Matthew 16:24-26 (NKJV)
Matthew 17:1-16 (NKJV)
Malachi 4:5 (NKJV)
Reference to Jude 9, 2 Kings 2:11, 1Thessalonians 4:13-18, & 1 Kings 19:11-13
Six days before Jesus led Peter, James, and John up a mountain, Matthew wrote about Jesus’ dialogue regarding the cross. Jesus gave his disciples their marching orders. He said in Matthew 16:24-26, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”
For a moment, I would ask you to put yourself in their shoes. If someone spoke those words to you, how would you respond? What would you feel? What would you think?
I would be thinking ‘how can I deny myself and why would I give up my life to save it?’ ‘how can I exchange my soul?’, and I would feel very confused. I would think I needed some time privately with Jesus to sort through what He just said. I would SO be thinking...who IS this Jesus, really?
We aren’t given any explanation as to why Jesus chose Peter, James, and John up the mountain following that discourse, but there had to be a reason they were chosen. GOD HAD A PLAN.
On a practical note about why those specific three were chosen, the best explanation I have available from my experience comes from teaching a college class years ago. I had approximately 20 students and I remember out of that group, probably three to five students really cared about learning. They were the listeners...the learners. Then there were another 10 students who listened because they wanted to pass the class with a decent grade. The last group of five (in varying degrees) just wanted to pass without having to work at all. As a teacher, I saw a BELL curve for the first time in my life. Prior to that I thought everyone loved learning as much as I do.
I wonder if, out of the twelve disciples Jesus saw and felt something from Peter, James, and John that He didn’t see in the other nine disciples. Of those nine, Jesus would have known who was on board and who was not (say, Judas?).
We cannot know for sure why Jesus chose Peter, James, and John, but we know that’s what happened. We do know that following Jesus’ ascension to heaven, Peter became the overall leader of the church, James became the leader of the church in Jerusalem, and John (the Beloved) was the only disciple present at the crucifixion. John also received the final Revelation. God had special plans in store for those three after Jesus ascended to heaven.
Beginning in Matthew 17, we learn that six days after Jesus told the disciples they needed to give up their life to have life, He went up the mountain (scholars do not agree about which mountain). There Jesus was transformed into a heavenly being before their eyes. Suddenly, “His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.”
I don’t know about you, but I would have probably been speechless!
Peter on the other hand wasn’t a ‘speechless’ kind of guy. In Matthew 17:4 we learn, “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.”
Peter’s response was, of course, human. He felt like something significant was happening and they needed to build three tabernacles, or dwelling place to commemorate the moment. One was for Jesus, one for Moses, and one was for Elijah. Interestingly enough, Jesus didn’t respond to Peter because immediately following we learn from verse 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!”
GOD SPOKE and THEY knew who it was!
Notice the three disciples didn’t fall of their faces because of the appearance of Moses or Elijah, they didn’t take note of what Moses, Elijah, and Jesus spoke about, but they were overtaken when God spoke!
In Matthew 17:6-8, “And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid. But Jesus came and touched them and said, “Arise, and do not be afraid.” When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.”
They MUST have been thinking...did that really happen? Did I just see what I thought I saw? Did I hear the voice of God?
Yes, it did happen. You did see Jesus with Moses and Elijah.
And YES you heard the voice of God!
Immediately following, Jesus gave them clear instructions in Matthew 17:9, “Now as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead.”
In that verse, Jesus actually told them the entire plan, but we do not have any indication that they ‘caught it’. Jesus said don’t tell, “until the Son of Man is RISEN FROM THE DEAD.”
What’s interesting to me is that in this passage there isn’t any reference to questions about Jesus’ monumental statement!
What followed in verses 10-13 was a discussion about what else they saw in the vision. They didn’t ask questions about the appearance of Moses, but they did ask about the appearance of Elijah. We are given clues that tell us why the three disciples asked about Elijah. They referenced the ‘Scribes’. The scribes in the Old Testament wrote in Malachi 4:5, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet. Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” In this final portion of scripture we learn the three disciples knew Jesus was referring to Elijah as being John the Baptist that Malachi prophesied about. (https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/matthew-17/).
Overall, why were both Moses and Elijah in the vision? Moses represented the Law, and Elijah represented the Prophets. Both Moses and Elijah didn’t die but went to directly to heaven (Moses, see Jude 9 and Elijah see 2 Kings 2:11.) Both were described in 1Thessalonians 4:13-18 as being raptured or taken to heaven.
All in all, the transfiguration told the three disciples one certain thing.
This Jesus, their Friend, was THE Messiah. They knew it for certain now. But, they had been instructed to tell no one. That included the other disciples.
Clearly, God had plans for those three.
Today’s Spiritual Practice is: The Power of God
Consider what happened in Matthew 17:5 when God spoke and said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” The voice of God brought Peter, James, and John to their knees. Spend time listening for the voice of God. We know from Elijah in 1 Kings 19:11-13 that the Lord was not in the wind, or the earthquake, or the fire, but was in a still small voice. Be silent for as long as it takes, and hear the still small voice of God.
In God, Deborah
Deborah Ireland Douglas Jones