Peter and the other disciples found it difficult to believe that Jesus would have to suffer and die, and they were no doubt troubled by our Lord’s teaching that true discipleship involves suffering (Mark 8:31–38). They needed encouragement that all was proceeding exactly as God had planned and that suffering for Christ’s sake would be worthwhile. In the transfiguration, they received such encouragement and assurance.
The account of Jesus’ transfiguration is so familiar that we must be careful not to miss the significance of the details. It occurred on a high mountain (9:2), which recalls Moses’ meeting with God high up on Mount Sinai (Ex. 19:20). The disciples, on the Mount of Transfiguration, were participating in an event that marked a key transition in the history of the Lord’s people. At Sinai, the mediator of the old covenant—Moses—was established; on the Mount of Transfiguration, the mediator of the new covenant—Jesus Christ was revealed and confirmed.
In the transfiguration of Christ, our Lord’s eternal, radiant glory was revealed. For much of His earthly ministry, Jesus’ humanity veiled this glory, hiding it from human sight behind the weakness of human flesh. But on the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus’ refulgent glory and majesty were displayed in visible form in a blinding display of whiteness. Peter, James, and John saw the purity and deity of our Savior on that occasion, which would strengthen their faith over the course of the rest of their lives (2 Peter 1:16–18).
Yet this vision was only a temporary glimpse of His glory. The transfiguration came to an end; it was appropriate at that point only for the briefest foretaste to be given of what awaits us in heaven. John Calvin comments, “His transfiguration did not altogether enable his disciples to see Christ, as he now is in heaven, but gave them a taste of his boundless glory, such as they were able to comprehend.” In heaven, we will see the Son of God as He is; we will enjoy the beatific vision and be able to look on the face of our Creator. That vision will fully satisfy our souls and will be so incredible that we can hardly explain what it will be like to see such beauty. At that point, we will finally achieve the purpose for which we were made, namely, to enjoy direct fellowship with our Maker. We will see His radiant glory and never tire of the vision, for to see the face of our Lord will be to experience the very fullness of the blessed life.