The next event, the famous Transfiguration, connects to the previous by the phrase “And after six days” (17:1). What will it mean for some not to taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom? Some will see that coming of the kingdom at the death and resurrection of Jesus, and some will get a foretaste of Jesus’ glory in just “after six days” (17:1)—that foretaste pointing towards Jesus’ death and resurrection itself (17:9).
Jesus was “transfigured before them” (17:2). His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. Peter later reflects on what this event meant when he says that “we were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Peter 1:16). They saw Jesus’ “majesty,” his glory, the glory of the one in the coming kingdom of God—the king of the kingdom and his majesty.
“Moses and Elijah” appeared and were talking with Jesus (17:3): Moses, the greatest Old Testament leader of God’s people, author of the Pentateuch; Elijah the great prophet calling God’s people back from their idolatry. Together they are voices of prophecy pointing to the Christ, and there they are talking with the Christ.
Peter is so awestruck that his mouth runs ahead of his brain (again disproving the idea that Peter always got everything right). He wants to make tents for each of them. Somehow Peter does not yet quite truly understand that Jesus is a different order of being to Moses and Elijah; three tents, one for each, suggests their equality. But then God the Father intervenes, a bright cloud, while Peter is still speaking, a voice from the cloud: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (17:5). The disciples fall on their faces and are terrified (17:6). Jesus comes and touches them and tells them to get up and have no fear (17:7). And when they lifted their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus (17:8). The message is plain: they are not primarily to listen to Moses, or even Elijah, but to Jesus; listen to him.
Coming down, Jesus connects this vision to his resurrection: he has shown the glory of the coming kingdom that will be enacted in a new way at his death and resurrection (17:9). The disciples aware of this point ask then why the Scriptures say that Elijah must come first (17:10), before this takes place (Malachi 4:5, 6)? Jesus answers that Elijah has already come (17:12), meaning (as Matthew explains in verse 13) John the Baptist. And as they treated John the Baptist, so Jesus himself will also suffer at their hands. He is a King, coming into his kingdom, but he is a suffering King.
Would you this morning take fresh conviction to listen primarily, consistently, worshipfully, obediently, joyfully, above all and more important than all, to Jesus, the Beloved Son of the Father?
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