The transfiguration is recored in Luke 9:28-36; Matthew 17:1-9 and Mark 9:2-13.
Eight days prior to the transfiguration (Luke 9:28) Jesus was explaining to His disciples the ‘cost of discipleship’. Peter had confessed that Jesus was the ‘Christ of God’ (v 20). Jesus went on to say that some of the disciples would shortly ‘see the kingdom of God’ (v 27).
After eight days He took Peter, John and James up on a mountain to pray (v 28). While Jesus was praying His appearance changed, and His robe became white and glistening (v 29).
Moses and Elijah appeared with Him. Jesus discussed with them His death which was about to take place in Jerusalem (vs 30, 31). At one point the disciples were sleepy, but when they woke they saw Jesus in His glory with the other two.
As Moses and Elijah were about to depart, Peter suggested he and the other disciples should make three tabernacles – one for each of them (v 33). A cloud covered the disciples and they heard a voice from within saying,“This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” (v 35). The cloud disappeared and they found only Jesus.
They said nothing to anybody about what they had witnessed (v 36). In fact, Jesus instructed them to tell no one “until the Son of Man is risen from the dead.” (Matthew 17:12)
Well, it seems to me that the three disciples were given a special insight into the divine nature of Jesus. His glory was revealed to them. Clearly He appeared to them in a different bodily form, and even His clothes were changed.
Matthew said His face ‘shone like the sun’ ( Matthew 17:2). He also adds that the disciples were greatly afraid (v 6) after they heard the voice of the Father (v 5). Mark contributes nothing new to the story.
Some commentators of the Bible believe that Moses represented the law and Elijah the prophets.
So what do we get from the accounts? Basically the three disciples were given a glimpse of the glory of Jesus and of His kingdom. This was in fulfilment of Luke 9:27 when Jesus said, “But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the kingdom of God.”
The Father spoke to the three disciples and told them that Jesus was His beloved Son, and they were to ‘hear Him!’ (Luke 9:35) His Father’s voice was also heard at the baptism of Jesus (Mark 1:11). The words “hear Him” hark back to Deuteronomy 18:15 when Moses said God would raise up a prophet like him who people were to ‘hear’. Jesus was that Prophet and we are to ‘hear’ Him (John 5:24; 10:27; Luke 6:47).
Before the transfiguration Peter and the other disciples already knew Jesus was the Christ (Luke 9:20, 21), but three of them were given this special vision of His glory (Luke 9:28-36; Matthew 17:1-9 and Mark 9:2-13).
There’s possibly a link between the transfiguration and Matthew 5:17 when Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law and the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfil.” I say this, because Jesus spoke of His forthcoming death to Moses and Elijah (Luke (9: 30, 31). Moses was the mediator of the OT law which Jesus fulfilled and Elijah was the prophet who, “must first come” (Matthew 11:11, 14).
John the Baptist was a figurative Elijah, and there were similarities between them (Luke 3:1-6; 2 Kings 1:8; Matthew 3:4). Jesus actually said Elijah would come, but that he had already come, and the disciples understood that ‘He spoke to them of John the Baptist.’ (Matthew 17:11-13)