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The Transfiguration

Chan Gin Kai

Luke 9:28-36

About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendour, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfilment at Jerusalem. Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters – one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what he was saying.) While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and covered them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves and did not tell anyone at that time what they had seen. (Luke 9:28-36)

A few days after Jesus told his disciples that he was going to die, an amazing event – the Transfiguration – took place.

Jesus took Peter, James and John up to a mountain to pray, and something incredible happened; Jesus’ appearance changed and he became bright like lightning. Moses and Elijah appeared too, and the three of them, in glorious splendour, talked about Jesus’ impending death.

The Transfiguration is recorded in the Synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke. Some hypothesise it was alluded to in the Gospel of John too (John 1:14).

What is the significance of the Transfiguration?

Jesus was approaching the end of his ministry, about three years into his three and a half year mission. Jesus had performed many miracles and taught the disciples many things. Yet they still did not fully understand his purpose. When Jesus told his disciples he was going to die, Peter took Jesus aside and rebuked Jesus (Matthew 16:21-22). The disciples did not understand why the Messiah had to die, and they struggled in their belief.

The Transfiguration provided further evidence to the disciples that Jesus is the Son of God. It showed the disciples his divine glory. And the voice from heaven proclaiming, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen...” certainly helped to prove the point too.

The appearance of Moses and Elijah was highly significant. They were greatly revered by the Jews. Moses was regarded as the lawgiver and Elijah was respected as one of the greatest prophets. Every Jew was taught about them since they were kids. Their belief system and the way they worshipped were built around the law and the teachings of the prophets.

The appearance of Moses and Elijah with Jesus testified that Jesus came to fulfil the law and the prophets. The law could only point out the problem of sin. Jesus came to provide the solution for sin – his sacrifice.

At a point when the disciples struggled with their faith and belief in Jesus, this came as an important assurance. The Transfiguration strengthened their faith, as Peter testified many years later in his epistle: “For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. He received honour and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.” (2 Peter 1:16-18)

Jesus knows when we struggle with our faith. He understands and he cares. He may rebuke us like he rebuked Peter (1 Peter 21-23), so that we can learn. But he also assures us with his miracles. The question is, do we see his miracles?

I struggled with my faith in God earlier this year. At work, someone whom I had cared for and helped a lot turned against me and deliberately sabotaged me in order to shift the blame for his own mistakes. His selfishness and greed drove him to maliciously poison others against me. Some people chose to blindly believe his lies without even bothering to find out the truth. His actions hurt my business, but the betrayal hurt me even more. For a few months, my feelings alternated between blaming God, feeling self-pity, and struggling with anger towards him and the people who joined him. That they continued with their enmity, even till today, doesn’t help matters either.

But God has shown me miracles that I would not have seen if I had focused on self-pity. While a few people chose to believe in those accusations, many more chose to believe the truth. Over a few months, many of the neutral started seeing the difference in behaviour between the “other camp” and I, and the truth became even more apparent.

Friends who believe me strengthened their support towards me. The whole incident became a “cleansing process” too, where toxic relationships that have held me back were removed. No longer troubled by people who have pulled me down with their bad practices, the newfound focus with better partners have helped my business to grow even more than before.

More importantly, I’ve seen through this incident how Jesus stands patiently by me. I may have my sins and faults, but God forgives me and helps me to learn through them. He knows my weaknesses, He understands my struggles, and He finds ways to strengthen me.

The Transfiguration was not just an assurance to the disciples’ staggering faith; it was also an encouragement to Jesus, to prepare him for what was about to come. A few months after the incident, he faced even more intense persecution, false accusations, torture and finally death.

Our God will give us strength to overcome our weaknesses. The Transfiguration showed Jesus in his divine glory, it also reminds us of what is in store for us in future – we too will be raised in glory one day.

Chan Gin Kai

Gin Kai is a film producer who believes in the power of media to inspire positive changes. He has spearheaded disaster relief and capacity building projects in impoverished communities across Asia. In church, he serves as a mentor to young professionals in the EDGE Ministry. He describes himself as "just a sinner who wants to get right with God".

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