And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. — Matthew 17:1-8
We live in troubled times – very troubled times. As Christians, we should heed the words of the Messiah to His disciples in John 14:1. He told them, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.”
As the disciples walked the dusty roads of Judea and Galilee, I wonder how much time they wasted pondering the times of trouble. They lived in a difficult time and were even under the heavy-handed rule of Rome. The disciples lived under a time of occupation by enemy forces.
Yet, at no time, did Jesus act the part of a revolutionary as some fraudulently claim. Not only did He submit to the will of His Father, but He also obeyed the laws that were in force both from the perspective of Jewish and Roman law.
In many ways, the Jewish people served as slaves to Rome, yet not one single verse ever encouraged true believers to revolt, start a revolution, or to try and overthrow the government. Instead, the Scriptures commanded slaves to be obedient to their masters as unto the Lord, and masters were to be honorable in their dealings with those who served them again as unto the Lord.
While walking those roads, I am sure there must have been many times that hushed voices from men like Simon the Zealot pondered aloud what needed to be done to get rid of Rome. But, not once did Christ encourage this. On the contrary, He reminded them and others who listened that this world is not where His kingdom was to be found. It was not a physical kingdom and He never had any plans to become a new and improved rebel leader who would do finally accomplish what the Maccabees could not.
Despite all the talks and parables used, the disciples held a skewed perspective about how they saw Jesus. Even in the event known as “The Transfiguration”, we can see that the wrong focus brought the inner-most circle of disciples to a point where they spoke from their emotions instead of being led by the renewing of their mind.
The reality is that they were not focused on Jesus only.
It is an intimate setting as Jesus and only three disciples go for a walk. Away from the other disciples and the crowds that always clamored for the Messiah’s attention, He leads them up to the top of a mountain. It has been just six days since the conversation where Peter gives his startling admission that Jesus is the Messiah and the Son of the living God.
The Lord Jesus Christ shares that He would build His Church and that He would soon have to suffer. Peter then rebukes the Rabbi, but in turn is called to account as Jesus tells the impetuous disciple that he is only savoring the things of man, and not the things of God.
Jesus then gives a short discourse on the importance of dying to self, and that to fulfill the will of God that each person who is a true believer must take up their own cross and deny themselves.
Now, six days later, they have climbed a mountain and Jesus is transfigured before their very eyes. The word used is where we get our word metamorphosis. He changes and they see His divine glory. His face becomes like the sun and His garments are white as the light.
As they watch, Moses and Elijah appear. Moses represents the law and the commandments, while Elijah represents the prophets. Peter, always the spokesman, announces that it is good to be in the presence of the law and the prophets and the Messiah. He then states that maybe they should honor these three men by building a tent or a tabernacle. This would have been a skin-covered dwelling place such as the Ark of God rested during the years when there was no Temple in Jerusalem.
A cloud comes down upon them and they hear a voice from heaven. The voice does not address the presence of the law and the prophets. Moses and Elijah were only forerunners to point to the One Who stood glowing in their midst. They were present for a time, but now a New Covenant was about to be brought into place.
This is my beloved Son, HEAR HIM!
The voice spoke out of the bright, glowing cloud and forced them to do what any person would do when they come into contact with the divine glory of Christ and are in the presence of a Holy God.
They fall to the ground with their faces in the lowest place they can find. They know they are in the very presence of God. The disciples know the accounts of what took place when God showed up and they are afraid. This is not a mere phobia. The two words indicate they were violently or vehemently afraid. These grown men are scared to death and shaking.
The Master comes up to them, touches them, soothes their troubled thoughts, tells them not to fear, and raises them to their feet.
Their quaking subsides and as they stand to their feet again, their eyes see Jesus only. The law and the prophets held people captive until the Son of God came and took on human flesh. As they see Jesus, it will be a few days yet before He is delivered to death. But, after His death and resurrection, they will understand the words that He said to them. The disciples will know the significance of what occurred on top of that high mountain.
All the rules, words of the prophets, laws, statutes, and commandments could never restore full fellowship with God. These things were meant to show how wide the gap was between a holy, righteous God and depraved humanity.
The hearts of the disciples were troubled and instead of focusing just on the Lord Jesus Christ, they were concerned about building a tent or tabernacle in order to give continued honor to the law and the prophets. But Jesus Christ shares His glory with no other.
The Transfiguration would forever be engrained in the hearts and minds of these disciples. They had been given a privilege that the other disciples were not provided. Yet, years later, the same disciple who tried to rebuke Jesus and then denied Him three times would write the following:
2 Peter 1:16-18 — For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.
When Jesus took the three men up to the top of the high mountain, He removed them from all of the distractions of the world. Once He was transfigured, He also removed from their hearts and minds the distraction of what He came to fulfill in its entirety. Christ did not discount the law or the prophets, but He wanted them to understand that ALL the glory belongs to Him. He was sent by the Father to do the will of the Father so that we might have eternal life.
Despite his miserable failings and his sins, Peter and his two fellow disciples never forgot that they had seen the majesty of Jesus Christ.
Friends, in today’s world, we live in a time of trouble and it will only get worse. Whatever your position may be in the area of eschatology (study of end times), there is no true believer who can look at the current state of the world and believe that it is getting better and better.
For all who are true believers by placing their faith in Christ alone for their salvation, it would be a blessing if we could catch such a glimpse of the majesty of God. However, after His resurrection, Christ told Thomas that those who believe and have not seen are blessed.
One day, these Shadowlands will disappear. We shall behold Him in all of His splendor, in all of His glory, in all of His power, and in all of His majesty.
Today, I beg you to put aside earthly affections and once again set your affections on things above. Focus on the Author and Finisher of our faith who for the joy that was set before Him ENDURED the cross.
Are we better than our own Master? God forbid!
No matter what we may face, our God is greater. No matter the trials or tribulations, in the light of eternity, they will be but light afflictions.