Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. - Psalm 119:105

Bible Study Notes

Matthew 17:1-13

By Dr. Richard J. Krejcir
The Transfiguration!


The Transfiguration!

General Idea: Jesus, for the most part, has led a life of humility and humiliation. He, being fully God, rarely showed His divinity, yet was steadfast to His mission. The Disciples possibly questioned Peter's confession; was it correct? "But, how can this be when Jesus is so humble?" they wondered. Then, all of the humiliation and misunderstanding collapsed. Just as God revealed Himself to Moses on Mount Sinai, God revealed His Kingdom and Glory! Jesus transformed powerfully, something that the special effects wizards in Hollywood wish they could do. Jesus spectacularly used Peter's testimony in the previous passages to give an incredible light show of hope for what was in store for them. A small glimpse of the coming Kingdom was given to the inner circle of Disciples. They came face to face with the law (Moses), the Prophets (Elijah), the Father's pronouncement of blessing, and the Son's coming work, all converging to fulfill it. If the Disciples had any doubts about who Jesus was, these doubts had ceased as real, tangible proof was given. Jesus' apologetic miracle was showing them the Living God!  No longer was it just intangible teaching that they would not fully understand until later; here, they were face to face with God and His enfolding plan of redemption. Jesus represented the Law, which He lived out in perfection in our place. Jesus represented the Prophets, for He was the One to whom they were pointing, and He continued the prophetic ministry in His teachings.

 

1.   After six days, Matthew is making this statement to make a connection to Peter's confession found in the previous passage (Matt. 16 13-19). This alludes to Exodus when God spoke to Moses (Ex. 24:15-18).

a.   Rarely is such a statement of time given in the Gospels or in Hebrew culture. They were "event oriented" people, whereas the Romans were "time oriented." The usage of time meant this was preordained and important! This also meant a period of preparation.

b.   He was transfigured literally means to change in form. This was the revelation of Jesus' divinity, as He prayed (Luke 9:29).

                                                  i.      This took place so the disciples could begin to fully comprehend who Jesus was and what was ahead for them (John 1:14; Heb. 1:1-4).

                                                ii.      They had to confirm their faith by being able to recognize Jesus for who He was.

                                              iii.      This was necessary so as to remove any presumptions or false ideas they may have held.

                                               iv.      The Disciples had to come face to face with Jesus as God in a real way to prepare them for Jerusalem, and as preparation for a crisis. 

                                                 v.      This was a glimpse of Hope they could use to carry them through the troubled times ahead.

                                               vi.      For us, it means the working of the Spirit in our inner life to transform us (Rom. 8:11; 12:2; Col. 3:18).

c.   Mount Hermon is the traditional site for this event. This happens just before He departs to Jerusalem and four months before His crucifixion, according to Luke, who gives a chronological account. 

d.   This is also what is called, in theological language, a "theophany," which is a divine show of God to a person or people, which usually invokes total fear.  

e.   His face shone refers to transformed glory, as in God's glory. It is also as with Moses, whose face also shone when he met with God (Ex. 34:29).

f.     Elijah was the greatest of the Prophets, and Moses was the law giver; they tie the old covenant in with the new covenant of grace. There are no characters in antiquity who would be better to point to the work of our Lord and the plan of redemption.

                                                  i.      Both communicated to God on the mountain top of Mount Sinai also called Mount Horeb (Ex. 24:15; 1 Kings 19:8).

                                                ii.      Luke 9:31 records that they talked about Jesus' coming death. 

 

2.   Tabernacle, in this passage, refers to recognizing God's presence. It also means a tent that the people lived in while they wandered the desert for 40 years. The main tabernacle was a holy tent set apart for God's use only, where the Ark was kept and the priests made offerings to God prior to the building of the Temple, and where God made His presence known (Ex. 35-37).

a.   Peter's suggestion to build a tent was irrational as he meant he was seeking to make the mountain top a permanent place to be; he did not realize that you have to go back down to the valley to make the mountain top known and to put the experience into practice.

b.   Bright cloud was just as God revealed Himself to the Hebrews in the desert, under the leadership of Moses (Ex. 24: 15; 40:34-35).

c.   This is my Son, is the designation given at Jesus' baptism and in John as His only begotten Son (John 3:16); again, God personally reveals who Jesus is as loudly and as powerfully as Moses saw Him.

d.   This passage is also from the promise of Deuteronomy 18:15, where God tells the people to listen, and to direct their attention to the work of the Prophets who will point toward the redemption to come.

e.   Hear Him is a rebuke to Peter as well as referring that the work of the Law and Prophets point to Jesus' final work of reconciling us to God.

                                                  i.      This is also an announcement to listen to God, not to be distracted from what is false and misleading, what seems to look good but will snare us.

                                                ii.      The Hebrews were distracted many times. God warns them not to be, yet they were, and, as a result, became lost, wandering for 40 years.

f.     Fell on their faces. This was extreme fear. We have this notion of a "teddy bear" like God who is just love and comes to us as a dad. This is true; however, He is also most Holy, and, in the Bible, every encounter a person had with God or an Angel was met with that person experiencing utter terror. We are only able to come to God by what Christ has done; He removes the terror so we can experience His love as abba, daddy.

 

3.   Why do the Scribes say Elijah must come first? The popular mindset in Jesus' time was that Elijah would return to deliver them out of Roman oppression (Mal. 3:1; 4:5-6), then both Elijah and Moses would come at the "end of days." They skewed the prophecy to fit their current needs, saying it was to restore genealogies or to kick the Romans out, and were unwilling to see it for what it really was intended-to point them back to God. So, they were not willing or able to see the real signs of the times or the real Messiah over their presumptions. They wanted the prophecy to kick out the bully, and not be bothered about God. But, Elijah did come in the form of John the Baptist, and did exactly as the prophecy said which was to point people to God and His plan.

a.   Peter never forgot this foretaste of the eternal Kingdom. This was the event that help galvanize him, the main thing he held on to, his security when he was suffering (2 Pet. 1:12-18).

b.   Suffering precedes glory. Peter's impulsiveness eventually subdued into passion for the cross. He realized there is a cost for glory, and that cost is in suffering (1 Pet. 1:6-8, 11; 4:12-16; 5:1-10)!

c.   God's revelation was given though the Son, for His glory. But, the cost for that glory was the cross to come (Gal. 6:14)!

d.   The three Disciples, having seen the Transfiguration, were able to move ahead in their faith and understanding. Even after Peter's setback of denying Christ (something he could never fathom doing at this point), he was restored and this Transfiguration became his banner for faith. All the remaining Disciples, except Judas, were able to know Him and make Him known for countless generations.

 

          Peter wanted the glory without the suffering. We can have all the glory without the suffering, too. We can have the fruit without the planting or cultivating of the tree; we can have the vacation without the work; but, it is not from God (Matt. 4:8-10). In fact, in the world, it is considered theft to have something without working or paying for it, unless it is a gift. Fruit without work is what Satan offers us. But, the cost is too high; the cost is a meaningless existence with a damned future. So, all we would end up with would be suffering with no purpose and no glory! Take heed; God reveals His Kingdom and Glory to you. The cost may seem high, but it was only high for Him. For us, it is dirt cheap, no matter what we have to go though. When we remain obedient, faithful, and take seriously our call to be disciples and make disciples, He will show us. Just think of His blessings, and the joy of being in Him (James 1:2-8). Most of the things that hold us back from growing in Christ are not just sin; rather, it is when we refuse to recognize His divine power. We are ignorant of what He can do, and are afraid when we know we should follow. 
 
 

Questions:

 

1.   Have you ever had a "mountain top" experience, such as a powerful experience at a worship service or retreat, so you never wanted to leave and go back to the "valley" of your life?

 
 

2.   Why do you think the Transfiguration was necessary?

 
 

3.   Imagine if you were there seeing this marvelous event; how would you have felt? What would you have done and said?

 
 

4.   Why do you think Jesus only invites Peter, James, and John?

 
 

5.   Why is the statement, after six days, important?

 
 

6.   How do you think the transfiguration affected the Disciples' faith and purpose?

 
 

7.   What does the transfiguration mean to you?

 
 

8.   Why do you think God so often uses "mountain tops" to communicate? Consider that there is less distraction there!

 
 

9.   Why did Peter want to build a tent? What would you have wanted to do?

 
 

10. What does your church do to recognize God's presence?

 
 

11. How have you, or do you, hear Him? What distractions block you from hearing God?

 
 

12. God warns the Hebrews many times not to be distracted; yet, they did become distracted, and in so doing became lost and wandered for 40 years. Why did they not listen? What ideas or beliefs prevent you from listening to God or to other godly advice?

 
 
13. Why do you suppose that in the Bible, virtually every encounter a person had  with God or an Angel was met with that person experiencing utter terror? How does this affect your mindset of God's Holiness?
 
 

14. Why do you think the religious leaders in Jesus' day skewed the prophecy to fit their current needs instead of seeing it as a way to point them back to God?

 
 

15. How and why are many Christians today not willing or able to see the real message of the Word over their presumptions?

 
 

16. How and why did this event galvanize Peter's faith and direction?

 
 

17. What event in your life helped motivate you in the right direction in life with faith, obedience, or to know Christ and make Him known?

 
 

18. Peter wanted the glory without the suffering; how and why do we do the same today?

 
 

19. God reveals His Kingdom and Glory to you in many ways-through His Word, through your prayer and devotional life, and through your faith and obedience. Has He revealed it to you? If not, are you really looking? What do you need to do to receive it?

 
 

20. Imagine God saying to you, "this is my child, and I am well pleased!" Obviously, though grace, He is well pleased with you; but, beyond grace, what is in the way of this happening in your life? 

 

  

© 2004 R. J. Krejcir Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.org  

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