Gospel: Matthew 17:1-9
Epistle: 2 Peter 1:16-21
Lesson: Exodus 24:8-18
Psalm: Psalm 2:6-12
CLB Pastors Network – Rev. Gaylan Mathiesen
It is interesting to see how Jesus chose Peter, James and John to accompany Him on His hike up the mountain—the same three disciples who had accompanied Jesus when He healed Jairus’ daughter. It would seem that Jesus was preparing them for a more public and leading role in the church that He was about to call into being. Once they arrived, in a bright flash of light, Jesus suddenly was transfigured before them, accompanied by Moses and Elijah. What was the particular significance of these two Old Testament figures? Jesus came to fulfill the Law (Moses) and the prophets (Elijah). Elijah is also the appointed restorer of all things (Concordia Self-Study Bible: NIV, footnote on verse 3). Matthew says that these two were “talking with Jesus.” Luke’s version (9:28-36) adds that when Moses and Elijah met with Jesus, they talked to Him about His “departure” (literally “exodus”), taking our thoughts back to God’s prior salvation of Israel from their bondage of Egypt. As God had “delivered” the Israelites from Egypt, Jesus was about to deliver God’s people from their bondage in sin.
In their excitement, however, the disciples came up with a plan of their own, and proposed to Jesus that they immediately launch a building program and contain what was happening there—in the hope to make it last. (Just think of the supercharged worship services one could have!) God’s mission, however, will not be contained within 4 walls, to be treated as our private possession. God’s aims are much higher and bigger. God had so much more to accomplish, far beyond what the disciples were capable of imagining. God enveloped them in a cloud and spoke emphatically to them, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” Consequently, the disciples couldn’t stay on the mountaintop, as they would have liked. They too were on God’s mission, and to faithfully serve His mission they needed to return to those who needed the deliverance that only Jesus can bring. What the disciples had just seen and heard was to prepare them for all that would confront them when they came back down. As N.T. Wright put it: down into the valley, to the place of despair and death, the place where demons shriek, and sufferers weep, the place where the son of man will be handed over to sinners (Luke for Everyone, Westminster John Knox Press, 2001. p. 115).
God’s church is the called, gathered, enlightened and sanctified community in Christ, sent out into the world to share with others what we have seen and heard. By God’s grace and power, following the resurrection of our Lord, these very human disciples would carry on the glorious work of Christ through His church. As a result of their faithfulness, the proclamation of the Good News of the Kingdom of God would ripple out beyond Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and on to the ends of the earth. Because of their faithfulness and the faithfulness of countless others, the message of Christ’s salvation has come to us; and through the continued faithfulness of God’s people we know that one day we will stand in a great multitude that no one can count, “from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the lamb… saying: “Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!” (Rev. 7:9-12)
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary
“The Transfiguration was largely for the disciples (Jesus brought the inner three to it; he was transfigured before ‘them’’; the Voice spoke to ‘them.’ This does not mean that they understood it fully; but it was a crucial step in the symbol-charged self-disclosure of Jesus that would be much better understood following the Resurrection. For the present, it indelibly confirmed the disciples’ conviction that Jesus was the Messiah.”
Carson, D.A., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: With The New International Version. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995.
Sermon Studies on the Gospels – Series A
“Sinful human beings are afraid of the holy, almighty God. Even minor demonstra- tions of his power cause people to quake as is seen in the human reaction to the approach of a tornado or the eruption of a volcano. Here Peter, James and John, though believers in Jesus, react according to their sinful nature and are frightened σφόδρα – ‘exceedingly’ or ‘out of their wits.’ They lose contact with what is occurring and collapse to the ground.”
Balge, R.D., Sermon Studies on the Gospels – Series A. Milwaukee, WI: Northwestern Publishing House, 1984.
The NIV Application Commentary – Matthew
“As they are coming down the mountain, Jesus instructs the disciples for the final time not to tell anyone what they have seen (cf. 8:4; 9:30; 12:16; 16:20). They may tell others of the stupendous events of the Transfiguration only after he has been raised from the dead. Otherwise, the disciples and the crowd may think that Jesus’ transfiguration and meeting with Moses and Elijah indicates that the time has come to effect national and military liberation, thus misunderstanding his mission. Jesus’ message must be understood to focus on forgiveness of sins through his suffering on the cross. Through the Spirit of holiness, Jesus will be declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead, then all will finally understand who he is and what he has come to accomplish.”
Wilkins, M.J., The NIV Application Commentary – Matthew. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004.