Harmony of the Gospels

 Harmony of the Gospels

-AD 29_
Unnamed Mountain
(49)The Transfiguration
(Isaiah 42:1) Matthew 17:1-13, Mark 9:2-13, Luke 9:28-36

-Matthew-

The final verse of chapter 16 belongs here with chapter 17, because Jesus is speaking about the transfiguration when He says:

Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom. (Matt. 16:28)

This statement by Jesus was fulfilled for the disciples in the transfiguration of Jesus.  Peter verifies that in his second epistle, when he wrote about the experience that he and two other disciples had when they witnessed the event.  He said, “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.  For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”  And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain” (2 Peter 1:16-18).

The transfiguration is a miniature picture of the Kingdom.  It is also a picture of what we will be someday, when we get our glorified bodies.  Peter got a glimpse of what the child of God will be someday, when he saw Jesus transfigured.  The man or woman you will be someday will be like Christ, for it says in 1 John 3:2, “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”  The glorious prospect of being like Christ is before every person. 

The Lord Jesus Christ was glorified before His death and resurrection and that’s the story of the transfiguration.

Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light (Matt. 17:1-2).


When Christ was here on earth, He was without His glory.  He left His glory in heaven.  He lived here, for the most part, in a humble state and He surrounded Himself with men who were humble in possessions and status.  Occasionally, there were glimpses of His glory; at His birth, at His baptism, at his temptation, and at His death.  But His public ministry began in humiliation and continued that way.  Here in the midst of His ministry Peter, James and John are privileged to see the greatest display of His glory. 

It was six days after Jesus told them about his coming death when he took Peter, James and John to a secluded place on an unnamed mountain.  He took three because that was the number that could legally, according to scripture, testify to what they saw.  Scriptures states, “For out of the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.” 

The three disciples saw something spectacular.  They saw Jesus transfigured; “His face did shine like the sun.”  In John 1:14 it says, “we beheld his glory, even as the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”   The light shown from within Him, rather than upon Him from the outside, like a spotlight.  The word transfigured is the word metamorphosis, which means “a change of form or structure.”  The little wooly caterpillar will sometimes become a beautiful butterfly by the process of metamorphosis.  The body that I have today, filled with arthritis, will be transfigured, and even those who are alive when Christ returns will be changed, transfigured.  This is a great hope of humanity.

And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him (Matt. 17:3).

Two men appeared with Jesus in a miraculous way.  Either from the conversation or by what Jesus told them the disciples discovered that the two were Moses and Elijah.  Moses was the representative of the Law, and Elijah was the representative of the prophets.  Moses had died, and Elijah had left this world in a chariot of fire.  Now, they were talking with Jesus.  Luke tells us that they were discussing His coming death in Jerusalem. 

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” (Matt. 17:4).

Peter put his foot in his mouth once again.  He should have kept still, but he couldn’t resist saying something.  He tried to place Jesus on the same level as Elijah and Moses, and God himself rebukes him as we shall see.  Luke tried to explain his rashness by stating, “…not knowing what he said” (Luke 9:33).  There are a lot of people today who talk without knowing what they are saying. 

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!” (Matt. 17:5).

Only Jesus spoke, because what he says is important.  What the prophets had said in the past was very important, but from this point Christ is the source of all revelation. 

The cloud came down from heaven and covered them.  In the Old Testament, a cloud was the visible sign of God’s presence.  He came down on Mount Sinai in a cloud (Ex. 19:9), and He appeared to Moses in a cloud (Ex. 34:5 and Num. 11:25).  He took possession of the tabernacle in a cloud, and afterwards of the temple.  Both the Old and New Testament dispensations had tokens of God’s presence, but in the Old Testament dispensation there was darkness, bondage, and terror; Christ brought light, love and liberty.

God spoke from the cloud.  He said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!”  The disciples also heard God speak at Jesus’ baptism.  It was the same message, but this time He added “hear Him.”  We walk by faith, which comes from hearing, not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7).  God’s voice was not accompanied by thunder or lightning or the voice of a trumpet, like when the Law was given, but in a voice, a still small voice.  God’s message was the greatest message to ever come from heaven to earth; that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.  Jesus is the only person that God has ever told that He was pleased with him.  He has never said that to me or to anyone else.  The Lord Jesus is the only one who has ever been pleasing to God.  And you and I will never get into God’s presence until we are in Christ by faith.  When we receive Christ as our Savior we are placed in the body of believers.  Christ is the only one in whom God is pleased and we are accepted in the beloved.

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 (Matt. 17:6-8).

The disciples fell on their faces when they heard the voice of God.  That has always been the reaction of sinful men who have nothing good to expect from God.  Sinful men cannot stand in the presence of our majestic God.  But note that Christ graciously raised them up.  It is good for us to know that the glory and holiness of Christ today doesn’t lessen His concern for his people.  Jesus told them to, “Arise, and do not be afraid.”  Because of what they had witnessed they should have rejoiced but instead they were afraid.  Christ had come to give comfort to good people, so they might serve God without fear.  That’s the message that Luke gave us in his gospel.  He wrote, “To grant us that we, Being delivered from the hand of our enemies, Might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life” (Luke 1:74-75) Our Lord Jesus Christ wants our respect, but He doesn’t want us to fear Him.  He said that the greatest commandment was to love God with all our heart, and then to love others. 

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” (Matt. 17:9).

Why should they wait until the resurrection to tell others about what took place on this mount?  Because it is part of the gospel story.  It tells who Jesus is.  He is the Son of God.  He has been tested for three years and at this time He is on the way to the cross to die for the sins of all mankind.  You see, God required a lamb without blemish, and Christ was the only one who had never sinned and could die a substitutionary death for mankind.  In His perfect humanity He was transfigured.  The hope of the world just happens to be a man by the name of Jesus Christ.  Be sure that you know Him; He is your only hope.

And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” (Matt. 17:10).
 
The disciples had a reason for asking this question.  They supposed that Jesus’ resurrection meant the end of the world and the inauguration of the Kingdom.  They were reminded by seeing Elijah that it was necessary for Elijah to come and publicly appear first.  Or perhaps they were thinking of the scripture in Malachi 4:5 which states, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.”

11 Jesus answered and said to them, “Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things (Matt. 17:11).

Jesus confirms what was said in the prophesy of Malachi.  He shall come and restore all things; not to their original condition (John the Baptist did not do that). But he shall accomplish all things that were written about him, all the predictions about the coming of Elijah.  John the Baptist came to restore all things spiritually.  John preached repentance and that restored all things.

But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands” (Matt. 17:12).

God’s promises are often fulfilled and we are not aware of it.  Elijah had come and they didn’t know it.  They didn’t accept him as the Elijah promised; the forerunner of the Messiah.  Is it any wonder that they failed to receive the forerunner when they missed the Messiah?  If they had known who they were they would not have beheaded John and crucified Christ.  Jesus reminded them of the suffering of John; that he was ridiculed, persecuted and put to death, and here he blames the whole generation of unbelieving Jews for his death. 

Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist (Matt. 17:13).

They understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist, even though He never used his name.  He gave them such a good description of John that it reminded them of what He had said about him in the past.


-Mark-

Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up on a high mountain apart by themselves; and He was transfigured before them (Mark 9:2).

Peter, James and John were Jesus’ closest companions.  They formed what some would call an “inner circle.”  The light that they saw came from within Him.  They saw the glorified Christ as He will come some day to earth. 

His clothes became shining, exceedingly white, like snow, such as no launderer on earth can whiten them (Mark 9:3).

His clothes became whiter than any modern day washing powder could make them. 
 
And Elijah appeared to them with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus (Mark 9:4).

We know that Moses knew of Christ because we are told in Hebrews 11:26 concerning Moses, “esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.”  Moses knew He was coming.  All of the prophets spoke of His coming and the glory that would follow. 

They were talking together, even though there was a great deal of time between Moses and Elijah.  But they had come from a place where the first are last, and the last first, and where all are in Christ.

Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—because he did not know what to say, for they were greatly afraid (Mark 9:5-6).

Peter is the spokesman here, as he was time and time again.  And as usual he put his foot in his mouth.  Although he had just exalted Christ as the Son of the living God, here he puts Him on an equal plane with the two prophets.  He should have followed the advice of James: “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (Jas. 1:19).

And a cloud came and overshadowed them; and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” (Mark 9:7).

Peter had talked about making tabernacles for Christ and His friends, but God made a shelter for them out of a cloud.  And out of the cloud a voice spoke, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!”  God the Father recognized God the Son and accepted Him as His beloved Son, and He will accept us in Him; but first we must accept Him as our beloved Savior.

Suddenly, when they had looked around, they saw no one anymore, but only Jesus with themselves (Mark 9:8).

Suddenly, Moses and Elijah were gone and only Jesus remained and He was just as he had been.  They saw only Jesus; Jesus only.  What a headline that would make-“Jesus Only.”

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 (Mark 9:9).

Jesus commanded that they tell no one what they had seen.  They must wait until after the resurrection and then they could present this proof along with the rest of the evidence of who He was.  Besides, keeping silent would prevent them boasting about the closeness that they had been honored to share with Christ.
 
So they kept this word to themselves, questioning what the rising from the dead meant (Mark 9:10).

At this time the disciples were completely ignorant of the resurrection.  They may have believed that He was speaking figuratively of His rising from His current lowly state to the high and glorious state that they were expecting.

And they asked Him, saying, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?”   Then He answered and told them, “Indeed, Elijah is coming first and restores all things. And how is it written concerning the Son of Man, that He must suffer many things and be treated with contempt?   But I say to you that Elijah has also come, and they did to him whatever they wished, as it is written of him” (Mark 9:11-13).

The disciples knew only what the scribes taught; that Elijah must come before the Messiah appears.  But they misunderstood the intention of the prophesy, which was that one like Elijah would come; one in the spirit and power of Elijah.

The one like Elijah had already come, and if they would just think about it they would know whom it was; it was the one to whom they had done what they wished.  It was John the Baptist that had been treated so badly. 


-Luke-

Now it came to pass, about eight days after these sayings, that He took Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray  (Mark 9:28).

Note that Matthew and Mark say six days, not eight.  The explanation that is given for the apparent difference in the time interval is that there were six whole days between the two events; between His prediction of the transfiguration (v. 27) and the actual happening.

Peter, James, and John made up the inner circle of disciples.  At the outer perimeter was the group of five hundred who saw Christ after His resurrection (I Cor 15:6).  A bit closer were the seventy disciples who were sent out two by two to preach and heal (Lk 10:1, 17).  Still closer were the Twelve, of whom these three were specially selected to witness this event, the raising of Jairus’ daughter, and Jesus’ agony in Gethsemane.  Of these three, John the beloved was closest to Christ (Jn 13:23; 21:20).  The mountain of transfiguration has been thought by some to be Mount Tabor in the Jezreel Valley, but many feel that Mount Hermon’s slopes above Caesarea Philippi more naturally meet the idea of “high mountain” (Mk 9:2).  Hermon’s highest elevation is over 10,000 feet, while Tabor only reaches to 1,843 feet, but is a majestic solitary bell-shaped hill.

As He prayed, the appearance of His face was altered, and His robe became white and glistening (Mark 9:29).

A light came from His body and shone outwardly.  I believe this was a glory-light, and that it was much brighter than the light that radiated from Moses’ face when he came down from the mountain with the Ten Commandments.

And behold, two men talked with Him, who were Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem (Mark 9:30-31).

Two men appeared on the Mount: Moses, the representative of the Law, and Elijah, the representative of the prophets, and they were bearing witness to Him.  What did they talk about?  They spoke about the approaching death of Christ.  Paul said that the gospel He preached was one to which both the Law and prophets bore testimony.  The gospel is not in the least bit contrary to the Old Testament.  Paul put it like this: “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets” (Rom. 3:21).  The Law and the prophets reveal that the only way that God could save us is through the righteousness that we obtain by faith.  In the Old Testament this was done by bringing a sacrifice.  The sacrificial system was the very heart of the Mosaic system.  That little lamb that was sacrificed on the alter was symbolic of Christ who died for our sins.  And the prophets spoke of the Lamb of God that would take away the sin of the world.

But Peter and those with him were heavy with sleep; and when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men who stood with Him.  Then it happened, as they were parting from Him, that Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said (Mark 9:32-33).

Good old Simon Peter seems to have a knack for saying the wrong thing.  He should have just kept still, but he just had to say something and when he did he put Jesus on the same plane with Moses and Elijah.  There are those today who lump together Buddha, Muhammad, Moses and Christ as founders of a religion.  It may seem strange, but Jesus Christ did not start any religion.  He did not found a religion; He died on a cross for the sins of the world.  He is the Savior and that’s why we are not saved by religion; we are saved by Christ.  Now that I am in Christ, I hope that I have lost my religion.  A great many people need to lose their religion and find Christ.

While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were fearful as they entered the cloud.  And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!”  When the voice had ceased, Jesus was found alone.  But they kept quiet, and told no one in those days any of the things they had seen (Mark 9:34-36).

The cloud was an indication of God’s presence.  It was in a cloud that God took possession of the tabernacle and the temple.  When the cloud covered the tabernacle, Moses couldn’t enter, and when it covered the temple the priests could not enter to minister.  This was the type of cloud that the disciples saw, so no wonder they were afraid to enter into it. 

God spoke from the cloud and thereby testified that Christ was His Son.  Centuries earlier He told through the prophet Isaiah that He was going to send Christ to the world: “Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles” (Is. 42:1).

The disciples kept what they had seen to themselves until all the evidences that Jesus was the Son of God were complete.  Just as there is a time to speak, so is there a time to keep quiet.     

 

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