoo.” It means to change or transform. We get our English word metamorphosis from this word. Our society paints the picture of a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly, its ultimate state. To help Peter, James, and John get a better understanding of God’s Devine plan, He gave them a glimpse of His glory.
The ministry of Israel’s promised Messiah and our Devine Saviour included a cross before a crown. The transfiguration showed Peter, James, and John that the coming suffering did not cancel the coming glory. Later in their personal ministries, they could see that the order of Jesus’ ministry was suffering then glory. The Master Teacher gave the test, then taught the lesson by providing a “glimpse of His glory.”