The Transfiguration is one of those feasts that usually gets tucked away in midweek and so tends, like the Ascension, to get overlooked by churches. And yet it is one of the major feast days of the Church as it reveals the fullness of Jesus to us as Messiah and Lord. How does it do that?
First 1 John 1:5 tells us that God is light. So the bright cloud (mentioned in Matthew’s account), the shining of Jesus’ face like the sun (again Matthew) and the whiteness of Jesus clothes which Luke describes as “dazzling white” and Mark as “exceedingly white, like snow, such as no launderer on earth can whiten them” (Mark 9:3) all demonstrate that Jesus is God.
Second, God the Father bears witness from heaven: “This is my Son (beloved in Matthew)” showing that Jesus was God from the beginning. He doesn't say “he has become” but “IS my Son.”
Third, Moses represents the Law and all those who have died. Elijah represents the prophets and since he did not experience death but was taken up into heaven, he represents all those who are alive in Christ. Their presence—Moses and Elijah—shows that the Law and the Prophets, the living and the dead, all bear witness to Jesus as the Messiah, the fulfilment of the Old Testament.
Incidentally the presence of Elijah and Moses reinforces the biblical teaching about the communion of saints mentioned in the Creed “the communion of saints and the forgiveness of sins” and in Hebrews 12:1 where the writer talks about the “great cloud of witnesses” with the cloud representing the presence of God with whom they all live. Moses and Elijah appear talking with Jesus before being enveloped in the cloud of God’s presence again!
Added note: This part raises the question about the nearness of those saints who have gone before us and makes you wonder if the church of the first 1500 years was that far off when it prayed to the saints?
Finally, the Holy Trinity is manifested here as Christ is transfigured, the Father speaks from heaven testifying to Jesus’ divine sonship and the Spirit is present in form of a dazzling light surrounding Jesus and overshadowing the whole mountain.
And then everything recedes. Once God has spoken we are told by Luke that “Jesus was found alone.” In Matthew he says “when they, the disciples, had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.”
Its as if to say that we can have all the ecstatic experiences, all the signs and wonders, all the fireworks and external aids, but in the end it is Jesus only we should and need to look to. “Fix your eyes on Jesus” says the author to the Hebrews. And so we should.
Our salvation, our life, our meaning and wholeness as people, all centre of our relationship with him. He is the way, the truth and the life by which we come to God the Father. He is the resurrection and the life who raises us up when we die. He is the light of the world that shines in the darkness of our world showing us the way. He is the bread of life that feeds our hungry souls. He is the true vine in which we must abide. He is the great I am, the revelation of the fullness of God. He is the door through which we enter into eternal life, He is the Good Shepherd who tends and leads his sheep. He is the water of life to whom all who are thirsty come to drink.
The transfiguration highlights Jesus and presents him to us, foreshadowing his resurrection and acting as a spotlight that shines on him to remind us who he is and why we worship and serve him.