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Why Does the Transfiguration Matter?

Nancy from Michigan asks, “What is the significance of the transfiguration?”

The transfiguration was primarily a display of Jesus’ glory for the benefit of His disciples—Peter, James, and John. Jesus already knew His divine origin and purpose from His Father, and Moses and Elijah had already completed their earthly purposes thousands of years before.

In Matthew’s account of the transfiguration, he says the moment occurred “after six days” from the previous chapter (Matthew 17:1). At the end of Matthew 16, Jesus tells His disciples about the trials and suffering He will face in Jerusalem. The disciples would have been understandably confused and perhaps even unsure of Jesus’ power if He—the Messiah—was going to suffer and die.

Matthew and Mark both emphasize in their accounts that three of Jesus’ closest disciples were present with Him during the transfiguration, and that He transfigured “before them,” and that Moses and Elijah appeared “to them.” This was clearly a display meant to be seen by the disciples, so that after Jesus died and rose again, they could share this moment with others as a continual reminder of the glory of God.

Moses and Elijah had both already witnessed the glory of God during their earthly ministries, Moses on Mount Sinai and Elijah atop Mount Horeb. They were present at this moment because, together, they represented both the Law and the Prophets, the elements Jesus came to earth to fulfill.

So, simply put, the transfiguration is significant because it reminded Jesus’ disciples then, and us now, of His divine power, His marvelous glory, and His power over the law.

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