Matthew 17:1-13 Jesus’ Transfiguration

jesus standing with Moses and Elijah as Peter, James and John look on

His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became white as light

This is the first time that Matthew has told us how many days have passed between one story and the next. I wonder why he is being so precise today. Because Matthew has not mentioned that Jesus has traveled, I’m going to assume that we are still in Caesarea Philippi. I wonder what was going on during those six days. I assume Jesus was still engaged in healing people and spreading His teaching. As before they were probably repeat kind of ministries and didn’t rise to the level of significance required to be included. Not that the events themselves weren’t significant, but for the sake of space, they were left out of the synopsis of Jesus life.

Jesus takes Peter, James, and his brother John with Him to a mountaintop. On that mountaintop the true Jesus shown through His earthly vessel. So many people depict Jesus in pictures as having a halo all the time. They paint Him with almost glowing garments and an unearthly light emanating from His hair. This is NOT how Jesus looked on any other day, except today. Today puts those pictures to shame. “His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became white as light” (verse 2). Jesus was literally glowing!

Then Moses and Elijah appeared and started talking with Him. How did Jesus’ disciples recognize Moses and Elijah? Were there drawings and paintings of them displayed where the common man could view them? Was there a museum of Israel’s past available for people to visit? Were their likenesses posted on the temple walls?  I’m certain they didn’t wear name tags. Maybe Jesus addressed each by name when they appeared. That makes the most sense to me.

Moses and Elijah certainly knew Jesus. They had never seen Him in His earthly form but they recognized His glory. Can you imagine the scene in Abraham’s Bosom just before they appeared? Abraham calls for Moses and Elijah to join him. He has heard from God that He is going to do something special for them today. Moses and Elijah had been talking with other saints while waiting for God’s promise to be fulfilled. Every moment here was taken up in praise and anticipation. Moses and Elijah get to Abraham, who is waiting beside a stream. Abraham has been enjoying the beauty God put in this place. It’s not Heaven, but it is still beautiful.

Moses says, “Hi Elijah. Did you get a call too? What’s up Abraham? What did you want to talk to us about?” Abraham says, “Gentlemen, I heard from God just a little bit ago that He has a special treat He wants to bestow on just the two of you. He wants you two to meet His Son in person. He said the promise is ALMOST here and He wants you two to be a part of the process again.” All three faces display the largest smile possible. “When is this going to happen?” asks Elijah. Abraham replies, “Right about NOW!” and Elijah and Moses disappear right before his eyes. For a moment he wishes he would have been invited too, but realizes someone had to be around to welcome any new arrivals.

Moses and Elijah are instantly transported to the very spot where Jesus is. There are four men standing there but one of them is glowing with the glory of God. No doubt in their minds which one is God’s Son. They immediately start talking with Him. Elijah tells Him how honored he is to be granted this special meeting. Moses is tongue tied for a minute, just like before the burning bush encounter. “It’s ok Moses”, Jesus says, “take your time. I’m so glad to meet you both face to face. Elijah, your chariot ride is still the talk of the angels.” Moses asks, “Does our visit mean the promise of God to Israel is happening right now?” “No Moses, but very soon”, says Jesus.

Peter, John and James are standing to the side with their mouths hanging open. They are so surprised to be witnesses to this event. Peter can’t restrain himself any more. He HAS to say something, but what? So in perfect Peter fashion, he says the first thing that comes to mind. “Jesus it’s a good thing we are here to witness this. If it wasn’t for us being here no one would believe what we are seeing. If You want us to, I could put up three tents here for You right on this mountaintop. We would put Your right here in the center and make one for Moses right over here on the left and one for Elijah over there on the right…”

At that moment a blindingly bright cloud moved right above them all. Peter loses his train of thought and once again all three of Jesus’ disciples are standing there with their mouths hanging open. A voice comes from the cloud and is so strong that it can be felt vibrating through the very bones of all the disciples. “THIS IS MY BELOVED SON, WITH WHOM I AM WELL PLEASED; LISTEN TO HIM” (verse 5). As soon as the disciples heard the first words, they knew Who was speaking. They fell on their faces terrified! Peter was thinking that he had really screwed up with that comment. He was praying that God wasn’t going to strike him dead. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry…..”, is chanting through Peter’s head.

Jesus gives Moses and Elijah a shoulder shrug, and whispers “What can I say, that’s Peter and I wouldn’t have him any other way.” Then Moses and Elijah instantly vanish. They have quite the story to tell when they get back to Abraham’s Bosom!

Jesus is watching His disciples as God is speaking. He loves each of them so much! He is glad they were here to witness this; to have actually seen Him as He truly is. FULL to the brim with God’s glory. He certainly understands God’s correction of Peter, but He also loves Peter’s boldness. After God finishes speaking, Jesus walks over to where His disciples were cowering on the ground and touches them. “It’s ok brothers, you don’t have to be afraid. Go ahead and get up. Nothing is going to happen to you.” Peter, James and John raise their heads and look around for a second. As they are raising themselves from their position on the ground, they notice that Jesus is the only one present. Peter is saddened but also relieved by the absence of Moses and Elijah. This saves him from any more embarrassing mistakes.

Jesus and His little group head down the mountain. The event is over and the excitement is dampened a bit by the reproof from God. John remarks that he can’t wait to tell Andrew about this experience. Jesus says, “You can’t tell ANYONE about this right now. I know it was amazing and all, but I insist that you keep it quiet for now. After I have risen from the dead, you can share this experience with everyone you meet. In fact, I want you to share it afterwards. But for now this is our private experience.”

The disciples are all still uncertain about this “rising from the dead” stuff but they recognize that Jesus is talking about the fulfillment of God’s promise to Israel. Peter says, “The scribes say that Elijah has to come before the fulfillment of God’s promise.” Jesus said, “Elijah does have to come first and he will restore everything. But Elijah has already come  and they didn’t even recognize him, although he gave plenty of evidence as to who he was. They treated him shamefully and killed him. They are going to do the same to me.”

Peter, James and John finally understood that Jesus had been speaking about John the Baptist. John had come in the spirit of Elijah and the Pharisees and Scribes had rejected him. Jesus said they WOULD do the same to Him. Peter silently thinks to himself, “Not if I have anything to say about it!”

Father God, the scene on that mountaintop that day must have been breathtaking! I can imagine how hard it was for Peter, James and John to keep that secret. There was so much going on all the time, so did their business make it easier for them to push the event to the back of their minds? I do that sometimes. I get so excited about something when it is happening, but get so caught up in what is going on afterwards that I forget all about it. Did the event get pushed so far back that the Holy Spirit had to bring it back to them when the time was right?

I’m sure I would have fallen into the same trap Peter did. Maybe not said the same thing, but I would have felt compelled to say something. I have noticed over the past few years thought that I am able to hold my tongue a lot more than I used to. I believe that You have been teaching me restraint and that I have finally learned that my toes don’t taste so good. No more peppermint socks for me. The Peter after Your resurrection was reported to have learned restraint along the way too. He traded in his peppermint socks also. Thank You for loving both of us through our hoof in mouth process. Does Peter still have occasions he sticks his foot in his mouth in Heaven? I know I still have times I do. You love us in spite of it, and maybe even a little because of it too. Thank You for making each of us special and precious to You. I look forward to meeting Peter in Heaven too and comparing socks with him.

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3 Responses to “Matthew 17:1-13 Jesus’ Transfiguration”

  1. Victoria says:

    I love this! I can’t recall which translation I saw this, but I remember reading once, “Not knowing what to say, Simon Peter said…” I relate to ‘that’ Peter, BIG time.

    • avincent says:

      Me too on SO many levels. I’m reading a book right now called “The Fisherman” by Larry Huntsperger. It is a fictional account of Peter’s life with Jesus. It is biblically based but develops Peter much fuller than the scriptures do. I see myself in him a lot. I think this is the kind of author I would like to be too. I believe I’m doing that kind of writing on a small scale with these stories.

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