Please read Matthew 16:19-17:13, Mark 8:31-9:13
& Luke 9:22-36
Yeshua’s new community, the ecclesia, was to be built on Him as the chief cornerstone and on people such as Simon bar Jonah who put their trust in Him. The Jewish community had also been built on people: the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (whom God re-named Israel), and Israel’s 12 sons who became the heads of 12 tribes. It was built on the covenant God made with Abraham. After setting them free from Egyptian slavery God wrote the Ten Commandments on tablets of stone and the Jewish community was built on the one God used to deliver them, Moses, and his God inspired writings: the Torah.
Before the Babylonian exile, Torah (Jewish Law) was interpreted and administered by the priests and Levites (Deut. 17:9, 18; 31:9; 33:10; Jer. 18:18; Mal. 2:7; II Chron. 19:8, 11; 31:4). By the time of Messiah, the rabbis – who were Pharisees and Sadducees had taken over this role. The pharisees claimed to have received the true interpretation of Torah as “the traditions of the Elders” in direct line from Moses. They formed the courts of justice in every town as well as the high court of justice, the Sanhedrin, in Jerusalem. They decreed how the people were to carry out Torah and what punishments were issued for failing to obey their edicts.
The power of these rabbis was threefold:
(1) to amplify the Torah by prohibitory statutes for the prevention of transgressions (“gezerot“) or by mandatory statutes for the improvement of the moral or religious life of the people (“taḳḳanot“), and by the introduction of new rites and customs (“minhagim“);
(2) to expound the Torah according to certain rules of hermeneutics, and thereby evolve new statutes as implied in the letter of the Law; and, finally,
(3) to impart additional instruction based upon tradition.
So, it was significant that on their way to this place Yeshua had warned His disciples to beware of (guard themselves against) the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matthew 16:11-12), many of their interpretations on how God’s people should live were not what He intended when giving Torah to Moses.
Now a new community was to be built, Yeshua’s ekklesia. In referring to building His ekklesia on “this rock“, Yeshua was also alluding to His teaching in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:24) “Everyone therefore who hears these words of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man, who built his house on a rock“. “Hears these words and does them” is a good description of “Shema” and relates to Yeshua‘s words to Simon : “Blessed are you, Simon Bar Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 16:17).
“I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you prohibit on earth will be prohibited in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven.”
Then He warned the talmidim (disciples) not to tell anyone that He was the Messiah. Matthew 16: 19-20 CJB
Continuing to speak to the apostle Simon Bar Jonah, Yeshua stated: “I will give to you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven...” Notice the future tense of this verse. For now, Yeshua was with them to continue to teach and guide them, but the time was getting closer when He would no longer be physically with them and they would need to disciple others as He had been discipling them. He was preparing them for this. At that time, when He was risen and seated at the right hand of the Father, He was going to give Simon Bar Jonah the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven (we will see later that these were not going to be given exclusively to Simon but would also be given to the other apostles).
This resonated with Isaiah 22:21b-22 “I will hand your authority over to him, and he will become a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. Then I will put the key of the house of David on his shoulder; When he opens, no one will shut, when he shuts, no one will open.”
Keys were symbolic of authority. When a Jewish man was admitted to the esteemed office of scribe he was given a key to symbolise having the authority to “open the treasury of the divine oracles“. Scribes were the official scholars of the oral and written Torah and the instructors and interpreters of it (Mark 1:22). During the second temple period most scribes were from the sect of the Pharisees (Matthew 12:38). In their rejection of Yeshua as messiah and Son of God, Israel’s scribes had proven themselves unfit for this role in the Kingdom of Heaven (“Woe to you experts in the law! For you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.“ Luke 11:52; “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let in those who wish to enter.“ Matthew 23:13) They used their keys (their spiritual authority in the community) to shut people out, rather than to open the doors of the Kingdom. Simon Bar Jonah was thus in preparation for being “admitted to the office of scribe” in the Kingdom of Heaven. Yeshua was going to give him (and the other disciples) authority to teach the truths of the Kingdom to all peoples:
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:18-20
With the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven came the authority to bind and release. This is a Rabbinical term for “forbidding and permitting.” Josephus (Wars of the Jews 1:5:2) wrote: “The power of binding and loosing was always claimed by the Pharisees. Under Queen Alexandra the Pharisees, “became the administrators of all public affairs so as to be empowered to banish and readmit who they pleased, as well as to loose and to bind.” The various schools of Pharisees claimed the authority to bind (forbid) and to loose (permit) – Talmud: Ta’anit 12a. The Jews believed that this power and authority, vested in the rabbinical body of each age and in the Sanhedrin, received its ratification and final sanction from the heavenly court as confirmed by the divine voice (Sifra, Emor, ix; Talmud: Makkot 23b).
Notice that the binding and loosing that Yeshua authorised here was dependent on Shema (listening, hearing, understanding and responding appropriately to what the Father is saying – just like Simon Bar Jonah had done in his declaration that Yeshua is the Messiah, the Son of the living God). Yeshua addresses all His talmidim in Matthew 18:18:
I assure you and most solemnly say to you, whatever you bind [forbid, declare to be improper and unlawful] on earth shall have [already] been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose [permit, declare lawful] on earth shall have [already] been loosed in heaven. Matthew 18:18 AMP
By these words Yeshua invested His talmidim with the same authority as that which was claimed by the Scribes and Pharisees who were misusing it to “bind heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but will not move them with one of their fingers” (Matthew 23:2-4). In these commissioning passages (Matthew 16:19 & 18:18), the context is church discipline. The apostles are given the authority to both restrict and permit anything as led by the Holy Spirit in agreement with the Scriptures. Yeshua was directing His followers to establish His halakhah הֲלָכָה (the Way / the path that one walks) in His ekklesia (community of called out ones) “…teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:18-20), instead of blindly following the Jewish religious laws established by the Pharisees whose teachings He had warned them to guard themselves against (Matthew 16:12).
What you shema has been bound (forbidden) in heaven you bind (forbid) on earth. What you shema has been released (permitted) in heaven you release (permit) on earth. Live and govern as Yeshua did on earth:
Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.” John 5:19 NASB.
In the book of Acts we see the practical outworking of this – first in Peter’s actions and then in the actions of other leaders in the early church.
- Peter set in motion the permitting of another to join the ranks of the twelve apostles (Acts 1:15-26).
- Peter loosed the crowd to receive salvation through his preaching (Acts 2:14-39).
- Peter loosed the lame man from his infirmity (Acts 3).
- Peter and John refused to be bound by the ruling of the Sanhedrin that they not speak or teach in the name of Jesus and instead declared their judgment (as heard from God) that they had to continue to testify about Jesus (Acts 4).
- Peter forbade lying to the Holy Spirit and the power of God executed the Father’s judgment on such (Acts 5:1-11).
- The twelve loosed seven men, chosen by the people, to take charge of meeting the needs of the widows (Acts 6:1-6).
- Philip loosed the Samaritans to receive salvation, Peter bound (forbade) offering money for the power of God, and Philip loosed (allowed) the Ethiopian eunuch to be baptised (Acts 8).
- Peter, in response to a vision from heaven, loosed the gentiles of Cornelius’ household to be baptised (Acts 10).
- The Jerusalem Council, consisting of both apostles and elders, jointly considered what to bind (forbid) and loose (allow) for the gentiles who had come to faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 15). While Peter played an important part in this meeting he did not dictate the outcome, nor have the final say, rather it was James who articulated the growing consensus in the room which was reflected in the letter they wrote “… being assembled with one accord… it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay no greater burden than these necessary things (ie to only bind you in)”.
Then he warned the talmidim not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah. Matthew 16:20 CJB
He commanded them that they should tell no one about Him. Mark 8:30 AMP
But He warned them, and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, ad the third day be raised up.” Luke 9:21-22 AMP
With this simple command Yeshua brought them back to the present. The Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and binding and loosing, were all to come, although they had tasted something of this authority when Yeshua had sent them out to preach the Kingdom. He had promised them, but for now He was with them and would have to suffer and die before the fulfilment of these future promises. Yeshua was increasingly preparing His apostles for the time when they would lead His community of called out ones, but that time was not yet.
From that time on, Yeshua began making it clear to his talmidim that He had to go to Yerushalayim (Jerusalem) and endure much suffering at the hands of the elders, the head cohanim (chief-priest) and the Torah-teachers; and that He had to be put to death; but that on the third day, He had to be raised to life.
Kefa (Peter) took Him aside and began rebuking Him, “Heaven be merciful, Lord! By no means will this happen to you!”
But Yeshua turned His back on Kefa, saying, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle in My path, because your thinking is from a human perspective, not from God’s perspective!” Matthew 16:21-23 CJB
And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must [of necessity] suffer many things and be rejected [as the Messiah] by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and must be put to death, and after three days rise [from death to life]. He was stating the matter plainly [not holding anything back].
Then Peter took Him aside and began to reprimand Him.
But turning around [with His back to Peter] and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind Me, Satan; for your mind is not set on God’s will or His values and purposes, but on what pleases man.” Mark 8:31-33 AMP
And He strictly warned and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.” Luke 9:21-22 NKJV
Yeshua’s second year of ministry was coming to a close. “From that time on“, now that they were well grounded in the reality that Yeshua is the Messiah and the Son of God, He was telling them plainly what was going to take place in just a few months’ time. This revelation of His impending suffering and death, however, sounded so strange and horrible to them that their minds could not shema this.
Just as Simon Peter had been first to respond to “who do you say that I am“, so he was first to respond to these hated words “the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed“. His response demonstrated why Yeshua had spoken in the future tense when talking about giving him the authority to bind and loose, to forbid and permit. What Peter was trying to do in forbidding Yeshua’s suffering and death was an illegitimate use of that authority which he had not yet received, it was contrary to the Father’s will and contrary to what was being revealed from heaven through Yeshua’s words. The authority that Yeshua had been talking about giving Peter was not to be used to exert his own will, but the Father’s will on earth. It was a poignant lesson.
Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone desires to be My disciple, let him deny himself [disregard, lose sight of, and forget himself and his own interests] and take up his cross and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying, also]. For whoever is bent on saving his [temporal] life [his comfort and security here] shall lose it [eternal life]; and whoever loses his life [his comfort and security here] for My sake shall find it [life everlasting]. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life [his blessed life in the kingdom of God]? Or what would a man give as an exchange for his [blessed] life [in the kingdom of God]? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory (majesty, splendour) of His Father with His angels, and then He will render account and reward every man in accordance with what he has done. Matthew 16:24-27 AMP
Then He called the crowd to Him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for Me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when He comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” Mark 8:34 – 38 NIV
Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” Luke 9:23-27 NIV
“Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in (into) His kingdom.“
And six days after this, Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. Matthew 16:28-17:1 AMP
And He said to them, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”
After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. Mark 9:1-2 NIV
“But I tell you truthfully, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”
About eight days after Jesus had said these things, He took with Him Peter, John, and James, and went up on a mountain to pray. Luke 9:27-28 BSB
Yeshua promised that some of His talmidim there with Him in Caesarea Philippi would see the Kingdom of God in this life. After this He took them away from the crowds for 6 days of spiritual preparation. On the seventh day Yeshua took some of them, three of them as chosen by His Father, up into the hill country and ascended a high mountain to witness a fulfilment of His promise that they would see.
This “high mountain” that we call the Mount of Transfiguration is never identified in Scripture. Yeshua came from Caesarea Philippi and would be going to Capernaum, but we don’t know if He took His talmidim to a mountain north-east or south-west from those places. There are two sites that have most often been proposed as the mountain that Yeshua ascended with Peter, James and John – the nearby Mount Hermon, tallest mountain in Israel, and the distant Mount Tabor. Both are mentioned in Psalm 89:12, which is part of the liturgy for the Orthodox celebration of the transfiguration: “You have created the north and the south. Tabor and Hermon rejoice in your name.“
Mount Tabor, a prominent hill at the eastern end of the Jezreel valley, not far from Nazareth, is where the oldest recorded traditions place Christ’s transfiguration. The earliest recorded pronouncement that we have of Tabor being the Mount of Transfiguration was from Origen in the third century (A.D. 231-54): “Tabor is the mountain of Galilee on which Christ was transfigured” (Comm. in Ps. lxxxviii, 13). The next are in the fourth century, from St. Cyril of Jerusalem (Catech., II, 16) and St. Jerome (Ep. xlvi, ad Marcel.; Ep. viii, ad Paulin.; Ep. cviii, ad Eust.).
Mount Tabor appears loftier than it actually is in the otherwise flat Jezreel Valley and so commands a place of prominence. Visible all the way to Jerusalem, Mount Tabor was a familiar landmark to Yeshua and the disciples, who would have seen it often during their travels around Galilee. Jeremiah links Tabor’s prominence with that of Mount Carmel (see map above): “‘As surely as I live,’ declares the King, whose name is the LORD Almighty, ‘one will come who is like Tabor among the mountains, like Carmel by the sea’” (Jeremiah 46:18). In Judges, Deborah summoned Barak to gather an army at Mount Tabor to battle against and defeat Sisera, commander of the Canaanite army from Hazor (Judges 4:1–24).
Mount Tabor was settled during the First Temple Period (the city of Tabor was given to the Levites). Hosea also identifies Mount Tabor as one of the high places where Israel’s rulers had set up altars for the worship of false gods (Hosea 5:1). Antiochus the Great built a fortress on Mount Tabor in 219 BC, which may have continued to be utilised by the Romans throughout the time of Christ. The New Moon, signalling the beginning of each new Jewish month, was proclaimed by the Sanhedrin after at least two witnesses came to them with the news of the very first sighting of the New Moon. Using a long torch on top of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, a representative of the Sanhedrin would then light a fire whose flames people watching on nearby hills would see and light their own fires. Mount Tabor was one of the mountain peaks on which the Jews lit a signal fire announcing each new month.
The likely presence of others living on the summit of Mount Tabor, together with the distances that would need to be travelled have led some to believe that it is an unlikely place for the transfiguration.
Mount Hermon is called Jebel al-Sheikh (“the chieftain mountain“) by the Arabs. This imposing mountain, whose impressive peak is visible from a distance of more than 100km away, was considered to have deep spiritual significance to the various peoples who inhabited the area. The Sidonians called the mountain “Sirion”, and the Amorites called it “Senir” (Deuteronomy 3:9). It was considered to be the sacred mountain on which the council of the gods dwelt, presided over for much of the history of its usage by the Canaanite deity Baal and so called “Baal-Hermon” (compare Judges 3:3, 1 Chronicles 5:23). The name “Hermon” means “sacred, consecrated, dedicated”.
The Israelites saw Mount Hermon as a place where heaven touched earth. In the apocryphal Book of Enoch (Enoch 6), Mount Hermon is the place where the Grigori (“Watcher“) spirit beings descended to Earth and took an oath to commit the transgression described in Genesis 6:1–4 “... the sons of God came into the daughters of man and they bore children to them” – the Nephilim. While the Book of Enoch is not in our Bible (it was considered for canonization by the early church and some second temple Jewish groups, but ultimately rejected by all but the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church and the Ethiopian Beta-Israel community of Haimanot Jews), it does give us some insight into beliefs held by the Jewish people around the time of Christ to the extent that early theologians such as Justin Martyr, Clemens of Alexandria, Origen, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Eusebius, Jerome, Hilary, Epiphanius and Augustine, referred to and used the book of Enoch, and the book of Jude quotes from Enoch 1:9 in verse 6. What happened in Genesis 6:1–4 had to be reversed as part of restoring God’s original Edenic vision. That reversal was, is, and will be accomplished by the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth.
Mount Hermon is a cluster of mountains with three distinct summits, each about the same height. This is an interesting illustration of God’s nature as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Psalm 133 connects the “dew of Hermon” with the anointing oil and with the blessing of brethren dwelling together in unity. In John 17 Jesus prays that we will be one as He and the Father are one.
Some scholars believe that the six days between Yeshua’s promise that some of them would see the Kingdom of God and the day of His transfiguration refer to a six-day period of spiritual preparation, fasting, and ritual purification before being invited up on the seventh day to behold God’s glory in Christ Jesus. When God gave the Torah, He invited Moses to ascend Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud of glory covered Mount Sinai. On the seventh day, the voice of the LORD called from within the cloud, and Moses went higher up the mountain to enter the cloud and stand in the presence of God.
Moses spoke these words to all Israel: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen; to Him you shall listen. This is in accordance with everything that you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Do not let me hear the voice of the Lord my God again, and do not let me see this great fire anymore, or I will die!’ And the Lord said to me, ‘They have spoken well. I will raise up for them a Prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them everything that I command Him. And it shall come about that whoever does not listen to My words which He speaks in My name, I Myself will require it of him.’” Deuteronomy 18:15-19
Now God had sent that Prophet. After six days, Yeshua (the prophet like Moses), and three talmidim, three witnesses for any Jewish court, like the three peaks of Mount Hermon, climbed the high mountain. Like Moses, Yeshua and His talmidim were enveloped in a cloud of glory. Like Moses, they heard the voice of God speaking out of the cloud. Like Moses, Yeshua began to radiate the glory of God. He indeed was the promised Messiah and Son of God.
“After six days” is the seventh day. The seventh day was when God rested from creating heaven and earth, it was the day Jews were to keep holy, it also had end-times implications. The words “after six days” may offer an additional hint about Yeshua’s cryptic promise at the end of the previous chapter, “The Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels …” (Matthew 16:27). For Matthew and his readers, the term “after six days” might have alluded to the seventh millennium – the one-thousand-year rest of creation. The transfiguration allowed the disciples a glimpse of the Son of Man coming in His Father’s glory—the Messiah in the Messianic Age.
And His appearance underwent a change in their presence; and His face shone clear and bright like the sun, and His clothing became as white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, who kept talking with Him.
Then Peter began to speak and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good and delightful that we are here; if You approve, I will put up three booths here—one for You and one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
While he was still speaking, behold, a shining cloud [composed of light] overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is My Son, My Beloved, with Whom I am [and have always been] delighted. Listen to Him!”
When the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were seized with alarm and struck with fear. But Jesus came and touched them and said, “Get up, and do not be afraid.”
And when they raised their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. Matthew 17:2-8 AMP
There He was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “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.” (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)
Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”
Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus. Mark 9:2-8 NIV
As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed; and his clothing became gleaming white. Suddenly there were two men talking with him — Moshe and Eliyahu! They appeared in glorious splendour and spoke of His exodus, which He was soon to accomplish in Yerushalayim.
Kefa and those with Him had been sound asleep; but on becoming fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him.
As the men were leaving Yeshua, Kefa said to him, not knowing what he was saying, “It’s good that we’re here, Rabbi! Let’s put up three shelters — one for you, one for Moshe and one for Eliyahu.”
As he spoke, a cloud came and enveloped them. They were frightened as they entered the cloud; and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen. Listen to him!”
When the voice spoke, Yeshua was alone once more. Luke 9:28-35 CJB
Just as Yeshua had redeemed Caesarea Philippi, with His declaration there of “upon this rock“, so now – as He was praying – He redeemed Mount Hermon with heavenly visitation. These three talmidim had indeed seen the Kingdom of God come in glorious splendour. Peter would later write about their experience:
For we did not follow cleverly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to Him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” 2 Peter 1:16-17 BSB
The mountain on which Yahweh dwells in the Hebrew scriptures is known as ‘the mountain of assembly’ because it is not only His dwelling but also the place at which the divine council convenes. It is the place at which He is enthroned among the Cherubim, the Seraphim, the sons of God, and the rest of the angelic hosts. This dwelling and the meeting place of the divine council were depicted in the Ancient Near East as taking place in tents. The tabernacle built by Moses was seen to be an earthly copy of the heavenly sanctuary into which he entered atop Mt. Sinai (Acts 7:38-44; Heb 8:5). In addition to the uncreated glory of Christ which shines forth, Moses and Elijah, two humans who have joined the divine council, appear and take counsel with Christ on the mountain (Matt 17:3; Mark 9:4; Luke 9:30-31). It is this understanding that triggers Simon Peter’s offer to put up three tents, for Christ, Moses and Elijah.
Luke tells us the topic of Moses’ and Elijah’s conversation with Yeshua: “they were speaking about his exodus from this world, which was about to be fulfilled in Jerusalem.” Luke 9:31 NLT. It was to the disciples a most horrible and incomprehensible subject. It was the very subject that Peter had chastised Yeshua for teaching them, which had earnt him the rebuke “get thee behind me Satan...” Yet, here it was in the midst of such a glorious display of the Kingdom of God and with the affirmation of God the father’s voice: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”
Then Moses and Elijah (representing the Torah and the Nevi’im – Law and Prophets) also appeared on the mountain with Yeshua. Elijah’s coming back has a deep eschatological meaning (both in the Hebrew and in the Christian Bibles) on its own, as his presence precedes that of the Messiah, and his “departure” prefigures Yeshua’s: the book of the prophet Malachi says Elijah will be sent back to earth “before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes.” The presence of Elijah in the Transfiguration reinforces the fulfilling of Malachi’s prophecy that had already been fulfilled with Yohannan the Immerser (John the Baptist), as if sealing it. The presence of these two also brings assurance that we do not cease to exist at death but there is indeed a resurrection of the dead.
The transfiguration functioned as a heavenly witness to confirm Simon Peter’s declaration, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” It also offered a partial fulfilment to the Yeshua’s promise that some would not taste death before they saw the kingdom of God, i.e., the King in His glory. The transfiguration was an experience shared by “some” – three witnesses- of those who had stood with Him in Caesarea Philippi when Yeshua declared:
“Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” Matthew 16:28
“And He said to them, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”“ Mark 9:1 NIV.
Having three witnesses is significant because the Torah states: “On the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed“ (Deuteronomy 19:15). The disciple Peter later recalled, “We were eyewitnesses of His majesty … when we were with Him on the holy mountain” (2 Peter 1:16).
And as they were going down the mountain, Jesus cautioned and commanded them, “Do not mention to anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
The disciples asked Him, “Then why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” He replied, “Elijah does come and will get everything restored and ready. But I tell you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know or recognize him, but did to him as they liked. So also the Son of Man is going to be treated and suffer at their hands.”
Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them about John the Baptist. Matthew 17:9-13 AMP
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. They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.
And they asked him, “Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?”
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? But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him.” Mark 9:9-13 NIV
They kept quiet – at that time they told no one anything of what they had seen. Luke 9:36 CJB
1. HELPS Ministries. The Discovery Bible. [Online] https://thediscoverybible.com/.
2. Stern, David H. Complete Jewish Bible (CJB). 1998.
3. Turnage, Marc. Biblical Israel: Mount Tabor. CBN Israel. [Online] July 13th, 2021. https://cbnisrael.org/2021/07/13/biblical-israel-mount-tabor/.
4. Wheadon, Martin. Mount Tabor: The Importance of Mountains in the Bible. Gants Hill URC. [Online] October 25th, 2019. https://www.gantshillurc.co.uk/ministers-blog/mount-tabor-the-importance-of-mountains-in-the-bible.
5. McCoy, Glan. The Mount of Transfiguration. Forcey Bible Church. [Online] August 7th, 2020. https://www.forcey.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/07_bi_mount_of_transfiguration.pdf.
6. Stiles, Wayne. Mount Tabor – A Panorama of Beauty And Praise. Wayne Stiles. [Online] [Cited: August 29th, 2022.] https://waynestiles.com/blog/mount-tabor-a-panorama-of-beauty-and-praise?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+waynestiles+(Wayne+Stiles+Blog).
7. Young, Dr Stephen De. Tabor and Hermon. An Introduction to Your Bible2019. [Online] August, 5th. https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/wholecounsel/2019/08/05/tabor-and-hermon/.
8. [Online] https://biblehub.com/topical/t/tabor.htm.
9. What is the significance of Mount Tabor in the Bible? Got Questions Ministries. [Online] [Cited: September 3rd, 2022.] https://www.gotquestions.org/Mount-Tabor.html.
10. Miller, Dr. Yvette Alt. The Moon: 7 Jewish Facts. Aish. [Online] July 16th, 2019. https://aish.com/the-moon-7-jewish-facts/.
11. After Six Days. Torah Portions. [Online] First Fruits of Zion. [Cited: September 4th, 2022.] https://torahportions.ffoz.org/disciples/matthew/after-six-days.html.
In the comments section below share your thoughts on what you have read and answer some of the following questions…
*What is the importance of our “shema” ?
* Why do you think Jesus said “I will give you the keys” instead of “I have given you the keys of the Kingdom“?
* What do the “the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven” represent and how are they to be used?
* Can you think of any examples of when you have exercised the authority of having the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven?
* Why did Jesus react so strongly when Peter rebuked Him?
* Has there been a time in your life when Christian friends or family have tried to save you from obeying God because they were looking at things from a human perspective?
* What does it mean to take up our cross and follow Jesus?
* Do you have any mountains near you, and do they have any spiritual significance?
* What impact do you think it had on Peter, James and John to see Jesus transfigured?