A Mountain Top Experience

Matthew 17

January 17

When I was growing up our youth group would take a hiking trip up a mountain in the fall each year. The owner of the mountain was a member of our church so we were the only ones there. When we reached the top we would take in the views and have a picnic. I also remember our descent (which was so much easier and faster than our hike to the top). 

That experience reminds me of our reading today. Just imagine what was going through the minds of Peter, James and John as they came down the mountain with Jesus after witnessing the transfiguration.

Jesus had told them six days earlier that some standing there would not taste death before they saw the Son of Man coming in his kingdom. The experience of the transfiguration accomplished that.

On that mountain, Jesus was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. There appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

What an amazing confirmation that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah. The appearance of Moses representing the Law, Elijah representing the Prophets and God’s voice confirming that Jesus is the beloved Son of God. God confirmed that Jesus’ message is true and should be heard and followed.  

The disciples were terrified and fell facedown. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

Christ later explains that he will be killed and on the third day he will be raised to life. These men were about to experience the horrific trial of their lifetimes. Just hearing that it was going to happen filled them with grief, but they had also witnessed Jesus Christ as he will be when He is “Coming in His Kingdom.” This life may throw some awful situations at us. Just like the disciples, we need to remember who Jesus Christ truly is. No matter what is happening in our world, we must Keep Seeking, Keep Growing and Keep Loving God and Others. Remember that with our very own eyes we will “see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom”. 

-Rebecca Dauksas

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. The Transfiguration allowed Peter, James and John to experience a bit of what it will be like to, “see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom”. (Matthew 16:28) How do you think they felt during and after this event? How might it have changed or added to their understanding of who Jesus is and what will take place? Do you think seeing what they saw will change their actions, is so how?
  2. Jesus told Peter, James and John to not tell anyone what they had seen until what event took place? Why do you think, were they to keep the secret of the Transfiguration at first? Why do you think, were they free (and expected) to share it later?
  3. The Bible contains many descriptions of the return of Christ and the Kingdom of God it will initiate, most notably Revelation 19-22. What are you most looking forward to seeing and experiencing? What do you feel when you read about or talk about the coming Kingdom? What parts are hardest for you to imagine and picture in your mind or describe to others? How might knowing what you know about the Kingdom affect your actions?
  4. Matthew 17 includes the beautiful mountaintop experience and also the revealing of a very difficult “valley” experience to come – the betrayal and death of Jesus – followed by another mountaintop- the resurrection of Jesus three days after his death. What are some spiritual mountaintop and valley experiences you have faced? What benefit could be found in each?

Listen to Him

Today’s Bible Reading – Genesis 33 & 34 and Matthew 17

Here we are beginning the 3rd full week of 2021 and so much has happened already. 7 days of careful investigation revealing solid scientific evidence supporting a Biblical view of a miraculous creator (and destroyer) God. And then 7 days of the Old Testament patriarchs of Genesis and fathers of the faith: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – and what they teach us still today about following God with the faith of Abraham. This week our devotions will be following our New Testament readings in the book of Matthew (one chapter a day) to see what God is doing…

Matthew 17 begins with an awe-inspiring mountain-top experience (often called the Transfiguration) in which God’s glory radiates through and around Jesus Christ – showing a snippet of the beauty, majesty and glory of God’s coming Kingdom which will feature His dazzling Son amongst the risen heroes of the faith. Peter, James and John were there to see it – and they were shaking in their boots at the power of the moment and the voice of God heard from the cloud saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to Him.” (Matthew 17:5)

But wait…we really can’t start there. Our spiritual journey doesn’t exist only on the glorious mountaintop. What comes before the glory? About a week before the events of Matthew 17, Jesus was telling his disciples that he would face much persecution and even death (before being raised to life) (Matthew 16:21). Bold, strong, impetuous Peter who thinks he knows better than the Son of God tries to correct Jesus – Peter would never let that happen to Jesus. But Jesus isn’t encouraged or amused by Peter but rather calls him “Satan…a stumbling block….you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matthew 16:23). Jesus continues to prepare his disciples, letting them know that he would not be the only one expected to suffer – but that they too would be required to endure the agony of “taking up their cross” to follow him.

It doesn’t sound fun or exciting. It is hard to get people to sign up for suffering. Peter and the disciples didn’t like the sound of it. Most people today don’t. But it is not suffering without a goal. It is a fight worthy of the cause and the prize. Jesus said those who would suffer for him and lose their life would find it – because after the suffering for Christ – comes the glory. Jesus explained, “For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” (Matthew 16:27-28 NIV)

And, a week later, Peter, James and John found themselves on a mountain-top getting a taste of the splendor that will be when God tells His Son, Jesus, it is time to go to the earth to set up a kingdom like none have ever seen before. A kingdom greater than anything set up in the time of the Law (Moses) or the prophets (Elijah) or Jesus’ first coming. God was revealing His perfect plan for His perfect Son and all those who will listen to him.

Contrary to both today’s “prosperity gospel” and Peter’s human thinking, God’s perfect plan does not consist solely of beautiful, bright mountain-top experiences. There is also the ugly, dark and painful cross. For Jesus – and for those who listen to him and carry their cross. But don’t fear, God’s got this. He’s got those who listen to His Son. Our trials will not last forever – but His Kingdom will. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NIV)

How can you be sure your suffering will have a reward? Are you suffering for Christ – or yourself? Is your master plan for your life from the mind of man (how can I get ahead and protect myself best?) or from the mind of God (suffer for the sake of God’s Son and look forward to the reward to come)? What will listening to Jesus look like for you in 2021? What will suffering before glory look like for you today?

-Marcia Railton

A Mountain of Confusion

Mark 9

Mark 9 7

When I realized later that I had volunteered to write a blog over this chapter I winced. Oh, dear. There is so much confusion out there about the transfiguration. Some say it confirms the “deity” of Christ. Some say it confirms that there is no “soul sleeping” because if there were, then Elijah and Moses could not have been there. I don’t have all of the answers, of course, but I would have a couple rebuttals to each of these assertions.

I don’t see the “deity” of Christ at all for two major reasons. It’s true that Jesus is transfigured and is shown in a new and powerful way on that mountain. He is glorified, radiant and shining, and wearing shockingly white clothing all of the sudden.  However,

  1. Peter had just previously acknowledged who Jesus was. In Mark 8:29 Peter says, “You are the Christ.” The Matthew account of this has Peter saying more, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matt. 16:16) It seems very unlikely that Peter, James, and John thought Jesus was God.
  2. Then there is the cloud and the voice out of the cloud saying, “This is My beloved Son, listen to Him!” (Mark 9:7) They didn’t think Jesus was in the cloud. And the voice in the cloud did not say, “This Jesus is also your Father in heaven.”

I still don’t have a problem believing in “soul sleep” either. I believe Elijah and Moses were resting in peace (RIP) and were awakened for this transfiguration.

  1. We are told in Deuteronomy 34 that Moses died and was buried. And we see at the end of Hebrews 11 that Moses, and many others including Elijah, have not received what was promised yet “so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.”
  2. In 1 Samuel 28 we see that Samuel was “disturbed” after dying and being buried because Saul wanted to chat with him. In that chapter we see that he came “up out of the earth.” There is no mention of his soul floating down from heaven to meet his body coming out of the earth. And he would need his soul to have a conversation with Samuel. Just as Elijah and Moses appeared with bodies and souls.

What I would like to know is what Elijah and Moses were talking to Jesus about! And another thing that I find interesting is that Peter, James, and John seemed to recognize Elijah and Moses right away. It doesn’t look like Jesus introduced them. I suppose this is how it will be in the kingdom. 🙂

Melissa New

 

Jesus is Greater than . . .

Matthew 17

matthew 17 5

In Matthew 17:1-9, Jesus takes his closest disciples, Peter, James, and John, up to a mountain privately. During this time, God was about to do something that they would never forget. As they stood talking to each other and to Jesus, all of a sudden Jesus’ appearance changed and started shining like the sun! If that wasn’t enough, the disciples saw Moses and Elijah standing there talking with Jesus! What in the world is going on, they must have been saying.

 

This vision that the disciples saw has many truths within it that are significant for us to know. The first is that they got to see a glimpse of what the Kingdom of God is going to be like. In Daniel 12:2-3, we learn that after the resurrection, the righteous are going to “shine” like the sun and the stars. That is exactly why Jesus appeared to be shining before them; they were seeing a little bit further into the future to what it will be like after the resurrection.

 

Moses and Elijah are significant because they represent the whole Old Covenant; Moses represented the Torah (or Law) and Elijah represented the prophets. Although these were incredible figures in Judaism, when God spoke during this vision, he didn’t address them; he only spoke in favor of Jesus by saying “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him.” (Matt. 17:5 NLT) This vision was making a point: Jesus is greater than both Moses and Elijah, and therefore, greater than the entire Old Covenant!

 

Why should this matter to you? Well, if Jesus is greater than even Moses and Elijah, he is greater than whatever you are facing in your life. Any struggle that you may suffer from, whether it’s at school, work, home, or even within yourself, Jesus is greater. The best part is that he is willing to step into your life and help you, if you are willing to call on him. So, no matter what difficulties you are facing, Jesus is there and is greater; I encourage you today to call for his help. He loves you and wants the best for you; allow him to change your life.

 

-Talon Paul

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