Matthew 17:1-13New International Version (NIV)
17 After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3 Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.
4 Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
6 When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” 8 When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.
9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
10 The disciples asked him, “Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?”
11 Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. 12 But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.
Matthew 17:1-13The Voice (VOICE)
Jesus is providing an entirely different perspective on success and happiness. The new Kingdom is breaking in, and the new community is coming together. This is the logic of that Kingdom and that community: to inhabit God’s story, this is what must be done. To accrue fame and comfort and riches is counter to this new community. In the economics of this new community, real success is marked by a willingness to sacrifice one’s very life to God, and the promised rewards are immense.
17 Six days later, Jesus went up to the top of a high mountain with Peter, James, and John. 2 There, something spectacular happened: Jesus’ face began to glow and gleam and shine like the morning sun. His clothes gleamed too—bright white, like sunlight mirroring off a snowfall. He was, in a word, transfigured. 3 Suddenly there at the top of the mountain were Moses and Elijah, those icons of the faith, beloved of God. And they talked to Jesus.
Peter: 4 Lord, how amazing that we are here to see these heroes of our faith, these men through whom God spoke. Should I quickly build some shelter, three small tabernacles, for You, for Moses, and for Elijah?
5 As Peter spoke, a bright cloud enveloped all of them.
Voice from the Cloud: This is My beloved Son. With Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him.
This is but an echo of the Voice that spoke at Jesus’ ritual cleansing in baptism. It is an echo of what God said through Moses during his final sermon on the mount. God promised that although Moses could not enter the promised land, He would send His people another prophet. Moses’ very last wish for his beloved people was that they would listen to this new prophet when He would come.
6 This voice from heaven terrified the three disciples, and they fell prostrate on the ground. 7 But Jesus—who was, by this time, used to His disciples being plagued by fear—touched them.
Jesus: Get up. Don’t be afraid.
8 And when the disciples got up, they saw they were alone with their Lord.
9 The four men hiked back down the mountain, and Jesus told His disciples to stay silent.
Jesus: Don’t tell anyone what happened here, not until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.
Why does Jesus often instruct His disciples to keep secrets? In this case, perhaps He does because He realizes they will not understand the meaning of the transfiguration until they live through that other hilltop event, the death of Jesus on the cross. Believers, like the disciples, will better understand this bath of light and revelation when they, too, come to Golgotha and the cross.
Disciples: 10 Master, why do the scribes teach that the prophet Elijah must come first?
Jesus: 11 Scripture tells us clearly that indeed Elijah will come to restore all things. 12 But see this: Elijah has come already. No one recognized him for who he was, so he was arrested and killed. That is part of the preparation of which our Scripture speaks: for the Son of Man, too, will be arrested and killed at the hands of people who do not see Him for who He is.
13 And then the disciples realized the man they knew as John the Baptist[a] was the one Jesus was speaking of.
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