Jesus’ transfiguration took place on a high mountain, possibly Mount Hermon, which was not far from Caesarea Philippi. The event was a revelation of Christ’s glory and was witnessed by only three chosen apostles. In coming into the world as a human being, Jesus had laid his divine glory aside, but now it reappeared briefly through a human body. It gave an indication of the glory he would receive after he had finished the work he came to do (Matt 17:1-2; Luke 9:28-29).
Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus during his transfiguration, possibly to symbolize that the law and the prophets found their fulfilment in him. He was the one to whom the entire Old Testament pointed. They talked with Jesus about his coming death, confirming what Jesus had recently told the apostles. The Messiah had to die before he could enter his glory (Matt 17:3; Luke 9:30-31).
The apostles were confused about what was happening, but the Father’s voice from heaven told them that it was an expression of his satisfaction with the entire ministry of Jesus. By combining words from one of David’s psalms with words from one of Isaiah’s servant songs, God declared that the kingly Messiah would lay down his life as the suffering servant. This Messiah was also God’s prophet, and people were to listen to his message (Matt 17:4-5; Luke 9:32-35; cf. Ps 2:7; Isa 42:1; Deut 18:15,18; Acts 3:22).
When the transfiguration was over and Jesus’ appearance returned to normal, he again told the apostles that they were not yet to reveal what they had learnt (Matt 17:6-9; Luke 9:36). The vision of Elijah prompted the apostles to ask if Elijah would come before the Messiah. If Jesus was the Messiah, why had Elijah not come? Jesus replied that John the Baptist was the promised Elijah, but just as people rejected the Messiah’s forerunner so would they reject the Messiah (Matt 17:10-13).