Warm-up: Have you ever gone camping? Tell us a bad or good memory of living outside.
28About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. 29As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. 30Two men, Moses and Elijah, 31appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. 32Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. 33As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters–one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what he was saying.) 34While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” 36When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves, and told no one at that time what they had seen.
In our last meditation we looked at Jesus seeking to find out their understanding of who He is. When He had found out that the Spirit of God had opened their eyes to see that the person in their midst was the long awaited Messiah, he began to reveal His mission, to die as the Passover lamb substitute in place of guilty man. Right at the end of the passage was this verse:
“I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:27).
What was he saying? He wasn’t saying that the Kingdom of God would be set up in their day. I believe He was saying that in the Transfiguration they would see Heaven on Earth for a brief time; three individuals would be seen in Kingdom glory. It will have its full manifestation later on at the end of the Age when Jesus returns, but the Kingdom of God had already come with the presence of the King and the new life that He brought and gives us as a gift.
The passage we are studying today starts with verse 28 linking to verse 27:
28About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray.
The intimation is that Peter, James and John were selected as an inner core of leaders to witness a manifestation of the real Jesus as heaven sees Him. It seems that the cloak of the physical universe was put to one side for a short time and the disciples saw into the true reality, the spiritual world.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see what they saw?
Let’s get some context for our passage before we delve into seeking to understand what went on. Where could the Mount of Transfiguration be? Luke tells us that it was about 8 days later; it seems that he could not remember exactly. The passage before happened in Caesarea Phillipi, 25 miles north of the Sea of Galilee. The Mount of Transfiguration was more than likely in that same area. It seems logical that it was Mount Hermon, which was very close to Caesarea Phillipi. Tradition tells us that it was Mount Tabor that was near Nazereth where He grew up. Mount Tabor was about 25 miles South West of the Sea of Galilee, as far in the opposite direction as they had already come, quite a significant walk from Caesarea Phillipi. It is unlikely that the mountain was Tabor as during the time of Christ it was crowned by a fortified city, which would render it unsuitable for the scene of the Transfiguration.
It seems that Jesus left the nine perhaps in Caesarea Phillipi. He took Peter, James and John on the climb up the mountain.
Why would Jesus take just three disciples?
Peter, James and John were brought in on things that were not revealed to others. They were His inner core. Jesus brought these three closer to where He was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:33). When he healed Jairus’ daughter he only took these three with Him into the room where he healed her (Luke 8:51).
It is a truth that with some people who desire to walk closer than others, He reveals more of His heart and His purpose. We have as much of God as we want to have. God spoke to His people about this through Jeremiah the prophet:
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13).
When we thirst for Him, He will come near. He will give us as much of Himself as we are thirsty for.
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life (Revelation 22:17).
On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” (John 7:37-38).
The things of God are not given to those who have no spiritual hunger and thirst. Jesus said that only those who hunger and thirst for righteousness would be filled (Matthew 5:6). This should drive us to prayer to ask God that He should give us a thirst and revive us, and awaken us to our spiritual need. The times we live in have a way of making us lukewarm in our relationship towards God. Oh God, grant us passion and fire in our hearts for you!
Verse 29. As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning.
What do you think it means when the passage says that the appearance of His face changed, what was happening?
Let’s look at a passage that will help us explain what was happening.
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness (Philippians 2:6-7).
The Greek word that is translated made nothing is the word Kenoo. The word means empty, void, to make empty, without content, to be made ineffectual. To empty something of its power, render insignificant, cause to be irrelevant.
When we link this verse with the transfiguration what do you think was happening?
Jesus said the kingdom of God is within you:
And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: 21Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:20-21).
When we enter eternity we will discover what God has been doing in our hearts, the core of our being. Jesus told the disciples (and us) that if we would follow Him, He would make us into fishers of men (Matthew 4:10). During our life of walking with Christ there is a recreating that is going on within a disciples life. Jesus is shaping us day by day to be like Him. Ephesians 2:10 says:
10For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
It should be a great comfort that God has undertaken to make us into the kind of person He wants us to be. There is a need for cooperation on our part, but we are but clay in His hands and He will shape us into something that will reflect His glory. We shall become like Him for we shall see Him as He is.
Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is (1 John 3:2).
It is a truth that we become like what we fix our eyes on. When our lives are fixed on Christ, His purposes, His plans and His kingdom, then we are fashioned after His image. For a brief time the three disciples saw Jesus as He really is. What was on the inside, the character of Christ, who He was and is, was manifest to the three.
Now, let me ask you a question. What kind of body will we have in the resurrection if we are going to be like Him?
35But someone may ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” 36How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. 39All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. 40There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. 41The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor. 42So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45So it is written: "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam, a lifegiving spirit. 46The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. 47The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. 48As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven. 50I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed– 52in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” 55“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:35-55).
If our resurrection body will look like Jesus’ body, what did His body look like?
When Jesus walked alongside the disciples on the road to Emmaus, he was talking to them and they did not even know that it was Jesus. .
15As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 16but they were kept from recognizing him. 17He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast. 18One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?” (Luke 24:15-18).
My point is that there was nothing that looked different to them whatsoever about this man who at that point had a different body, the resurrection had already happened.
4Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. 5He called out to them, “Friends, haven't you any fish?” “No,” they answered. 6He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. 7Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water (John 21:4-7).
I do not believe that the body we will receive will be like the body that Jesus had just after the resurrection. What does the scripture say?
2 Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever (Daniel 12:2-3).
43Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear (Matthew 13:43).
Our resurrection bodies, I believe, will be like Jesus’ glorified body.
Do you think there is a link between the Transfiguration and the last passage we studied, the confession of Peter? (Luke 9:18-27).
Jesus wanted to confirm to the hearts of His disciples that He was who they believed Him to be, even if it was only to the three most influential at this point.
What is significant about what Moses, Elijah and Jesus are talking about?
The Lord was showing the disciples that the plan of Christ to die in Jerusalem is in Heaven’s plans too. That the crucifixion was not an unexpected blip but planned in Heaven before the foundation of the World. When the father showed up in the cloud they knew that this was a big deal. What was ahead had been planned out by God from before the creation of the world and before sin even came on the scene.
1 Peter 1:20
Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,
And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
Verse 32: Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him.
We are told that when they had overcome their sleepiness “they saw His glory” (verse 32). Luke tells us that: “his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning.”
His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them (Mark 9:3).
There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light (Matthew 17:2).
Matthew uses the word Metamorphoo which is translated using the word ‘transfigured.’ We get our word metamorphosis from this Greek word. It literally means to change form, to alter fundamentally, a change of place or condition. They saw the Shekinah glory emanating from the Son of God, the same glory that lit Mount Sinai with its “consuming fire” (Exodus 24:17). It was the same glory that appeared in the pillar of fire at night and a cloud by day when the children of Israel were wandering through the wilderness.
1For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3They all ate the same spiritual food 4and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ (1 Corinthians 10:1-3).
This same glory had appeared at the Tent of Meeting in Exodus 40:34-38.
34 Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. 35 Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud had settled upon it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.
36 In all the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the tabernacle, they would set out; 37 but if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out-until the day it lifted. 38 So the cloud of the LORD was over the tabernacle by day, and fire was in the cloud by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel during all their travels Exodus 40:34-38).
Verse 33, why did Peter want to put up three shelters or tabernacles?
Peter often thought and acted impetuously. Some would say that he had the urge to package the experience that he had, that the three shelters were to mark the location so that he could bring others to the spot where heaven showed up.
Why do people do such things? There are those that go to this religious site and that religious site and it becomes something that man tries to market. I once went to the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, the church built on the site some believe to be where Christ was buried, and as I bent low to get in there was a man hassling me to buy a candle! I was so disappointed. I think this was what Jesus was so upset about when he threw the moneychangers out of the Temple. I think Peter just wanted to be able to make the experience last, to build shelters so that Elijah, Moses and Jesus would stay longer.
All of a sudden the Father showed up (v.34-35) telling them that “This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!” This must have reminded them of Moses’ own words that were written down many years before.
The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him (Deuteronomy 18:15).
We cannot go wrong in life if we will listen to the Son of God. The only instruction that Mary, the mother of Jesus, ever gave was to: “do whatever he tells you.” Speak Lord for your servants are listening.