Click here for the reading: Matthew 17:1-9.
Jesus’ transfiguration is unbearable – at first. At first what the disciples see is terrifying to them. Jesus is near to being cut off from the company of His chosen brothers and companions. Israel could not look at Moses and bear what they saw. Yet at the Lord’s comfort, “Rise, and have no fear,” the disciples can look at God and yet live. They can see their Brother’s face and listen to His voice and walk with Him. His Word is stronger than their fear.
His Word is strong because He is the Prophet whom Moses prophesied. Like Moses He prophesies, and behold, a greater than Moses is now here. Like Elijah He does mighty miracles and speaks the Lord’s Word against near-universal opposition, and behold, a greater than Elijah is here. Moses and Elijah delight to speak with Him on the holy mountain because now all their prophecy has come to fruition. What was long expected is now coming to pass.
Peter’s desire to build tents as at the harvest festival of tabernacles (Lev. 23:33-36) therefore is understandable and natural. He believes things have come to an end and all is now complete. His misunderstanding is that all that the prophets prophesied must come to pass. Jesus cannot remain on the mountain in celebration of the light and glory He has already obtained and displayed to His disciples. He must go elsewhere.
So the vision must be the servant of the Crucifixion. The vision cannot be spoken of on its own – perhaps the world would not believe what Peter, James, and John saw. Perhaps the world would not understand what the Son of Man had come to do. Perhaps they would think that He could be who He is without the Crucifixion.
But the Father’s benediction is upon the Son Who does all God’s holy will, and God’s will is that His Son should give His life as a ransom for many. The glory of the Transfiguration is not unreal, but it is incomplete without the Cross. The light of Transfiguration must be matched with the darkness of Good Friday. The light sustains hope in the three disciples who saw the glory of Jesus, and the darkness fulfills the prophecies concerning the day of the Lord spoken so long before. All things must come to pass so that the Lord’s Word proves true, so that the Scriptures are fulfilled, so that the Son of Man should die as is written of Him.
And so that the Son of Man should rise from the dead, just as He said. Every Word of God proves true, and every Word of the beloved Son proves true because His words and His deeds are in perfect accord. His Yes is Yes, and His No is No, and He will do what He promises to do. Listen to Him!