A Study of the Transfiguration of Christ
Introduction: One night while driving home from St. Louis, I pulled off at a gas station. I was tired, and I when I resumed my trip I mistakenly starting going back the way I had come. I didn’t realize it until I saw a sign for so many miles to St. Louis. You can imagine my frustration, but that’s what happens in life. We go forward, then backward. We lose momentum. We get off course. We make progress, then suffer a regression. The Scottish preacher, Alexander Whyte, once said, “The perseverance of the saints is falling down and getting up, falling down and getting up, falling down and getting up, all the way to heaven.” The biblical model is Simon Peter. One minute he’s walking on water and the next he’s sinking. One moment Christ commends him, and the next Jesus says, “Get behind me, Satan.” But Peter never gave up, and those experiences make him into a person of incredible strength.
Bible Study in Matthew 16 & 17: In Matthew 16, Jesus took His disciples to a remote area and gave them terrible news. He would soon be arrested and executed. He said, “Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for Me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”
In other words, it’s not wise to focus all your energy on this present life and neglect your eternal future. We’ve got to live for eternal values. Jesus ended the chapter by saying He would come again to usher in eternity: “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they the Son of Man coming in His kingdom” (verse 27).
Chapter 17 begins: “After six days….” The first part of Matthew 17 is a description of a moment Jesus allowed His disciples to see the glory that is His from the foundation of the earth and forever. In a sense, He gave them a preview of His Second Coming. “He was transfigured before them.” The Greek word, metamorpho, means to change into another form (metamorphosis). His face shone like the sun and His clothes became white as light. Moses and Elijah appeared with Him, and God the Father showed up in a blazing cloud, saying: “This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him!”
Verses 6-7 say: “When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown on the ground. But Jesus came to them and touched them. ‘Get up,’ He said. ‘Don’t be afraid.’ When they looked up they saw no one except Jesus.”
What relevance does this have to our lives today? We’re like disciples in Matthew 16 & 17. We’re up and down. We’re in glory, then we fall on our faces. But we find three principles in chapter 17 to help us.
1. Contemplate the Lord’s Glory. The disciples were thrown for a loop in chapter 16 when they learned about the crucifixion, but it all changed when He saw Jesus in all His glory in chapter 17. It was something Peter never forgot, and he wrote about it later in 2 Peter 1:16-18. As I studied this verse, I thought of another passage – 2 Corinthians 3:18, which says, “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed [metamorpho] into His image with every-increasing glory.” This word occurs four times in the Bible. In Matthew and Mark, it describes the transfiguration of Christ. And in 2 Corinthians 3:18 and in Romans 12:2 it describes the transformation of those who contemplate His glory.
When you are distressed, when you are worried, when you are upset, when you are battered by sin, just stretch out on your sofa or take a walk and meditate on what the Bible says about the greatness and glory of Jesus Christ. Visualize Him on the Mount of Transfiguration. Put yourself with Him on that mountain. Think of John’s opening vision in Revelation describing the enthroned and glorified Christ. See your Savior as He really is, and you will regain a healthy, hopeful, realistic perspective that will sustain you through the ups and downs of life.
2. Listen to What Jesus Tells You. That’s what the voice from the cloud told Peter and James and John to do: This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him! You have got to take the Word of God seriously. You have got to take the teachings of Christ seriously.
3. Get Up And Don’t Be Afraid. When the disciples heard the voice of God, they fell down in terror, but Jesus said to them, “ God the Father had just told the terrified disciples to listen to Jesus, and what were the first words Jesus said to them: “Get up. Don’t be afraid.” And when they looked up they saw no one except Jesus. These words are just for you. Maybe you’ve fallen. Maybe you’re on your face. Maybe you’re frightened or anxious or struggling with failure or overwhelmed with life. Maybe you’re in the ditch. Jesus has something to say to you. “Get up! Don’t be afraid!”
Conclusion: If you keep falling and getting up on your way to heaven, climb up Sunshine Mountain. Learn the three-fold secret of the transfiguration of Christ and of your own spiritual transformation. Learn to contemplate the Lord’s glory. Listen to what He says. And get up and don’t be afraid.