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Matthew 17:1-13 HFBC

Lesson: Matthew 17:1-13 - HFBC

I.    Presence (17:1-6)

"After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother John and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. 2 He was transformed in front of them, and His face shone like the sun. Even His clothes became as white as the light. 3 Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. 4 Then Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it's good for us to be here! If You want, I will make three tabernacles here: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." 5 While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said: This is My beloved Son.  I take delight in Him. Listen to Him! 6 When the disciples heard it, they fell facedown and were terrified."

  1. Timing "After six days..." HCSB: p. 1645: 17:1-6 "The reference to six days indicates the rapidity of the fulfillment of Jesus' promise in Mt. 16:28, but it also may draw a parallel between Jesus' transfiguration and God's revelation of Himself to Moses in Ex. 24:13-18.  Other parallels include the reference to a cloud, a brilliant light, a mountain, and the separation of a small number of men from the larger group.  Moses' face shone brilliantly after he met with God (Ex. 34:29-35), so Jesus' transfiguration serves to identify Him as the new Moses.  This seems confirmed by the words listen to Him which echo Dt 18:15, a text from the prophet-like-Moses prophecy (Dt 18:15-19). See also Mt. 2:15-17.  However, the description of Jesus transcends OT descriptions of the glorified Moses.  In Ex 34:29-35, only Moses' face was radiant and this radiance was concealed by his veil.  Jesus' face had radiance too glorious to conceal and even His clothes became as white as the light.  The description of Jesus parallels the description of the Ancient of Days in Dn 7:9-10 and shows that Jesus possessed the glory of His Father (Mt 16:27)." 

    The presence of Moses and Elijah indicates that the necessary conditions for Messiah's coming had been fulfilled (v. 10; Dt 18:15-19; Mal 4:5).  Peter's request to build tabernacles unjustly suggested equal treatment for Jesus and His guests.  The Father's voice from heaven showed Jesus' superiority to Moses and Elijah.  Jesus is God's beloved Son, the object of His delight, and the focus of true disciples.  God spoke from heaven only twice in Matthew, both times to express His love for Jesus and His delight in His works (v. 5; 3:17).  On the meaning of Son, see 3:17.  The disciples' reaction is understandable, for the OT shows that direct encounters with God inspire fright (e.g., Is 6:1-5)."

  2. Training "Jesus took Peter, James, and his brother John..." A mistake of leadership is the belief that everyone must be treated equally to avoid 'favoritism'.  However, Jesus clearly saw leadership potential in this 'inner circle' which He wanted to develop. In Peter's second epistle the lasting effects of this experience are evident (2 Peter 1:16-21), even though he didn't get it right this time (4).

  3. Transformation "He was transformed in front of them..." (2) Compare His appearance in this account with John's vision in Revelation 1:12-16.

  4. Testimony "This is My beloved Son. I take delight in Him. Listen to Him!" (5) Both His transformation as well as God's testimony established Jesus' divinity. The disciples, who had no question that Jesus was fully human (1 John 1:1 'heard, seen, observed, touched with our hands'), now had further confirmation that He is God.

II.   Purpose

      "Then Jesus came up, touched them, and said, "Get up; don't be afraid." 8 When they looked up they saw no one except Him -Jesus alone. 9 As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, "Don't tell anyone about the vision until the Son of Man is raised from the dead." (17:7-9)

  1. Touch "Then Jesus came up, touched them..." (7) This is a great reminder that His touch is an antidote to our terror. We can feel His touch through prayer, His Word, and His Spirit. Sometimes He will use the Body of Christ to provide physical reassurance.

  2. Triumph "Jesus alone" (8) Whereas Peter implied equality among Moses, Elijah, and Jesus, the solitary appearance of the Messiah demonstrated His sufficiency.

  3. Teaching "Get up". Peter's desire to build tabernacles implied a permanent retreat. The disciples' fear implied paralysis. Jesus commands to the disciples can be applied in a broader sense to the church: don't live in the past, don't be captive to fear, and get moving with the mission.

III. Perspective

      "So the disciples questioned Him, "Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?" 11 "Elijah is coming and will restore everything," He replied. 12 "But I tell you: Elijah has already come, and they didn't recognize him. On the contrary, they did whatever they pleased to him. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands." 13 Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them about John the Baptist." (10-13) HCSB: p.1646: 17:10-13 "The view of the scribes was prompted by Mal. 4:5. John the Baptist was the fulfillment of the Elijah prophecy since his ministry had many similarities to Elijah's.  See additionally Mt. 3:1, 4 and 11:14."  Occasionally in our Christian lives we are privileged to be a part of a "mountain top experience."  We can learn valuable lessons from this account.

  1. Mountain Top Experiences Come to Those Who Seek God - Luke 9:29 records, "As He was praying, the appearance of His face changed ..."  We'll rarely be on the mountain top with "business as usual."

  2. Mountain Top Experiences Are Not for Everyone - Jesus took only three of the twelve disciples, the same three He took into the garden at Gethsemane.  Jesus' desire for confidentiality (9) prohibited the masses.  Old Testament law requires two or three witnesses to confirm an event (Deut. 19:15).  Jesus wanted perceptive disciples who could be trusted to faithfully witness the event at the proper time.

  3. Mountain Top Experiences Are Encouragement's from God - The transfiguration served to confirm Peter's declaration (Mt. 16:16-17).  Luke tells us that Moses (representing the law) and Elijah (representing the prophets) "were speaking of His death" Matthew 16:21 records Jesus' teaching on His suffering, death and resurrection.  It would be a struggle to the very end (26:42).  William Barclay (Matthew, vol. 2, p. 160) writes: "It is as if the greatest figures in Israel's history came to Jesus, as he was setting out on the last and greatest adventure into the unknown, and told him to go on.  In them all history rose up and pointed Jesus on his way.  In them all history recognized Jesus as its own consummation.  The greatest of the law-givers and the greatest of the prophets recognized Jesus as the one of whom they had dreamed, as the one whom they had foretold.  Their appearance was the signal for Jesus to go on.  So, then, the greatest human figures witnessed to Jesus that he was on the right way and bade him go out on his adventurous exodus to Jerusalem and to Calvary."

  4. Mountain Top Experiences Are Meant to Be Enjoyed - Christians like Peter are sometimes cursed with the "barrenness of busyness."  A Christian writer instructs:  "Don't just do something, stand there."  Unfortunately for the three disciples, in the middle of their busyness and fear (6), they didn't take time to savor one of the great recorded events of the Bible.

  5.  Mountain Top Experiences Always Come To An End - Why can't we live on the mountain top? (4)  Ultimately, we must go back down the mountain because that's where the people are (14).