1 Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; 2 and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light (Matthew 17:1–2, NKJV).
Peter, James, and John saw a glimpse of Christ’s divine glory and majesty when His appearance changed on the mountain (2 Pet. 1:16-18). Christ had shared the glory of eternal deity with the Father from time immemorial (John 17:5). When He came to earth, He humbly emptied Himself of the appearance of divine glory and became “in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:5-8; Micah 5:2; John 1:1, 14). When His form changed on the mount, the brilliance of His countenance revealed the brightness of His divine glory. Moses the Lawgiver and Elijah the prophet appeared with Jesus, and they talked about His approaching death in Jerusalem (Luke 9:31). Awakened from slumber and fearful, Peter proposed honoring Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, but his plan was silenced by the voice of the Father and the command to listen to His Son (Matt. 17:3-5). Jesus has authority over Moses and Elijah (the Law and the prophets, Matt. 5:17-18). Like the apostles, we must hear Jesus and follow all He says because He has all authority over the world (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 3:22-23; Heb. 1:2). A touch of the Master’s hand and the reassurance of His voice calmed the apostles’ fear (Matt. 17:6-8). So may we humbly and reverently listen to and obey the word of Christ day by day (Col. 3:17). When we do, Christ’s word calms our souls with the assurance of His presence and eternal life (Heb. 13:5; 1 John 5:11-13).
4 Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 5 While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” (Matthew 17:4–5, NKJV)
Jesus was unique, being fully deity and fully human; “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9). He is the Word who was “with God,” “was God,” and who “became flesh” (John 1:1, 14). John, His forerunner, announced Jesus “is the Son of God” (John 1:34). Nathaniel confessed Jesus is “the Son of God” (John 1:49). The superiority of Jesus was on full display during His transfiguration (Matt. 17:2-3). Peter seemingly failed to grasp the implications of this great truth (v. 4). Jesus is not the equal of Moses and Elijah (the law and the prophets); He is their superior. The Father’s voice confirmed three indisputable truths. (1) “This is My beloved Son.” Jesus is the Son of God; He is deity (Luke 1:31, 35). (2) “In whom I am well pleased.” Jesus pleased the Father in everything He said and did (John 8:29). (3) “Hear Him.” We must listen to Jesus (Acts 3:22-23). When we confess that Jesus is the Son of God, it compels us to listen to and follow Him (John 8:31-32). When He was born, Jesus was the Son of God (Isa. 9:6; Luke 2:7, 11). At His baptism, he is the Son of God (Matt. 3:17). Jesus said He was the Son of God while on earth (John 10:36). When He was transfigured, He was the Son of God (Matt. 17:5). Now, God speaks to us through His Son (Heb. 1:1-3). Listen to Jesus. Obey Him. He is the Son of God.
9 Now as they came down from the mountain, He commanded them that they should tell no one the things they had seen, till the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 So they kept this word to themselves, questioning what the rising from the dead meant (Mark 9:9–10, NKJV).
Peter, James, and John had just witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus, seen Moses and Elijah talking with Him, and heard the Father’s voice say, “This is my beloved Son. Hear Him” (Mark 9:1-7). Why did Jesus tell them to tell no one what they had seen until “the Son of Man had risen from the dead?” Here are a couple of reasons. First, several were already bearing testimony that Jesus is the Son of God: (1) John the Baptist, the Elijah of prophecy (Mark 10:11-13; Matt. 11:14; John 5:33-35); (2) The Father Himself by the miracles of Jesus (John 5:36-37); and (3) The Scriptures (John 5:38-39). Second, the apostles were not yet prepared to tell others what they had seen. That was not their job at this moment. They still had much to learn from the Master. Only now did they understand John was the prophesied Elijah (Matt. 17:12-13). They did not know Jesus would rise from the dead (Mark 9:10). They did not yet grasp the redemptive work of Christ (Peter even rebuked Jesus for saying He would suffer, be killed, and rise after three days, Matt. 16:21-23). Rest assured, the apostles would tell others about the transfiguration when Christ commissioned them to preach the gospel to the world (Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8; see 2 Pet. 1:16-18). What can we learn from this? (1) Teachers must first be students of God’s word (1 Tim. 4:13, 15-16). (2) Teach what you know while maturing in your knowledge of God’s word (2 Tim. 2:15; Heb. 5:11-6:3). (3) Zeal without knowledge can be dangerous (Rom. 10:2-3).
19 Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” 22 Then they said to him, “Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said: “I am ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Make straight the way of the Lord,” ’ as the prophet Isaiah said. (John 1:19–23, NKJV)
We must know who we are. Christians are the children of God, disciples of Jesus, and servants of righteousness (1 Jno. 3:1-3; Acts 11:26; Rom. 6:17-18). John knew who he was. Being repeatedly asked, “Who are you?” John quoted Isaiah 40:3, declaring himself to be the prophesied forerunner of the Messiah. John was not the Christ; he announced the Christ to Israel (Jno. 1:29-34; 3:28). John was not Elijah. He came “in the spirit and power of Elijah,” and called on Israel to repent (“to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just”) “to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Lk. 1:16-17). Jesus identified John as Malachi’s prophesied Elijah (Mal. 4:5-6; Matt. 11:14; 17:10-12). John was not “the Prophet” predicted by Moses (Deut. 18:18-19). He would decrease as Jesus increased and spoke the words of God (Jno. 3:30-34). John knew who he was. He fulfilled his God-given work. Do you know who you are? If so, then use today to do the work God has given you (Rom. 12:3-8).
3 And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. 4 Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 5 While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” (Matthew 17:3–5, NKJV)
The Word (Christ) did not cling to the “form of God” when He became flesh (Phil. 2:5-7). That is, He emptied Himself of the glorious appearance of deity He shared with the Father “before the world was” (Jno. 17:5; Jno. 1:1, 14). Without divesting Himself of His Godhood, He took the “form of a bondservant” and became human (Phil. 2:7). His humility reached its zenith when He obediently died on the cross (Phil. 2:8). On the mountain, when Jesus was transfigured, Peter, James, and John saw a glimpse of His glory and heard the Father’s confirmation of His Sonship (Matt. 17:1-2; Lk. 9:32; 2 Pet. 1:16-17). Jesus is superior to the Law (Moses) and the prophets (Elijah). Therefore, we must hear the Son in everything He teaches (Acts 3:22-23). That means we go to His New Testament to inform and activate our faith, not to the Old Testament law and prophets (Heb. 1:1-2). We listen to the Son by hearing and accepting His apostles’ teachings (Jno. 13:20; Matt. 28:19-20). Are you listening to the Son of God?
11 Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. (1 Kings 19:11–12, NKJV)
When compared to human expectations, God does the unexpected. The great victory against the false prophets at Mt. Carmel manifested His power and genuineness as the only God (1 Kings 18). But now, queen Jezebel is hunting for Elijah to kill him. We find him at Horeb, the mountain of God (Sinai). Before arriving, Elijah had prayed for death, thinking things were hopeless (they weren’t, 1 Kgs. 19:4, 15-17). He thought he was the only faithful one left (he wasn’t, 1 Kgs. 19:18). In the midst of his doubt and despair, God did the unexpected. He revealed Himself in a “still small voice.” The point is not for us to wait for such a voice before we act, any more than we should wait for a strong wind, an earthquake, or fire from heaven. We will find the Lord where He told us to look – in His word. He manifests Himself to those who love Him by keeping His commands (Jno. 14:21). Let us trust and obey the word of God instead of expecting God to do things according to our expectations (Lk. 6:46; Jno. 6:68; 8:31-32).
17 Then it happened, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said to him, “Is that you, O troubler of Israel?” 18 And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have, in that you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord and have followed the Baals.” (1 Kings 18:17–18, NKJV)
With the influence of his evil wife Jezebel, king Ahab advanced Baal worship in Israel (1 Kings 16:29-33). God sent a drought upon the land for over three years to show His great displeasure (1 Kings 17:1; James 5:17). Ahab blamed God’s prophet Elijah for the trouble, but it was Ahab and his house who had forsaken God’s commands and led the nation into deeper sin. Ahab was the real troubler of Israel. Here is a clear lesson concerning culpability when distress, trials, trouble, and division occurs among Christians. God says the troubler of His people are those who forsake His commandments and follow false ways. Yet, like Ahab, those who “hold fast the pattern of sound words” against the religious innovations borne of human desire and design are still (incorrectly) charged with being troublemakers (2 Timothy 1:13). No, we become troublers of Israel when we go beyond the doctrine of Christ and teach false, misleading things (2 John 9; Acts 20:29-30). False gods and false doctrines still plague the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16-17). Let us never be a modern-day Ahab who defends error while condemning truth and those who uphold it.