Having seen some of the greatest and most astonishing events that human eyes had ever witnessed, it is likely that the apostles would have discussed among themselves the wondrous things which they experienced at Jesus’ side. We, of course, are not privy to the private conversations between the apostles that are not explicitly recorded in the gospel accounts. These private things belong to them and the Lord. Yet, we cannot help but speculate about the kind of lively talk that likely would pass between them after such magnificent events transpired (cf. Mark 9:10). One of these events was the transfiguration.
About a week after Peter had confessed Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the Living God (Matt. 16:16-19), Jesus chose Peter, James and John to accompany Him to an high mountain apart by themselves to pray (Matt. 17:1; Mark 9:2; Luke 9:28). Which mountain it was, we do not know. Mounts Tabor and Herman have been suggested, but there is simply no way to know for certain. It was probably in the evening, as this was Jesus’ usual time to go into a place alone and pray (cf. Luke 6:12; 21:37; 22:39; Matt. 14:23-24) and the disciples’ eyes were already heavy with sleep. As in the garden of Gethsemene, the apostles were unable to keep themselves awake and fell fast asleep (Luke 9:32).
As Jesus prayed, something magnificent happened. The “fashion of His countenance was altered” (Luke 9:29). His face did shine as the sun and His raiment became as white as the light, shining white as snow, “so as no fuller can white them” (Matt. 17:2; Mark 9:3). This was not a reflected light from the snow on the mountain top, as some have vainly suggested, but this was an inner light shining forth. It was almost as if His humanity was peeled back and His heavenly glory was allowed to manifest itself, for a time, in this world (Luke 9:32). Perhaps it was the very light of His glory which wakened the sleeping apostles, who had apparently fallen asleep while Jesus prayed.
When the apostles fully awakened, they saw not only the Lord’s glory, but they saw something else happen here, too. As Jesus was transfigured before the apostles’ very eyes, two men appeared with Him, conversing with Him (Luke 9:30). Through some means, the apostles knew almost immediately that the two men were Moses and Elijah (Luke 9:36). Moses, the great lawgiver, and Elijah, the great prophet of the Old Testament themselves appeared with Jesus in a glorified form (Luke 9:31). While we are not privy to the exact conversation between the Lord and His two Old Testament saints, we do know the subject matter. They spoke to Jesus of His impending death “which He should accomplish at Jerusalem” (Luke 9:31).
At the precise moment that Moses and Elijah were leaving the Lord, Peter, because he did not know what else to do, felt compelled to speak out (Mark 9:6). “Master,” Peter blurted out, “it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias” (Mark 9:5). Peter meant well, but as was sometimes the case, he did not think before he spoke (Luke 9:33). The suggestion of three tabernacles implies that all three would be equally revered, equally honored. But the words that they were soon to hear showed the error of such a course.
Before Peter had even finished speaking, a bright cloud quickly overshadowed them and apparently engulfed them (Luke 9:34; Matt. 17:5). From the midst of this cloud came a voice that was equally unmistakable and equally fearsome, saying “This is My Beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him” (Luke 9:35). When the disciples heard the voice of God, they fell on their face and trembled with great fear (Matt. 17:5). What kind of thoughts must have flashed through their minds! But as they lay prostrate on the ground, a hand touched them. It was the Lord’s (Matt. 17:7). “Arise,” He said, “and be not afraid.” “And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only” (Matt. 17:8).
There really can be no doubt as to the significance of this event. God spoke unmistakably clear that the apostles, and now we ourselves, are to listen to the Lord alone. Moses, represented the law; Elijah, the prophets. But they are now gone while the Lord continues to speak through His word. God has in these last days spoken unto us by His Son (Heb. 1:1,2). The law has been fulfilled by the Lord (Matt. 5:17; Luke 24:44), and hence, He took it out of the way and nailed it to His cross (Col. 2:14).
As Jesus, Peter, James and John descended the holy mount, Jesus charged them that they should not tell anyone any of the things they had seen until after He was raised from the dead (Mark 9:10). With this they faithfully complied, though they questioned between themselves what it all should mean (Mark 9:10). When Peter later, himself, wrote about these things he observed that he was an eyewitness of His “majesty” and of His “excellent glory” (II Pet. 1:16-18). Therefore, he says, perhaps thinking back to that night to his own experience with Jesus on that mountain, we would do well to take heed, “as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts” (II Pet. 19,20).
We are to hear Jesus and no other.
Eric L. Padgett