Jesus Only | Matthew 17:1-13
Topic: New Testament Passage: Matthew 17:1–17:13
Good Morning! We are in our series on the book of Matthew; the Gospel account revealing Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth, as the Christ, the Savior – King of God’s people. This series has been titled the Revelation of the King as the section we will be looking at (chapters 14-20). Jesus teaches, Jesus heals, Jesus performs miracles, but above all Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lord, in all that he does he is revealing Himself to the world. Jesus is also savior of his people; he will consistently point his people to the height of his mission, the cross. We have been in chapter 16, Jesus taught his disciples about his identity as “the Christ, the Son of the Living God” He then tells his disciples he is going to have to go to Jerusalem, suffer at the hands of the religious elite, be killed, AND rise again. Those who follow him will also have to deny themselves, their agenda and live for God in Heaven. Things will look bleak and be difficult but Jesus also says he will return in glory with angel armies bringing His kingdom in victory. This week we see Jesus giving a few of his disciples a clear vision and preview of His glory.
Matthew 17:1-13 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. 3 And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 5 He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” 8 And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.
9 And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.” 10 And the disciples asked him, “Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?”11 He answered, “Elijah does come, and he will restore all things. 12 But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.
Verse 1-3 | Jesus Reveals, Jesus Fulfills
It is 6 days after Jesus was instructing the disciples in Caesara Philipppi. He has told them his identity, he has told them about the suffering that is to come, for Him on the cross, and for those who would follow him. “Yes I am the savoir, the messiah, but it is not going to look as worldly awesome during this time as a military victory a presidential inauguration or even a Super Bowl championship parade. It will look like the scribes and Pharisees have won, I will die, but I will rise! Even after it will look like Rome is winning as your brothers and sisters are turned into human torches and thrown to lions in stadiums. But I am going to return in glory and the world will be defined by my justice and righteousness. So don’t lose heart.”
The disciples would have been understandably discouraged. We thought we were at the ground floor of something great we’d get to experience, that we’d get some pay off soon, now it’s suffering and death? Jesus knows they are readjusting their expectations they are going to face adversity and they are going to need more assurance and encouragement. Jesus has told them much, but he is about to reveal much more to a small group of the disciples. They have been with Jesus for a few years, and while they have seen him do some amazing things they regularly forget while he is fully man, he is ALSO fully GOD. Their familiarity, and relative comfort, with Jesus has diminished His glory in their eyes. It’s time for them to see Jesus, as he truly is, in glory, to have a vision for what is to come through the darkness and trial. Like many encounters with God in the OT, people are led up a mountain away from the other people. In those cases there is always one representative, in this case there is three, Peter, James, and John. This is a hugely significant moment in Jesus earthly ministry, recorded in all three gospels and referenced by John as well. Jesus leads them and is “Transfigured” What is this? It literally it means “transformed” as the veil of Jesus humanity that has conceal his full glory is removed and Jesus, “the light of the world” shines bight and pure. Matthew says, his face shines like the sun, intense, hot, bright, and life giving. His clothes it says also are like a white light. Mark 9:3 and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. Jesus has a purity, a sinlessness, that is not of this stained broken world.
There is more, Moses and Elijah also appear and are talking with Jesus. These are not two random guys, Moses represents the Law, the requirements from a holy and just God to an unholy people. Because of sin the Law’s demand for justice must be fulfilled. Elijah represents the prophets, the promises of a merciful and gracious God to an underserving people. God is good to his people and promises deliverance from our sin and rebellion. So you have these key figures in the Old Testament having a conversation with Jesus, what are they talking about? How Jesus is going to fulfill the demands of law and bring about the promises of God on the cross. Luke’s account says Luke 9:31Moses, and Elijah, 31who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure (Greek Exodus), which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem Jesus wasn’t just going to die and leave he was going to purchase his people and lead them out of slavery. This meeting had a purpose, yes it was to reveal his glory to the disciples, but it was also to remind them of His mission. As glorious as this moment is, this isn’t the high point of Jesus ministry, this isn’t what all of the OT has been pointing to. Jesus needs to fulfill the laws commands/demands for a sacrifice for sin. Jesus needs to fulfill the promises of God to deliver His people. That will not happen on the top of this hill it will happen on the hill of Calvary, on the Cross. Jesus will display glory when he is suffering in humility.
Verse 4 | Peter’s Plan
While Jesus is talking about God’s plan, Peter has a plan he wants to run by everyone. We are just like Peter, we all have our own plan, and it usually is built around our own comfort and avoiding as much difficulty as possible. Peter’s plan is not really thought out very well, it’s emotional and experientially driven and completely forgets what Jesus has told him. But his desire is not uncommon. He is experiencing something amazing and doesn’t want it to end. Hey Jesus let’s turn this hike into a camping trip. We can make a tent for you, Elijah, and Moses. Then we can all just hang out for a while up here and wait out all of that dying and suffering part. Let the Pharisees cool off. It’ll be great. We’ve got a great small group with the six of us why break up a good thing. Moses is great at camping, he did for 40 years, Elijah is great at foraging for food, Jesus you make a mean Malbec, let’s just grow together. Peter is thinking only of himself, not others who need Jesus, Peter is also only thinking about “now” and not looking long term. He says let’s make tents like people of the OT did for and God. He’s making many errors; he is equating Jesus with Moses and Elijah. Also tents are temporary, remember Jesus is building his church on the foundation of a rock. Peter you’re not getting it. You vision for the kingdom of God is pretty dang small. I am going to make a great city for people to dwell with God for eternity, not a weak campsite. God’s not looking to us to make a dwelling for Him. He is going to dwell in us and move us into His home.
Verse 5-6 | God Interrupts
Peter’s plan is not worth diving into any further into. I laughed when I caught the beginning of verse 5 “He was still speaking” Peter was going on and on and was cut off by God. “Peter, stop, be quiet, be still and know I am God”. My kids sometimes come to me and talk so fast and at a certain point already know where they’re going and it time for me to cut them off. Stop, be quiet, listen. I see more, know more, and I am about to tell you about how things need to go down from here. God the Father is patient with Peter to the point it’s time to redirect him to what is real true and good. Jesus is shining in the light of Glory, and if for some reason that isn’t enough a great cloud bright, brilliant and “enveloped” them. God shows up in such an overwhelmingly brilliant way that nothing else can be seen but the bright cloud of His Glory. God’s glory has to grab your attention, stun you, otherwise you’ll continue on blathering about your own plans. God being glorious means he has authority. He can proclaim things and they are.
When God speaks on this holy mountain he has one subject he wants to talk to these men about. Jesus only. In a moment displaying his great glory to these men, God is not hosting dialogue or debate about questions regarding marriage, how to deal with injustice, or religious observance. It’s be quiet and listen to God time. God is a single issue God, He is about His glory. He displays His glory in how He cares for His people. Because of your sin and brokenness you are separated from me. I can’t simply ignore the offense of your sin and still be good and just. I have prepared a path for restoration and life, I have promised this would happen, the time is now. This is my beloved Son (that is specific to Jesus) is shows his uniqueness as the messiah. Heaven has spoken like this before when Jesus was baptized by John the baptizer. God reminds them of Jesus identity and then adds how we are to respond to it. “Listen to Him”
Hebrews 1: 4 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
There is a transition Jesus is THE Son and the living word of God. No more will we listen to prophets who have claimed to hear from a god, this rules out revelation from Muhammad, Charles Russell (JW), or Joseph Smith. God tells these men, Listen to Jesus, He is my Son, and His words are mine. John talked about this: John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Confronted with the overwhelming presence of the glory of God the Father the three disciples are rightly terrified. In a dark place, when light shines it hurts the eyes of those in the darkness. They see themselves differently, all their imperfections and weakness can been seen in light of the perfect power of God. Who can stand before the living God? God revealing his glory and speaking is an opportunity to stop and examine yourself. When you see God, the creator, your creator, recognize you are not as great and grand as you think. You also realize your life and who you are falls short of His glory. There is fear. This is common throughout the encounters every man called by God in the Bible has. Moses, Elijah, Paul on the Damascus Road all saw God in their glory and fall to the ground. You know you’re lacking before the creator. It is a very healthy response, any other response is foolishness. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Who is your God? Is he able to interrupt you? Does he ever disagree with you? If the God you worship never disagrees with you, it’s not God you’re worshipping, it’s you.
Verse 7-8 | Jesus Only
God’s glory should cause you to fearful examination as you see His perfect, powerful justice. But God is also merciful and gracious. When God reveals his glory, He also reveals his gospel. These two short verses have such a big picture of the gospel. The men are afraid, confronted with their imperfection, their sin, before their creator God and how does God respond? God initiates restoration through Jesus.
Jesus comes- He knows their need, their fear, their inability to save themselves and he comes to them.
Jesus connects – They were frozen in fear and Jesus reaches out to connect with them, to get their attention and to assure them of his presence. “I am here, you know I am here.”
Jesus speaks – He tells them to rise and not have fear any longer. Why? Because they’re awesome, no because Jesus is with them and all the burden of the law would be carried by Him and all the promises of God would be fulfilled by him. What is left when they lifted their eyes? Jesus Only, because Jesus is enough. No more fear of condemnation from the law, no more hope deferred with distant future promises. Jesus only, right here right now. It made a great impact John, James, and Peter.
2 Peter 1:16-19 16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.
Verse 9-13 | Coming off the Mountain
We don’t get to stay on the mountain, the time to dwell with Jesus in glory is not yet. There are others who need to see the vision of this glorious God, and it will be costly.
When Tara and I were in Texas it was such a formative time when it was time to move home we didn’t want to go. We like people pouring into us, loving us, teaching us, training us, but Jesus disciples are not called too live on the mountain tops. We know it’s there, we long for the glory of God to be fully realized but we live in the valleys because that is where people are (or feel) far from the glory of God. Mountain tops are necessary, but mission begins when we realize we are not called to remain on the mountain but to the valleys. So Jesus, who led these men up, also leads them down. As he does, Jesus reminds them the height of His mission is the Cross, but it that is not the end of his mission. Jesus is clear “The Son of Man will be raised from the dead.” This is difficult for the disciples to understand so they keep asking questions of Jesus. The teaching and the training and the growth doesn’t end because Jesus hasn’t left, he walks down the mountain with them where they are asking questions, seeking clarity. They’ve got theological questions, doctrinal questions, prophesy questions and Jesus answers always reminding them and pointing them back to the cross. We all have questions and issues to work out, but Jesus says we’re not stopping, we’re going to do the working out as we do the walking out.
See the glory of God in Jesus. Remember the suffering of Jesus. The depth of Jesus suffering for us is better understood the more it is seen in contrast to His great glory. Live in the knowledge Jesus is alive and actively walking with His people. Listen to Jesus, look to Jesus only. Trust Jesus.