Friday, July 11, 2014

The Transfiguration

Matthew 17:1-13

“And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.  And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.” (Matthew 17:1-3)

Six days after Peter’s declaration that they believed Jesus was the Messiah, Jesus took three of the disciples privately to a high peak.   The disciples had fallen asleep according to Luke 9:32.  “But Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep…”  While they slept, Jesus was praying and was transfigured.  Luke 9:29 gives more detail about the change.  “And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering.” His face changed and his clothing became whiter than any cleaning expert could ever get them, literally glistening or shining as Mark 9:3 states.  “And his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them.”

Moses and Elijah came to talk with him about what he would accomplish with his death and resurrection according to Luke 9:30-31.  “And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias: Who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem.”

“… and when they were awake, they saw his glory, and the two men that stood with him, “ according to Luke 9:32, and Mark 9:6 says “…they were sore afraid.”   Peter always reacted to duress, and this time he suggested building homes or temples for each of the three because he couldn’t think of anything else to say as Mark 9:6 tells us.  
“ Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.” (Matthew 17:4)

Luke 9:33 tells us that he spoke as Moses and Elijah were leaving.  “And it came to pass, as they departed from him, Peter said unto Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias: not knowing what he said.”  As he frequently did, Peter had spoken without thinking about what he was saying.

“While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.” (Matthew 17:5)

While Peter was still talking, God interrupted from heaven, declaring that Jesus was his beloved son and that he was more than satisfied with what he was doing.  They were to listen to him rather than just doing whatever they thought should be done.   It was almost the same thing that god had said at Jesus’ baptism. 

“And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid.  And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid.  And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only.” (Matthew 17:6-8)

The disciples were terrified when God spoke from heaven, telling them to listen to Jesus.  They fell to the ground in humility and fear.   Jesus told them did not need to be afraid, and when they looked around, Moses and Elijah were gone.    

“And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead.” (Matthew 17:9)

On the way home. Jesus again warned them not to tell anyone what they had seen until after the resurrection.   If they leaders heard the story, they would try to interfere, trying even harder to discredit or kill him,

“And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come?

And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things.  But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them.” (Matthew 17:10-12)

Having just seen Elijah and being familiar with the scribes interpretation of the prophecies, that Elijah had to come before Christ came, the disciples were essentially asking why it hadn’t happened if he was really the Messiah. 

Jesus pointed out that the prophecy didn’t require that it be Elijah himself, but some one who would prophesy like Elijah.  Someone had come who fit the description, and had been killed for trouble and one day they would kill Jesus as well.   

“Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist.” (Matthew 17:13)


  1. Peter always amuses me. Although I might have been Peter in that place, speaking because I was awed by what I was seeing. A lingering question that I have had about this incident was how did the apostles know that it was Moses and Elijah that Jesus spoke with? I assume that their names were mentioned, else their identities would not be readily known by Peter and the others.

    1. Good question, but I don't know the answer. Perhaps they were just automatically revealed by the Holy Spirit, like we will be known in heaven..