79 The Transfiguration of Jesus
Updated: Oct 13, 2021
Jesus realizes he has so upset the religious leaders they are going to take his life. As before his ministry began he goes to the desert to pray, he now goes up a Mountian to be with God. He takes three of his disciples go be of encouragement but they fall asleep, only to discover that God has show up to encourage Jesus himself through the presence of Moses and Elijah who were both in heaven, even though they had sadly fallen short of the idea and failed in their mission. Yet here they are encouraging Jesus. God speaks a message to the disciples, who were thinking that Moses, Elijah and Jesus were to be taken with the same weight of importance. Don't miss what God says.
(NIV) Matthew 17:1-9. (Mark 9:2-14, Luke 9:28-35) Matthew 17 After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James, and John the brother of James,and led them up a high mountain by themselves.
WHY DID JESUS GO UP A MOUNTAIN?
Jesus returned to Capernaum from Caesarea Philippi and was on his way to Jerusalem, where he would be tortured and executed. He had told his disciples of the immediate future. Matthew 16:21 From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary forhim to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of theelders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on thethird day he would be raised from the dead.This knowledge filled Jesus with fear and foreboding and he went up the mountain forprivacy and to pray for courage. The most probable mountain Jesus went up is Mount Meron, notMount Tabor as tourists are informed when visiting Israel.
WHY DID JESUS TAKE THREE DISCIPLES WITH HIM?
He took with him his three closest friends, hoping they would give him moral and emotional support in his anguish. They slept most of the time. These three also slept through Jesus crisis in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46). His best friends often disappointed him and he had to tread the winepress alone (Isaiah 63:3). This was not his choice but because we neglected him in the crises’ of his life on earth. We were needed by God and we let him down. When Jesus prays,“Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” He is praying FOR his father. He is supporting God. He is affirming God. He has a relationship with God. When we worship together it’s a time to encourage and affirm each other (Hebrews 10:25)
WHY WAS JESUS TRANSFIGURED OR TRANSFORMED OR TRANSMORGIFIED?
Matthew 17:2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and hisclothes became as white as the light.Jesus appears as he is: The sun of righteousness and the pure, innocent light of the world (Zechariah3). This was divine acknowledgement of his true identity. Jesus needed this affirmation togive him the courage he needed to press on. The transfiguration was for Jesus’ sake not forPeter, James, and John, who were sleeping. Moses had a similar experience when he went up Sinai,his face shone with God’s glory. His shining face was veiled for two reasons. The light terrified theIsraelites and the light was fading away (2 Corinthians 3:7). Steven had the same radiant face at hisstoning.Matthew 17:3 Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.
WHY DID MOSES AND ELIJAH APPEAR?
The disciples were asleep. Jesus was human and needed human support. Apparently Moses and Elijah, in their glorified state, were watching. They were sent or volunteered to encourage Jesus out of their own experience and history. They could encourage him to succeed where they had failed.
Moses and Elijah represent the Law and the Prophets, what we call the Old Testament. They were the heroes of Israel. Israel looked for “another prophet” like Moses (Duet 18:15) and expected Elijah to appear before “the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (Malachi 4:5-6). Both Moses and Elijah ended their ministry through loss of faith. Moses struck the rock, instead of speaking to it, and as a consequence forfeited the opportunity to enter the Promised Land (Numbers 20:11). He died alone on Mount Nebo (Deut 34:1-5) as Jesus would die alone on Golgotha. Elijah lostfaith in God and ran before Jezebel and as a consequence anointed his successor before he was translated. Jesus would anoint his successor, the Holy Spirit before he is translated. Both men’s lives were cut short because of PERSONAL failure. Now Jesus’ life on earth will be cut short because of HUMAN failure. Moses represents those who die and are resurrected. Elijah represents those who are translated at the Second Coming. Jesus is resurrected and translated 40 days later. Both men were needed to encourage him.
WHY WAS MOSES RAISED AND ELIJAH TRANSLATED?
Perhaps Gods intended to translate Moses, but he struck the rock and prevented this possibility. Certainly, Moses gives hope to those who die before Jesus comes and Elijah gives hope to those who are translated when Jesus comes. Neither Moses nor Elijah were perfect saints, but the LORD saved them both. This is good news for sinners. Moses is the iconic liberator of oppressed people and Elijah is the iconic revivalist for discouraged sinners. John the Baptist echoes Elijah in calling God’s people to repentance before the First Coming of the LORD. This prepared the way for Jesus. The Elijahmessage also prefigures the call to repentance that comes before the “great and dreadful day of the LORD” which is the Second Coming.
These two heroes of Israel symbolize the two modes of glorification. Moses dies as all the rebels against God’s leading did in the desert. It was fair. Elijah glorifies God as the true God. He is the One who created life and joy in his ministry, and his translation confirms this picture of God as opposed to the cruelty of Baal and Molech who demanded child sacrifices. God means light, life and love. Baal and the other Mesopotamian deities meant darkness, death and despair (John 10:10).
THE STRIKING SIMILAR HISTORIES OF THESE TWO SERVANTS OF GOD.
Moses (1500 BC) Flees after killing the Egyptian (Ex 2:15) Fears Pharaoh (Acts 7:29) What are you doing in Midian? (Exodus 3:1-6) Burning bush at Sinai establishes Moses as a prophet (1 K 17:1-24) Plagues confronted Egyptian gods (Ex 15:11; 18:11)
Feels alone and discouraged (Ex 5:22; 6:12) Asks God to take his life (Ex 32:32) Protests 5X he is incompetent to lead the Exodus (Ex 3:11, 13; 4:1, 10, 13) God provided food and water (1 Cor 10:3-4 Ex 17:6; 16:1-16) Came to Mt. Horeb or Sinai (Ex 3:1; 19:2) Horeb is a revelation of God (34:6) 40days X2 (Ex 24:18) 40yrs X2 (Act 7:30, 36) Theophany at cave (Exodus 33/34) Violent. Kills Egyptian (Ex 2:12) Breaks tablets (Ex 32:19; 34:1) Executes 3000 idolators (Ex 32:28) Strikes rock (Numbers 20:8-11) (Jesus is the rock, struck by men) Violence ends ministry (strikes rock) Hidden in cave (Ex 33:22-23)
Anoints successor Joshua (Deut. 34:9)
Elijah (500 BC) Flees after killing the prophets of Baal. (1 K 18) Fears Jezebel after Mount Carmel (19:3) “What are you doing here?” X2 Gave same answer in spite of theophany (19:10, 14) Drought establishes Elijah as prophet (Ex 3:1-6)
Drought and Mt Carmel confronted Baal. (1 Kings 18)
Feels alone and depressed (19:4) Jesus Lk12:49 Asks God to take his life (1 K 19:4) God asks him 2X why he is running away (1K 19:9,13) God provided him food and water (1 K 19:5, 7) Came to Mt. Horeb (1 K 19:8) To Horeb for encouragement from God (19:11-12) 40 days to travel to Horeb (19:8)
Theophany at cave (19:11-13) Violent. Kills 450 priests (1 K 19:11-12)
Kills 100 soldiers (2 K 1:5-15) (Jesus is the high priest killed by false priests) Violence ends ministry (kills 100 soldiers) Same cave (Hebrew has definite article.) Anoints successor Elisha (1 K 19:16)
Matthew 17:4 Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put upthree shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah".
Peter’s response indicates that he regards Jesus, Moses, and Elijah to be equal leaders.
This is Mark’s explanation of Peter’s statement.
Mark 9:6 He said this because he did not know what else to say, for they were all terrified.
Jesus had said that he had not come to destroy the Law and the Prophets but to fulfil them (Matthew5:17) so it was natural to regard Moses and Elijah as great leaders. Peter did not understand the pre-eminence of Jesus, the God-man.
This insight still escapes many Christians.Matthew 17:5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from thecloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
The Voice is dogmatic, it is insistent, it is authoritative: It is Jesus you must listen to. This does not mean that the Old Testament does not have its place or that it has been done away with but that the teachings, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus trumps all other teachings for Christians.
The Word of God is Jesus Christ (John 1:1). The Bible is the Word as it points to Jesus. When there is dissonance between The Living Word and The Written Word Christians will opt for The Living Word.Here are some examples of this dissonance.
Both Old and New Testaments allow for anger, but Jesus will have none of it. He calls anger or hate equivalent to murder (Matthew 5:22). Is anger ever permissible? Anger is a legitimate emotion. I hope we are all angry about injustice and cruelty at times. Jesus is us against anger which leads to verbal or physical violence towards persons. Our body language also indicates the condition of our anger. In Matthew 23 Jesus angry with the religious leaders but his body language is one of love and compassion for them.
The Old Testament allowed for divorce (Deuteronomy 24:1). Jesus will have no divorce and states that divorced people commit adultery if they remarry (Matthew 5:32) in the Kingdom of Heaven. So these are the standards of love but Jesus also recognizes our frailty and forgives sinners left right and center. Remember Jesus’ conversation with the woman at the well. She had all the consequences of failed marital relationships, but Jesus accepts her as one of his princesses. She becomes one of hisgreat evangelists.
Both the Old and the New Testaments have instructions for treating women as inferior to men but Jesus treats women and men as equals. Same with slavery. In his Sermon on the Mount Jesus will repeatedly say, “You have heard it said but I say . . .” Imagine a speaker saying this today? No preacher can challenge the Bible and claim he has more authority than the Bible, but Jesus did.
The goal of the Old Testament was to inaugurate the Kingdom of Righteousness, a place of peace and gentleness, a place where the lion and the lamb could lie down together (Isaiah 11:6; 65:25). Solomon’s reign faintly hinted at the possibility, but it never happened and Jesus Christ came to do what Israel, even with the help of the Law and the Prophets, never achieved.
Jesus prayed for this Kingdom to come: “Thy kingdom come; they will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). His ministry inaugurated this kingdom, and it is progressing in the hearts of men and women and will be established at his Second Coming. This Kingdom comes not by law orprophecy but by the love and forgiveness of God being cherished in the hearts of men and women.
Ian Hartley, August 2021, After reading Zahnd “Sinners in the Hand of a Loving God” and listening to Daniel Duda teach the SS Lesson for 21 August 2021 from Pine Knoll.