Throughout the world, Christians commemorate the Transfiguration on August 6. Peter remembered—and told the church to remember—the event, "the prophetic word made more sure," as "a lamp shining in a dark place" (2 Peter 1:19, NASB).

The time leading up to the vision of Christ's majesty had been a dark one for Peter: According to Matthew and Luke, he had been troubled by Jesus' words about his upcoming death and had recently been called Satan. But for him and the other eyewitnesses, the event confirmed Jesus' divinity and mission. It prepared the way for Christ's death. As at Jesus' baptism, God announced that Jesus was his beloved Son, the chosen one. He added the command, "Listen to him!" After the vision, Jesus, Peter, James, and John went down the mountain talking about resurrection.

We don't celebrate by building tents for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, as Peter suggested when he couldn't think of anything else to say, but artists throughout church history have depicted the event.

The Transfiguration does not seem like a scene that could naturally become quiet and two-dimensional—Jesus' conversation about his crucifixion with long-dead Elijah and Moses (who, Ruth Bell Graham pointed out in Prodigals and Those Who Love Them, had not been permitted to see the Holy Land before his death) was off-record, Peter couldn't stop babbling, and the whole situation was so overwhelming that the disciples were "overcome by sleep" (Luke 9:32).

While some paintings of the Transfiguration portray donors who commissioned the artwork worshipping decorously in the wings, almost all show the three disciples dazzled and afraid, falling or crawling on the rocks beneath Jesus. Moses—bearded and sometimes horned—is usually on ...

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