Matthew 17:1-13

Aug 17, 2018

Matthew 17.1-13.pdf

Transfiguration – translates the Greek word from which we get the term “metamorphosis (such as the change that occurs when a caterpillar becomes a butterfly). In Matt.17 Jesus is accompanied by Moses and Elijah. Moses and Elijah have this in common – they both met and spoke with God on Mount Horeb (Sinai).

- Moses was God’s representative when the first covenant was inaugurated at the birth of the nation.

- Elijah was God’s prophet and thus his representative regarding the stipulations of the covenant.

Both of these men met and spoke with God on that mountain – and both were charged with enforcing the covenant for the worship of the one true God in spirit and in truth.

Elijah is the only person described in the Bible as returning to Mount Horeb after Moses and his generation had left Horeb several centuries before. Recall that the covenant was uppermost on Elijah’s mind on the holy mountain.  He twice repeated, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” (1Kings 19:10) Yet Elijah had an awe-inspiring lesson on the mountain when the LORD was not in the strong wind that tore the mountains, nor the earthquake, nor the fire – but instead, the LORD was in the sound of a soft whisper, as that of a light breeze. The LORD was not working through powerful signs to accomplish his purposes, but instead he choose what we might think is the lessor, weaker way.

Perhaps there is a similar lesson that the Jesus’ disciples needed to learn. This is because the Transfiguration event follows a similar pattern: Jesus provided a sign for his disciples. It was a powerful and glorious sign indeed. Yet, in the end, it was Jesus (him only – his voice and the sight of just him) who replaced the power and glory of what just occurred. God was in Christ and he was again choosing the lessor and actually, the least powerful way. In this case, Jesus said it was necessary for him to suffer and die. He fully intended to be the suffering servant – and by this way, he would be accomplishing God’s purposes.  It would not be the glorious powerful way (even though, ironically, suffering would make this possible and lead to glory). This is evidenced by the very structure of the pericope:

Part I Matthew 17: 1-8 

Intro: Up a high Mountain

A. Glorious Heavenly Vision

1. Vision of Jesus in Glory with Moses & Elijah

2. Positive Reaction to what was seen

B. Glorious Heavenly Voice

1. Voice from the Glory Cloud

2. Negative Reaction to what was heard

B’ Earthly Voice of Jesus Replaces what was heard

A’ Earthly Vision of Jesus Replaces what was seen

Notice from the outline, that it is Jesus, both in his earthly voice and appearance, who replaces the power and glory of what had just occurred. Yet the disciples now knew for sure, like Elijah, that the LORD was there, working through this man, Jesus. By what he said on the way down the mountain, he reiterates that he still planned to go to Jerusalem to suffer:

Part II Matthew 17:9-13

Intro:Down the Mountain

A.  Prophetic Vision (of Jesus in Glory with Moses and Elijah) Concealed

B. Prophetic Reference to Jesus’ Suffering Revealed

A’ Predictive Prophecy Regarding the Vision (of Jesus in Glory with Moses and Elijah)

B’ Predictive Prophecy Regarding Jesus’ Suffering

a. Elijah has already come – but not recognized

b. Did to him whatever they pleased.

b’ So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer

a’ He was speaking of John the Baptist.

After the Transfiguration, on the way down the mountain, Jesus likened John the Baptist to Elijah, who would, “restore all things.” The restoration of all things was a reference to the restoration of the kingdom of God. In the disciples understanding, this referred to what had once existed in the kingdom united under King David. (Cf. Acts 1:6 where, after 40 days speaking about the kingdom of God, Jesus refers again to John the Baptist and the disciples understood him the same way (“Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”).  John the Baptist came preaching repentance as the means of salvation from judgment and entrance into the kingdom. With this message of repentance, he began the work of restoration. Entrance into the blessings of the coming kingdom would not come apart from the obedience of repentance and faith(fullness) associated with covenant renewal. Yet John was just the forerunner. It is only through the suffering/death and resurrection/glory of Jesus, the Son of God, that the eternal kingdom would be restored.

Moses and Elijah are mentioned together in the closing verses of the Old Testament (Mal 4:4-6) associated with the restoration of obedience from the heart in the covenant community. They appear here in Matthew as representatives of the prophetic tradition that pointed toward Jesus as the final and most authoritative prophet and representative – but now, Jesus came to fulfill the law of Moses and, as the New Moses, to inaugurate a new covenant.

Christians believe Jesus is the one of whom the prophets spoke. He is the prophet who is to come (Deut. 18:18-19, Jn. 6:14). Moses led the people out of slavery in Egypt with the death of the first-born, the sacrifice of the lamb, and the crossing of the Red Sea. Then he received the law and inaugurated the first covenant at Mount Sinai. Now, Jesus reverses redemptive history. Exodus 24 has a number of parallels to Matthew 17. Generally though, Jesus went up to the mountaintop and experienced glory before going to Jerusalem to redeem the covenant community through his suffering on the cross. By this, his disciples would later understand Jesus is the new Moses who will lead his people out of slavery to sin and into new life through his death and resurrection.

When Jesus predicted the transfiguration event as a preview of his coming in his kingdom in Matthew 16, he also taught the necessity of suffering as part of discipleship, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matt 16:24) The disciples struggled to understand how suffering fit with messianic hopes – even as they loyally followed Jesus in that direction.

We also struggle to understand how suffering and death fit in the same story with the glory of the kingdom of God. 

Yet, as Heb. 2:10 says, “it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.”

We know that, since Christ died, we have died with Christ - and so, being raised with Christ, we also have the hope of glory. The vision in Matthew prefigures the end and future state of the righteous, whose splendor the Lord spoke of, saying: “Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun.” (Matt. 13:43)

Romans 5:2 teaches, “we have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of God’s glory.” Just as Jesus suffered and entered into his glory, so we too, have this hope – again through the death and resurrection in Christ. (We died to sin, so how can we still live in it? Instead, we live for God, as those alive from the dead.) This changes everything because this is how we are transformed into the image of Christ and God - as we were always intended!

St. Maximus the Confessor taught that the senses of the apostles were transfigured to enable them to perceive the true glory of Christ. St. Paul in 2Cor 3:18 teaches this concept of “transfiguration of the believer.”

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, which is from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

Through the Holy Spirit, we too can be transfigured “from one degree of glory to another” by the Spirit of God.

Through Christ (who is the glorious Son of God by nature) we are enabled by grace to become the sons of God in glory.

The glory that Moses displayed was a reflection of the glory of God - Moses was not the source.

But Jesus did not receive his glory from outside of himself.

The glory that Jesus experienced was like that of the sun, originating from his own person.

The glory that Moses experienced was like the light of the moon, which comes from the sun.

We “behold” the Lord with the mind/nous (by faith), because we are united with the risen, glorified Christ, through the Holy Spirit. As we thus “behold” Christ, who is the image of God (2Cor 4:4) we are transformed into his image (Col 3:10).

“Put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” Eph. 4:24

God’s ways are not man’s ways.  God’s ways often involve suffering and weakness.

We are “...heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Rom 8:17-18

And here we are at Pyramid. This is because the power of Jesus' risen life is lived out in the weakness of believer’s lives. 2Cor 4:10-11

Yet, the resulting transformation is real – not legal fiction.

This is because sin is real and harmful, something we need to be saved from.

Salvation involves not as much believing a theory of the atonement (not that this is unimportant) as it does the obedience of faith. Being a disciple of Christ the important thing because it results in therapeutic healing and thus, saving, transformation.  Just as sin reigned in death, so also grace “reigns through righteousness leading to eternal life” (Rom 5:21).  The gift of righteousness in Christ is also a gracious power that reigns through righteousness.

The one who, “began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:6).

This reign of grace in Christ’s present kingdom rule involves our faith/obedience in cooperation with the grace of God. 

Phil 2:12-13 says, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”  Faith leads to works or else it is not faith at all (James 2:17, 26). 

Romans 6 and the works of the flesh in Gal 5 show that self-control is essential for the journey to eternal life.

Our actions “test and approve” God’s will because we have been transformed by the renewal of our mind. Rom 12:2

Note the impact of the transfiguration on the Apostle Peter - an eyewitness - by its literary function in 2Peter:

A. Exhortation to Make Every Effort to Ensure Salvation 1:3-11

B. Reminder of the Past Power and Coming of Christ 1:12-21 <Recounting the Transfiguration event>

B’ Reminder of the Future Power and Coming of Christ 3:1-13

A’ Exhortation to Make Every Effort to Ensure Salvation 3:14-18

Leading up to his recounting of the Transfiguration event, Peter is emphatic about the need to take and active role in our becoming “partakers of the divine nature.” Read the text of 2Pet. 1:3-11 printed below:

2Pet. 1:3-11

3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

To “supplement” ones faith with virtue, etc. (vs. 5-11) is our cooperation in grace, which is intimately bound up with the faith we have in the gracious promises of the gospel (vs. 3-4). The two go together and the synergistic result is the bringing many sons to glory.

“The glory of God is a live human being and a truly human life is the vision of God.” St. Irenaeus