SEE JESUS IN HIS KINGDOM?
17:1-13 Six days later Jesus took Peter and the two brothers, James and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed so that his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light. Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared and began talking with Jesus.
Peter exclaimed, “Lord, it’s wonderful for us to be here! If you want, I’ll make three shelters as memorials—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
But even as he spoke, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him.” The disciples were terrified and fell face down on the ground.
Then Jesus came over and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” And when they looked up, Moses and Elijah were gone, and they saw only Jesus. As they went back down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
Then his disciples asked him, “Why do the teachers of religious law insist that Elijah must return before the Messiah comes?”
Jesus replied, “Elijah is indeed coming first to get everything ready. But I tell you, Elijah has already come, but he wasn’t recognized, and they chose to abuse him. And in the same way they will also make the Son of Man suffer.” Then the disciples realized he was talking about John the Baptist.
A FEW OBSERVATIONS:
Why Matthew points out that this episode happened “6 days” later interests me. Luke says 8 days later. Later than what? They were known to take leasure time in Ceasarea Philippi. Could it be that the confrontations that had just happened there needed that much time to sink in? Do you think Jesus might have chilled for a week just to keep from completely short circuiting Peter’s brain? Then again, maybe the meeting with Moses and Elijah was scheduled for a certain day.
Peter, James & John seemed to be preferred by Jesus as His closest companions. I’m sure this assumption should include consideration of what Paul points out about, “the dishonorable members of the body needing the most attention.” Check out 1Corinthians 12:23, 24. It also bears consideration that these 3 were the loud, pushy guys in the group and whatever they got would naturally be broadcast to everyone. Besides, they also needed to be closely watched!
“Jesus led them.” Led here is anaphero which actually means carry. Two things we can be sure of. He knew where He was going and He was looking forward to blowing these guys’ minds.
“Up on a high mountain.” Tradition has it that Mt Tabor is the “mount of transfiguration”. In fact clever religious types have actually done what Peter wanted to do. Yes, temples, three of them. But Mt Tabor rises less than 2,000 feet above sea level. Not exactly a mountain, nor is it lofty. Hermon is over 9,000 ft and they were just in Caesarea Philippi which is up around Upper Galilee where Hermon is.
“His clothes became as white as light.” Didn’t Jesus just say in 16:28, “There are those here who will not taste death before seeing Me in My power.“ Later, Jesus would use that vivid picture in John’s memory. In Revelation 3:5 he relates Jesus’ words, “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments,“ and v18, “I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed.“ It is the glory of God that His nature be seen in “earthen” vessels.
“Then Peter answered.” Yes, when Peter saw and heard Moses and Elijah talking to Jesus, he had to say something. This must of been a common reflex with Peter. Answering, that is, reacting, feeling obligated or compelled to speak even though nothing could be more inappropriate. Some people’s brains are hot-wired to their lips.
Proverb: Words that force themselves through carnal lips are usually not worth the breath.
I am part Chickasaw Indian and have heard their comments about the contrast in this particular area between them and the ‘white man’. Indian men can sit for days in a lodge together and never feel compelled to say a word. A white man would go crazy. He has to have some kind of auditory stimulus. I guess, so he’ll be reminded he’s alive or to be assured he’s OK. He has to say something. It doesn’t matter how mindless it might be. He just doesn’t know how to be still. Yet, to learn to be still seems required in this Way of Eternal Life.
Eternal Life is “to know the only true God and the One He sent“ John 17:3 and knowing is available to those who will be still. “Be still, and know that I am God,“ Ps 46:10.
“While Peter was still talking.” This is a good wake up call to those who question whether God knows what they’re thinking or hears what they say. Before Peter even finishes what he was saying, God responds. A bright cloud enveloped them, GOD speaks out loud and when they heard His voice they hit the ground, face in the dirt, “GREATLY AFRAID”.
In our vernacular today what He said would sound something like, “Co-ome on! Would you please get a brain!!! Focus, man! This is MY SON! In the presence of His voice and His wisdom, don’t try to be clever! Have one thing on your mind, LISTENING TO HIM. What He says is SPIRIT AND LIFE and you have no business thinking you should throw in your 2 cents!” Wow!!
Jesus came over and touched them. He said, “Come on, get up. Don’t be afraid.“ Do those words sound familiar? This must be one of Jesus’ main jobs. I guess if He was pressed by time He would get real tired of saying that. He must have to say it a million times a day.
Just before they were thrown to the ground, the disciples were seeing Moses, Elijah, Jesus and each other. They were hearing all those voices, not to mention GOD’S! When they looked up, they saw and heard Jesus ONLY. Moses represented the LAW, Elijah represented the PROPHETS. This is a beautiful picture of the consolidation of God’s expression and authority in HIS SON, JESUS. Suddenly Jesus was all they saw and all they heard.
Think they wouldn’t be listening now?! I don’t think they had a problem focusing anymore. I also think that their faith was expanded to the point that they would “have the ears to hear“ whatever they heard Jesus say. Up to that point their ears had been filtering what Jesus said through their own points of view. It seems probable that at this point they had a little more sensible evaluation of their opinions. So I’m sure they were quite eager to comply with, “Don’t tell anyone about this until I’m raised from the dead.“ I can just hear them, “You bet! Whatever!”
On the way down from the mountain, they began to process what they had seen, and the question arises, “So what are the scribes on about when they say Elijah has to come first [before the Messiah]?” One more confirmation that they knew who Jesus was speaking to. They were just having trouble putting what they had seen together with the accepted interpretation of Scripture. (Ever notice how God is always clarifying Himself?) They didn’t have pictures of Moses or Elijah, so they didn’t recognize them by sight. It’s more likely that they heard the three of them greeting each other and what they were saying. In Luke they say what they were talking about – Jesus’ death.
Jesus explains to them that Elijah DID come first. This brings up an interesting line of thought. Was John somehow an incarnation of Elijah? We know that Elijah had not experienced death yet and Scripture is clear on the subject of death; “It is appointed that a man die once.” Was Elijah preserved for his one death, till his life as John the Baptist? If so, now, Moses and Elijah both had died and that’s what they were talking with Jesus about. This is completely out of my mental league but Matthew does say, “The disciples understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist.”
This passage doesn’t indicate that Jesus said anything to Peter, James or John from the last words, “seeing Him coming in His kingdom“, till after God had spoken to them. When they were flat on their faces and unable to breathe, He says, “Get up. Don’t be afraid.“ I believe that God is speaking to us. What He shows us is beyond our imaginations. Some of His words are harsh and cutting, especially to our current self-oriented, individual perspective.
It would be good to remember that God does not have to speak to us at all. He would get rid of a lot of grief if He would just discard us. But He is our Father, it’s love that motivates Him to speak to us. We seem to think that the role of father is somehow to nurture without any confrontation. That if a son or daughter does something unacceptable, the parent should sit them down and calmly explain that the child’s point of view has value, but there could be better ways of accomplishing the goal and, with the child’s permission, suggest some options.
The truth is not optional, timid, nor is it sneaky. Truth is anything BUT nurturing, until the one in danger comes into the safety of the truth. Truth-spoken-in-love does not always equal truth-spoken-lovingly. The Bible does not say that God is loving. It says God is love. Everything He speaks to us is Truth in Spirit and in Life. What He says is ultimate reality in the world we can’t see, as well as in the world we can see. Don’t let any area of your life be an arena where Satan can work because your feelings got hurt by the way God has spoken to you. Get yourself adjusted. Get over it and get that breech closed up before anyone takes offense at God because of your grudge against Him. There’s not a living soul that in childhood did not feel mistreated when a disciplinary action they didn’t understand was administered by a parent who loved enough to draw a clear line at what was right. A lot of us haven’t grown out of that.
God is love and His love has been shed abroad in you. He will speak to and through you in the precise way required to clearly get His point across. For hard-heads, that means it will sometimes have to cut deep and disrupt everything we think. Is that OK with you? Now, hear Jesus say, “Come on. Get up. Don’t be afraid. Don’t tell anyone about this until I am truly alive in this issue and my Truth has become yours. The world won’t know me and will do what they wish with Me but you are different. You are Mine. You will know Me and that will make you My light to the world.“