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Transfigured Before Them

by David Johnson

IMG_0666(Transcribed from the Words of Life Radio Program)

It is great to be together again as we look into the Word of God and share these truths with others. The title for the lesson “Transfigured Before Them” and the text is in the New Testament, the gospel of Matthew chapter 17 and the first nine verses. Listen to the Word of God. ‘After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John, the brother of James, and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then appeared before them Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus: Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah. While he was still speaking a bright cloud enveloped them and a voice from the cloud said: This is my Son whom I love. With him I am well pleased. Listen to him. When the disciples heard this they fell face down to the ground terrified. But Jesus came and touched them. Get up, he said. Don’t be afraid. When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain Jesus instructed them: Don’t tell anyone what you have seen until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.’ This is the Word of God.

You have probably heard of an advertisement, even an enticement that goes something like this. You need to purchase the perfect gift for your wife, a complete makeover which includes exclusive makeup, a new hairdo, probably even a face lift. Guaranteed to make her look young and glamorous, to change, to transform her appearance. Now I am not sure that all of this is really the perfect gift for your wife or even husband, but I do know that this is gaudy. It pales in comparison to the transformation that Peter, James and John saw, that they beheld, that they experienced as he, that is Christ, was transfigured before them.

So let’s look deeper into the text of Matthew chapter 17 and the first five verses. In verse one it says, in part: After six days—which probably refers to the promise, the prediction of Christ in Matthew chapter 16 and verse 28, the preceding verse. You understand that in the original text there were no chapter and verse divisions. In Matthew chapter 16 and verse 28 it says: I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom. That is a glorious glimpse, a preview of Christ’s second coming as King to take charge of his kingdom. And six days after this was promised it was fulfilled by sight. They saw Jesus Christ in his glorified magnificence.

Also in verse one it says, in part: Jesus took with him Peter, James and John. These were the some who were standing here when Christ made his promise. Why only these three? Well, these three, as in other major events, were the closest, the inner circle of Jesus, the most trusted by Jesus to be reliable witnesses to the other disciples and to the world of what they were about to see.

Consider other examples of this and of these three being hand picked by the Lord again. When Christ raised Jairus’ daughter according to Luke chapter eight and verse 51 it says, in part: He arrived at the house of Jairus. He did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James. Again, Christ took these three same three apostles deeper into the Garden of Gethsemane to watch with him according to Matthew chapter 26 and verse 37 where it says, in part: He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, that is, James and John along with him. It is interesting that these three major events all dealt with death as Jesus the master teacher taught. These three natural leaders about his power and his victory even overcoming death. And he taught them by sight. Namely, Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter out of death. Jesus at Gethsemane submitted to death. And Jesus on the high mountain was transfigured a glorious vision through death. And Peter, John and James never forgot their tremendous experience.

Peter later wrote, for example, in 2 Peter chapter one and verse 16 where it says, in part: We were eye witnesses of his majesty. In verse 18: We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.

And John the apostle later wrote in his gospel of John chapter one and verse 14 where it says, in part: We have seen his glory. And James, the brother of John, it is revealed of him according to the gospel of Mark chapter 10 and verses 35 through 37, notice verse 35 where it says, in part: James and John came to him. Verse 37 says, in part: Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory, because James and, of course, John had both already seen his glory on the sacred mountain.


There are at least two applications here also for you and for me. First, Jesus Christ does favor us individually and differently according to our faith, our love, our devotion, our deeds. Not for salvation. That is by grace equal to all, but for privileges and rewards beyond salvation which will be distributed to us in the kingdom to come, because, you see, we are all equal in salvation, but we are not equal in our process of sanctification to which Christ will fully reward us for those things done in the body whether good or bad. And so we can even lose reward. But it is done individually and differently according to our faith, our love, our devotion and our deeds.

And, secondly, an application for you and for me. In our worship now in the church age an aspect of God’s kingdom now. How do we respond to the glory of Christ that we also never forget his grace, his favor? For example, his spiritual gifts given to each of us as we give glory only and foremost to him. How do we respond to the glory of Christ now as we worship him privately, in our personal worship and certainly publicly in assemblies, in formal worship?

In Matthew chapter 17 and verse two it says, in part: He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun and his clothes became as white as the light. Transfigured, in the Greek, the word is metamorpho from which we get our English word metamorphosis, meaning to change into another form. In nature, for example, like a caterpillar changes to a butterfly, a dramatic change in appearance in form. And Jesus’ face and clothes become brilliant, blazing like the sun, S U N. It was an outshining from within Christ that gave Peter, James and John a partial glimpse, a sneak preview of the glorified, physical body of Jesus Christ, a flash of the future. Christ not in his human humiliation, but in his coming, magnificent majesty as King of kings to reign eventually on this earth, part of the kingdom, his kingdom on the throne of David over the house of Jacob or Israel and all the nations.

According to the parallel passage of this same extraordinary, supernatural event in Luke chapter nine and verse 32 it says, in part: Peter and his companions were very sleepy. So this was probably at night. It was dark, highlighting this supernatural transfiguration. Imagine the face and the clothes of Jesus in a dazzling explosion of radiant flood light of brilliance against the backdrop of the darkness of the night. That would have been spectacular enough. But something even more amazing happened. But first consider another amazing application for you and me in Christ Jesus.

In Matthew chapter 13 and verse 43 it reveals: Then the righteous will what? Shine like the sun, S U N, in the kingdom of their Father. Reference here to believers. That includes us, overcomers in Christ Jesus, the righteous in Christ will also shine like the sun, S U N, in our future glorified bodies, even like the Lord Jesus’ body, flesh and bone as our lowly bodies are transformed to be like his glorious body.

Now consider Matthew chapter 17 and verse three, another spectacular revelation. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus. Well, why these two? Moses probably represented the law. He was the law giver. Elijah represented the prophets. Both of which foretold the coming of Messiah. Therefore, their appearance with Jesus confirmed, proved, validated, verified to Peter, James and John especially that Jesus of Nazareth was and is, indeed, Messiah, King. The transfiguration, primarily, was for the benefit of Peter, James and John. Jesus knew exactly who he was and is. Moses and Elijah were the embodiment of the law and the prophets under the old covenant as Jesus came to usher in the new covenant. And notice Moses and Elijah were still the same people. Therefore, annihilation and reincarnation of our bodies are not true, not true for us either. We all keep our same identities. And there is conscious existence for all of us after this lifetime according to the Scriptures.

In Matthew chapter 17 and verse four it says, in part, Peter said: I will put up three shelters or tabernacles: one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah, that is, three temporary shelters of brush and branches to honor them and of hospitality, probably in Peter’s mind to prolong their mountaintop experience. We often likewise desire to extend a great experience, a great day, a great time. For example, I could get away a honeymoon, a holiday.

But how did Peter know that these were Moses and Elijah? Obviously he had never personally met them. The answer is in the parallel passage of Luke chapter nine and verse 31. It says there that they, that is, Moses and Elijah, were talking to Jesus. And so Peter, James and John were eavesdropping on their conversation concerning his, that is Jesus’ departure or death regarding Calvary, the cross. So evidently their identities came out in their talking together. Today, by application, God talks to us through the written Word of God and by the Spirit of God. But then an even more extraordinary, superlative thing happened. Consider Matthew chapter 17 and verse five where it says, in part: A voice from the cloud said: This is my Son whom I love. With him I am well pleased. Listen to him. Imagine audibly and clearly hearing the voice of almighty God.

Now there are great applications here for all of us also even today. For example, number one, Jesus equals the Son of God, deity in bodily form according to Colossians chapter two and verse nine. Jesus Christ is not just another prophet. He is not just a good role model. He was not just a great rabbi or teacher. Jesus Christ is the Son of God, of the same essence as God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.
Secondly, since Jesus is part of the godhead, of the trinity, as believers, as Christians we must listen and obey him. It is not optional. A pattern of obedience proves, verifies, validates that we, indeed, have genuine saving faith and we are saved through faith. So our obedience points back, a pattern of obedience in our life, in our mindset as a lifestyle, a pattern of obedience points back to genuine, saving faith.

And, thirdly, on that day, the three disciples of Jesus beheld the glorious Jesus as the Son of the living God, yet one day yet future all believers and the world will behold his glory. Are you ready? Are you in Christ Jesus?


David Johnson is minister of the Sellersburg Church of Christ, Sellersburg, IN.

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That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10