Peter, James, and John were Jesus’ “inner circle” of disciples. They were invited to know Jesus in a more intimate, personal way. Often, Jesus would take the three of them aside, or with Him as He taught and ministered.

As Matthew, Mark, and Luke all tell us, only these three were privileged to go up on the mountain and witness an incredible thing. For just a little while, Jesus pulled back the cloak of humanity and let them have a glimpse of His glory.

He was transfigured.

The word “transfiguration” is from the Greek metamorphoō. It means to change into another form; literally, meta, implying change, and morphe, form.  

The gospel writers describe how Jesus changed, as it was told to them by Peter, James, and John.

  • The appearance of His face became different, and His clothing became white and gleaming (Luke 9:29).
  • His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light (Matthew 17:2).
  • His garments became radiant and exceedingly white, as no launderer on earth can whiten them (Mark 9:3).

There are only four uses of this Greek word, metamorphoō,  in the New Testament scriptures. Two refer to Jesus’ transfiguration in Matthew 17:2 and Mark 9:2. Vines Dictionary tells us that Luke avoids this term, which might have suggested to Gentile readers the metamorphoses of heathen gods, and uses the phrase egeneto heteron, “was altered,” literally, “became (ginomai) different (heteros).”

The other two uses of this word describe the change that happens, not in Jesus, but in His followers.

Romans 12:2 – And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

2 Corinthians 3:18 – But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.

Jesus did not change in nature on that mountain. Philippians 2 teaches us that when He came in human form, He simply laid aside His glory for a time to be clothed in human form. See also John 17:5, where we see in Jesus’ prayer that He was anticipating His return to His former glory after His death and resurrection. Jesus’ transfiguration was simply a change in His outward appearance; His true nature peeked through, as it were, and His disciples gained a glimpse into the glory of God.

For us, however, there is a change in nature. We are not transfigured … we are transformed. When we come to faith in Christ, we are given a new nature; we partake of the divine nature of God as the Spirit comes to indwell us (2 Peter 1:2-8). As the Holy Spirit sanctifies us, stripping off all the ways we conform to this world, we are transformed in our minds and hearts. The rest of our lives after salvation becomes a process by which we are remade into the likeness of Christ. What has happened on the inside becomes evident on the outside.

When that process is complete, He takes us home, and we are changed into immortal, glorified, eternal beings to live and worship in the presence of God forever. Just as we have born the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly (1 Corinthians 15:49; read that whole chapter, as well as 2 Corinthians 5:1-4).

The more glimpses Peter, James, and John experienced of the true nature of Jesus, the more their hearts were transformed. When we see the glory of God, we understand our own depravity and unholiness, and our only response is to cry out for transformation. We long to remain in the presence of His glory, just like Peter did in asking to stay on the mountain with Jesus, Moses, and Elijah.

Are you being transformed?

Look at Jesus. Fix your eyes on Him in all His glory, and you will never be the same.

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