Sorry this weekly blog is a little late. I have been working diligently on my New Testament Daily Bible Study Guide, the companion edition to the Old Testament one I produced last year. I thought it might be nice to give you a sample (one daily reading from this new book) for your edification.
Read Matthew 17:1-23
The life of Jesus now reaches an important turning point. This is highlighted by the phrase in Matt. 16:21, “from that time”. “From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things . . .and be killed, and be raised again the third day”. This verse becomes a kind of segue into chapter 17 and the account of the transfiguration.
Indeed, the “transfiguration” of Jesus on the mountain top in front of Peter, James, and John accomplished the purpose of revealing His glory to them. It was the one moment in Christ’s life when the physical limitations and appearance of His earthly body was dramatically altered so as to allow these 3 men to behold Him in all His glory.
There are three points I wish to make from this text:
FIRST, His Visible Appearance. This change was two-fold: (1) “His face shone like the sun”, and (2) “His clothes became as white as the light” (vs. 2). This description of Jesus is remarkably similar to what the Apostle John saw on the Isle of Patmos in Rev. 1:16, “His countenance was like the sun”.
SECOND, His “Visitors’” Arrival. Just then, Moses and Elijah appeared on the mountain with Jesus, talking with Him. Many Bible teachers see real significance in this, and believe these same two Old Testament figures will be the two prophets of the Tribulation period, as described in Revelation 11:3-10.
THIRD, His Voice of Affirmation from heaven. “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (vs. 5). This voice from heaven not only affirmed the person of Christ, but produced great fear on the part of the three disciples, who fell on the ground. Jesus touched them saying: “Do not be afraid”.
Peter’s impulsive suggestion that they should build 3 booths (“tabernacles”) to immortalize this moment was probably based on the Jewish custom of erecting “booths” on the day of the Feast of Tabernacles so that Israel would never forget God’s glory to the Israelites in the wilderness. Essentially, his human desire was to “hang on to this glorious moment”, something quite common to all people who have a spectacular experience in their life.
Actually there were three times in the life of Christ when He heard a voice from heaven:
1. At His baptism (Matthew 3:17).
2. At His transfiguration (Matthew 17:5). The same words of approval from the Father as at the baptism.
3. As He faced the cross (John 12:28). Jesus prayed: “Father, glorify Thy name. Then a voice came from heaven saying, ‘I have both glorified it and will glorify it again”. All three of these heavenly voices were stunning and clear witnesses to the person and mission of Christ.
The word translated “transfigured” is the Greek word “meta-morphos”, which literally means a change of form. We get our English word metamorphosis from this Greek word. So Jesus’ form changed from a mere human body to a shining glorified body. It must have been a spectacular sight indeed.
There is one interesting detail of the transfiguration that Luke points out, where Matthew simply says Jesus “talked with them” (Moses and Elijah). Luke adds what they talked about. “They spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish” (Lk. 9:31). Think of it! They discussed the crucifixion which was about to take place in Jerusalem! That must have been some conversation!