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The Transfiguration of Jesus
17:1 Six days later Jesus took with him Peter, James, and John the brother of James, and led them privately up a high mountain.
Six days after Peter had taken Jesus aside and remonstrated with him for saying that he would suffer and die at Jerusalem, Jesus took Peter, James and John up a high mountain to be alone.
17:2 And he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.
While they were there Jesus was transfigured before their eyes. The word used in the original is "metamorphoo" from which we derive the English word metamorphosis, meaning to change form. Christ’s body remained the same shape and substance; it was still flesh, but at the same time his Divinity as "God in the flesh" was manifested in its glorious form; shining out of his face like the noonday sun and even through the clothes that he wore.
17:3 Then Moses and Elijah also appeared before them, talking with him.
As the disciples stood there in awesome wonder Moses and Elijah came and talked with Jesus. The Bible clearly tells us that Moses had already died (Deut. 34:5), whereas Elijah was taken up into heaven in a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2:11). Nevertheless, they appeared in bodies that were recognizable to the disciples; the dead in Christ are not vapours or ghosts but have a form. The rich man who was in Hades recognized Abraham and Lazarus in Paradise (Luke 16:23). There has been much surmising as to what Moses and Elijah were saying to Jesus; the main consensus being that they spoke concerning his forthcoming death on the cross.
17:4 So Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you want, I will make three shelters – one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.
Peter, completely overwhelmed by what he saw, and realizing that he, James and John were privileged to be there wanted to make three booths (shelters); one for each of the glorified forms. This type of shelter would only be temporary, usually made of tree branches. Obviously Peter was not expecting Moses and Elijah to remain.
17:5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my one dear Son, in whom I take great delight. Listen to him!"
Even while he was speaking a bright cloud of light enveloped them and the voice of God spoke from it declaring that Jesus was his "dearly beloved Son" in whom he took great delight. If Moses and Elijah represent the law and the prophets, the voice of God was indicating Christ’s superiority to these, and hence the superiority of the new covenant over the old.
17:6-8 When the disciples heard this, they were overwhelmed with fear and threw themselves down with their faces to the ground. But Jesus came and touched them. "Get up," he said. "Do not be afraid." When they looked up, all they saw was Jesus alone.
On hearing this voice the disciples were overwhelmed with fear and threw themselves down with their faces to the ground. Jesus came over and touched them to dispel their fears and told them to get up. When they lifted up their heads it was only Jesus that they saw; Moses and Elijah had gone.
17:9 As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, "Do not tell anyone about the vision until the Son of Man is raised from the dead."
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus told them that they were not to tell anyone about the vision until after his resurrection. John refers to it at the beginning of his gospel (John 1:14), and Peter in 2 Peter 1:16-18.
17:10 The disciples asked him, "Why then do the experts in the law say that Elijah must come first?"
In the light of what they saw the disciples could not understand why the experts in the scriptures said that Elijah had to come before the Messiah.
17:11-13 He answered, "Elijah does indeed come first and will restore all things. And I tell you that Elijah has already come. Yet they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they wanted. In the same way, the Son of Man will suffer at their hands." Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them about John the Baptist.
Jesus affirmed that the experts were quite correct in what they said. Elijah does come before the Messiah to prepare the way before him. But Elijah had already come and was not recognized, nor treated appropriately. In the same way the Son of Man was about to suffer much at their hands.
It was at this time that the disciples realized that Jesus was speaking to them about John the Baptist.
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Copyright (2009-2013) Sharon Full Gospel Church, UK. Reg. Charity No. 1050642 www.sharonchurch.co.uk
This Bible study is taken from Faithbuilders: The Gospel of Matthew