The ‘transfiguration’ of Jesus in Matthew 17
Transfiguration – Peter Paul Rubens

Text: Matthew 17

And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, 2 And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. 3 And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him. 4 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. 5 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. 6 And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. 7 And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid. 8 And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only.

9 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. 10 And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come? 11 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. 12 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. 13 Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist.

Six days after Jesus said that some standing here (in is presence) would not taste death until they saw Him coming in His Kingdom, Jesus takes His inner circle apart to teach and show then something. Sometimes we need to get alone with Jesus in order to see something of His Glory. Sometimes those small group studies are more effective large classrooms where you do not get to interact. I also see here a family affair, James and Jon are brothers. How sweet it is to have devotions with your family. It is much harder to be angry and fuss with someone with whom you are communing with Jesus with. So here we see Jesus leading. The Bible says He brought them. Remember last chapter and Peter tried to pull Jesus aside? Do we follow the leading of Jesus? He brought them. I am so glad that Jesus brought me to God the Father. That is the way that it is. God sends us to Jesus, Jesus has promised not to lose any that God sends His way. Then Jesus brings us to the Father.

Matthew 17 Verse 2 Jesus was Brightened for them
Here we have the Transfiguration. Jesus is all white, as pure light, no blemish from His face to His clothes. The disciples were privy to a wonder glimpse of heaven. The Son of Man transfigured in front of their eyes to the radiant Son of God. This event (BTW is history, not a story) is recorded for us in Mark 9:2-8, Luke 9:28-36 and alluded to in John 1:14). Years after this event Peter distinctly makes mention of it in 2 Peter 1:16-18). Paul also takes about it in Rom 12:2 and 2 Cor 3:18

Do you want to know why they saw Jesus transfigured? Because they were looking at Him. It’s that simple, if their eyes were not on the Lord of Glory, they would not have seen Him. Jesus had just told them that some of them there would see Him coming in His Kingdom. I have to assume that there were certainly looking for that. He told them that he was going to go to Jerusalem, suffer, die and be raised up. Sometime in the last week they had to have been getting it, at least some of it. Now they are expecting. Do we expect to see Jesus, High, Holy and lifted up? Or do we expect to see Jesus, downtrodden, humiliated and defeated by His enemies, powerless to help us? I tell you that He is the all-conquering Lion of the Tribe of Judah. He is the Alpha and the Omega. He is the one who has the keys to death and hell itself. My God is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.

Transfiguration means to be transformed. In the Greek it is ‘metamorphoomai’. In the Bible it only refers to this instance in the life of our Lord and the change brought about in a person through fellowship with Christ. (Romans 12:2 and 2 Cor 3:18).

We need a transforming of our mind from what we think of Jesus to the reality that the Bible teaches about Jesus. If you do not see Jesus as the Christ of God. If you do not see Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. If you do not see Jesus as the propitiation for your sins. If you do not see Jesus as the only way to heave. Then you are still dead in your trespasses and sins.

I urge you to get a fresh vision of Jesus. I urge you Christians to be transformed and live a life that is pleasing to the Lord. I urge you who have never repented and by faith called upon Jesus to save you, to do so today. He is qualified, able and willing to do so today. Jesus is the only way. No man cometh unto the Father but by me, He says. And I believe that statement to be authoritative and final. Maybe each one of use here today needs to beg the Lord for a fresh vision of who He is.

Let’s look at the scene again. About halfway through His active ministry Jesus leads Peter, James and John to a high mountain apart from others to pray. While praying Jesus was transfigured, his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light, exceeding white as snow, so as no fuller on earth can white them. It was night and probably cold. The disciples were sleepy and at first probably didn’t know what they were witnessing. (How many of us become slow to see and hear because we are tired with the world’s affairs?) Out of the brightness came the sound of voices. Jesus was talking with Moses and Elijah, they were talking about the decease (the exodus) that Jesus was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. As the disciples began to come to themselves, the figures of Moses and Elijah began to fade away. Here Peter impetuously demanded that tents be set up for Jesus and the others so that their visit could be prolonged, maybe even be made permanent. Just then a cloud swept over them and out of the cloud the voice of the Heavenly Father “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him” In awe the disciples fall to the ground prostrate and silently waited. Suddenly lifting up their eyes, they only saw Jesus.

Matthew 17 Verse 3
Moses and Elijah are here and talking with Jesus about His death, His departure, His decease from Jerusalem. This was going to happen, it would be accomplished. Moses is here representing the Law, Elijah representing the prophets. Both the law and the prophets’ point to the Redemption that God would accomplish through His Son. Both the Law and the Prophets pointed to a suffering Saviour. Both the Law and the Prophets pointed to a victorious Messiah. Both the law and the Prophets are all about God and His plan of redemption. What an encouragement this must have been to Jesus, who is still fully human ad well as fully God to have communion with those who pointed others to Himself.

Not only an encouragement to Jesus, but more importantly an encouragement to the disciples of all ages. Think about Peter, James and John for a moment; who, at this moment, do not have the benefit of a Resurrection Sunday. Here they have irrefutable proof of everlasting life. They see Jesus talking with them, having an intelligent conversation with them. There might be opposition, but there could be no permanent feat for the one whose work is ratified by Moses, by Elijah and by God Himself. How, in the face of such evidence. Very real to them, could they ever doubt the triumph of life and of Him who is the Lord of life? They saw and their faith was strengthened. For them, as Jews living in the Old Testament, (No Upper Room Supper yet) to see this miracle, this confirmation of their beliefs would continue with them and be yet one more reminder after the Resurrection of our Lord that God could not be frustrated. For us Christians, living in the New Testament, this is an encouragement to not ignore the Old even though it is fulfilled in the New.

As I mentioned earlier, Peter speaks up. In Mark 9:6 “For he wist not what to say”. He just talked to talk. I’ll give it to Peter, he did not freeze. He was a man of action. What’s that saying going around today? “If you see something, say something”. Well Peter definitely said something, it just wasn’t what was needed to be said. It wasn’t blasphemy, he just didn’t think before he spoke. How many of us could learn a good lesson about not talking unless we have something to say?

Matthew 17 Verse 5
What a wonderful confirmation, yet again, of the father’s approval of the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. Matt 3: 17 “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Jesus always did that which pleased the father. I want to do the same. I want to hear, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.” Jesus pleased God because He always did the father’s will. What is the will of the Father? Believe on the Son.

2 Cor 5:9 Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: 7(For we walk by faith, not by sight:) 8We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. 9Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him. 10For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

I want to encourage you here and remind you that God loves you. That love will never change. It won’t grow stronger, it won’t lessen, because God does not change. It Says in Jeremiah 31:3 that it is an everlasting love. However, my pleasing of Him, the Bible says it is dependent on my faithfulness. My obedience has everything to do with chastening or rewards. I want to be obedient. I need God’s help. The spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak.

There is a second phrase that I would like to draw your attention to; “Hear ye Him”. First the little word ‘ye’. When we see that in Scripture I’d like you to think this way, “‘ye’ is me”. I need to hear from Jesus. I need to understand that in the Bible God is speaking to one of three people groups, the Jews, the Gentiles, or to the Church of God. He is speaking directly to the three disciples. Jesus said last chapter that He would build His church. These men were the core/pillars of that first New Testament church. God is telling you and me to hear Jesus. (akouo- to hear, to comprehend, to understand). Not just to hear and understand, but to hear and understand Jesus.

Do we spend time listening to Jesus? Do we read His word? Do we interrupt Jesus? Do we do most of the talking? Or, are we like an old co-worker who said that she read the Bible once so she didn’t need to again, and has no need to go to church.

I’ll use this illustration. My wife and I have been married close to 23 years. I do not remember what she said 23 years ago, except that she loved me and would do so for better or for worse. Now she has said a lot since then. I have gotten to know her more and love her more as she has talked to me and I have listened. I would not know my wife if I did not listen to hear speak. If I only heard God say John 3:16 then yes, I would know God loved me, but I would not know who God is. I would not know how to please Him. I would not know what is expected of me to be a productive member of the family.

I want to please my wife because she loves me. I have no idea how to please her if she never tells me. (My five year old son said to me last week ‘dad you never get in trouble’, I wish that was the case). If I do not do what I am supposed to do, I will be in trouble, to use Danny’s words.

The Bible says that the wages of sin is death. It doesn’t say that if you are aware of that particular thing is wrong and you do it then it is a sin. It does say that if you know to do right and you don’t then that is a sin. But ignorance of the Law is no excuse. I want to know what to do.

How can I do that? By listening
So, how can I hear form God? Listen while praying. Listen while reading the Bible (everyday). Listen while the preacher is preaching and the teacher is teaching. Listen to godly men and woman who are wise and mature. Hide Scripture in your heart that you might not sin against God. You have to know God’s Word, so you will recognize that what you hear is from the Lord. If what you hear contradicts the written Word of God then it did not come from God.

Matthew 17 Verse 6
Can I lovingly say that we also need a healthy reverential fear of God? Too many people today have no fear of God. It is either because they don’t know anything about the God of the Bible or that they are so arrogant and hardened in their hearts that they blinded to the truth. There is another category, those who focus only on the love and forgiveness of God that they forget the righteousness and the holiness and the perfect justice of God. When we are face to face with our Lord, what can we plead? Nothing but the Blood. If it wasn’t for the Blood of Jesus then we could not even approach a thrice Holy God. Now, he has split open the middle wall of partition and made the way that we can boldly approach the throne of Grace. (Even though it says boldly) I like to think that I go there on bended knee through the shed Blood of Christ.

You see church, God hates sin. He is angry at sin. He punishes sin. We cannot go on in a lifestyle of sin and think that we will escape the wrath of God. Now, for the redeemed, my sins have already been judged, that happened on Calvary.

Verse 6 says that the disciples fell prostrate, that’s what it means, they hid their faces and very sore afraid. ‘depart from me, a sinful man’. God’s eyes are too pure to look upon evil or sin (Hab 1:13 Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity:)

Rev 6:16 And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb:

Matthew 17 Verse 7
I want to leave you with a positive note. Please re-read with me verse seven. And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid.

The touch of the Master dispels all fear. The touch of the master heals all ills. The touch of the master calms the raging sea inside of us.

Where before we were cast down, Jesus lifts us up. Where before we were hiding from the face of the Lord, now we can seek His face early while He may be found. Now because of His righteousness being imputed to me, I am accepted in the Lord.

The Bible says that we are raised up
Eph 2 6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: 7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Be not afraid. Matt 10:28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. I do not have to fear man. And now my fear of God is not for my eternal destiny.

Matthew 17 Verse 8 and Ill be done
Now we are saved. Jesus lovingly touched us, He has made us whole gain, and He has redeemed us for the Father. My sins have been forgiven and I’ve give eternal life. As the reality of that blessed thought, that my sins not in part, but the whole have been forgive, may we be like the disciples in Matt 17:8 and not look for man, not look to man for our help, let us look unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our Faith.

Contributed by Brett Skillen



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