On a mountain somewhere in Galilee, Earth briefly encountered The Kingdom of Heaven.
This was not a typical demonstration or teaching about The Kingdom of Heaven.
This was a rare encounter.
Three fortunate men were chosen to witness this extraordinary event. James and John, the ‘sons of thunder’ and the impulsive Peter.
The honour of the experience later sparked discussion among the disciples. Who is the greatest follower of Jesus? 1 Could James and John sit at the right and left of Jesus in Heaven? 2
Years later, as he came to the end of his life, Peter would write about the event:
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 honor 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.
According to Luke, about eight days earlier Jesus had said: “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Kingdom of God.” The story follows on to highlight this event as the fulfilment. The Kingdom of God and Kingdom of Heaven are both phrases referring to the same thing. 3
Each of the synoptic gospels describes the transfiguration (meaning a change of form) of Jesus into a bright radiant figure. Here is an interesting video using theoretical physics to suggest what Jesus would look like if He was in eternity:
Talking with Jesus are two of the most important figures of Jewish history. Moses the giver of the Law and Elijah the greatest of the prophets. They speak of the departure, which Jesus was about to bring to fulfilment at Jerusalem.
Moses brought God’s Law → Jesus was the fulfilment of the Law.
Elijah brought God’s Word → Jesus is the Word.
As they leave the mountain Jesus tells them the prophetic spirit of Elijah had already come 4 as prophesied in Malachi. 5
Many scholars agree the transfiguration took place during the Feast of Tabernacles which means to “dwell in a tent”. The Jewish people construct temporary shelters to remember God’s provision while in the wilderness. It is also a time to look forward to a time when all nations will flow into Jerusalem to worship the Lord.
Peter was a passionate character who lived in the moment. He did not know what to say, so suggested they build three shelters.
Similar to His baptism, God affirms Jesus at this pivotal moment in His life. This is His Son, whom He loves and is well pleased. Listen to him!
Reflect upon the opposite appearances of Jesus. His divine form that shines like a bright white light. His earthly body was a battered and bloody sacrifice. Visually sickening as it hung off the cross.
Jesus the image of God.