The transfiguration was before Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. After—and because of—Jesus’ resurrection, the promised Holy Spirit came, and Peter had something much better to preach (see Acts 2:14–37; 10:34–43; 2 Peter 1:16–18). The transfiguration pointed to Jesus’ future resurrection and glory. John wrote his whole gospel and Apocalypse perhaps recalling that “we beheld his glory” (John 1:14).
The transfiguration of Jesus is documented by Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Each records that Jesus Himself spoke about it (Matt.16:28–17:9; Mark 9:1–9; Luke 9:28–36). Jesus spoke of the transfiguration both before and after that unique event when His human body underwent a temporary transformation. The Synoptic Gospels indicate that the transfiguration had a particular relevance to those disciples who witnessed it and were forbidden to speak about it for a while. We will use Jesus’ statements to consider the transfiguration.
The Kingdom of God
First, Jesus mentions the kingdom of God. Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom” (Matt.16:28, emphasis added). All three evangelists connect the transfiguration with the kingdom of God. Luke describes it as “the kingdom of God”; Mark adds the words “come with power”; Matthew mentions “the Son of Man.” In spite of these minor but significant variations, they all place this saying immediately before the transfiguration.
Matthew and Mark record that Jesus and His disciples were in the region of Caesarea Philippi (Luke mentions no location) when He asked them for common views about His identity. His gracious words and powerful deeds had raised the question of whether He was the promised Messiah. The replies assigned Jesus the honored category of a notable prophet. He then turned the question to the disciples, asking, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter’s reply that He was God’s Messiah was wiser than he knew. He protested vehemently when Jesus informed the Twelve of His impending rejection and crucifixion. Peter was thinking of messiahship in the same way as his fellow Jews, who expected merely a prophet or a national deliverer, someone like Theudas or Judas of Galilee (Acts 5:36–37). Peter was reproved as emphatically as he had been declared blessed. The disciples were informed that not only did a “cross” await Jesus because He was God’s Messiah, but “a cross” also awaited all who followed Him (Matt. 10:38; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23).