In Luke 9:28-36 is recorded Jesus’ Transfiguration. In previous studies I have shown that the mountain mentioned in Luke 9:28 is Mount Olivet. This is the mountain to which Messiah will come (Zechariah 14:1-4) in glory, and Jesus just finished saying to the Twelve that some of them standing with him at that time would see him coming with power (glory) in the Kingdom of God (Luke 9:27; Mark 9:1; Matthew 16:28). The Mount of Olives is the mountain from which Jesus ascended into heaven and to which it was promised that he would return (Acts 1:9-12). Sometime during the night and during prayer (Luke 9:29), Jesus was Transfigured. The Apostles were asleep (Luke 9:32), but woke up and saw his glory.
In Luke 9:33 Peter spoke, and, as is often the case, he jumped to the wrong conclusion. He believed that the Kingdom was come. Christ is in his glory and he is speaking with Moses and Elijah. He believed that the long awaited event had arrived.
“…and his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.” (Zechariah 14:4)
Peter wanted to know if he should build three tabernacles for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. On the way down the mount, the disciples asked Jesus about Elijah coming first. However, they never mentioned the mountain upon which all this took place. If they were yet in Caesarea Philippi, this would have been quite odd, since Messiah is prophesied to come to the Mount of Olives. The locality was never called into question, simply because the place where they were standing was the Mount of Olives.
What really happened upon the mountain and what does it all mean to us today? There is no question that Jesus’ appearance changed. His face and clothes became as bright as light itself. Nevertheless, Jesus was not some cheap magician. He doesn’t merely perform for others, so they can be awed with his power. Rather, the Lord had recently begun teaching the disciples a new theme which was applied here in a vision. There was a reason why Peter, James and John witnessed Jesus’ glory, and it concerned Jesus teaching.
Jesus was telling the Apostles that in the Kingdom of God we are different from how we are perceived in this world. Notice the wording in the chronicle. In Luke 9:29 Jesus was praying, and, as he prays, the “fashion” (G1491) of his continence is “altered” (G2087). The word for “altered” is heteros in the Greek, from which we get our word “heterosexual.” It was the same face, but it had another appearance.
The word for “fashion” is eidos. It seems to demand a mental picture or perception of something. It is used in 1Thesalonians 5:22, where one is to avoid all “appearance” (eidos) of evil. John the Baptist perceived the Holy Spirit as coming upon Christ in the “shape” (eidos) of a dove (Luke 3:22). Jesus told the Pharisees that they never knew God. They never heard him or saw his “shape” (eidos; John 5:37). That is, they had no idea what God was like. In 2Corinthians 5:7 We are told that, as a followers of Christ, we need to walk by faith and not by “sight” (eidos). The idea is in the sense of 2Corinthians 5:16-17. Although we had once perceived Christ as a man, no longer do we see him this way. He is the same person, but our hearts and minds understand he has changed.
The point of all this and the meaning of the Transfiguration is that Jesus was revealing to his disciples how we have all been changed by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We not only see Christ differently now, but we see one another and even those in the world differently. Because we are in Christ, we aren’t the same; our eidos (G1491), as it had been when we were in Adam has changed. We are new creatures (2Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15). Certainly, we are in the same human body. Nevertheless, almighty God through the indwelling presence of his Holy Spirit has changed us from within. We must not visualize those still in captivity to this world in the same way. God doesn’t and neither should we.
The wording in Matthew and Mark is different (Matthew 17:2; Mark 9:2), the same event is described with different words. It is said that Jesus was “transfigured” (metumorphoomai G3339), from which we receive our word “metamorphosis.” This is what happens to a caterpillar when it is changed into a butterfly! The apostle Paul pleads with us that we should not permit this world to press us into its mold. Rather, we should allow ourselves to be transformed (G3339) by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1-2). We reject the world’s ways and the wisdom found therein, and we look into God’s word as it describes Jesus in the Gospels (2Corinthians 3:18). In doing so, we trust that the Spirit of the Lord changes (G3339) us into people, who from within, are like what the Lord Jesus was seen to be on the mount by these three disciples (cf. 2Corinthians 3:15-18; 1John 3:1-3).