1. Read 8:38. What is the glorious event toward which all history moves? What had Jesus been teaching his disciples about the work of the Messiah? Why should we never be ashamed of humble Jesus?
* HIS TRANSFIGURATION (9:2-13)
2. What promise did Jesus give his disciples in verse 1? What do you think this means? See 1:15; Jn 5:24; Jn 11:25,26.
3. Read verse 2. Where did Jesus go, and what did he do after he got there? Whom did he take with him? Why did he take only these three?
4. Describe the transfigured Jesus. Why might the disciples be surprised to see Jesus like this? (Contrast Isa 53:2) Why did they need to see this glorious image of Jesus? (Rev 1:13-16; 2Pe 1:16) Why do we need to think about glorious Jesus?
5. Who was Moses? (Ex 19:9) Who was Elijah? (1Ki 18:21) What is significant about their appearing to talk with the transfigured Jesus?
6. How did the disciples respond to this event? What did Peter say? Why did he say this? What does this reveal about his real mind?
7. What happened when a cloud appeared and enveloped them? (Ex 24:15,16) What was God's message to them? What does this teach us about God? About Jesus? About the disciples? What happened then?
8. What charge did Jesus give them as they came down the mountain? What puzzled them about his words? Why?
9. What does this conversation teach us about the meaning of the transfiguration--and why the disciples needed to see the transfigured Jesus?
10. What did the disciples ask Jesus? Why? (Mal 3:1; 4:5,6a) Who had come in the spirit of Elijah? (Mt 17:12,13) What did Jesus teach them about himself and his ministry as the Messiah? About God and his word?
"If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels."
In human history, Jesus' Galilean ministry is forever the most beautiful work among men. During the time of his Galilean ministry, Jesus helped his disciples experience God's love and mighty power through healing the sick and preaching the good news of the kingdom of God. During his Galilean ministry, Jesus prayed that his disciples would somehow open their spiritual eyes to see who Jesus really was. As a result, Peter made a confession of faith: "You are the Christ" (8:29), which means Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords forever and ever. Jesus repeatedly taught his disciples the way of the cross, the meaning of his suffering, death and resurrection (8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34). But they did not understand his teaching. Rather, they expected an easy and glorious life when the earthly messianic kingdom came, which they thought Jesus would establish. One day, Jesus took Peter, James and John with him to show them the glimpse of Jesus' heavenly glory on the Transfiguration Mountain in order to teach them the meaning of his death on the cross and his glorious resurrection.
I. Jesus comes in his Father's glory (8:38-9:1)
First, Jesus comes again (8:38). Look at 8:38. "If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels." Many people in the world are ashamed of Jesus because he taught the way of the cross. Many people think that the way of the cross is out of date. They think that the easygoing way of life is the best way. They also think that an adulterous and sinful life is not bad. Those kinds of people cannot understand the deep meaning of Jesus' death and resurrection. In other words, they cannot accept the way of the cross. There have been, in history, those whose destiny is complete destruction, whose god is their stomach, and whose glory is in their shame (Phi 3:19).
Look at 8:38 again. "If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels." These words are very precious promises of Jesus who is King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev 19:16). These words will be fulfilled when our Lord Jesus comes again in his glory. In the past, many people sold their possessions and went up on a high mountain to see his second coming, and failed to see it. They were mostly drug Christians. But the promise of the second coming of Jesus does not teach us to escape from present realities. Rather, the second coming of Jesus warns us to live in this world as faithful children of God and holy pilgrims. At the same time, it is a warning to those who are ashamed of Jesus and his words because of their adulterous and sinful lives in dark privacy. They should stop their adulterous and sinful lives. Instead, we must live according to the way of the cross. We must always be ready to welcome our Lord Jesus Christ, who will come again in glory and power with his holy angels.
Look at 8:38 again. "If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels." This verse also teaches us Jesus' faith in God's word of promise. At the time when Jesus would suffer much and be crucified, Christianity had no bright future. It seemed that in a short time Jesus would be condemned to death by the religious leaders as a criminal who deserved capital punishment. His disciples would become helpless and would all scatter at the time of his crucifixion. But Jesus did not see the world according to the world situation. Jesus saw the world based on the promises of God. Jesus' faith in God was right. Jesus was raised from the dead on the third day. Also, Christianity was not crushed by the power of darkness, as people had thought. Rather, scarcely more than thirty years later, Christianity marched into Asia Minor. Then it crossed the Mediterranean Sea and came to Rome, and next to England and finally to the United States of America. Now, from God's point of view, the former U.S.S.R. is indeed a vast mission field for American Christians. Jesus never doubted his final triumph, even in a situation in which the whole world seemed to be standing against him. Rather, Jesus believed the promise of God that he would rise again from the dead on the third day. Jesus believed that all people would see with their own eyes his coming in his glory with his holy angels. Mark 13:26,27 says, "At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens."
Second, those who are in Jesus will not taste death (9:1). Look at 9:1. "And he said to them, 'I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.'" The kingdom of God in verse 1 refers to Jesus himself (1:15). So we can paraphrase verse 1 in this way: "I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death because Jesus gives them new life." John 5:24 says, "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life."
On the other hand, where there is no Jesus, there is only bloodshed for political power and the torment of the devil due to men's sins. In the movie, "Thriller," one bony guy acted out excellently with his partners the madness of demons in a demons' carnival at a graveyard. It looked like the worst nightmares. What a tragic dancing demon he was! This is the exact description of his inner person, as well as the inner persons of ungodly people whose subconsciousness and souls are in the midst of a demons' carnival. Those who do not have Jesus look good outwardly, but they are tasting death moment by moment. This is why we must accept Jesus who is to come again in glory.
II. His transfiguration (9:2-13)
First, transfigured Jesus (2-3). Look at verse 2. "After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them." Before Jesus climbed the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus looked to his disciples like a poor man, the friend of the sick and needy. As Isaiah prophesied, his appearance looked pitiful; he resembled a root out of dry ground (Isa 53:2). But the transfigured Jesus looked glorious and majestic. "His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them" (3). This was Jesus' appearance in the kingdom of God. This is the glorious image of Jesus in which he will appear on the last day. We will see Jesus who is most glorious with our own eyes. Amen! The main purpose of his transfiguration was to show his disciples his original image as God after his death and resurrection, so that they might accept the meaning of Jesus' death and resurrection, that is, the way of the cross.
There are many people who cannot get out of terrible images, and die. One king killed 1,000 of his political opponents. His agony was that he had been assaulted every night by the ghosts of those whom he had killed. The king had the terrible image of ghosts. His life was misery itself. The king died soon from exhaustion.
Look at verse 9. Jesus firmly charged his disciples not to tell anyone what they had seen until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. Jesus wanted them to keep his preview of the resurrection body a secret in their deep hearts, and he wanted them to fill their hearts with this glorious preview of his person. This glorious image of Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration made a lasting impression on Peter's life when he had to live the way of the cross. Later, Peter wrote, "We were eyewitnesses of his majesty" (2Pe 1:16b). Because John the Apostle witnessed that Jesus is the Christ, he was imprisoned in a dark cave on the Island of Patmos (Rev 1:9). There he saw a glorious vision of Jesus who was coming again (Rev 1:13-16), and he wrote the book of Revelation ("Amen, come Lord Jesus." [Rev 22:20]). In the past, many forefathers of faith read Revelation as many times as possible, and even memorized it, and spent time in fasting prayer and Bible study in order to see the glorious image of Jesus. This is the way to overcome the images of evil in the world.
Second, Jesus talked with Elijah and Moses (4). Look at verse 4. Elijah and Moses appeared and talked with the transfigured Jesus. There are many great prophets in the Bible. Why did Elijah and Moses appear to talk with Jesus? Both Moses and Elijah were servants of God's word. Moses was the one who received God's word on Mount Sinai (Ex 19:9). Elijah suffered more than enough to live according to the word of God in a most idolatrous time. Jesus came to fulfill God's word. So Jesus' meeting with these two men was very meaningful because Jesus had to fulfill God's word of promise on the cross.
Moses and Elijah were also suffering servants. Each of them suffered very much in his own time to save his people from their sins. Moses endured much suffering in order to deliver Israel from bondage of slavery in Egypt. Elijah lived in the times of the wicked King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, and he suffered in order to save his people from Baal worship (1Ki 18:21). By talking with these two suffering servants, Moses and Elijah, Jesus could confirm his suffering and death on the cross as the will of God to fulfill God's promise of world salvation. On the Transfiguration Mount, Jesus taught his disciples that he must suffer and die on the cross and after that rise again in glory. In short, Jesus taught his disciples the way of the cross.
Third, "Listen to him!" (5-8). How did the disciples respond to this apocalyptic event? Peter said, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters--one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah" (5). (He did not say, "One for me," but that is what he really wanted.) Peter did not know what he was talking about. Anyway he spoke up what was on his mind when he was overwhelmed by Jesus' glory. Six days before, he made a confession of faith, "You are the Christ." But right after his confession, when Jesus taught him the way of the cross, Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him not to talk about the way of the cross. Now, on the Transfiguration Mount, Peter revealed his inner desire to live a life of ease and glory without suffering. Still, Peter could not grasp the meaning of Jesus' death and resurrection.
Just after Peter spoke, a cloud came and covered them. Look at verse 8. "Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus." This verse figuratively tells us that in the end, no one remains with you but Jesus. In the Old Testament, clouds represent God coming down to his people (Ex 16:10; 19:9; 24:15). And clouds coming down also represented God's glory (Ex 24:16). God's voice spoke out of the cloud. Look at verse 7. "This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!" Peter, James and John had heard Jesus teach about his death and resurrection many times. But they had not received Jesus' words. Finally, God spoke to them directly out of the cloud. This tells us how important it is to accept Jesus' teachings personally.
As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead (9). Through the warning Jesus taught them again the work of the Messiah, his death and resurrection. What was their response? "They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what 'rising from the dead' meant" (10). Amazingly, for the first time they began to scratch their heads and think seriously about the secret meaning of his death and resurrection.
Look at verse 11. "And they asked him, 'Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?'" Their question tells us indirectly that the people of Israel looked for the emergence of Elijah before the coming of the Messiah, and the eruption of God into time and space, giving triumphant victory to Israel. So in verse 11 they said, "Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?"
Look at verses 12 and 13. "Jesus replied, 'To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected?'" Here Jesus connected his suffering and death with Elijah. Jesus also indicated that Elijah referred to John the Baptist (Mal 3:1; 4:5,6a). Then Jesus continued: "Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him." Jesus was speaking of John the Baptist, who came in the spirit of Elijah, preaching a baptism of repentance (Mt 17:12,13). Jesus, too, must fulfill what was written of him. This is Jesus' teaching to his disciples concerning his death and resurrection. Jesus' death and resurrection is the way of the cross.
Today's passage teaches us that we must live as holy pilgrims in the world. We must be faithful, loyal, and fully devoted to the work of God, believing that Jesus comes in his Father's glory and with his holy angels. We also must have the glorious image of Jesus as God in our hearts. May the promise of God dwell in your heart.