Six days later, Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John, and brought them up on a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them; 3 and His garments became radiant and exceedingly white, as no launderer on earth can whiten them. 4 Elijah appeared to them along with Moses; and they were talking with Jesus. 5 Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three tabernacles, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6 For he did not know what to answer; for they became terrified. 7 Then a cloud formed, overshadowing them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is My beloved Son, listen to Him!” 8 All at once they looked around and saw no one with them anymore, except Jesus alone.
Many years ago, when we were in seminary, Diane and I experienced one of the most difficult seasons of our lives together. Diane had to have brain surgery. While she was recovering from that, my mother had a massive heart attack while vacationing in Florida. I was taking a full-load of classes and working part-time, and our son Evan was in pre-school. I needed to drive from the seminary in New Orleans to be with mom in Florida so, we enlisted Diane’s parents to help care for them as I traveled.
I remember driving the 762 miles throughout the night, praying, asking God for strength. I also asked Him (and I think this is the only time I’d ever done this) I asked the Lord for a sign that my wife and mother would be alright. Well, as is often the case in Florida there was a shower; it was raining as I approached Jensen Beach at sunrise. As I drove over a high bridge toward the hospital where mom was, I saw a lone ray of sunlight, the only one, piercing the morning clouds.
It lit on one spot, one building. As I found my way to the hospital it was clear the light is landing on that building and only that building. This was my sign! Sometimes when God knows we’re about to go through hard times, He lets us see, in no uncertain terms, that He’s with us and what we’re experiencing is part of His plan. This is what we have in this episode. Jesus showing the fulness of His glory to Peter, James, and John.
Because He knows they’re going to pass through extremely difficult days when He is crucified and beyond. He wants them to remember this supernatural event, and be sure to tell others about it at the appropriate time to encourage them. This is an event of grace and glory. Grace that prepares the disciples for their future season of trials, and the glory of the Lord revealed.
I’ll share five truths from the transfiguration to encourage us as we encounter hardships. First, let’s see:
The Chosen Disciples (2a)
Six days later, Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John, and brought them up on a high mountain by themselves.
Verse 2 begins, “Six days later.” What happened six days before is worth noting. That’s when Peter says to Jesus, “You are the Christ.”
- Peter’s confession
Mark 8:27-29, Jesus went out, along with His disciples, to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way He questioned His disciples, saying to them, “Who do people say that I am?” 28 They told Him, saying, “John the Baptist; and others say Elijah; but others, one of the prophets.” 29 And He continued by questioning them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered and said to Him, “You are the Christ.”
This was very significant because Peter was ascending as a leader among the disciples. By his proclamation of Jesus as the Messiah (Christ) in the company of the others Peter becomes the de-facto spokesman for them all. What Peter speaks by faith will become confirmed by sight six days later. But no sooner does Peter make his confession, Jesus must apply correction. Right after Peter’s confession Jesus starts to teach the disciples about His coming death and resurrection.
Look at verse 31, And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.
This is unheard of, unacceptable to Peter.
- You’re God…You can’t die!
So, Peter’s going to straighten out Jesus. Help get the Lord’s understanding of the events in order.
(32) And He was stating the matter plainly. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him.
I imagine Peter, a big strong fisherman, coming to Jesus and putting his are over the Lord’s shoulder saying something like, “I love you, and it’s because I love you that I want to help you before you embarrass yourself in front of the others.” I didn’t just make that confession to a loser. I made it to the Lord, and the Lord can’t die, see.
(33) But turning around and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.”
Again, imagine Peter’s shock. Both in the realization of his own shortcomings, and the truth of His Lord’s prophecy of death. So, six days later Jesus brings Peter, James, and John; His inner circle to a high mountain. We don’t know where, but many scholars believe it was Mt. Hermon near Caesarea Philippi. These three are the chosen disciples. He chose them to witness something so spectacular that human language cannot adequately describe. Why them?
I think it’s simple, in Jesus’s humanity He was closer to some people than others, Like all of us. It also makes sense He brought Peter to the mountain to raise his spirits from the correction six days before. In His divinity, Jesus was listening to and following the prompting of His Father.
Listen, the Lord chooses certain followers for unique experiences out of His sovereign favor. Some will be a blessing and others a burden. And it’s their responsibility to be obedient.
[The Chosen Disciples]
The Change in Appearance (2b-3)
And He was transfigured before them; 3 and His garments became radiant and exceedingly white, as no launderer on earth can whiten them.
Have you ever seen something so wonderful, so amazing, it left an indelible image in your mind that you can never forget?
- The birth of your child
- The appearance of your bride-to-be walking down the isle
- Receiving your first Medicare card in the mail
Peter, James, and John were about to see something few had ever witnessed. The presence of God in the fulness of His glory. There had been testimonies written about it in the Old Testament. His Shekinah glory wrapped in a pillar of clouds by day and night leading the people out of Egypt. His glory like a consuming fire appears to Moses when he’s given the Ten Commandments. And again, when God’s presence fills the Tabernacle, the tent of meeting in Exodus 40.
At Kadesh-Barnea in Numbers 14, where the children of Israel rebelled against God, He appears as light.
2 Chronicles 7:1, reads, Now, when Solomon had finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the house.
The immensity and intensity of God’s glory is such that He tells Moses on Mt. Sinai, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!”
Exodus 33:31-23, Then the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by Me, and you shall stand there on the rock; 22 and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will take My hand away and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen.”
Back to today’s text. The Greek word translated transfigured is metamorphoō compiled from two words:
- Morphē…body or form
A radical change in the outward appearance of Jesus takes place as the fulness of His divine glory is revealed to Peter, James, and John. Now here’s an interesting detail Luke includes in his record of Jesus’ transfiguration. The disciples were sleeping when His look first changed.
- 9:32, Now Peter and his companions had been overcome with sleep; but when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men standing with Him.
Jesus changed in appearance on the outside, but He remained the same on the inside. He was always God, always divine, that never changed. But what was hidden until now was the fulness of His glory.
- (3) And His garments became radiant and exceedingly white, as no launderer on earth can whiten them.
You know, when we’re saved, the Bible teaches that we’re changed on the inside, though we look the same on the outside.
Romans 12:2, And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
2 Corinthians 5:17, Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
We look the same on the outside, radically changed on the inside. Jesus was changed on the outside and stayed the same on the inside.
[The Chosen Disciples, The Change in Appearance]
The Champions of the Faith (4)
Elijah appeared to them along with Moses; and they were talking with Jesus.
Last Sunday I spent time explaining how and why Jesus proved who others said He was; the Son of God. Compelling evidence of His divinity had been given and would continue to mount. Aside from His resurrection, the transfiguration was probably the most persuasive confirmation that Jesus was the Son of God. Due in-large-part by the presence of these two champions of faith, Elijah and Moses.
Their supernatural manifestation, surrounded by the radiance of Jesus’ glory, served to affirm His status, and as a bridge between the old and new era. Peter, James, and John would have been profoundly aware of the roles those men held in their place and time of service. Elijah was the most powerful prophet of the Old Testament. God empowered Elijah to command the rains to fall and be held back.
- His words caused famine and abundance across the land
He prayed over a widow’s son’s lifeless body and he was raised from the dead. Elijah called on God to reign down fire on an altar that was soaked with water. Burning the sacrificial ox, wood, and stone structure, proving the impotence of Baal and the supremacy of YAHWEH. Moses was both deliverer and law giver. The most revered man among the prophets. Moses gave the Law and Elijah courageously guarded it against paganism and idolatry. What were they doing there?
- (4) …and they were talking with Jesus.
What were they speaking about with Him?
Luke’s record of the event tells us…
Luke 9:31, Who, appearing in glory, were speaking of His departure which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.
Moses and Elijah were discussing Jesus’ death with Him. Remember, it was Jesus’ teaching about His need to die that so upset Peter and the others six days earlier. The topic of this transfigured talk was the sacrificial death of God’s Son. Two reasons for this come to mind. One, it would’ve solidified beyond any doubt the necessity for Jesus to die. For Peter and the others, it was the last nail in the coffin of any hope the Lord would escape death. And for Jesus I suppose Moses and Elijah joining in this divine discourse would be a continuous source of reassurance.
As Jesus walked through the valley of His death, He could remember this time on the high mountain and be encouraged. Affirming that it’s part of the Father’s plan. Do you find it interesting how Jesus surrounded Himself with human and heavenly encouragement as He readied Himself to die?This aught to speak to us today. If Jesus is not your Savior, you may be surrounded by family and friends when you die. But you won’t have that heavenly presence. Jesus won’t be there to say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
No believer has ever died alone. They may not have other people with them, for instance my father’s passing. But the Lord is with them, He is the Champion of their faith.
[The Chosen, The Change, The Champions]
The Challenge of Peter (5-6)
Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three tabernacles, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6 For he did not know what to answer; for they became terrified.
As the Son is shining with magnificent brilliance, In fellowship with Moses and Elijah, Peter feels the need to say something; something that sounds spiritual. He can’t help himself, this is the challenge of Peter. Just like six days before when he was challenged to not rebuke Jesus, once again, Peter couldn’t help himself. Here’s some good advice, When you don’t know what to say to God, don’t say anything.
I can relate to Peter. I’m often challenged to just shut up and listen to God. Especially when I’m scared. When I’m intimidated by a situation or confused. I want to talk my way through it, mostly self-talk. Which is not always bad, but it’s better when we listen to God too. Jesus and those champions of faith had no use for tabernacles (three tents erected in their honor). They didn’t want people flocking to the mountain as if it were a holy shrine. Next thing you know people would be worshiping the place, rather than the Person Jesus Christ.
But that’s what we tend to do; worship people, places, and things instead of God. There’s a good reason God told Moses, “You shall have no other gods before Me.” Why He prohibited making idols and serving them. Yeah, I think most of us can relate to Peter’s challenge.
The Charge by the Father (7-8)
It’s because we share in Peter’s challenge that we need to read the charge by the Father.
Then a cloud formed, overshadowing them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is My beloved Son, listen to Him!” 8 All at once they looked around and saw no one with them anymore, except Jesus alone.
To use a modern phrase, this is a “drop-the-mic” moment. The Father makes His point and poof, He, Moses, and Elijah are out of there. Peter’s challenge prompts the Father to voice His firm charge, His order:
- Listen to Him!
- Listen to Jesus
Quit trying to fill in the blanks, there are no blanks with Him. Jesus has your present and future filled in with His sovereign and satisfying will; if you’ll just listen to Him. Folks, as unrelatable as the transfiguration of Jesus is to us, as purely divine it was (so spectacular, miraculous, and mysterious) there’s one thing all of us should take away from it.
- The charge by the Father.
Listen to Him! Listen to Jesus with the intention to act on what we hear. And for the church, God’s word is the surest place to hear from the Lord.