Now about eight days after these sayings he (Jesus) took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said. As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen. Luke 9:28-36 (ESV)
The Transfiguration gives us a sort of preview as to what our post-resurrection life will look like. We see Jesus revealed in His glory and we see Him as the one foretold by Moses and Elijah and the other prophets.
Witnessing this event gave the disciples no choice but to make the connection as to the truth of who Jesus claimed to be. They no longer had the option to question the veracity of Jesus’ claim to divinity. Jesus clearly was neither Moses nor Elijah, but the greater one they had both prophesied of. They could not write Jesus off as a nice guy or a moral teacher. All three Persons of the Trinity manifest here- the voice of God the Father, the dazzling appearance of the Son in the flesh, the breath in the cloud of the Holy Spirit.
As we as Jesus’ people prepare for the somber, penitent season of Lent, it is good to remember who Jesus really is.
Jesus is greater than the prophets, and is the one of whom Moses and Elijah spoke of.
Jesus is God in human flesh, fully God and fully man.
Jesus came down from heaven to take on and become our sin and to suffer the punishment we deserve for our sins in our place.
Martin Luther, in his Explanatory Notes on the Gospels makes it very clear what the Transfiguration accomplished:
Very much is contained in this history.
First, The resurrection of the dead and the future glory and brightness of our bodies are shown. For this was something very remarkable, that Christ was transfigured while yet in the mortal body, which was subject to suffering. What then shall it be, when mortality shall have been swallowed up, and nothing shall remain but immortality and glory?
Secondly, There is added the appearance of Moses and Elijah, who prove by their appearing that they had never really died, and that there is yet another life, besides the earthly life, from which they were transferred.
Thirdly, This appearance teaches us also that we should despise death, and look upon it merely as an emigration or a sleep. In short, this appearance proves that this life is nothing at all in comparison with the future life.
Fourthly, This appearance proves that sin is overcome. For it necessarily follows as an incontrovertible conclusion, that, where death is overcome, there sin is also overcome.
But he permitted those three mentioned apostles especially to see this appearance, in order to guard them against the coming offense of his cross and crucifixion. Yet he accomplished little thereby, for they all were offended with him. Yet this appearance had its advantage after the resurrection, and served to strengthen their faith in Christ, that he was the Son of the living God, and that his kingdom must be regarded in a spiritual sense.
The whole holy Trinity appears here to strengthen the believers; namely, Christ in his transfigured form, the Father in the voice, and the Holy Ghost in the bright cloud.
Moses and Elijah appear in order to testify that Jesus Christ is truly the promised Messiah, according to the law (i.e. Moses,) and the prophets, (i.e. Elijah.) Compare Romans 3:21-22, and on the meaning of this transfiguration 2 Corinthians 3:7.
Oh, death, where is thy sting? May we keep our eyes and hearts on this glorious vision of Jesus.