The Transfiguration

We’re going to return to going through Matthew again. What we’re doing for those who might be reading for the first time is going through the New Testament to see the understanding of Christ therein and with that come to a deeper knowledge of the Trinity.

We’re going to be looking at the Transfiguration tonight. It takes place in Matthew 17:

1After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. 4Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

 5While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

 6When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified.7But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.”8When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.

 9As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

 10The disciples asked him, “Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?”

 11Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. 12But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” 13Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.

We have to remember that this takes place after Peter’s great confession of faith which was followed by Jesus speaking of the suffering he would go through and how he would die to bring about the plan of God. Many of us especially remember Peter’s great blunder at that point.

Peter and James and John are the only ones that get to come along for this one. They go to a mountain and there’s a lot of debate about which mountain that is, but for our purposes, it really doesn’t concern us. What matters is what happened.

On the mountain, Jesus is transfigured, the word means transformed. He takes on a white far whiter than any before. Before him then appear Moses and Elijah. For the Jew, Moses was the great giver of the Law. Elijah was the great prophet. I believe there’s some pictures being drawn with the Law and the Prophets pointing to Christ.

Peter decides to speak up again. (If anything needs to be said amongst the apostles, you can always count on Peter to say it.) He recommends that they set up three shelters. One for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah. (Where were the apostles going to be?) Luke is blunt saying “He did not know what he was saying.” (Two chapters in a row. Not looking good for Peter.)

What we have next is a cloud overshadowing them, much like the Shekinah glory, and a voice saying “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased. Listen to him.” A parallel is being drawn back to what happened at the baptism of Jesus. The disciples would need that reassurance especially in light of the suffering that was predicted.

When Christ comes, we get another eschatological clue here to what he’s saying. He is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. They believed the Messiah was to come and if such was the case, what of Elijah? Jesus points out to them that Elijah did come and they did not recognize him and did to him as they wished. The Son of Man will suffer as well. At that, they realize he is speaking about John the Baptist.

So at this point, we have affirmation of the unique relationship of the Son to the Father, the promise of the resurrection, and the fulfillment of prophecy in the understanding of Jesus. We shall see more of his understanding tomorrow.

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