The Book of Luke, The Transfiguration of Christ - Lesson 120
28And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray. 29And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering. 30And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias: 31Who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem. 32But Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep: and when they were awake, they saw his glory, and the two men that stood with him. 33And it came to pass, as they departed from him, Peter said unto Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias: not knowing what he said. 34While he thus spake, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud. 35And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him. 36And when the voice was past, Jesus was found alone. And they kept it close, and told no man in those days any of those things which they had seen.
In verse 27 we are told that Jesus said to his disciples that some of them would see the kingdom of God before they died.
We see in this passage that those who were chosen to see the kingdom were Peter, James and John for they were given a glimpse of the kingdom on the mountain.
It is interesting that Jesus described the events that were to take place on the mountain as the kingdom of God.
Three people were there, Moses, Elijah and the Lord Jesus Christ.
From our perspective it would have been astounding to see any one of these men but from God’s perspective there was only one man on which to focus our attention and our ear.
For God said, This is my beloved Son, hear him!
But this was to be a glimpse of the kingdom of Jesus Christ.
God’s glory was present, the king of the kingdom was present and two men who had died long ago were there, now living and talking to the king whom they had talked about during their pilgrimages in service to God.
Jesus Christ knew what was to come on the Mount and he chose three witnesses for the Bible says that in the mouths of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.
In that same line there are also three accounts of the transfiguration in the gospels, one each in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
But each of these three Gospel writers, Matthew, Mark and Luke, were given these accounts by the one who was also on the mount, the Holy Spirit.
Matthew, who wrote one of the accounts, was one of the nine left behind.
Matthew was chosen to write about this event, but not chosen to witness it.
John, who was not left behind, accompanied Jesus up to the mount of transfiguration, and wrote a gospel account, but does not include the transfiguration in his gospel.
From our perspective and our modern culture this would never happen.
Today there would be book deals in abundance, television interviews night and day and most likely a reality show with great opportunities for fame for anyone who would have witnessed this miraculous event.
Any preacher worth his salt wants miracles to be reported for he is interested in drawing crowds and also drawing the money that crowds have in their pockets.
But the Lord Jesus Christ never did things the way we would do things.
Jesus Christ never capitalized on or emphasized the spectacular.
In fact Jesus downplayed the spectacular, while we play it up thinking that it will result in a change to men’s hearts but it never does what we think it will.
God, and not events or miracles or even catastrophes change men’s hearts.
We are reminded of this by the Proverb that says Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.
Destruction will not change pride for the word “before” in this verse is not used in the sense of one thing or one event coming before another.
It is used to show position.
Pride continues to be exhibited in the face of destruction.
Repentance does not come to the proud and the haughty even though destruction is imminent.
The message is that a haughty heart continues to be haughty in spite of the fact that destruction is before the haughty heart.
Destruction or the threat of destruction does not change the proud heart.
Neither will the spectacular, including destruction, convince or convert anyone.
Throughout His earthly ministry Jesus was challenged to do something spectacular, in order to prove who He was.
Even on the cross He was challenged to get Himself down off the cross which he could easily have done.
could have called ten thousand angels
Now that would have been spectacular but he chose to die for me and for you and to take upon himself the sins of the world.
Jesus, in the story of the rich man and Lazarus, said that even if one were to rise from the dead, he would not be believed by those same people who had rejected the word of God by Moses (Luke 16:27‑31).
If, as Jesus had said to Peter, that flesh and blood do not convince men of His identity, but rather the Father, then no spectacular miracle can convert lost men.
But God had purposes in showing this miracle to these witnesses.
God does not expect men to believe in him based on nothing and these witnesses are given to us so that we may believe based on something.
The transfiguration of Jesus Christ was designed to do several things.
For one, the transfiguration confirms the identification of Jesus as Israel’s Messiah.
When God the Father spoke of Jesus as His Son, He settled the matter of His identity forever.
When Peter confessed that Jesus was the Christ, Jesus told him that this truth was not of himself but of the Father.
The Father did not stop at telling Peter on that occasion but by transfiguring Christ on the mountain, confirmed this confession by his identifying Jesus as: This is my beloved Son: hear him.
The transfiguration also identified the “kingdom” of which our Lord and His apostles spoke with the “kingdom” of which the Old Testament spoke, and the kingdom for which the Jews of that day were waiting.
As we have seen from the faulty thinking of the disciples many of the Jews were wrong in much of their thinking about the kingdom.
They only thought of earthly things apart from spritual things but God always puts the spiritual ahead of the earthly things.
But they were right in looking for a King and a kingdom, and the kingdom identified by the Father with Jesus as the king, was that kingdom.
There are similarities between the transfiguration of Christ and what took place on the mountain with Moses when God established the kingdom of Israel after the exodus.
Moses was present here, as he was in Exodus (cf. chapters 19ff.).
Moses went up to the top of the mountain (Exod. 19:3), just as Jesus took the three up the high mountain.
In Exodus (24:16‑18) there was a cloud from which God spoke, just as God spoke from the bright cloud on the mount of transfiguration (cf. also the Shekinah glory, Exodus 40:34f.).
The glory of God was made visible on the mount (Exodus 19:11), just as the glory of our Lord was made visible on the mount of transfiguration.
This is another indication that Jesus is God.
On the mount, Jesus’ face glowed (cf. Matthew 17:2), like the face of Moses shone when he descended from the mount (Exodus 34:29‑35).
The parallels lead us to conclude that the kingdom of which our Lord was King and that kingdom which was spoken of in the Old Testament were the same.
Another thing that the transfiguration declares is that Jesus is not Elijah nor is he Moses, but he is One who is far Greater.
Some thought Jesus was Elijah, while others thought he was a prophet raised from the dead (Luke 9:8, 19).
Moses and Elijah were not only the two Old Testament personalities most closely associated with the coming kingdom, but also those whose identity was most confused with Jesus.
When Jesus was set apart from all others as “the Son” by the Father, He was also distinguished as far greater than Moses or Elijah.
It almost seems that until the Father spoke from the cloud, Peter may have viewed Jesus, Moses, and Elijah as peers, as equals and this seems to be confirmed by Peter proposing three shelters, one each for Moses, Elijah and Jesus.
But God would not allow this misunderstanding to occur so the statement by the Father made known the vast superiority of Jesus over all others, including Moses and Elijah, raised from the dead or not.
The transfiguration also shows that the crown and the cross are a part of one plan.
When Jesus was identified as the coming King by Peter, Peter was reluctant to accept the fact that Jesus would die on a cross.
Peter was eager to have a King with a crown, but unwilling to have a King with a cross.
The transfiguration welds together the glory of the coming kingdom with the “exodus” or exit of Jesus at Jerusalem by way of the cross.
What is made clear is that the cross is the path that the Father had chosen to arrive at the crown.
If this is the path for God’s only begotten Son this is also the path for all of God’s sons.
Another thing that the transfiguration revealed was the fact that God is able to raise men from the dead that they may serve in the kingdom.
From Peter’s perspective, which was earthy, the cross seemed incompatible with the crown.
How could one who dies live in the kingdom of God?
Jesus taught that the one who gives up his life gains life.
Here were two Old Testament saints who had passed from the scene hundreds of years prior, both having suffered in service to God, now alive and talking with Jesus.
This was a testimony to the fact that passing away from this earth did not prevent a saint from participating in the kingdom of God to come.
The transfiguration of our Lord played a prominent role in the unfolding of God’s plan and purpose for Jesus, who is the Christ, the Savior of God.
The transfiguration tells us that Jesus is the fulfillment of the hopes of the Old Testament saint, that He is the Messiah.
But the most important lesson we can learn from the transfiguration is the principle stated in the Father’s two short words. Hear Him!
IF JESUS IS THE MESSIAH, THE CHRIST OF GOD, THEN MEN HAD BETTER LISTEN CAREFULLY TO HIM.
Peter had spoken well when he confessed Jesus to be God’s Messiah.
He had never said anything more profound or true.
But the rest of what Peter said was neither true nor profitable.
When Peter resisted the cross of Calvary, he thought as a man, and he spoke as though he were Satan.
We are not to “listen” to God’s Word the same way that Peter did.
We listen to the parts we like (i.e. the “crown”) and we reject the parts we dislike (i.e. the “cross”).
We go after the crown but we abhor the cross that we must bear if we follow him.
Bearing the cross means we obey his word.
But we do not have the option to pick and choose what part of God’s word is for us.
That is what the transfiguration was saying to Peter.
The crown and the cross must be believed and practiced together.
They cannot be neatly separated, so that we keep the parts of God’s plan which we find appealing and acceptable.
How often when we do read the Word, we read it selectively, taking its promises, its hope, its comfort, but ignoring or setting aside its rebuke.
The Words of the Father to Hear Him must be heeded.
Since Jesus is the King, we had better listen to what He says, all of what He says.
God’s words, spoken from the cloud were intended to silence Peter, to cause him to be more intent on listening than on speaking, to be more eager to learn from Christ than to correct Him.
Peter had better speak less and listen more.
God’s Messiah should be heard and His followers should be learners and listeners.
God learns nothing from us but we can learn everything from him.
We are to Hear him. This principle is not a new one in Scripture.
Listen to Psalm 2and this message is clear.
If Messiah is God’s Son, men had be in right relationship to Him.
Psalm 2, Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? 2The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.
Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.
The more men come to recognize the deity and the authority of Jesus, they more they become listeners and learners instead of speakers.
The more they desire to hear, the less they desire to speak.
The lesson which God wanted Peter to learn is the same as that which the book of Hebrews is teaching:
Hebrews 1:1–5, 1God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; 3Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; 4Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. 5For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee?
Peter, who did not write a gospel account, does refer to the transfiguration.
Note that the message of the Father to the three (including him) is the same message which Peter passes on to his readers:
2 Peter 1:12‑21, Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth. 13Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; 14Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath showed me. 15Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance. 16For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. 18And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. 19We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: 20Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
And John, the author of the book of Revelation, gives this account of the vision of the glorified Lord, who seems to look much as he did when John saw Him on the mount of transfiguration.
Revelation 1:10‑20, I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, 11Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea. 12And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; 13And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. 14His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; 15And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. 16And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. 17And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: 18I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. 19Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter; 20The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.
The glorified Lord is the One who is speaking to the churches, through the words which are written in chapters 2 and 3.
Take note of the one thing which is said to all of the churches:
“He who has ears to hear, let him hear … ” (2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22).
The final words of the book of Revelation once more remind us of this same principle:
For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: 19And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.