Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
Today’s Gospel reading tells us when the Transfiguration of Jesus took place, where it took place, to whom it was taken place, and how it was taken place. But the significance of the reading is how Jesus sees his transfiguration at this moment.
The time of the event takes place six day later after Jesus’ telling his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me (Matthew 16:24).” In the Biblical tradition, six is not the perfect number. The perfect number is seven. Having heard what Jesus said, the disciples might ask who he was that we had to follow him? Jesus strengthens their faith by showing them who he is on the seventh day after his saying. In other words, what Jesus says fulfills when time is perfect.
The event was witnessed by three disciples of Jesus, Peter, James and John. They were led by Jesus to the mountain. Also in Biblical sense mountain is the place where people encounter with God. In the Old Testament, Moses went up to the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments from God. Mountain is also a place where one can have a better paramount view of the earth beneath it. It is place where one won’t be disturbed by the noises of built-up areas. Symbolically, the mountain within us is our heart. It is where we meet God if we can quiet down and be still.
At the Transfiguration, the three disciples saw Jesus’ face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. They could not recognize him. Who is this person that we had followed him, they asked quietly in their heart. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. The disciples knew of Moses and Elijah. Seeing the two great prophets whom they knew talking to Jesus, they realized that Jesus must be one of prophet of their rank.
But God reveals Himself through what the disciples already knew. The disciples suddenly saw a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” What it means to us at this point is that both Moses and Elijah are not God but the fingers pointing to God. Jesus doesn’t need them to prove who he is. It is God, the Father, who testifies Jesus’ identity and His relationship with Jesus. Here, we may recall that Jesus once says to Philip, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father (John 14:9).”
When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. It is because in the Jewish tradition a person would die when seeing God. Although they hadn’t seen God but they did hear His voice. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” How we understand Jesus’ comforting words to his disciples? These words signify that God wants us not to be afraid because He brings life not death to us.
And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. This verse is the best evidence of the mystery of Incarnation. God is with us. And He is not far away from us.
The ending of today’s Gospel reading is the climax. Given the fact Jesus is the Son of God, he has to complete God’s salvation of mankind through his suffering, death and resurrection. These are the seal of proof of God’s love to all of us.
Transfiguration is about Jesus and about us. When we are with him, we are with the divine. When he is with us, he is with the human. His love, grace, sacraments, peace and compassion can transfigure us. May we be present in prayer to this light. Amen.