Matthew 17:1-13 (Part 1) – Connecting the Dots Takes A Line Between Them

Posted: January 18, 2016 in Gospel of Matthew

Matthew 17:1-13 (Part 1)
The Transfiguration

Matthew 17:1-13 is often referred as the Transfiguration of Jesus. This passage is pregnant with things to talk about. It is like a chunky Chips Ahoy cookie with a chocolate chip in every bite. Let’s just think about the things we can talk about here for about a week. Here are some points that come to mind when reading this passage. Questions to ponder:

• Why did Matthew say it was six days later when opening this passage which comes right after Peter’s declaration that Jesus was the Messiah?
• Why did He only take three disciples with Him? Why not the whole group?
• Why is it important that we see Elijah and Moses talking to Jesus?
• Why did Peter want to stay right there and build shelters?
• Why is it important that the Father in heaven again confirm that Jesus is His Son in an audible way?
• Why does Jesus keep telling people not to tell anyone about the miracle that they just observed?
• Why is it important for us to hear this conversation about the link between Elijah and John the Baptist?

Those are just some of the questions that came to my mind when I read this passage. Today, we will consider why was it important for Matthew to indicate that this passage of Scripture took place six days after the previous passage. There are several reasons I think. First, there is the obvious thing of connecting the two events together. And second, think about it! Six days had passed. What had happened in those six days that was not included in the Scripture? Let’s read through this passage today.

17 After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3 Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.

4 Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

5 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!”

6 When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” 8 When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.

9 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.”

10 The disciples asked him, “Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?”

11 Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. 12 But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.

Why was it important for Matthew to point out that this passage occurred six days after the previous passage? It is a connecting point. It shows us revelation that comes with deeper knowledge of Jesus Christ. Have you noticed how when you begin to understand Jesus Christ as the Son of God that things that baffled you about Christianity begin to make sense. For example, prior to salvation, I knew the words that Jesus died on the cross for me. But yet it was meaningless for me. I could not understand how this man dying on the cross is the key to me going to heaven. I just could not grasp it. Next, when I accepted Christ as my Savior and Lord, I still did not fully understand why Christ dying on the cross saved me from my sins but I accepted it on faith. I just understood that it was because God said it was so and that part is still true. God said that the cross is the reason that we are saved from our sins. But I did not understand the richer, deeper meaning of it until years later. I now understand that Jesus’s dying on the cross is the completion of the Old Testament sacrificial system. In the Old Testament, God instituted the sacrificial system to get people to understand that there must be a sacrifice for sin. There must be an atonement. There must be something to set the slate clean between Him and us. However, the sacrificial system was simply practice for the recognition of the real thing. Since imperfect created beings were used as sacrifices for atonement of sin, it had to be repeated. It was all to point us to the fact that Jesus would be the final perfect sacrifice for sin. He was God in the flesh and came to earth and lived the perfect life and thus could be the once and final sacrifice for sin. There was no need to repeat sacrifices after Jesus on the cross. It is finished. It is complete. Deepening knowledge built on top of simple faith. As we move in our walk, we learn more and more is revealed about the beauty of our God and what He did in Jesus Christ. As we dive deeper into the waters of Jesus, we become more humbled and more teachable and the more we learn about Jesus and who He is and the greater we come to know Him. He reveals more to us as we can handle it. It all starts with the faith statement that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. Once we recognize Jesus as who He says He is, His light begins to shine brighter and brighter for us. The closer we get to Him the more amazed we are by Him and the more humble we become as to the path He saved us from. The more humble we become the more we become like Him and the more we are willing to have agape-like love for others. The more He reveals about Himself to us the more we want to share His story and what He did in our lives and what He can do in yours? When we accept Christ as our Savior, the more we want to know about Him. The more we know about Him the greater He reveals Himself to us. It all starts with seeing Jesus as the Son of the Living God, our Messiah, our Savior.

Another important thing for us to see here is that between these major events in the lives of the disciples, six days passed. It is important for us to see that there were six days of things that happened that are not mentioned in Scripture. There were six days that passed between major peaks in the ministry of Jesus with His disciples. There were two so-called “mountain top experiences” for the disciples. But in between there were six days. Did they fall asleep for six days? No. Did they purposely not do anything for six days? No. Six days happened. I bet there was ministry going on. I bet there was a whole lot of teaching going on. I think from this time lapse with no mention of what happened during that time frame says that life happened. There was mundane things going on. Maybe, they were making money to finance the ministry. Maybe they were buying supplies for the ministry. Maybe, Jesus was holding class with them and re-emphasizing things that are already recorded in Scripture. Maybe, during that time, they were resting up for the next push. The point is that I do not think life stopped for six days. The ministry went on. Surely, nothing was wasted. There was a purpose to the six days. Sometimes, we think we are supposed to live in the mountaintop experiences when we are Christians, and particularly as Christian leaders. More of our ministries as Christians are spent in the missing six days here as we spend on the mountaintop experiences. Sometimes being a Christian leader and being a Christian in general is mundane. It is doing the right thing when no one notices. It is being consistent day to day. For leaders, it is doing the back office work of the kingdom. It is doing the non-glamorous parts of the kingdom work. Yes, the church’s bills have to be paid, the lights kept on, and the furnace fixed when it breaks because failure to do these things could be the difference between someone accepting Christ as their Savior and someone rejecting Christ because they perceive us Christ followers as so inept that we can’t keep the lights on or the furnace running at our church. Ministry happens when we are investing in our neighbors for six years before they make a decision for Christ and us not giving up on it. Ministry happens more behind the scenes than what happens on Sunday morning. Being a Christ follower is more about doing the work that needs to be done for the kingdom simply because we want to give Christ glory not because we want our names in the papers or in the church bulletin or have our name mentioned from the pulpit. We do the work the kingdom all the time regardless. We enjoy and revel in and sometimes don’t want to leave the mountaintop experiences. But more ministry happens in when the spotlights are not on than when they are on. More ministry happens when no one is recording it than when there is. More ministry happens in the mundane things of life than not. More ministry happens in the unmentioned six days than not.

Father teach us to connect the dots about who you are and help us to seek more knowledge of you. Help us also to be faithful to you in our daily lives even when the camera is not on. Help us to do your work when no one is looking. Help us to be ministers of your Word in the mundane details of life. Help us by being with us and revealing more and more of yourself to us so that we see the ministry is in the details of life. Amen and Amen.

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