The Transfiguration of Jesus

(Matthew 17:1-9)

By Rev. Dr. Sergio E. Arevalo, Jr.

Eagle Rock Lutheran Church, Los Angeles, CAtransfiguration1

Transfiguration Sunday, March 02, 2014



As our passage says Jesus went up on the mountain with other three disciples. And there he changed his appearance which we call it transfiguration. He also talked with Moses and Elijah in the mountain.

What is transfiguration? The word used in verse 2 is metamorphoo which means “metamorphose, to transform, to change, or to transfigure.” This word brings to our mind the process of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly.  It involves a change, in this case, into something glorious.

To understand more visibly the meaning of transfiguration, let’s watch this three-minute video on the metamorphosis of a caterpillar to chrysalis to a beautiful butterfly.

[The video shows the metamorphosis of a butterfly: from being a caterpillar to chrysalis until it becomes a pretty butterfly.]                          

1. The Place of Transfiguration (v.1).

1.1. Christian tradition and John Wesley believe that the place of transfiguration is said to be on Mount Tabor, a high mountain. However, Wycliffe writes that the location may be near Caesarea Philippi (Matt 16:13), and others believe that it was on Mount Olives.


Anyways, in the present Mount Tabor, the Eastern Orthodox Church built its church edifice in 1862 with funds from Romania.  Between 1919 until 1924 an impressive Roman Catholic Church of the Franciscan order named “Church of the Transfiguration” was built on the peak of Mount Tabor (

1.2. Wherever it was, Jesus wanted some privacy since he would show his glory to the people esp. to his inner circle of friends (Peter, James and John).

1.3. Jesus showed us that sometimes we need some privacy. We need to separate from the world to pray, and communicate with God. We need to switch off our cellphones, our MP3, our IPad, our radios, our televisions, and even our mouths and commune with God. In Korea, they have prayer booths in the mountains to commune with God, and they call them “prayer mountains.”

2. The Main Characters in Transfiguration (v.3).

In the Transfiguration story there are three sets of protagonists/characters: (1) the inner circle among Jesus’ friends; (2) Moses, Elijah, and Jesus and (3) the Father.

2.1. Most of the time Jesus was accompanied by these three former business associates or fishermen: Simon Peter, James and John (Lk 5:10; 8:51; Mt. 26:37). A question was raised in our Bible study, why Jesus was always accompanied by these three disciples? I believe they belong to the inner circle of friends of Jesus, and besides they were the most trusted among the disciples of Jesus.

It is like in management, we have most trusted people around us who will pursue our plans according to our vision. People who will jump when we say jump. They will not complain why do they need to jump, but instead they will ask how many floors do they need to jump.

2.2. Another set of characters in the story is the following: Moses, representing the Law, Elijah, representing the Prophets, and Jesus Christ, representing the New Covenant. The appearance of Moses and Elijah reveals that the resurrection is a reality, and we need to hope for it. Moses and Elijah talked with Jesus concerning His “departure that he would shortly bring about in Jerusalem” (Lk. 9:31).Transfiguration

2.3. God the Father disclosed his presence when he spoke, and revealed that Jesus was his Son. The Father also revealed that he approved what Jesus was doing.

3. The Messages of Transfiguration (v.5)

We can gather some messages in the story of Transfiguration.

3.1. The Glory of the Son of God (v.2). The transfiguration (changing of appearance) revealed the glory of Jesus as the Son of God. “His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light.” The transfiguration shows our hope of a glorified body for every believer in the future.

3.2. Witnesses for the Christ (v.3). Moses, Elijah and the Voice (God) were the witnesses of Jesus’ glory and ministry. The witnesses prove the truthfulness of Jesus’ ministry and missions.

3.3. Be Silent (v.4). Peter told Jesus, “Lord, it’s good that we’re here! If you want, I’ll set up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” However, the voice of the Father says “Keep on listening to him.” Which may mean close your mouth, be silent, and enjoy the moment by watching the scene.

Sometimes we open our mouth since we have many things in mind. We usually believe that what we are thinking is good, and it would be beneficial to many people. However, God is encouraging us to listen to Jesus and enjoy the awe of the moment. Can we just kneel down, close our eyes and listen to God in our meditation?

3.4. Listen to Jesus (v.5).  A voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love. I am pleased with him. Keep on listening to him!” Indeed, we have many things in mind, but God is reminding us the mission is not ours but of Jesus, thus, we should listen to his plan, and his vision. When we have Program Planning, we should ask ourselves first, is this what Jesus wants or it’s only what we want?


For us what’s the meaning of the transfiguration? I suggest that transfiguration means “changes.” It may mean changes of our life, changes of our direction and changes of our characters. We can only do that if we do listen and follow Jesus Christ since Jesus’ love will surely transform us.


Years ago a sociology professor at John Hopkins University in Baltimore assigned his class to a city slum to interview 200 boys. He told them, “On the basis of your findings predict their future.”

They were shocked at what they found out in the slums. The students estimated that 90% of the boys interviewed would someday serve time in prison.

Twenty years later the same professor asked another class to locate the survivors of the 200 boys and compare what happened.

Of the 180 boys they could find only four (4) had ever been to jail.

Why had the predictions by the earlier class proven false?  They proceeded on their research and here’s the finding. A common denominator-over 100 of them remembered having the same high school teacher, Miss O’Rourke, who had been a tremendous influence on them at the time.

After a long search, Sheila O’Rourke was found in a nursing home in Memphis. When asked for her explanation she was puzzled and replied, ‘All I did was love every one of them’ (

If the love of man changes others, the love of Jesus will surely change each of us.

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