“After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves, There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (Matthew 17:1-8).
In an unusual setting, the three disciples witnessed one of the most important events that never happened before and is never repeated in the history. Simon Peter was the first disciple to speak in response to what they saw. He proposed to build three tents, one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. But his proposal was cut short, because God the Father interrupted him with an immense cloud covering them so they were overwhelmed by the glory of God. They bowed down in the presence of the holy God and they were terrified as the Father's voice was heard: "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!"
They did not understand the significance of the event. They did not understand the difference between Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. They thought that the three holy persons standing in front of them were equal. Day after day they saw Jesus in his most ordinary way. Jesus looked like a common man. He did not even look like a royalty. Even though his manners, speeches, and attitudes were divine, his appearance was still ordinary. And in that special day, Peter, John, and James witnessed the change in Jesus' appearance. "His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light." Obviously Moses and Elijah looked as brilliant as Jesus so Peter desired to build three shelters. The disciples did not see Jesus unique. They did not recognize that Jesus was supreme beyond even two of the greatest leaders in the history of Israel. They still saw Jesus as ordinary. His rank was the same as Moses and Elijah. Jesus performed miracles, and so did Moses and Elijah. Moses performed great miracles: the ten plagues, the dividing of the Red Sea, the water from the rock, manna from heaven, quail in the desert, the bronze snake, and many more. Elijah performed great miracles as well: the victory over Baal on mount Carmel, the judgment on the king of Samaria's captains, the dividing of the Jordan river, the ascension to heaven. Compared to what Moses and Elijah did, Jesus' miracles were quite ordinary. The disciples' eyes were fixed on the earthly things. So they did not understand.
Such ignorance should not be nurtured. It had to be corrected. God the Father took the initiative to correct it. So God came down in a cloud and surrounded the disciples with the bright cloud. Then God spoke. He spoke the very words that he spoke earlier during Jesus' baptism. "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." But in the transfiguration scene, God added: "Listen to him." And in the transfiguration scene, after the voice of the Father then the voice of Jesus was heard that said: "Get up, don't be afraid." The disciples did not see anyone else and did not hear any other voice except Jesus. The message from the Father was clear. Jesus was superior to Moses and Elijah. In fact, Jesus was superior than any other great people. To no other person on earth has God ever said "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." The disciples should listen to Jesus and not be distracted by anything else.
In the gospel of John we found that Jesus is not a mere man. He is the Logos, the living Word, in whom everything was created (John 1:1-3). If we may entertain abstraction a bit here, if you would allow me, let us see Jesus from another perspective. Jesus is the Word himself. God created the entire world by uttering his words. So, clearly the entire world is created in Jesus, who is the Word. Now, we are created after the image and the likeness of God. And we know that the perfect image of God is Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:15-20). In the very fabric of our being we will find the trace of the Word, for we are created in that image. The fact of the matter is, biologists have found that in our DNA there are 600.000 pages long of written codes or information, or I would say written words. We are made of words, so to speak, and the reference of the words in us is the very Word himself, the Logos, Jesus Christ, who is the true pattern of our being. The very construct of our being is words, and consequently, since words in us are created and not eternal, we cannot live without the True Word. For to define the words in us, to interpret our being, we need the original, and the original pattern of the image of God is Jesus Christ. Independent from Jesus means death, the words in us will wither, they will wander off without meaning. No man can live without meaning. The serpent's cunning way to temp Adam and Eve to sin was by usurping twisted words (non-words of God) into their minds. The flow of God's words in them were interrupted. Although the interruption was minor, the damage was great. A single alteration of the code in a computer program may destroy the program completely. We are being of words, and not of any words, but the words of God.
Even in the age which ascribes meaning carelessly and defines our existence ignorantly, the tendency of our being is to find meaning. That meaning, THE MEANING that we all search for cannot be found in anyone else but Jesus Christ. Thus Jesus says: "Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4). Our life depends on Jesus, the source of our very existence. That explains why the Father told the disciples to listen to Jesus, and not anyone else. Even the words that Moses and Elijah spoke of came from Jesus. Peter rightly admitted: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (John 6:68).
So, the importance of the transfiguration event is not only found in the transfiguration alone. What happened after the transfiguration serves as an important clue to decode the message. The misconception of Peter about the standing of Jesus Christ, the interruption of God the Father of Peter's proposal, the words of encouragement by Jesus, and the fact that after everything that happened Jesus was the only one that remained, the series of sequences clearly portray the imminence of Jesus Christ. The message is clear even for us today that none is greater than Jesus. Napoleon indicated that his kingdom and Alexander's were inferior to Jesus', because Napoleon's and Alexander's were the product of the power of might, but Jesus' was won in the hearts of the people by the power of love. None in the world can be greater than Jesus. Paul points out: "Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17). A survivor of the brutality of the Nazi concentration camp in Auschwitz, Viktor Frankl, who remained dignified even after the depersonalization and dehumanization process at the camp, found that man will continue to search for meaning in order to survive. We will continue to find meaning even in the most painful of suffering, in the most glorious of our status, in the midst of uncertainty or richness, in the emptiness of our loneliness or in the warmth of our family love. Regardless of our circumstances, our search for meaning is undeniable. But, and this is a big BUT, what meaning are we searching? God the Father, through the events succeeding the transfiguration, pointed out to Jesus, the Son whom he loves, and whom he is well pleased. In Jesus alone rests the eternal meaning of life which all man long for. So, listen to what Paul said that faith comes from hearing the message that is in the words of Jesus Christ. Only through faith one may be saved and find eternal life.
Jesus is the one. No other religious leaders ever pointed to himself and claimed that he is the way, the truth, and the life. Jesus is the only one to have the confidence to do so. Jesus was not delusional when he spoke such word. He is the very meaning all man is searching forever, for our being is made in him. He is the Logos, his words are true. Remember that we are created in the image of Jesus Christ, who is the truth himself. So, running through our being is the tendency to find the truth. All philosophers throughout the ages are searching for the truth, which they never find if they don't meet Jesus. Our soul is restless until we find the truth. Jesus is the one. The one who defines what is truth and what is not. All truth comes from him. The work of the serpent was to confuse Adam and Eve of what is true. Once twisted words entered into their system, they will need to stabilize themselves by finding the equilibrium. The true equilibrium can only be achieved by staying in the word of God. Unfortunately, they chose to stray from God's word, which results in the alteration of the system. The alteration produces malfunction in the deepest sense, or in John Calvin's words "total depravity." Nietzsche was searching for the one, the übermensch, but by denying Jesus, he could never find it. He mistakenly thought that the physical, the appearance is what matters. God showed that the spiritual provides a greater meaning than the physical. The physical transfiguration was easily misunderstood by Peter, but God's words remain forever and the meaning penetrates even the thickest wall. Somehow humans are easily seduced and tricked by appearance. Often we abandon that of greater values in order to gain the lesser ones. Even the wisest does the same thing. Take a look at Solomon. He exchanged the eternal for the temporal, and yet he is well known as the wisest among man. Instead of listening to other words, we need to go back to the source and embrace the Word. God said: "Listen to him (Jesus Christ)."
* The Business of Christian Education XXIX