What does life look like beyond the grave?
Let’s examine our transformation now and its eternal result.
We will look at the transfiguration in Matthew 17:1-9 and its application in transforming our lives today.
Matthew 17:1 Six days later Jesus took Peter and the two brothers, James and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. 2 As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed so that his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light. 3 Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared and began talking with Jesus. 4 Peter exclaimed, “Lord, it’s wonderful for us to be here! If you want, I’ll make three shelters as memorials—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 5 But even as he spoke, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him.” 6 The disciples were terrified and fell face down on the ground. 7 Then Jesus came over and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” 8 And when they looked up, Moses and Elijah were gone, and they saw only Jesus. 9 As they went back down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
Matthew 17:1 The Numbers Game
Is church success about a large attendance? That can be a dangerous criterion. False prophets can draw large crowds (Luke 6:26; 2 Timothy 4:3-4; Matthew 7:13-14). Numbers alone prove nothing. Jesus rarely taught thousands, occasionally a hundred plus, most often a dozen or so and sometimes just three as we read in Matthew 17:1. Is quality time with a dozen and occasionally three key disciples a model for discipleship in churches? Is it a pastor’s job to spend equal time with a large group of individuals or intense time with a few? Is it then up to those few to care for the rest of the flock?
Matthew 17:2 Transformed Lives
In Matthew 17:2, we read that Jesus was transfigured or transformed (μετεμορφώθη, metemorphōthē) on a mount. This is the same word used in the letter to the Romans about us being “transformed” by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). Are we being inwardly “transformed” into the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18)? Is transformation occurring in us? As Peter, James and John saw the transfiguration a transformation was happening to them. Moses’ face shone like the sun after being close to God. Will our lives also shine? Is a life that is close to God a shining light in a dark world that will soon shine forever?
Matthew 17:3 Preview of our Eternity
Was the story of Moses and Elijah talking with Christ on the mount in Matthew 17:3, a vision of the future or present reality? Both Moses and Elijah had prophesied the coming of the Messiah during their lives on earth. But, weren’t these men dead and buried, still awaiting a future resurrection? Such questions assume that there is time in a timeless eternity. Don’t our arguments about waiting for a future resurrection versus going to heaven after death fall silent when we realize that there is no time in eternity? Can we who live in a world restrained by time, really explain heaven, resurrection and eternal life in earthly terms?
Matthew 17:4 Peter’s Impetuosity
As Peter saw a vision of Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus, in Matthew 17:4 we see him acting impetuously, which was his personality. A tabernacle is a shelter, similar to what many Jews still make today in their backyards for the Feast of Tabernacles. They can be quickly made from branches and leaves. Was Peter asking, let me build some shelters from the hot sun and rain so you can stay awhile? Are we sometimes also impulsive with our opinions and suggestions? How often do we rush into decisions rashly and then later ask God to bless the decision that we have made without asking for divine guidance?
Matthew 17:5 Keep on Listening to Him
On the mount of transfiguration, we are not told what Moses and Elijah discussed with Jesus, but we are told what God said in Matthew 17:5. A cloud covered them and God spoke from the cloud. He said these important and familiar words, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him. The present imperative active voice of the original Greek can be translated as: “you [plural] keep on listening to him.” What about motivational preaching with homey philosophy? To “keep on listening to him,” shouldn’t we be in a church where his words are rehearsed in our hearing and his words are the focus?
Matthew 17:6-8 A Loving Touch
God’s voice frightens us mere mortals. As God spoke to Peter, James and John on the mount of transfiguration, we see in Matthew 17:6-8 that they were terrified and fell on the ground face down. Jesus set us the example of human touch. Sometimes all a person needs is a touch on the arm or a hug. It is a good thing to do. Even modern science knows the importance of a caring touch. Babies and animals can die without a loving touch. In a cold-blooded world that separates families because of heartless, draconian laws and destroys people because of heavy-handed cruelty, a touch of human kindness is particularly urgent.
Matthew 17:9 Tell No One
Some things are better off not being explained too early in life. After the encounter on the mount of transfiguration, Jesus instructed Peter, James and John in Matthew 17:9 not to tell anyone until after his resurrection. Like children who are not ready for solid food some people should only be fed milk (1 Corinthians 3:2). That’s also why Jesus spoke in parables, to disguise the truth among those who were not yet ready to receive it (Matthew 13:10-14). That’s not an insult, but a matter of spiritual growth. It is given to some to know the mysteries of the kingdom, but to others it is not - yet.
Let’s look beyond our decaying, earthly existence to our metamorphosis into joyful, bright children of God. And let’s realize that that transformation has begun inside us and is taking place every day.