The glory of Christ often comes into greater focus when we find ourselves in the darkest valleys. The disciples could attest to this reality in their own lives as their lifelong messianic expectations were crushed when Jesus foretold His crucifixion (Mark 8:31). In their minds, Jesus was supposed to reign, not die. They were deflated and discouraged with the news of their Master’s impending death, and Jesus comforted them with realities anchored not in military might but in divine glory.
Six days after telling them, “The Son of Man must suffer many things” (v. 31), Jesus led Peter, James, and John up Mount Hermon to pray (9:2). The disciples fell asleep during this lengthy prayer meeting, and when they awoke, Jesus’ face and clothes were blazing white. Mark tells us that Jesus was “transfigured” before them. The true divine eternal glory of Jesus was allowed to shine through the incarnate cloak of humanity with which He had clothed Himself. Luke says that Jesus’ clothing “became dazzling white,” while Matthew adds that His face “shone like the sun” (Matt. 17:2; Luke 9:29). This brilliant glory was emanating from His very person. And here were Peter, James, and John—speechless, motionless, lifeless—as the magnificent light of divine glory filled their eyes.
Lingering in the minds of the disciples was the devastating reality that Jesus had said that when they arrived in Jerusalem, He would be arrested and crucified. The transfiguration was meant not to circumvent those events but to be a source of lasting comfort for the disciples. Jesus desired this close inner circle to take what they were seeing, hearing, and experiencing into their hearts and to draw from its joy when His passion began. The transfiguration was a light in their darkest valley. Offering an eyewitness account, John described this moment in John 1:14: “We have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son.”
This glorious vision is confirmed by Moses and Elijah, two representatives of the Old Testament, who are talking with Jesus about His coming death (Luke 9:31). If that weren’t enough to take in, the shekinah glory of God capped the mountain in divine incandescence when He stepped onto the scene to command the disciples to “listen to him” (Mark 9:7). In other words, when Jesus talks about His death, His disciples have to “listen to him” and embrace Him as a suffering servant.
Every aspect of this grand event was to be a bottomless well of comfort from which to draw. Jesus was reminding His disciples, and every other believer, that we must never forget the reality of our all-glorious Messiah in our darkest moments. Though the disciples’ expectations were crushed, Jesus proved to be more than they could ever ask, think, or imagine He was. Every aspect of the transfiguration proclaims: “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Ps. 30:5).