Series 32


by Francis Dixon
Scripture Portion: Matthew 17:1-9

Perhaps one reason why the subject of the transfiguration of our Lord has been so neglected is the fact that we feel that there is something unpractical, or even mystical, about the event. We do not doubt for a moment that it took place exactly as recorded by the three Evangelists, and we stand in awe as we gaze upon “the sacred mountain” – look up 2 Peter 1:18; but are there any practical lessons in this event in our Lord’s life for us? Please be sure to read the accounts in the three Gospels – Matthew 17:1-9; Mark 9:2-10 and Luke 9:28-36; and notice the fact that the transfiguration marked a division in the ministry of our Lord. So far this had been, to a certain extent, popular and public, but now it was to become private until He reached Jerusalem and died upon the Cross. But for whose benefit did this event take place?

  1. (1) Moses and Elijah appeared on the scene and conversed with our Lord, but surely He was not transfigured for their benefit!
  2. (2) Some have suggested that this experience on the mount took place in order to strengthen our Lord for the great redemptive task which He would so soon undertake, and that this experience was given in order to confirm Him in His intention to be the Sin-bearer of His people. If there is any truth in this suggestion it is certainly not the primary reason for the transfiguration.
  3. (3) Our Lord took Peter, James and John on to the mount and “was transfigured before them” – look up Matthew 17:1-2. Surely it was primarily for their benefit that He was transfigured – and for ours too?

What lessons are there for us to learn on the sacred mountain? Let us join Peter, James and John in imagination – and what do we see?


1. We see what a glorious Person our Lord Jesus Christ is

Read Matthew 17:2; Mark 9:3 and Luke 9:29. What actually happened? They saw the Lord Jesus in all the splendour of His own perfect character. The majesty of His own inherent glory shone forth upon His countenance and through the very garments He wore. Moses and Stephen reflected the glory of the Lord – look up Exodus 34:29 and Acts 6:15; but this was different. This was not reflected glory resting upon Him; it was His own inherent glory shining forth from Him. This is the vision we need – a vision of the splendour and majesty of the One who is the brightness of His Father’s glory and “the exact representation of his being” – look up Hebrews 1:3. He is the “altogether lovely” One – look up Song of Solomon 5:16! Have you found Him to be so?


2. We see that our Lord Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God and that He is the Pre-eminent One

While they were on the mount, Moses and Elijah appeared before them – look up Matthew 17:3. Impetuous Peter suggested making three shelters, so that they could all stay on the mount – look up Matthew 17:4-5. What happened? Immediately a cloud overshadowed them – look up Matthew 17:5-8; and the voice of the Father said: “This is my Son…listen to him!” Then what happened? “They saw no-one except Jesus.” God will never allow anyone to be placed on the same level as His Son. Jesus stands alone – look up Luke 9:36; and see Philippians 2:9-11 and Colossians 1:18.


3. Listen to the conversation between Moses, Elijah and Jesus!

What are they talking about? Luke 9:30-31 tells us – it was Calvary! Moses (and Elijah) spoke of His exodus (as the word really is). That is very significant. Yes, the exodus in Egypt was but a prelude and a type of this great exodus which Jesus was to accomplish at Jerusalem. What a mighty deliverance was wrought by Him there! But this conversation tells us that the one great theme of the ages is the Cross of Calvary and the Christ of the Cross. The death of the Lord Jesus is the recurring theme in Scripture. Is the death of our Saviour the constant theme of our conversation and of our preaching? – look up Luke 24:13-27 and Acts 8:27-35.


4. The sacrifices of the Mosaic economy and the hopes aroused by the prophets all found their fulfilment in the Lord Jesus

Yes, Moses represented the sacrifices and types of the old Jewish economy. Elijah represented the prophets. All the Mosaic types and the prophetic ministries of the old dispensation pointed forward to the Lord Jesus. It is as though Moses said to the Lord Jesus, “When we slew the lamb…we thought of You”; and as though Elijah said, “When we prophesied, we did so in anticipation of Your coming”.


5. Our saved loved ones are safe in God’s keeping and are happy, conscious and recognisable

Moses and Elijah were still alive – and Peter, James and John recognised them! Identity of personality is therefore maintained in Heaven. We shall see and recognise our departed loved ones who die in the Lord. We shall know them. The grave is not the end; beyond the valley lies the glorious palace of the King.


6. Here on the Mount is a foretaste of our Lord’s coming again, of the rapture of the saints, and of His glory

Moses and Elijah are representative men. Moses had died 1500 years before and had been buried by God – look up Deuteronomy 34:5-6. Elijah had not died at all, but had been translated – look up 2 Kings 2:11. When the Lord Jesus returns there will be two classes of saints for whom He will come – “the dead in Christ” and “we who are still alive” – look up 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18, and compare 1 Corinthians 15:51-57.


7. We too may be transfigured now, and we certainly shall be transfigured then!

2 Corinthians 3:18 tells us the secret of our transformation now; and 1 John 3:2 assures us of the fact of our glorious transformation then!