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The Glimpse of Change Matthew 16:28-17:13

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I. The prophecy of Jesus’ return. (16:28)

- Background:
* This is coming right on the heels of Jesus’ instruction about true discipleship.
* says ““And Jesus was saying to them, ‘Truly I say to you, there are some of these who will no taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.” ‘truly I say to you’ is a revelatory phrase. Unlike the prophets who said ‘thus says the Lord’; Jesus word is the Word of truth so He doesn’t need that qualifier.
- Jesus is talking about those that are present.
Dr. Tom Constable gives a helpful explanation for making sense of this verse: “This verse (v. 28) cannot mean that Jesus returned to set up the messianic kingdom during the lifetime of these disciples, since that did not happen. Neither does it mean that Jesus had already set up the kingdom when He spoke these words, as some writers have believed. What Jesus predicted would happen in the future rules this out. Some interpreters have taken Jesus' words as a reference to His resurrection and ascension. However, Jesus spoke of those events elsewhere as His "departure," not His "coming". Moreover, such a view interprets the kingdom in a heavenly sense, rather than in the earthly sense, in which the Old Testament writers consistently spoke of it.”
On account of the fulfillment of the Davidic covenant, there has to be a literal reign of Jesus Christ over Israel in fulfilment of God’s promise.
- How does this fit into the passage?
* Jesus talked about the Son of Man coming in Glory with the holy angels, the 2nd coming.
* Jesus will suffer, be killed & resurrected before this happens. Also, there will be a time before Jesus comes back again, that true disciples should expect shame & harsh treatment (possible death).

* The encouragement for the disciples is to fix their eyes on Jesus’ glorious 2nd coming.

- The tricky part is that some alive were told they would see this.

II. The Transfiguration (17:1-13)

(1-2) Small Group Sees the coming change

- A special group is called to go on a short trip on the mountain.

These three men have a unique bond to Jesus because they are invited to certain things and are singled out as a sub group of the disciples.
The mountain is described as “tall”, which would be bigger than a big hill. The most likely place is Mount Hermon which has several peaks that are over 9,000 feet. (show picture)

- A change occurs with Jesus

The word “transfigured” comes from the Greek word μετεμορφώθη from where we get the word metamorphosis that speaks of changing or transforming in form.

It wasn’t his appearance that changed (as one goes from being unshaven and scruffy in appearance to being “well groomed”) but the form changed in front of them.
Specifically, the face of Jesus is so illuminated that it is like the brightness of the sun. In a similar vein, Jesus’ garments were the color of bright light, which isn’t just a type of white but a glow. (glow of light is different than light that is cast in a lamp)

- This brings to mind the picture of Exodus

“It came about when Moses was coming down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the testimony were in Moses’ hand as he was coming down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because of his speaking with Him. So when Aaron and all the sons of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him.”
Whereas Moses had a glow from being near God’s glory, Jesus radiates the glory of God and these men are able to see this for themselves.

- This is also a picture of the kingdom of God

has this imagery: “Arise, shine; for your light has come, And the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. “For behold, darkness will cover the earth And deep darkness the peoples; But the LORD will rise upon you And His glory will appear upon you. “Nations will come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising.”

(3-4) Two more on the mountain

- Another amazing thing happens with the appearance of Moses and Elijah.

The emphatic “behold” is drawing attention to this as being unique (as we would expect it to be). We don’t know how the disciples recognized these men but Matthew doesn’t concern us with those details but rather that they were speaking with Jesus.
The significance of Elijah and Moses was that they represent two major periods of Israel’s history and their testimony pointed beyond themselves to someone greater (ultimately pointing to Jesus Christ, culminating in Him on the Day of The Lord)
- Peter’s enthusiasm is misplaced because of the desire to build.

(5-6) God’s arrival

- The overwhelming mouth of Peter gets overwhelmed.

While Peter was in the middle of talking about this a cloud full of brightness comes upon all of them. This vision would be so strange because clouds usually block the light rather than radiate light like the sun.
While a cloud is thought of as “overshadowing” people leaving them in darkness, here the brightness radiated upon everyone covering them in light. If you have ever been on a mountain that gets overshadowed by a cloud (or flying into a cloud), this would be the sensation. Only, it is brightness that covers everyone and makes it impossible to see.
The voice of God comes out of the cloud and interrupts Peter in a way that is overwhelming to all present.

- The words are similar but different.

Considering the reality of Moses being present, this brings to mind “The LORD said to Moses, “Behold, I will come to you in a thick cloud, so that the people may hear when I speak with you and may also believe in you forever.” Then Moses told the words of the people to the LORD.”
Here, the voice of God is for the benefit of Peter, James and John. It is affirming Jesus as the Son of God (as done in ) with the added words “listen to him”.
These words are probably echoing the language found in “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him.”
If you add that to “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.” It emphasizes that Jesus is the climax of Biblical revelation in person and words.

- The response to this is fear.

They have great fear in response to the nearness of God’s revealed glory. The posture is one found in worship and reverence for God. Yet, it we mustn’t lessen the picture by taking away the real sense of fear.
We can talk about a sense of fear for authority figures or parents that comes out of respect for them and reverence for the authority they have been given. However, this type of fear of God has no equal in making a comparison.
I have tried to draw a mental picture for the type of “fear” that also comes from being afraid but there is no one whom in presence and actuality could elicit the type of fear that God does in showing just a small sliver of His glory.
We see a similar reaction from God’s lesser display of His glory in . “All the people perceived the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance. Then they said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.” Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.”

(7-8) A meaningful response

- Jesus approaches them first

The three men are on their faces and not looking up as Jesus comes to them. In reality, the men’s eyes would be closed if the light was so bright that they couldn’t see anyone else.
Jesus touches them and brings reassurance to them in a form of comfort. We know that the touch was to calm them down because Jesus’ words are to stand up and to not be afraid.
In a nutshell this is what the Gospel does for a believer: We recognize ourselves for being inadequate because of our sin; we recognize the magnificence of God in all His glory; it produces a type of fear that makes one afraid of the judgment of God; and in one’s helpless state of condemnation for sin, Jesus work of atonement on the cross and resurrection comes to the repentant sinner and he/she trusts in Jesus alone.

- Jesus’ presence alone is affirmation of His greatness

When the men look up at Jesus Christ, Moses and Elijah are gone.
What is implicit in that statement is that the cloud of divine glory has dissipated because they are able to look around and see no one else.
The presence of Jesus alone points to the focus that all of Israel’s history and all of the history of mankind point to Him as being the center point for making all things new.
Here, is what 16:28 was talking about. The type of glory shown here is what these three disciples get to view.

(9) Warning to be silent

- They are warned to not speak about this vision.

As they are coming down from the mountain, Jesus gave specific instructions to wait to talk about this vision.
He tells them after His resurrection that they could share what they experienced on that mountain.
The fact that Jesus spoke to these men about resurrection and connecting it with the vision should make them see the connection to God’s Kingdom.

- The reason for silence is the problem of the wrong perceptions of Jesus.

So much of the misunderstanding about Jesus being the messiah is focused upon national politics.
What the disciples saw and experienced would only serve as fuel to the fire for those wanting a messiah that would lead Israel to war against Rome. (talk about missing the boat)

(10-13) Making sense of Prophecy

- After seeing Elijah in the vision, they ask Jesus about him.

According to it says“Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.”
The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 2 William Barkley
“Bit by bit, this idea of the coming of Elijah gathered detail, until the Jews came to believe that not only would Elijah come, but he would restore all things before the Messiah came; that he would, we might put it, make the world fit for the Messiah to enter into. The idea was that Elijah would be a great and terrible reformer, who would walk throughout the world destroying all evil and setting things to rights. The result was that both the forerunner and the Messiah were thought of in terms of power.”

- Jesus affirms that prophecy involving a prophet like Elijah is true

Instead of setting aside the prophetic voice of Malachi, Jesus does affirm Elijah coming and that He does to restore everything.
The further explanation by Jesus Christ is that He had already come and that the people at large did not recognize this man.
This prophet didn’t receive the response expected but the reaction was to respond harshly. As Leon Morris states “They ill-treated him, and this is described in the words did to him whatever they wanted (“worked their will upon him,” NEB). Whatever they wanted indicates that they acted toward him as though there was nothing to be considered but their own will. They did not realize that they were answerable to God for their mistreatment of God’s own messenger to them.”
The ill treatment of this prophet is also indicative of the type of suffering that would occur with the Messiah as well.

- It was at this point that the disciples knew it was John the Baptist.

The spiritual high of the vision is followed by the reality check of suffering and rejection that came to the forerunner in the mold of Elijah and is coming to the Christ. In reality, the suffering comes before the greatness of the glory of Christ and His victorious 2nd coming. Likewise our frail, perishable bodies will be raised with glorified bodies.
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