Let’s open our Bibles to Matthew chapter 17. We’re going to study this tremendous portion of the Word of God. It relates the transfiguration of Jesus Christ. Matthew chapter 17.
I want to back up a little bit. This is really the third message in this text, and it’s taken us these three times to get through this marvelous, marvelous section. But I just want to back up and see if I can’t sort of gather our thinking a little bit so that this will make the most meaningful look at what we have for today.
God is a spirit, and as a spirit is invisible. The Bible says, “A spirit hath not flesh and bones.” That is God is an invisible spirit; God has no form; God is everywhere. He cannot be confined to a form in the fullness of His being.
When God does reveal Himself, in the Old Testament, He chooses to reveal Himself as light, as blazing, glowing light. We see it in the garden in the Shekinah presence. We see it in Exodus chapter 33 as Moses says, “Show me Thy glory,” or, “Reveal Yourself to me,” and he sees God’s glow, the light of God’s Shekinah, and it’s transferred to his own face.
We see it in Exodus chapter 40, when the tabernacle is built, which is to be symbolic of the dwelling of God among the people of Israel. And it says, “The glory of God came down and filled the tent of the congregation” so that the priests couldn’t even move around and minister in there; the glory was there.
And then, when it was time for them to move in the wilderness, the glory would go up in the sky, and it was a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. And it would lead them through those 40 years in the wilderness.
When they came into the Promised Land and built the temple, it says in 1 Kings chapter 8 that the glory of God descended on the temple. And again it filled the temple, and God was manifesting His being as light.
When you come to the Gospel record, you find Jesus Christ. And as God revealed Himself on the mountain, on the face of Moses, in the tabernacle, and in the temple as light, so He reveals Himself in Jesus Christ as light veiled by human flesh. Jesus Christ was the Shekinah of God: the glow of God; the glory of God; the blazing, dazzling, glistening light of God veiled in human flesh. And that is why John says in John 1:14, “We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. We saw the glory; we saw the Shekinah; we saw the blazing light, that which could only be true of God we saw in Him, full of grace and truth.”
And we asked John, “When did you see that, John?”
And he tells us, “Right when I was on the mountain with Him, and He was transfigured,” as we look at Matthew 17.
And we hear Peter echo in 2 Peter, “We do not speak to you fables – cunningly devised fables when we speak about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus. But we were eyewitnesses of His royal majesty. We saw the glory, too.”
When, Peter, did you see the glory?
“Oh, it was on the holy mount,” he says. Right here again, as recorded in Matthew chapter 17.
And the Bible tells us that when Jesus returns, He will come in glory, in great glory, in dazzling glory. And so, Jesus Christ also is revealed as light. In fact, He Himself said, “I am the light of the world. He that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”
And so, God chooses, then, primarily to reveal Himself as glorious, dazzling light. In fact, as you proceed into the book of Revelation, you find that when you get to the eternal state, the eternal heaven, the holy city, the new Jerusalem, which is the eternal habitation of the saints, the Bible says there’s no moon, and there’s no sun, and there’s no stars to light it because the glory of God is the light of it, and the Lamb is the lamp. It’s a great picture. In your house, you have a lamp, but the lamp doesn’t give the light; it’s the light in the lamp that does. The lamp contains the light.
And so, in heaven forever, Jesus is the lamp containing the light of the glory of God. And the same was true on earth. When Jesus was here, He was the lamp, and in Him was the light of the glory of God veiled. In heaven it’ll be unveiled, and it’ll light all of the eternal domain for all eternity, in glorious, blazing light.
So, when Jesus wants, then, to reveal Himself for who He really is, He pulls back the veil of His flesh and reveals Himself as glorious, radiant, dazzling light. The Shekinah of God. And that’s what we’re seeing in this text.
Now, as we look back at chapter 17, we’re reminded of just a simple outline that we gave you – five proofs – five evidences of the deity of Jesus Christ. Five statements of His royal majesty as the promised King who would come in majestic glory. And I believe that this is the greatest single testimony given on the pages of holy Scripture to the deity of Jesus Christ.
First of all, His deity is made evident by the transformation of the Son. Look at verse 1, “And after six day, Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain privately and was changed” – transformed, transfigured – “before them. And His face did shine like the sun, and His clothing was as white or glistening as the light.”
Now, if you ever have any question about who Jesus Christ is, it should end at this text. For here He pulls back the veil of His flesh and reveals the same glory that Moses saw on the mount in Exodus 33, the same glory that they saw in the tabernacle in Exodus 40, the same glory that came down to the temple in 1 Kings 8. It is that very same Shekinah, that very same essence of God in blazing fullness.
And when Jesus pulls back the veil of His flesh, it is that He may reveal Himself to be God – very God, the blazing one, the one who is eternally the Lamp, in which dwells the glory that lights eternity.
And so, the transformation of the Son is the great statement of His deity. Second statement comes in verse 3 and 4. And this is the testimony of the saints. First the transformation of the Son, and then the testimony of the saints.
A second great confirmation, “And, behold, there appeared unto them” – and it says in Luke “with Him in glory” – “Moses and Elijah talking with Him” – Luke says, “about His decease which He should accomplish at Jerusalem.”
And now, you see, appears Moses and Elijah. We saw last time – didn’t we? – that they are representatives of the Old Testament: Moses, the prophets, the giver of the law – or Moses the law, rather, as the giver of the law; Elijah, the prophets, as the guardian of the law – the Old Testament being known as Moses and the prophets, according to Luke 24:27.
So, here you have the visual representation of the Old Testament. And now is the testimony of the Old Testament Scripture. In fact, it might be better to say than “the testimony of the saints” the “testimony of the Scripture,” for these are saints who represent Scripture, and they are attesting to Jesus as the Messiah.
You see, Moses and the prophets, or the Old Testament, was written to present Jesus Christ. It was written to prepare the way for Jesus Christ. It was written to predict that Jesus Christ would come. It was written to give the world an outlook that says, “We are living in anticipation of the coming one.” And here is the Old Testament, as it represents itself in Moses and Elijah, standing there with Jesus Christ as if to say, “This is the one. This is the one.”
And so, the disciples are given this marvelous evidence of Old Testament confirmation and how important it was. For they must have often questioned whether Jesus was really the one, because circumstances never seemed to work the way they thought they should.
And it’s even more interesting that they were discussing His death, because it was so very important for the disciples to know that this, too, was part of the plan. They found that so very hard to accept. And so, they were speaking of His death, which was to be accomplished at Jerusalem, just as He had said in chapter 16, verse 21. That He had to go to Jerusalem to suffer and be killed. And here are the prophets confirming this, that the Messiah suffers before He is glorified.
Well, in the midst of this scene of testimony from the Scripture, the saints of the Old Testament, Peter speaks in verse 4. And I want to pick up our study today where we sort of left it last time with Peter.
“Then answered Peter and said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is excellent for us to be here.’” This is the best thing ever. If I can paraphrase him, “This is it.” Summum bonum, this is it; it’s happened. I believe he really thought this was the kingdom. I think he really believed that. “Don’t change it, Lord; this is it.”
“And if you’ll allow me, then I will make three booths: one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
And last time we talked a little about the folly of that statement. Luke says he didn’t know what he was saying. And he was emotionally traumatized in fear because of the whole scene, and he just sort of blurted it out. But I think there were some reasons. I think what you get from Peter here is a blurting out of something that is built upon a lot of thinking that’s been going on in his mind.
Let me suggest some things. First of all, Peter had all the time, since he had followed Jesus, anticipated the kingdom. Right? I mean this was in His mind all the time. It must have been in the minds of all of them, because here was the King, and what do you have when you have the King? Well, very soon you have the kingdom. I mean the Old Testament says the King will come, and we’ll have the kingdom. The Messiah will come, and He’ll make things right, and He’ll rule, and He’ll reign. I mean it’s a glory day.
And so, all the time they’re living in the imminency of the kingdom, and they’re eager, and they’re anticipating it, even insofar as after the resurrection they ask, “Is this the time you will restore the kingdom?” I mean they lived that every moment might be that moment. And so, a kingdom was in his mind. And even one – on one occasion – you remember? – James and John had sent their mother and said, “Can we arrange right now, before it happens, to have our boys on the right and the left when the kingdom starts? I mean they were living in a sense of anticipation that it could happen at any moment. And so, it was in his mind – up front in his mind.
And then let me add another thought. He had just heard an amazing prophecy at the end of chapter 16, because Jesus had said the Son of Man will come in glory. And then in verse 28, He had said, “And some of you won’t die before it happens. You’ll see Him coming in His royal majesty.”
And so, you put together his anticipation with his understanding of that prophecy. He hears Jesus say, “The Son of Man will come in glory,” and all of a sudden, he opens his eyes, and sees Him in glory. What’s he going to conclude? He doesn’t understand that this is only a preview, that this is only a glimpse. He doesn’t know how long it’s going to last. All he sees is glory, and he remembers Jesus said it would happen and that some of them wouldn’t be dead until it happened. And there they were alive, and it was happening. And, man, the excitement is starting to mount. The anticipation in his heart is beginning to explode.
And then there’s another thing that just adds to it. He hears Moses and Elijah having a conversation with Jesus. And you know what they’re talking about? They’re talking about Jesus’ departure, or Jesus’ decease, or Jesus’ death. And do you know what the Greek word is that they used? Exodos. It’s a Greek word, exodos. They’re talking about Jesus’ exodus.
Now, when you hear the word exodos, what figure do you think of? Moses, right? Moses led the exodus. But Moses said this, Deuteronomy 18:15, he said, “A prophet like unto me is going to come. He’s going to be like me.”
Well, what do you mean? Well, what is Moses? Well, Moses is the one who led the exodus. There’ll be a prophet like you? You mean another prophet who will lead another exodus? See, they were looking for another Deliverer. Oh, this time he was to be a Deliverer in different circumstances. Moses led them out of Egypt to the Promised Land. They were looking for another exodus leader, and they thought they wanted to get out of Roman bondage into freedom. But what God had planned was out of sin into righteousness, out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light, out of bondage to death into life. You see?
And so, they were looking for a greater prophet than Moses – another Moses to lead another exodus. And here was Jesus, and He was talking about His exodus. “And surely,” Peter thought, “this is it, folks. This is the greater Prophet than Moses, and they’re comparing exoduses in their conversation.”
And to add to it, you’ve got Elijah there. And Peter knew that Elijah was to be the forerunner of the Messiah, setting up His kingdom. So here’s Elijah. The forerunner’s there. Here’s Jesus, the greater Prophet than Moses, and they’re both talking about exodus. This is it. This is it. It’s got to be it. This is the exodus. This is the redemption of the people. This is the freeing of the people.
Now, let me add another thing. New Testament chronologists, those people who study the details of the New Testament to tell us when things happened, indicate to us that this was the month of Tishri. Tishri is six months from Passover. Passover is when Jesus is crucified. Six months earlier, Tishri.
Now, what happens in Tishri? Is that an important month? Yes. There was one major, special event that you need to focus on in the month of Tishri that the Jews always celebrated. It was called the Feast of Tabernacles, or the Feast of Booths, either one.
Down in Jerusalem, you see, right at this time, they were likely celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles. What does the Feast of Tabernacles commemorate? Well, it commemorates the wandering in the wilderness. God delivers His people; they wander in the wilderness, and, during that time, they lived in tabernacles. They lived in booths. And then God led them into the Promised Land. It is a memorial to God, preserving His redeemed people. He redeems them, and He preserves them to take them into the land of promise.” And so, the Feast of Tabernacles was a very important feast. But Peter wasn’t there, and James wasn’t there, and John wasn’t there, and Jesus wasn’t there. And so, it’s just very likely that Peter was thinking about the Feast of Tabernacles, and thinking about the Feast of Booths and realizing how important it was to have such a thing. He has that in his mind.
Now, he knew it was something you had to go to; all male Jews were required to go every year to the Feast of Tabernacles, and he wasn’t there. And James wasn’t there. And John wasn’t there. And the Lord wasn’t there. And maybe he sort of felt, well, we just really need to have our own Feast of Tabernacles.
Now, here we’ve got the guy who could give us the best insight into it: Moses himself. And since it commemorates the exodus, and we’re about to enter into another exodus, boy, this is the time, folks. And he could just sense in his heart, you know, “Here is the Lord, ready for His new exodus,” and it’s happening right at the time it happened before, when it was commemorated.
And there’s a final thought. Turn in your Bible to the next to the last book of the Old Testament, the book of Zechariah. Most interesting. Zechariah 14:16, it tells us about the kingdom, when Jesus returns. And, of course, in verse 9, it gives us our point of reference. Zechariah 14:9, “The Lord shall be King over all the earth. In that day there shall be one Lord, and His name one.” So, there’s the Lord in His kingdom reigning – millennial kingdom, glory kingdom, second coming majesty.
And in the middle of that, verse 16 says, “It comes to pass that everyone that is left of all the nations which came to Jerusalem shall go up from year to year” – and how many years are there in the millennial kingdom? A thousand. So, a thousand times they’ll do this. And they go – “to worship the Lord, and to keep the Feast of” – what? – “Tabernacles” – or booths.
At the end of verse 18, it says, “The Lord will smite the nations that don’t keep the Feast of the Tabernacles. And there will be punishment of Egypt and punishment of all nations” – verse 19 says – “that come not up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.”
Now listen. There’s only one of the Jewish, traditional, week-long feasts that’s supposed to be kept in the kingdom, and that’s it. That’s the only one. The Passover will be remembered. The Communion Table will be remembered, and the Feast of Tabernacles. Why? Because it, too, is a picture of redemption, of the leading out of bondage and into the promise. And so, it will be there, too.
And that just feeds more into Peter, because here Peter thinks he’s in the kingdom anyway. Right? And he knows because he knows the Word of God. And believe me; he would know the passage of Zechariah. Here we are in the kingdom, the King in His glory, Moses and Elijah are here. It’s the same time of year they were supposed to be having the Feast of the Tabernacles. This has got to be the millennium, because in the millennium, we’re supposed to keep this. So, he’s going to build the booths to have the feast. Since it’s a Feast of Booths, let’s get the booths up, and let’s commemorate the marvelous deliverance and preservation of God. So, all of this certainly came together in Peter’s mind and just sort of made him say, “This has got to be it.”
Now you can go back to Matthew 17. But Luke said – isn’t it amazing? In spite of all of this stuff that fed into Peter and made him say, “Boy, let’s build the booths, have the Feast of Tabernacles, get the kingdom rolling, let’s stay here; this is it” – in spite of all that, Luke says, “He didn’t know what he was saying.” Because, you see, the one thing Peter missed was this wasn’t it; this was a preview of it. Right? This was just a glimpse of glory.
But see, it was so hard for Peter to see the suffering. It was hard for the other prophets, according to what 1 Peter 1 says. It was hard for them to see the Messiah suffering and being glorified. And Peter just didn’t listen when it said His exodos would be at Jerusalem any more than he listened earlier when Jesus said, “I must be killed and rise again.” He didn’t hear the “rise again.” All he heard was the “killed” and said, “No, no, no, no, no. It can’t be.” So, Peter was wrong.
There’s a third line of evidence in this passage; let’s look at it. We see the testimony of the Scriptures or the saints of the Old Testament, the transformation of the Son. I want you to notice a third and most powerful testimony of all. We could call it the terror of the Sovereign or the terror of the Father in verse 5. And here is the epitome of testimony. “While Peter yet spoke” - it’s hard to shut Peter up; we know that. So, he just keeps talking – “And behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them” – we saw last week that’s associated with the presence of God – “and behold, a voice out of the cloud, which said, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him.’”
Now, if you really want to have believable testimony to the deity of Jesus Christ, how about God? Will that do? Three times – Matthew 3:17, John 12:28 and 29, and Matthew 17, verse 5 – three times in the holy record of the Gospels, God speaks out of heaven and says, “This is My Son,” or, “This is the one.” Now, that is testimony beyond argumentation. And when God gives His testimony, men should listen. And this is a very traumatizing thing; they’re already scared.
And then in verse 6, it says, “When they heard God’s voice, they fell on their faces.” I mean they just went flat, prostrate, prone on the ground, with a mouth full of dirt, and were scared out of their wits. They were very afraid.
Why are people so afraid in the presence of God? What scares them so much? Well, you see, God is infinitely holy, and men are hopelessly sinful. And you just, all of a sudden, feel naked, don’t you? You feel exposed. Adam and Eve sinned. What’s the first thing they said – the Bible says about it? “And they saw that they were” – what? – “naked.” And they made aprons to cover themselves, and they ran off to try to hide, and God comes through the garden and says, “Adam, where are you?”
Finally He finds them, and Adam says, “Well, Lord, we, ah, uh, er, we were afraid, because we were naked.” In other words, they were ashamed to be seen, because they knew they were not only being seen on the outside, but they were being seen right through to the sin. And sinners in the presence of an infinitely holy God always feel like they need to hide. That’s just how it is. And the disciples, if they had been moles, would have crawled into the ground. But since they were just men, they just fell flat on it, their faces down in it.
And Judges 6:22, “When Gideon perceived that he was an angel of the Lord” – Gideon was having a conversation with the Angel of the Lord, most likely Christ in a pre-incarnate appearance – “Gideon says, ‘Alas, O Lord God! I have seen an angel of the Lord face to face.’” I mean he thought he was all over.
Verse 23, “The Lord said to him, ‘Peace be unto thee; fear not; you’ll not die.’” He thought he was going to be dead, “I’m dead; I’ve seen God.”
And later on in the same book of Judges, in chapter 13, Manoah comes home to his wife - he was the father of Samson – and says, “Well, we’ll die; we saw the Lord.” Can’t survive that. I mean He sees through to the sin; He penetrates to the very core of your being. He knows how ugly you really are, and that’s the end of it. You’ll be consumed by His holy justice.
It’s the way Isaiah felt in chapter 6 when he saw God and said, “Curse me, God; wipe me out.” Daniel felt that way when he came to the messenger from God. The Bible says he was very much afraid, chapter 8. Chapter 10, again you see the same kind of traumatic fear. You see it in the third chapter of Habakkuk, as it says, “The prophets knees smashed against each other in the presence of God.”
And so, they reacted liked anyone should react in the presence of an infinitely holy God: they fell on their face. What did God say? Back to verse 5, “This is My Son.” Now, He’s not talking about some kind of relationship on the surface, or some kind of functional relationship. He’s talking about essence. “This is My Son” in the sense that the Son is the same as His Father, that like produces like, like begets like. “This is My Son. This is the same essence as I am. This is Me. This emanates from Me.” In human terms, “This proceeds from My nature, from My essence, from My person. This is as I am.”
And then He says, “This is My beloved Son,” to tell us that there is not only an essential relationship between the two, but a love relationship. Not only a relationship of being, but a relationship of feeling, of commitment, of identification in every way.
And then He says, “This is My Son. This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” In other words, everything He’s doing is according to the divine plan. And it’s a good word to say to Peter, who’s always trying to second guess the Lord, isn’t it? “He’s on target. What He does pleases Me. He’s doing it the way the plan says. He’s obedient. He’s faithful. He’s a servant. He’s going to the cross because that’s the plan. He’s going to Jerusalem because that’s the plan. He’s going to suffer because that’s the plan. I’m well pleased with it all.”
He was the beloved Son of God who came to do the will of God, and the Father says, “I’m pleased.” So, confirmation comes from Moses and Elijah. That means the Old Testament. Now confirmation comes from God Himself. And He says, in effect, “Jesus is thinking My thoughts. He’s moving on My track.”
And then the Father therefore says, at the end of verse 5, “Listen to Him.” Listen to Him. What do you mean? “I mean if He says, ‘If any man come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me,’ then you listen to Him. If He says that you must have self-denial, cross bearing, and loyal obedience to enter His kingdom, then listen to what He says. He’s not off target; He’s on target. That’s the plan.”
And so, God not only sets His seal of evidence on the deity of Jesus Christ, but sets His seal of approval on His operating in accord with the plan. Great testimony.
So, we see the transformation of the Son and the testimony of the saints of Scripture. And we see the terror of the sovereign — the Father. Can I give you fourth? I believe another great element of this picture is the tapestry of the scene. This fascinates me. And I could take a lot longer to sort of develop it, but let me just fire it out, and you watch how this works. Jesus says, back in 16:28, “I’m going to show you the Son of Man coming in His royal majesty.”
Now, how does it – how does this fulfill that? It gives us, in miniature, a picture of the second coming. Marvelous. Watch. First of all, Christ is the center of this picture. And Christ will be the center of the second coming. Right? It is the coming of Christ. And when Christ comes, Matthew 24 says, and Matthew 25 says, and Matthew 26 says, “He will come in glory and power.” And here we see Him in glory. Right? And in power. So, that’s a good picture.
Secondly, when He comes, Zechariah 14:4 says, “He will come, and His feet will touch” – what? – “the Mount of Olives.” Look at verse 1. When Jesus took them to the preview, he took the up into an high mountain. Interesting that even the preview happens on a mountain, just as the reality will.
And when Jesus comes in glory – listen – He will come to His people, won’t He? He’ll come to His people, to gather them together. And so, when He goes into the mountain, verse 1 says, He takes Peter, James, and John, and they are there with Him when He’s glorified. And they are representative of the people to whom Christ returns.
And then there’s another dimension. When Christ returns, He returns not only to His saints – but what? – with His saints. Those saints that have already been gathered to Him, they’ll come with Him, represented by Moses and Elijah. “They were with Him in glory,” says Luke.
So, you have the full picture. You have the saints to whom He comes, in Peter, James, and John, waiting on the earth. You have the saints with whom He comes already glorified in Moses and Elijah. You have Him coming in blazing glory, coming to a mount. And here is the whole preview, a glimpse of the second coming.
There’s another interesting note. Moses died. We know He died, because there was a dispute over His body – right? – Jude tells us. Did Elijah die? He never died. He just got in his chariot one day and took off. And when the trip was over, he was in heaven.
Moses represents the saints that died. Elijah represents the saints that are translated. All the parts are there. Marvelous. They’re all there. The mountain is there. The people to whom He comes are there. The people with whom He comes are there. The ones who died are represented there, and the ones translated are represented there. And it all happens on a mount. It is a marvelous thing. No wonder Peter says, “Boy, when I talk about the second coming, I’m not giving you some well-meant fairy tale. I was an eyewitness of it.”
When did you ever see it?
“I saw the whole preview on the mount.”
And just as fast as it began, it that fast ended. Look at verse 7. This – these guys are now in the dirt, face down, scared out of their wits. “And Jesus came and touched them, and said, ‘Arise, stop being afraid.’ And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man except Jesus only.”
Now, that’s pretty clear, isn’t it? He walked over, and He just taps them, “Fellows, get up. Get up. Stop being afraid.” And they lift up their eyes, and you can imagine they’re a little hesitant, and they only see Jesus. That’s all. They only see Jesus.
Well, what does that mean? It’s over. You know what? This wasn’t the kingdom, was it? It was just a preview, right? But it was what Jesus said, “You’ll see,” verse 28 of 16, “the Son of Man coming in His royal majesty.” They saw it. And they were so traumatized in it that they would never forget it. Never. And years later, when they might question, or when someone might question, there was little question in their minds. That’s why Peter can write, at the end of 2 Peter, when the scoffers come along and start to argue about, “Where is His coming,” they only show how stupid they are. We know He’s coming. We have no doubt. It was an indelible experience, one they would never forget as long as they lived.
It was over, and they were back to normal. Why? Because it wasn’t time for glory. Before there was glory, there had to be – what? – suffering. Well, what would be your reaction to that statement? I know what mine would be. I would say, “I got to get down this hill. Wait till Andrew hears this.” Right? I mean that’s just normal, isn’t it? “Oh. Hey, guys, we got to spread out. Wait till we tell them who this is. We’ve seen it. I mean we’ll be the only people in town who can say, ‘Mmm, have you fellows met Moses and Elijah? We were with them the other day, up in a mountain over here, and...’” Fabulous. “We got to get there; we got to tell them, see?”
And so, they’re ready to go. And as they’re coming down the mountain, and they’re just filled with all of this stuff, Jesus commands them saying, “Tell the spectacle” – that’s horama there; it doesn’t mean a vision like some spaced out, weird thing – “Tell what you saw to nobody.” Oh, that is so painful. That rivals Zacharias’ problem when John the Baptist was born, and he didn’t believe, so the Lord made him dumb so he couldn’t tell anybody he was going to have a son. That’s hard on a father that he couldn’t say anything.
Boy, that must be fire in your bones, huh? Try to shut that stuff up? “Don’t tell anybody.”
You say, “Wait a minute. What’s – well, I thought this whole deal was to go out and preach. I thought we were supposed to go tell everybody.”
“Don’t tell anybody this.”
“Well, why does He keep saying this? He said this before. Why does Jesus tell us not to say anything all the time?”
Well, He said it earlier, in chapter 16, verse 20, “Don’t tell anybody these things.” Why? Simply this, because the world of that day, in that place, wanted a political Messiah, didn’t they? They wanted a political Deliverer. They wanted somebody to knock off the Romans. And their misguided intentions and expectations only confused the scene. And if down the mountain these three guys came, with this incredible message, “Boy, you’ll never believe what we saw,” all it’s going to make the people think is, “Boy, this is really the guy, and let’s really push hard to get Him to throw the Romans out.” They’d already tried to push Him into rebellion several times.
So, He says, “Don’t say anything about it, until” – verse 9 – “the Son of Man is raised again from the dead.” Why? “Because if you wait till after the resurrection, they’ll know that I didn’t come to conquer the Roman; I came to conquer death.” See? And they’ll know that that is a spiritual reality, not an earthly one, not a political one, not a material one, not a military one, not an economic one. Jesus is not involved in politics; He is involved in conquering death and sin and hell. And if you wait till after the resurrection, they’ll see that. So, they aren’t to say anything.
That brings us to the fifth indication that Jesus was the Messiah, Son of God. I call it the “tie with the forerunner,” the connection with the forerunner.
Verse 10, “His disciples asked Him, saying” – they had just seen Elijah, so Elijah was on their mind. And they knew Elijah was to be the forerunner of the Messiah, because that’s what Zechariah the prophet – rather, that’s what Malachi the prophet said.
In Malachi chapter 4, verses 5 and 6 – those are the last two verses in the Old Testament. They say, “Elijah shall come and restore all things, and turn the hearts of the children to the fathers, and the fathers to the children, and make the things ready for the Lord. It’s a prophecy that Elijah would come as the forerunner to Messiah. And so, they know that.
And now that they’ve seen Elijah on the mountain, it sort of triggers that in their minds. And as we’re coming down the mountain, they probably talked about a lot of things. One of the things that the text brings up is, “The disciples asked Him, saying, ‘Why then say the scribes that Elijah must first come? I mean if you’re the Messiah, why do the scribes say that Elijah has to come first? We haven’t seen any Elijah.’”
See, this is the one thing they couldn’t quite understand. And I’m convinced that very often the Jews must have questioned them on that. “How can this Jesus that you follow be the Messiah when there has yet been no Elijah?” Right? Because Malachi 4:5 and 6 said that the Elijah would come first. And if there’s not been an Elijah, how can He be the Messiah?
Now, there were some people who really wanted Him to be in that messianic context. And so, in chapter 16, when Jesus said to the disciples, “Who do men say that I am,” they answered, “Some say that you are Elijah.” Right? Some thought He could be Elijah getting things ready for the Messiah, but He couldn’t be the Messiah because there hadn’t been an Elijah.
So, they said, “Well, why do the scribes say Elijah has to come first?”
Well, they say it because it was in Malachi chapter 4, verses 5 and 6. But they really embellished it. I mean really embellished it. They said that Elijah would come, and he would gather together the people. He would restore everything, get ready for the Messiah. They believe that Elijah would be a flaming, fiery, great and terrible reformer who would reform the people, bringing holiness out of unholiness, bringing order out of chaos. He would destroy all evil, they taught. He would set everything right so that all the perfection would be set in motion. When the Messiah arrived, He would just sort of fall into it. They saw Elijah as the real preparer, the real restorer, and then the Messiah just sort of came to control it.
“But they say – they keep saying that Elijah ought to come. Why did they say that? I mean if You’re the Messiah, are they right? And where’s Elijah?”
So, verse 11, “Jesus answers, and He said to them, ‘Elijah truly shall first come and restore all things.’” Now listen, Elijah will come. That’s right; he’ll come. And he’ll restore all things. And that means before the setting up of the kingdom. Right? Before the establishing of the kingdom, Elijah will come.
Now, what does that verse 11 tell us about the future? What’s going to happen in the future before the kingdom is established on the earth, before the glory? Who’s going to come? Elijah. That’s what it’s saying, “Elijah will come.” That says it right there, “He’ll come, and he’ll restore things.”
But then He says a strange thing in verse 12, “But I say unto you, Elijah is come already.” What?
They say, “Should Elijah come?”
He says, “Oh, yeah. Elijah will come.” And then He says, “And Elijah has come.” He has? “They knew him not” – verse 12. He came; they didn’t know who he was. “And they did unto him whatever they wanted.” Really? Who was this?
Verse 13, “Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them of” – whom? – “John the Baptist.”
Listen to me, John the Baptist, you say, “Is he Elijah?” He is Elijah in the way the prophet spoke. When the prophet said, “Elijah must come,” he didn’t mean the real, actual Elijah. He was speaking of one who would come in the same manner as Elijah, with the same style as Elijah, in the same mode of operation as Elijah, one like Elijah. An Elijah-like man will come.
And, of course, the problem with the Jews was, they were looking for the literal Elijah. And they said to John – you remember in John 1, they said to John the Baptist – the chief priests did – “Are you Elijah?”
And he said, “I’m not Elijah.”
And people have fits at this point. They say, “Wait a minute. In Matthew 17:12, Jesus says, ‘Elijah is come, and it’s John the Baptist.’ When John the Baptist was asked, ‘Are you Elijah,’ he said, ‘No, I’m not Elijah.’”
That’s right. He is not Elijah, but he was one who came in the spirit and power of Elijah. But because they rejected him, he couldn’t be the fulfillment of Malachi’s prophesy; he couldn’t be the Elijah before the kingdom. So, there yet will be another who will come in the spirit and power of Elijah who will be that Elijah fulfilling that prophesy before the coming glorious kingdom. You got it? Some of you look painfully distressed.
The prophet said this, “Elijah will come.” What he meant was one in the spirit and power of Elijah. An Elijah-like prophet. If they had received John the Baptist, if they had believed his message, if they had received the Messiah, if the Messiah had set up His kingdom, John the Baptist would have fulfilled that prophecy. He would have been that Elijah-like prophet to restore all things for the kingdom. But when they did to him whatever they desired – and what did they do to him? They cut off his head. They refused him. They didn’t allow him to restore.
Then they did – look at verse 12 at the end – “Likewise shall also the Son of Man suffer at their hands.” They wiped out the Elijah-like preparer of the Messiah. They killed the Messiah. And so, consequently, they rejected the restoration, and they rejected the kingdom. So, Elijah couldn’t then be that – or rather John the Baptist couldn’t then be that Elijah to fulfill that.
So, we believe that in the future, before Jesus comes again, another great prophet will come in the spirit and power of Elijah to set things right. And he will restore all things. And they won’t do to him what they did to John the Baptist. And they won’t miss who he is. And following him will come the King in His royal majesty and glory.
In Matthew 11 it says – John says – listen to this – “All the prophets and the law prophesied until John.” Now listen to this. “And if you will receive him, this is Elijah.” You see the point? Matthew 11:14. If they had taken John’s message and received him and received the Christ, he would have been that Elijah fulfillment. But because they killed him and killed the Messiah, there has yet to come another one like Elijah. John would have been it – the one.
That’s why Luke 1:17 says, “He came in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers” - and so forth – “to make ready a people for the Lord.” He was to be the fulfillment if they had believed, but they didn’t.
Now, what does this mean as far as the deity of Christ? Just this: the Old Testament said that before the Christ comes, there will one like Elijah. One like Elijah did come. Right? And just because the world rejected him doesn’t mean he wasn’t that fulfilling Elijah.
So, while the Jews would step in and say, “This can’t be the Messiah because there’s been no Elijah.”
Jesus says, “Indeed there was an Elijah, and if you’d listened to him and believed him, he would have fulfilled that Elijah prophecy.” That’s the fifth and final evidence that Jesus is truly the regal, glorious, Christ of God, the Son, the King. Because there was an Elijah who came before Him. The only reason he couldn’t fully fulfill it was because they killed him along with the Messiah. And when He comes again, He will be preceded by another in that same mode.
Listen, now we’re back to earth, and we conclude with the last statement of verse 12, “Likewise shall also the Son of Man suffer.” Not glory yet, folks. Suffering now. And that’s the message of the text, you see? Jesus is saying, “I have to go and suffer,” chapter 16, verse 21. “I have to die.”
And then He says, “And so do you,” verse 24. “If you’re going to follow Me, you’re going to deny yourself. You’re going to die to your own desires and die to your own will, and die to your own sin, and die to your own way. And you’re going to take up a cross.”
In other words, you’re going to bear a reproach. Some people don’t believe Christians ought to be allowed in society. Some people believe in mocking them and scorning them – in some cases taking their lives. But that’s how it is. “You’re going to have to take up that cross and follow Me.” And this is suffering. And some day there will be glory, and that’s in the future. But this is suffering. And isn’t it beautiful? He tells them they’re going to suffer, and then he reiterates they’re going to suffer. But in the middle, He gives them a glimpse of glory. Right?
And so, we are reminded of those very lovely words of the apostle Paul to that dear Timothy, who was indeed in suffering as well for the reproach of Christ, when he said, “If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him.” That’s our great hope, isn’t it? That no matter what small measure of suffering we endure in this life, it’s not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us in Christ. And this glimpse of glory only gives us a preview of what that will be like.
Father, we come to You this morning with grateful hearts. We do not deserve Your glory, and yet how joyously do we accept the gift of glory through grace. We do not deserve to enter into Your eternal heaven. We do not deserve to be forever dwelling in that city of bliss. We do not deserve to have our sins forgiven, but we are so grateful.
Father, we thank You for the glimpse of glory that we’ve had in this Scripture, that we might be able to look ahead and see what is ours ultimately. But, Father, we know that we can’t stay on the mountain, and this isn’t the time for the Feast of Tabernacles yet. This isn’t the glory time; this is the suffering time.
And so, Father, we ask that we would willingly deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow You. May we come to Jesus Christ to have our sins forgiven, to be given eternal life, abundant life, to live for the one who died for us, that some day we may enter into Your glorious kingdom. And until then, we may enjoy even the suffering because we rejoice that it draws us close to You, that it perfects us, that it makes us into the image of Christ. And the suffering is so small compared to the blessedness.
In fact, Lord, we who are Christians sometimes think all this talk about suffering is so remote because we have experienced such overwhelming blessedness that the suffering fades away.
Willingly, Father, do we deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow You, to receive eternal life, to receive forgiveness, and someday to be glorified with Jesus Christ, whom we love and serve, and in whose name we pray, amen.
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