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Mount Of Transfiguration

INTRODUCTION: The transfiguration of Jesus is recorded in 3 of the 4 gospel accounts, which provides information from varied perspectives. Jesus had already confirmed to his disciples that he was the Christ of God, and he had told them that he would be killed at Jerusalem, and be raised on the third day. It is interesting that Matthew was one of the twelve chosen apostles, but not present at the transfiguration, while John was there but did not record it in his gospel. Mark and Luke wrote gospel accounts, but were not apostles. All four gospels were written some time after the resurrection and the ascension of Jesus.

NOTE: Scripture passages are from the World English Bible.


Matthew 17 "1 After six days, Jesus took with him Peter, James, and John his brother, and brought them up into a high mountain by themselves. 2 He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his garments became as white as the light. 3 Behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them talking with him."

Mark 9 "1 He said to them, "Most certainly I tell you, there are some standing here who will in no way taste death until they see the Kingdom of God come with power." 2 After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James, and John, and brought them up onto a high mountain privately by themselves, and he was changed into another form in front of them. 3 His clothing became glistening, exceedingly white, like snow, such as no launderer on earth can whiten them. 4 Elijah and Moses appeared to them, and they were talking with Jesus."

Luke 9 "27 But I tell you the truth: There are some of those who stand here, who will in no way taste of death, until they see the Kingdom of God." 28 It happened about eight days after these sayings, that he took with him Peter, John, and James, and went up onto the mountain to pray. 29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became white and dazzling. 30 Behold, two men were talking with him, who were Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory, and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem."

COMMENTS: after a period of public teaching among various villages, Jesus withdrew to a remote location to pray, and he took only three select men with him. Jesus had said there were some who would in no way taste death until they had seen the Kingdom of God come with power. On the mountain the appearance of Jesus' face and even his clothing was very bright. In Exodus 34:29-35 we have the record of how the face of Moses shone so brightly that he had to wear a veil when he spoke to the people, because he had been in the presence of God.

The book of Acts records the key role that Peter and John had in establishing the church after Christ was resurrected, and James was the first of the eleven apostles to be killed by the enemies of Christ. Throughout the gospel accounts these three apostles are often mentioned together. These three men saw Jesus Christ transformed into his glorious state, and they saw two men who were servants of the LORD from centuries past, very much alive in that glory and talking together with Christ. So in this way the three apostles saw a glimpse of what will be manifest when the Kingdom of God is fully realized.

Luke's account gives us the additional information that Moses and Elijah spoke about the departure that Jesus would soon accomplish at Jerusalem. The Greek term translated here as departure can readily apply to the departing of the soul from the body at death. The term translated as accomplish can mean to complete to the point of perfection. I like the idea that is conveyed by what Jesus accomplished, because there was no man who could take his life. When he laid it down it was according to his plan; and he accomplished his purpose through his death, burial, and resurrection.


Matthew 17 "4 Peter answered, and said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you want, let's make three tents here: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." 5 While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them. Behold, a voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to him." 6 When the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces, and were very afraid."

Mark 9 "5 Peter answered Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let's make three tents: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." 6 For he didn't know what to say, for they were very afraid. 7 A cloud came, overshadowing them, and a voice came out of the cloud, "This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.""

Luke 9 "32 Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they were fully awake, they saw his glory, and the two men who stood with him. 33 It happened, as they were parting from him, that Peter said to Jesus, "Master, it is good for us to be here. Let's make three tents: one for you, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah," not knowing what he said. 34 While he said these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered into the cloud. 35 A voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is my beloved Son. Listen to him!""

COMMENTS: We are not told how long they were on the mountain together or how late in the day it was, but in Luke's account we find that Peter and his companions were sleepy. Other accounts in the gospels of special private prayer times for Jesus give evidence of his lengthy and intense periods of communications with the Father. In their drowsy state, Peter, James, and John were all frightened by what was happening before them, but Peter couldn't contain himself and he had to say something. Mark and Luke both give us the information that Peter spoke without fully knowing why he was making his suggestion. From the Matthew account, the fear of the three disciples was so much they fell on their faces when the cloud surrounded them and the voice from the cloud said "This is my beloved Son. Listen to him!"

Before Jesus began his public ministry and called these disciples to follow him, a voice spoke from heaven when John baptized Jesus. Luke 3 "22 and the Holy Spirit descended in a bodily form as a dove on him; and a voice came out of the sky, saying "You are my beloved Son. In you I am well pleased."" There is nothing in the text in Matthew, Mark, or Luke to indicate that anyone other than John the Baptist witnessed that event and it did not involve a visible change in the appearance of Jesus even though the Holy Spirit descended upon him. This event gave John the Baptist a very unique confirmation of the full identity of Jesus who was born just a few months after him, and their mothers were blood relatives.


Matthew 17 "7 Jesus came and touched them and said, "Get up, and don't be afraid." 8 Lifting up their eyes, they saw no one, except Jesus alone. 9 As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, "Don't tell anyone what you saw, until the Son of Man has risen from the dead.""

Mark 9 "8 Suddenly looking around, they saw no one with them any more, except Jesus only. 9 As they were coming down from the mountain, he commanded them that they should tell no one what things they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 They kept this saying to themselves, questioning what the "rising from the dead" meant."

Luke 9 "36 When the voice came, Jesus was found alone. They were silent, and told no one in those days any of the things which they had seen."

COMMENTS: Sometimes a touch can be so reassuring, and Matthew records that Jesus came to the men and touched them and told them not to be afraid. As they looked around after having been on their faces on the ground they did not see anyone other than Jesus. As the four were coming down from the mountain together, Jesus told them not to tell anyone what they had seen until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. There is no indication that they did not realize that Jesus applied that title to himself, especially since he had previously told them he would be killed and then rise from the dead. But according to Mark's account they questioned among themselves what the rising from the dead meant. Part of the question in their minds may have been whether that would immediately bring in the kingdom of God because later when they sat with Jesus in view of the temple they asked him a question. . Matthew 24 "3 As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things be? What is the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?"" In Mark's gospel we are told that the four who were with Jesus at that later time were Peter, James, John, and Andrew.

We know that at least one sect of the Jews did not believe in resurrection from the dead. Acts 23 "8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit; but the Pharisees confess all of these." Some of the Psalms indicate that those who have the righteousness from God will have resurrection to life, but not the unrighteous. Psalm 49 "14 They are appointed as a flock for Sheol. Death shall be their shepherd. The upright shall have dominion over them in the morning. Their beauty shall decay in Sheol, far from their mansion. 15 But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me. Selah." Even for those who believed in resurrection based on Old Testament scripture, some of The interrelated prophecies could not be fully reconciled without spiritual revelation and complete fulfillment.

Hosea's prophecy came near the end of the northern kingdom which fell around a century before the southern kingdom fell. Hosea 6 "1 Come, and let us return to Yahweh; for he has torn us to pieces, and he will heal us; he has injured us, and he will bind up our wounds. 2 After two days he will revive us. On the third day he will raise us up, and we will live before him. 3 Let us acknowledge Yahweh. Let us press on to know Yahweh. As surely as the sun rises, Yahweh will appear. He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain that waters the earth." This next section of prophecy was written sometime in the seventy year period of captivity after the southern kingdom had fallen. Daniel 12 "2 Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 Those who are wise shall shine as the brightness of the expanse; and those who turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever. 4 But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run back and forth, and knowledge shall be increased."

After about another 400 years, Christ Jesus came into the world, and we have this record of what was apparently a common belief of the time. John 11 "21 Therefore Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you would have been here, my brother wouldn't have died. 22 Even now I know that, whatever you ask of God, God will give you." 23 Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." 24 Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." 25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will still live, even if he dies." The Jews of that day were waiting for a resurrection that would come when all former things were passed and the kingdom of God was established in the last day. Jesus spoke of life that continues for those who believe in him, even when the body is dead.


Matthew 17 "10 His disciples asked him, saying, "Then why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?" 11 Jesus answered them, "Elijah indeed comes first, and will restore all things, 12 but I tell you that Elijah has come already, and they didn't recognize him, but did to him whatever they wanted to. Even so the Son of Man will also suffer by them." 13 Then the disciples understood that he spoke to them of John the Baptizer."

Mark 9 "11 Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?" 12 He said to them, "Elijah indeed comes first, and restores all things. How is it written about the Son of Man, that he should suffer many things and be despised? 13 But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they have also done to him whatever they wanted to, even as it is written about him.""

COMMENTS: The three disciples gave evidence of their synagogue training when they ask Jesus why the scribes say that Elijah must come first. It is likely that they were still trying to understand if the resurrection of Jesus would immediately bring the kingdom of God into full reality. Malachi 3 "1 "Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me; and the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, behold, he comes!" says Yahweh of Armies. 2 "But who can endure the day of his coming? And who will stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire, and like launderer's soap; 3 and he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi, and refine them as gold and silver; and they shall offer to Yahweh offerings in righteousness. 4 Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasant to Yahweh, as in the days of old, and as in ancient years." And a further passage from that prophet provided even more to try to understand. Malachi 4 "1 "For, behold, the day comes, it burns as a furnace; and all the proud, and all who work wickedness, will be stubble; and the day that comes will burn them up," says Yahweh of Armies, "that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. 2 But to you who fear my name shall the sun of righteousness arise with healing in its wings. You will go out, and leap like calves of the stall. 3 You shall tread down the wicked; for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I make," says Yahweh of Armies. 4 "Remember the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded to him in Horeb for all Israel, even statutes and ordinances. 5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of Yahweh comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.""

The three disciples had only the Old Testament scriptures for reference to help them understand the events happening as they were with Jesus. We have the advantage of four gospels and other New Testament scripture. Luke 1 "13 But the angel said to him, "Don't be afraid, Zacharias, because your request has been heard, and your wife, Elizabeth, will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 You will have joy and gladness; and many will rejoice at his birth. 15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and he will drink no wine nor strong drink. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. 16 He will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord, their God. 17 He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, "to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,' and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to prepare a people prepared for the Lord."" The disciples understood by Jesus words that he was speaking of John the Baptizer, and yet they still would not have been able to grasp whether this was a type or a literal fulfillment. When the angel spoke to Zacharias, and said that his son John would go before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah, neither John nor Jesus had yet been conceived in the womb, and there was no one with Zacharias to see the angel and hear his words.

At the age of about thirty when John was having his public ministry to prepare the way, he responded to questions and stated that he was not Elijah. John 1 "19 This is John's testimony, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, "Who are you?" 20 He declared, and didn't deny, but he declared, "I am not the Christ." 21 They asked him, "What then? Are you Elijah?" He said, "I am not." "Are you the prophet?" He answered, "No." 22 They said therefore to him, "Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?" 23 He said, "I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way of the Lord,' as Isaiah the prophet said.""


LORD, I am so thankful to you for the scriptural record of the events at the mount of transfiguration. What a blessing it is to review them knowing that your Word is truth, and your plans are perfection. You chose three apostles to witness that glimpse of your true glory, and of the continuing life of your servants Moses and Elijah in the glory that you reserve for all who believe. The voice from heaven also gave them a most startling proof of your identity as the Son of Man and the Son of God to strengthen their preparation for their special part in furthering your kingdom. I thank you, LORD, that the New Testament scriptures give all believers today additional truth to help us better understand that event and many others in the complex plan of salvation for the still growing numbers of your chosen children. We do not have the personal touch of your hand that brought comfort with your words after the voice had ended, but you use believers to comfort one another with your Word and in physical ways as well. I still do not fully understand all the meaning in your rich Word, but I wait confidently for the reward that I know I will receive with other believers because of your grace, mercy, and unbounded love. Amen and amen!

Published 27 January 2015