Matthew Chapter 17: 1-9
“Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’
“While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!’ And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid. But Jesus came and touched them and said, ‘Arise, and do not be afraid.’ When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. Now as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, ‘Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead.’”
In the last lesson in Matthew, we talked about the importance that we be ready and willing to bare the suffering that will come when we make a stand for the Lord Jesus. Now over the past few years it has become increasingly more expensive to live openly for Jesus here in North America; and as we progress towards the end of time, the price of faithfulness will continue to rise. We need to prepare people for the cost of discipleship.
Jesus worked hard to prepare the men and women who followed Him for the coming pain of following Jesus (see Mark 13: 12-13).
“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.”
Wow, look at that verse! Your enemies will be the people in your own home. And Jesus tells them that they will be ‘hated’ because of His name. Serving Jesus has a real cost. We must be prepared in the power of the Holy Spirit to pay it.
Today we will meet the glorified Jesus. At the end of chapter 16, Jesus promises that ‘some standing here would not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.’ Well Peter, James and John are about to see Jesus in a whole new light. What they had encountered so far was a rugged man who had lots of power over demons, diseases and even death. They had seen Him calm storms, walk on water and feed the masses. But they had not yet seen Jesus in ALL of His glory; and for a few moments Jesus was about to pull back the veil and let them see Him as He is. One day we will see Him this way as well.
Jesus is transfigured so they can see Him in His glory, verse 2
Why was this necessary? Well, what had Jesus been warning them about? His coming death. He needed to reassure them that this was a ‘God thing.’ According to Matthew Henry’s Commentary, they needed to see God! Seeing Jesus in His glory would cement in their minds that He could do all He said He would do and give them a real hope and foundation to believe on in the intervening ‘three days and three nights’ until His resurrection.
So Jesus takes them and He is ‘transfigured’ before their eyes. We see that ‘His face shone like the sun’ and ‘His clothes became as white as light.’ This was no longer just a Jewish Messiah standing in front of them. This was the Almighty God.
We are of course reminded of the prophet Isaiah’s vision of God Almighty in Isaiah 6:1,
“In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple.”
Then we see the experience of Daniel in chapter 10:
“Now on the twenty-fourth day of the first month, as I was by the side of the great river, that is, the Tigris, I lifted my eyes and looked, and behold, a certain man clothed in linen, whose waist was girded with gold of Uphaz! His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like torches of fire, his arms and feet like burnished bronze in color, and the sound of his words like the voice of a multitude.”
Notice that in both cases in Daniel and in Matthew we see that the face of the man was bright. In Isaiah 60:19 and on we see that Jesus is the Light of the New Jerusalem:
“No longer will you have the sun for light by day, nor for brightness will the moon give you light; But you will have the LORD for an everlasting light, And your God for your glory. Your sun will no longer set, nor will your moon wane; For you will have the LORD for an everlasting light.”
This is reconfirmed in Revelation 21:23, “The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it.”
So these men, Peter, James and John got to see Jesus in His glory. This was especially important for Peter as he was the one who wanted to correct Jesus about the events that were to follow, in the previous chapter. In addition to Jesus, these men saw Moses and Elijah; but it does not appear that they had gotten out of the ‘human’ vision of Jesus. They saw Jesus; he looked like the same Jesus they had spent about three years with, but just brighter. They wanted to build tabernacles for Jesus, Moses and Elijah. They wanted this time to last; a glimpse was too short.
Maybe they had questions for Moses and Elijah. They just wanted to be there. Do you long to be in the presence of Jesus? Do you look forward to meeting all these men and women we read about and rejoice with them in person? What will it be like to meet Abraham, Adam, Mary, Ruth, Joshua, Gideon, Daniel, Rahab, Solomon, David or Nebuchadnezzar? What will it be like when we first meet Jesus? Most people just fall at His feet; I suppose we will as well.
Moses and Elijah are alive, verse 3
In the book of Mark chapter 12: 26-27 we find these reassuring words,
“But regarding the fact that the dead rise again, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the burning bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I AM THE GOD OF ABRAHAM, AND THE GOD OF ISAAC, and the God of Jacob?’ He is not the God of the dead, but of the living; you are greatly mistaken.”
These men, Peter, James and John saw firsthand that Moses and Elijah were alive and well. Not just that, but also that they were able to stand, walk and speak. They were alive; men that they had grown up hearing legends and stories about were right there in front of them alive and well. Not only that but they knew who they were on sight. They recognized these spiritual heroes. They had real bodies and would be able to sit under a tabernacle, a nice word for a small hut made of branches.
This is a good look for us of what we are going to be like in Heaven with the Lord. We too will know the people there and they will know us. We will have real bodies and we will walk and talk with the Lord. Does this remind you of anywhere? Yes, it does. God walked and talked in the Garden with Adam and Eve. We will have the sweet, face to face fellowship with our Lord and Saviour again. More than that, we will remember why we have that fellowship, as we will see our Saviour every day.
God again identifies Jesus as God, verse 5
We have talked about this before, but it is such a fundamental doctrine of Christianity that we must repeat and revisit this all the time. Jesus is God! Not a god, THE GOD—the God who spoke the worlds into existence and the God who sustains that world as we see it today.
In Luke 22:70 when Jesus was asked if He was the Son of God, He answered, ‘You are right to say that I am.’ In John 5:18, when He claimed to the Son of God, the people took up stones to kill Him. He asked them why they were trying to kill Him, and they said ‘that by claiming to be God He had made himself equal with God.’
It is impossible to claim to be a Christian and deny that Jesus is God. That is the defining line in the sand, so to speak. In fact, the thing that separates religion and true relationship with Jesus is that one has to believe that He is God to have a relationship with Him. If you deny Him, then you just have a religion. God began Jesus’ ministry by identifying Him as God. And now, as His earthly ministry comes to an end, He again reminds the apostles of who Jesus really is.
Notice their reaction; they fell to the ground and were “greatly afraid.” Be wary of people who claim that they have died and saw Jesus and claim that they were all ‘buddy buddy’ with Him. Whenever sinful men, even redeemed men, come face to face with the knowledge of who Jesus is, they fall on their faces. Daniel did, these apostles did, John the Revelator did, and on and on we can go.
Don’t tell anyone until after the resurrection, verse 9
This little gem kept the apostles, especially these three as the leaders, grounded until the resurrection. They needed just that little bit of spiritual power to get through the next few days and to get to the other side. What a wonderful lesson for us! God always equips us with all we need to get through whatever He knows is coming.
I have found that a verse I read is one that will play in my head so that it sinks in; and then something will happen, and that verse will jump right out at me. Or, someone will send a word of encouragement at just the right time. Money will show up; God gives you stuff that you did not even know that you needed, and then the need arises.
No part of the Christian life is an accident. God has your life planned out and will take you to and through events as He sees fit. Each event has two basic goals: to help us to be more dependent upon Jesus, and then to impress more and more the image of Jesus in us. God literally shapes the image of Jesus in each one of us. The idea is for us to be less like you and I and more like Jesus, but in so doing become a better you and I.
The longer I serve the Lord, the more I understand that I can’t serve the Lord. He has to give me the desire, the faith and the ability to serve Him. He, Jesus, is everything. Any crown I may earn in this life will be cast at His feet since it is He and He alone who has done it all.
Now we get to tell everyone about the resurrection. We get to tell the whole world that Jesus is alive. We can tell them that there is a Hell to shun and a Heaven to gain in Jesus. So, let’s get to it.
Acts 1:8 “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Sean Gooding Pastor Mississauga Missionary Baptist Church