Chapter 22.2 Transfiguration
Passover A.D. 29 to near Tabernacles 29 (six months from spring to autumn)
Transfiguration, original oil painting on canvas by Bloch
Transfiguration, original oil painting on canvas by Bloch (CLICK on the image above for a LARGER version)

Ascent of Mount Hermon

For six days, Jesus and the disciples moved through the towns and villages in the prosperous region around Caesarea Philippi where he taught the people. It was evening after the Sabbath when the Master and three of his apostles Peter, James and John—those who were most closely linked to him in heart and thought—climbed the path that led up to one of the heights of Hermon.

The sun was setting and a delicious cool hung in the air as the four began their ascent. Giant stands of Cedars of Lebanon stood on the slopes as far as the eye could see. But the one great object always in view above them was Hermon. Its three peaks were snow covered throughout the year. Now it stood out in all the wondrous glory of the sunset: first rose colored, then deepening red, next the purple afterglow, and the darkness relieved by snow in quick succession. From high up, a deep ruby flush came over all the scene and warm purple shadows crept slowly on. The flush died out in a few minutes and became a pale, steel colored shade.

As they ascended in the cool of that evening, the mountain air breathed strength into the climbers, and the scent of melting snow refreshed them. The summer’s night came on, and now the moon shone out in dazzling splendor, casting long shadows over Hermon, and lighting up the remaining snow patches around them.

At last they reached a slope with a level place near the summit. Away from everyone, they were in prayer together. Then alone the Savior prayed for them and for himself also, that his soul might lie calm and still in the unruffled quiet of his self surrender, absolute rest of his faith, and the victory of his sacrificial obedience. It was also preparation for his transfiguration. Truly as he stood on the slopes of Hermon, it was the highest ascent, the widest prospect into the past, present, and future of his earthly life.


After the long climb, it was natural for these men of simple habits to be heavy with sleep. When the three apostles woke up still in a semi-stupor, they saw their Master transformed while praying. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance changed so that his face shone like the sun, and his clothing became dazzling white. With the contrast heightened by the approaching darkness, his whole figure seemed bathed in supernatural light, the garments far whiter than any snow.

Then they saw two men with Christ, whom they had no difficulty in recognizing by their conversation—Moses and Elijah. These two Old Testament prophets, the lawgiver and the forerunner and their missions, were completed by the Messiah; a unity fitting together in all its parts. They were speaking of how he was about to fulfill God’s plan by dying in Jerusalem.

Terror seized the apostles. Such vision had never before been given to mortal man as what had fallen on their sight. They had already heard heaven’s conversation, tasted angels’ food, and the bread of his presence. Could this vision be perpetuated—at least prolonged?

As Moses and Elijah were starting to leave, Peter spoke for John and James, not even knowing what he was saying, blurting out, “Master, this is wonderful! We will make three shrines—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” They knew and felt it, and they longed to have it; yet their terror could not suggest how to secure it, except in the language of ignorance and semi-conscious confusion.

Suddenly a cloud—not an ordinary one, but a luminous cloud—passed over the top of the mountain. It settled between Jesus and the two Old Testament representatives. Now the bright cloud was spreading; presently its fringe fell upon them and enwrapped them. Heaven’s awe was upon them almost to breaking the bond between body and soul.

The Father’s voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Beloved Son: hear him.” This other testimony sealed it all; this other voice gave both meaning and music to what had been the subject of Moses’ and Elijah’s speaking. It had come in testimony to a person—that of Jesus as his “Beloved Son.” They heard it and fell on their faces in awestruck worship.

The last rays of the cloud had passed. Presently, it was a gentle touch that awakened them. Christ’s hand and words of comfort reassured them, “Get up. Do not be afraid.” Startled as they looked around them, they saw only Jesus. The heavenly visitors had gone, last glow of the luminous cloud had faded away, echoes of heaven’s voice had died out, and they were once again alone with their Master on the mountain.

Jesus' transfiguration was a necessary stage in his history: it was needed for his own strengthening, reaffirming his ministry and mission; it sealed the testimony to the disciples; and it proclaimed him as the Prophet of whom Moses had spoken. This was the second voice of God from heaven; the first had been at his baptism. There will be one more voice at the close of his ministry when certain Greeks come to see him.

At dawn of the next day, the Master and his “inner circle” turned their steps downward toward camp to join the rest of the apostles. Peter, James and John had seen his glory; they had seen the most solemn witness of the Old Testament and had a new knowledge of it. It all bore reference to Christ and it spoke of his death. He commanded them, “Do not tell anyone what you have seen until I have been raised from the dead.”

They kept it to themselves, but often asked each other what he meant by “rising from the dead.” They could not have understood its real meaning. But even the rest of the Twelve must not know of it. Since they were not qualified to witness it proved they were not prepared to hear of it.

All Things Are Possible

When Christ and his three apostles arrived at the foot of the mountain, they found a multitude surrounding the other nine that had been left behind. The scene below was a terrible contrast between the vision of Moses and Elijah. A concourse of excited people gathered around a man who had in vain brought his boy for healing. Some teachers of religious law were arguing with his disciples.

When the crowd saw Jesus coming, they ran to greet him. “What is all this arguing about?” he asked.

A desperate father made way before him knelt at his feet pleading, “Lord, my name is Nathan. Have mercy on my son Jonathan. I brought him here for you to heal. He can’t speak because he is possessed by an evil spirit that won’t let him talk. It throws him violently to the ground with seizures and he suffers terribly. You weren’t here, so I asked your disciples to cast out the evil spirit, but they couldn’t do it.”

Christ exclaimed, “You faithless people! How long must I be with you until you believe? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”

Nathan brought him to Jesus. When the evil spirit saw the Lord, it knocked the child to the ground and threw him into a violent convulsion.

The heavenly Physician asked, “How long has this been happening?”

To the father it seemed like the question of an earthly doctor who must consider the symptoms before he could attempt to cure. He answered, “Since he was very small. Do something if you can.”

Jesus turned to Nathan, “What do you mean, ‘If I can?’ Anything is possible if a person believes!” Not, if Christ can do anything, but Christ will do anything if only the father believes.

By laying hold of the Savior, Nathan understood and shouted the words of faith, “I do believe! Help me not to doubt!”

The Son of God turned toward Jonathan and rebuked the evil spirit, “Spirit of deafness and muteness, I command you to come out of this child and never enter him again!”

With its last effort, the spirit screamed and threw Jonathan into another violent convulsion, then left him. The boy lay there motionless. A murmur ran through the crowd, “He’s dead.”

But with a strong gentle hand, Jesus lifted the boy who seemed dead, and with loving gesture delivered him to his father. Awe gripped the people as they watched God’s power in action.

Later, when the Master was alone in a house with his disciples, the nine asked him, “Why couldn’t we cast out that evil spirit?”

“You did not have enough faith,” he told them. “I assure you, even if you had faith as small as a mustard seed you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible!”

In that hour of crisis, in the presence of questioning leaders and a watching populace, and in the absence of Christ they had failed for the same reason they had not been taken to the mount of transfiguration—because they were faithless, because of their unbelief. All things had been possible to true spiritual faith in him and in that higher power, but not to that external belief of the disciples who failed to reach that kind of level.

Christ gives richly, inexhaustibly, but not mechanically; there is only one condition—the presence of absolute faith. These words have for all time remained with every individual striver in the battle of the higher life, and to the church as a whole—our faith is the victory that overcomes the world. Nothing shall be impossible unto us. For all things are ours if Christ is ours!

Return to Galilee

Leaving the region, they traveled back through Galilee. As time drew near for the Festival of Tabernacles, Jesus secretly set out for Jerusalem through Samaria, staying out of public view. His season of retirement had ended.

As beacon fires from hill to hill announced the advent of that solemn feast from Jerusalem to those far away, so does the glory kindled on the Mount of Transfiguration shine through the darkness of the world and tell of Resurrection Day!

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