Today is the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord. Happy feast day! Popular Catholic writer and speaker, Steve Ray, has led over 80 pilgrim groups to the top of the Mount of Transfiguration in northern Israel. It was to there that Jesus led Peter, James and John to pray whereupon “as he was praying, the appearance of his countenance was altered, and his raiment became dazzling white. And behold, two men talked with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was to accomplish at Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:29-31)
Steve Ray now gives us some wonderful insights into the significance of today’s feast day and prayerfully ponders how we too are changed by encountering the Lord’s Transfiguration. He writes:
The Transfiguration took place on the top of Mount Tabor which is like a perfect camel’s hump rising 1900 feet above the Jezreel Valley. People have always asked me how long did it take Jesus and his disciples to get to the top. Wanting to have a definitive answer, I drove there one morning and I climbed straight up the incline to the top — it took me 55 minutes. It was no wonder that the disciples were tired as they arrived at the summit.
The Transfiguration is described in three of the gospels and mentioned again in 2 Peter 1:16-18. Mountains are significant in Scripture and when it says Jesus went up a high mountain one should ask themselves if maybe he’s drawing our attention to another high mountain, namely Mount Sinai.
If we look at the parallels between the two events they are stunning. Moses went up a mountain and his face was glowing so bright he had to put a veil over his face (Exodus 34:35), the voice of God was heard in the trumpets, the lightning and thunder and the fire. A cloud came down on both mountains. And from Moses and God we hear the words “listen to him” (Deuteronomy 18:15-18).
Jesus is the New Moses and he is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets represented by the presence of Moses and Elijah. Moses led an exodus out of Egypt and then Luke informs us that Jesus is talking to Moses and Elijah about his “departure” from Jerusalem (Luke 9:31). In the Greek that word is “exodus”. It again draws our mind back to Sinai and Moses and gives us an indication that Jesus is the New Moses is leading the new and ultimate exodus to heaven.
It’s always a wonderful experience to ascend the mountain with our pilgrims. Jesus here gives his disciples a glimpse of his divinity which they’ll need as they soon go through the valley of his death. God often gives us mountaintop experiences that give us the courage and the strength to go through the valley.
Lastly, like any good teacher, Jesus loved a good backdrop and Mount Tabor provided such for the Great Commission. He told his disciples to meet him at the mountain in Galilee (Mt 28:16) and from atop the mountain, where he had a few weeks earlier been transfigured before them, he now commands them to take the good news into all the world, making disciples, teaching and baptizing them (Mt 28:16-18).
• Stephen K. Ray was raised in a devout and loving Baptist family. His father was a deacon and Bible teacher, and Stephen was very involved in the Baptist Church as a teacher of Biblical studies. After an in-depth study of the writings of the Church Fathers, both Steve and his wife Janet converted to the Catholic Church. He is the host of the popular, award-winning film series on salvation history, The Footprints of God. Steve is also the author of the best-selling books Crossing the Tiber, and St. John’s Gospel. He is a parishioner at Christ the King Parish in Ann Arbor.