Key Verse: 17:2 Jesus in reality.
Personal Application: Know Christ as both the compassionate Savior and the glorious Son.
Outline: At 16:21, the focus shifted from crowds to disciples and from Kingdom to the Cross. Now our gait is set for Calvary, the place of the Skull. Our attention is on the disciples and their preparation (17:1, 10, 19-20, 25-26). After introducing the cross (16:21-28), Jesus foreshadows the glorious Resurrection (17:1-13), trains his disciples in ministry (17:14-23), and also pays taxes like an ordinary man even though He is exempt as the Son of God (17:24-27).
Notice the focus on Peter, James, and John. The display of glory was restricted to those who already recognized Him as God’s Son (16:16). The more we trust Christ and build a relationship with Him, the greater revelations we can expect of His glory and power in our lives.
Location -- Rather than the traditional Mount Tabor, Mount Hermon is suggested as the high mountain since they were in the area of Caesarea Philippi, on the slopes of Hermon. The peak is 9,166 feet and is snow-capped most of the year. Snow melt from Hermon helps hydrate the Jordan. Matthew seems to indicate a mountain which is not in the Galilee region. Mount Tabor is 1800 feet above sea level, twelve miles from the Sea of Galilee, and six miles from Nazareth, but it seems unlikely since a fort was on top of the mountain, it was on a well-traveled road, and it would require an unusual route from Caesarea Philippi.
Moses and Elijah – Why these two? The great Lawgiver and the great prophet. Many reasons have been suggested. One idea is that these show Jesus as fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets (5:17). One is that Moses is a model prophet (Deuteronomy 18:18) and was a type of this Christ who has come to introduce a new covenant. Elijah the forerunner (Malachi 4:5-6; Matthew 3:1-3; 11:7-10), to reappear before the institution of Christ’s Kingdom on earth and reminded to the Jews at every Passover. In a further picture of the resurrection, Elijah was taken directly to heaven (2 Kings 2:11-12), and Moses’ grave was never found (Deuteronomy 34:6).
John the Baptizer as Elijah – see Matthew 11:14; Luke 1:17; Matthew 3:1-3). Since they rejected John, who would have been the fulfillment had Israel repented, they would reject their Messiah, necessitating another form of Elijah-type figure in the future (17:11), preparing the way, this time for the consummation of the Day of the Lord (Malachi 4:4-5).
Verse 4 – Peter is a good Baptist. God does something in their midst, and he wants to start a building program! Our calling is not to build a shrine to enclose Jesus, but to carry the message of the resurrected Christ to the world. Peter is trying to make sense of all this, and is drawing from his heritage of the tabernacle (shelter, skene, is used in the LXX for tabernacle) (Exodus 25:9) or the shelters of the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:42).
Transformed – metamorphao, to change in form. This word is used by Paul (Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 3:18) to describe regenerated believers. They knew Jesus as a teacher and great man of miracles. They were not ready for the revelation of his glory (John 1:14; 17:5; Philippians 2:6-7; 2 Peter 1:16-18; Revelation 1:16). The cloud reminiscent of Sinai (Exodus 34:29-35), the Shekinah filling the tabernacle (Exodus 40:34-35); the wilderness cloud (Exodus 13:21-22; 40:36-38; the cloud filling Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 8:10-13), the cloud of the Branch sheltering Zion (Isaiah 4:1-6), and the vision of Isaiah (Isaiah 6).
Let us not become so familiar with Jesus that we fail to sustain an awe in our relationship with Him. D.L. Moody had such an experience with God that he asked him to stop lest he die. Charles Finney said that waves of love overwhelmed him for hours until he could not stand anymore. Moses’ face radiated when he was in the presence of God (2 Corinthians 3:13, 15-18).
Sign from heaven (17:5) – The sign from heaven comes to those with faith to receive, and it is the same message as at Jesus’ baptism (3:17) combining Psalm 2:7 and Isaiah 42:1. Jesus is both Son and Suffering Servant, and greater than Moses and Elijah. Therefore, his disciples must follow Him on his mission to the cross.
Don’t tell what you have seen (17:9) – The time is not yet right, and people may misunderstand as Peter does with the memorial wish. Jesus’ message must focus on forgiveness of sins through the cross.