What Is the Transfiguration?

The Transfiguration is an event from the life of Jesus that’s reported in three of the four gospels (Matthew 17:1-9, Mark 9:2-8, Luke 9:28-36). Jesus, along with his disciples, went up a mountain that overlooks Jerusalem and then appears with Elijah and Moses while he “transfigures,” meaning that the disciples see Jesus as he would appear after the resurrection. The gospels report that Jesus’ face and clothes became “dazzling white.”

The story is meant to not simply be a miracle but also has several other meanings. One is that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament law and prophets. At the Transfiguration, he’s seen with Moses (giver of the law) and Elijah (greatest of all prophets). As they overlook Jerusalem, the story foreshadows where this fulfillment of the law will take place: Jerusalem, where Jesus will meet his death. The disciples are confused by the Transfiguration and don’t realize that Jesus must die in order to save the world.

Lastly, the story is a foretaste of what is in store for us. We will all rise again, and with the Transfiguration, Jesus gives his disciples just a glimpse of what the afterlife holds for both them and us.

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Mike Hayes

Mike co-founded BustedHalo.com in 2001. Currently, Mike is the director of campus ministry at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York. A frequent speaker on ministering to young adults, Mike is the author of "Googling God: The Religious Landscape of People in Their 20s and 30s" and "Loving Work: A Spiritual Guide to Finding the Work We Love and Bringing Love to the Work We Do."