What Does Transfigure Mean?

And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.

Matthew 17:2

And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them. And his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them.

Mark 9:2-3

And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering.

Luke 9:29

Transfigure is certainly not a word we use everyday! But it is perhaps one of the most precious words we have in the English language. It tells of the moment that Jesus showed men just a little bit of His glory!

The word literally means to “transform into something more beautiful or elevated.” I am not sure earthly words are enough to describe what Peter, James, and John got to see but the gospel writers give us a glimpse of the majesty those men saw that night.

First of all, the face of Jesus shined as the sun shines but it was still His face. The trio of disciples could still recognize Jesus. We know this because they were able to recognize Moses and Elijah who were shining as well, albeit much less than Jesus. This tells us that the glory we will receive in the resurrection is a transformation of our own bodies. We can therefore rejoice with Job:

For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.

Job 19:25-27

The clothing of Jesus was also the same clothes He had on before they went up the mountain. Yet now, something about His body caused His very clothes to be transformed as well so that they were the brightest white imaginable and they sparkled!

The trio will fall down in fear in the following verses so this had to truly be a marvelous sight! However, I think this is but a glimpse or a little unveiling of the full glory of Christ. Christ had voluntarily submitted to humble Himself and walk on earth as a man in an earthly body. On this mountain, Jesus pulls back the veil just a little and these three men get but a small portion of His full glory.

When we are in trial or hardship we can look to this scene to get a small glimpse of the glory that we will have when Jesus shines fully and we are in His presence forever!

For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

Romans 8:18

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