Posted on Sun, Mar 2, 2014
Matthew 17:1-9 (Transfiguration Sunday)
March 2, 2014
Gospel Text: Matthew 17:1-9 – “They Saw No One But Jesus”
1 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. 3 Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ 5 While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!’ 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Get up and do not be afraid.’ 8 And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone. 9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, ‘Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.’
First of all, the text begins with, “Six days later;” What happened ‘six days’ earlier? Here is the text from Matthew 16:21, 24-25, “21 From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”
Can you imagine what it was like for the disciples to hear this kind of “very near term prophesy?” I am sure it didn’t go through very well considering the expectations of the disciples. They were all excited they were going to Jerusalem! They figured that as soon as they arrived in Jerusalem, Jesus would kick the Romans out of Palestine and the people would naturally make Jesus the new Davidic king and his once poor outcast disciples would be sitting alongside King Jesus… but as soon as Jesus said he would be arrested, tried and killed on the cross, the only picture each disciple had in his head was himself being arrested, tried and hung on the cross, JUST LIKE JESUS was prophesying! Do you think any one of them even heard the last words in Jesus’ prophesy, “and on the third day be raised?”
But the central mission of Jesus wasn’t death, but to conquer death through the cross; through ultimate forgiveness, mercy and love.
He takes, Peter, James, & John, the disciples who will play key roles in the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus after Jesus is taken to heaven on the Ascension and Jesus sends the Holy Spirit on Pentecost up a mountain for a special teaching lesson. They have to make the connection that Jesus is truly not just a rabbi or teacher, but the Messiah of Israel and Savior to the Gentiles who has been sent not to abolish but to fulfill both the Law and the Prophets.
Have you ever noticed that when a prominent Bible Character goes up “a mountain,” God has something very significant to teach them? When Moses went up Mt. Sinai it was dramatic with a burning, but not burning bush, stone tablets and great Hollywood effects. And when Elijah went up the mountain God spoke to him and the mountains shook! Great stuff even without computer graphics! Jesus takes these three up the mountain to teach them and to show them that what he says is true, and what Jesus must do, is necessary; and through Jesus death and resurrection, God’s promise of salvation will be fulfilled. They must understand this if they are going to preach it!
While they were on the mountain, before their eyes, Jesus is “transfigured,” it says, “2And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white.” The text says, “white,” but this word is too limiting, there was no color, and it was like looking at the sun, blinding and bright! Jesus IS the LIGHT! Jesus is THE TRUTH OF GOD, shown brighter then any darkness we would want to hide our sin. This is the brightness the Law spoke about and Moses was afraid of. But they didn’t die; they saw Jesus, as Jesus truly was, the radiant Truth of God.
Then the three saw Jesus speaking to Moses and Elijah… I’ve always wondered, how did they know it was Moses and Elijah? Elijah lived approximately 850 years before Jesus and Moses hadn’t been around for between 1200 to 1450 years! Nametags! It must have been nametags! It doesn't really matter how they knew, Matthew is writing the text FOR US! And he is trying to help US understand who Jesus is, and for the time being, we are now in the text wondering what is going on!
Now, picture yourself standing up on the mountain watching Jesus speaking with Moses and Elijah; Moses represents the Law. Elijah represents all of the prophets! What does this mean for us?
It means we are witnessing Moses and Elijah encouraging Jesus to continue on with His journey to the cross for in so doing, he will fulfill the Law and the Prophets! Through the cross and resurrection, Jesus will fulfill all that Moses and Elijah had faithfully lived and worked for! In just a little while, Jesus will enter Jerusalem, and fulfill all the Law and the Prophets.
While Peter, James and John, are watching Jesus, Elijah and Moses have their meeting, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved;* with him I am well pleased; listen to him!’ These words are NOT for Moses or Elijah; they are for James, Peter and John. Again, God is even telling these Nazarenes who Jesus truly is… And when have we heard these words before? … Recall Jesus’ baptism… Recall your baptism promise.
Will they remember these words in the future?
Then Peter, known for speaking before thinking, makes the suggestion that they preserve this moment and build some small shelters on the mountain so that they can stay longer and continue this “Ultimate of Bible Studies” with his Super Heroes of the Scriptures!
But we must remember, Peter is saying all of this with his head in the dirt, cowering in fear. It is not rational at all… he is on the ground shivering in fear, but then Jesus comes up to him, touches him with the same hands that have healed so many people in the past, and says, ‘Get up and do not be afraid.’
8And when they look up, they saw no one except Jesus himself standing alone.
After all this excitement, there was no one but Jesus. But isn’t that the truth of our reality? With all the good and bad we must experience in our short lives, the only one who is true and promises to be with us always, is Jesus. Jesus is our hope, Jesus is our Truth, Jesus is our life, and Jesus is our savior.
Then Jesus begins to lead them down the mountain, 9 “As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, ‘Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.’”
Why did Jesus order them not to tell anyone of their amazing day with Jesus on the mountain until after Jesus had risen from the dead?
Two reasons: First: Nobody would believe their disciples story. “You saw Jesus talking to Moses & Elijah? Have you been into the Passover wine before 9 in the morning, again?”
Second: They themselves wouldn’t understand the total context of what they had just witnessed until AFTER they had seen and witnessed Jesus alive after being killed on the cross… just as he prophesied six days earlier.
It must have been an amazing experience for Peter, James and John, but their mission wasn't to be with the most righteous ones on top of a mountain, but to be Christ for those living in the valleys, those who have never yet experienced or heard about the love, forgiveness and mercy of Jesus.
We are no different than these three. It is wonderful to be here, to sing, pray and hear the word… but we have been blessed so that we can be a blessing in this world! Beyond, not behind, these doors, your service begins. And in that ‘service’ Christ becomes known in the world, and more importantly, IN YOU. Amen
“And may the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)
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