The big reveal

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When were you last blown away by the glory of God? What can you do to cultivate a sense of awe in his presence?

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Bible passage: Matthew 17:1–13


Matthew 17

The Transfiguration
 1After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.

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

 5While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!"

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

 9As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, "Don't tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead."

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

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



New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society


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The audio version of the passage is taken from the Contemporary English Version (CEV).

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Jesus' divine nature
The recognition that Jesus was the awaited Messiah was a huge step for the disciples, but until now, his divine nature was a penny still waiting to drop. A select few have gone on a hike up the mountain, probably thinking they have pretty much got the measure of Jesus, when God pulls back the curtain and shows them a whole other dimension. He begins to radiate light, long-gone prophets show up, and the audible voice of God announces Jesus is his Son (vs 2,3,5).

The Glory of God
There is something quite comic about the progression of responses from Peter, James and John. They seem more than OK with the dazzling light and the prophets, and suggest setting up some kind of campsite so they can all stay there. But the cloud and the voice do them in. They finally get it. They are surrounded by the glory of God and they are terrified.

Like the disciples, we can err on the side of over-familiarity in our interactions with God. We can emphasise more comforting aspects of his nature, hug our favourite Bible stories and quotes to our chest. But we’d do well to remember that whenever God shows his glory, people fall on their faces in terror.

Jo Swinney

Respond


‘Lord, you are a consuming fire. Help me worship you acceptably, with reverence and awe’ (from Hebrews 12:28,29).


Deeper Bible study


Moses and Elijah stand alongside Jesus on the mountain: two great Old Testament figures furthering Matthew’s aim to demonstrate continuity between Jesus and God’s ancient purpose. However, it is continuity with sparkling freshness. Moses had been ‘face to face’ with God and his face shone when he returned from Mount Sinai, having received the Ten Commandments (Exod 33:11; 34:29–35). This old covenant, Paul tells us, ‘came with glory’ (2 Cor 3:11), but it was a reflected, temporary glory: Paul’s point is that Jesus shines brighter (2 Cor 3:9–11). Moses is not in the same league. In Matthew 17, the veil is drawn back and we witness the true glory of Jesus. Peter’s intervention (v 4) displays his limited understanding but provides opportunity to underline that one greater than Moses is here. This is no passing glory: this is inherently who Jesus is – the unique Son, loved by God, pleasing to his Father in every way; the one to whom we must listen (v 5). When the disciples look up and see that no one except Jesus is left (v 8) it makes the same point. No one stands alongside him in status. It is one of these, ‘I wish I had been there’ moments. That would have been spectacular.

Wait a moment: what does Paul say? That we believers witness the Lord’s glory without any encumbrance (2 Cor 3:18). We see the Lord’s glory as we contemplate his cross, resurrection and ascension. We see his true glory and as we fix our eyes on him a remarkable transformation takes place. It’s not that our faces shine. Our whole characters are moulded to be made like him (2 Cor 3:18) as we look on him without fear.

Elijah has come in the figure of John the Baptist, who signals that the time is here. The Messiah has come and he will suffer. That also displays his glory.

Andy Bathgate

Meeting God


There is something about mountains that God likes. From Moses going up the mountain to get the Ten Commandments (see Exodus 19:20), to God passing by Elijah on the mountain (see 1 Kings 19:8–18), to the transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain (see Matthew 17:1–5), and his issuing of the great commission (see Matthew 28:16–20), God seems to speak to people on mountains.

But is it the geographical place of a mountain that is important, or is it the attitude of those who are willing to climb up and seek him that God responds to? We might think that there couldn’t be anything better than to be in the place of Moses or the disciples who saw God’s glory revealed on a mountain, but the truth is we’re in a far better place than those people in Scripture.

We don’t have to go to a place to meet God, he’s in us by his Spirit. For those who met him on mountains there was always the disadvantage of having to trudge down the mountain afterwards, where the glow of meeting him would eventually fade. But for us his presence never fades, but ‘transforms us into his image with ever-increasing glory’ (see 2 Corinthians 3:18).

It’s true, though, that in the midst of busy lives we often need to search for God, and that can feel like a climb. As Moses and Elijah struggled up the mountain to meet with God, why don’t you find a place away from phones, text, email, where you can seek a mountain-top meeting with God?

Steve Warner

Bible in a year


Read the Bible in a year.

1 Chronicles 19–21

Psalm 69
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Meditation on the transfiguration


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Reflect on the experience and meaning of the transfiguration – the high point of this week’s Gospel readings – with this meditation specially written by Helen Paynter.

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Comments
  • Sue Hanson | Wednesday, 13 June 2018

    I often wonder how did the disciples know who the figures with Jesus were.

  • Rachael Hampton | Thursday, 14 June 2018

    Yes Sue! Maybe they got the names from Jesus’ greeting. Peter was there. In spite of his monumental stuff up, Jesus knew his destiny - and that of James and John, and pressed on with His plan to equip them for what lay ahead. Thanks Gilvin for the reminder that temptations from Satan can come from anywhere, and through anyone, even those close and dear to us. May I/we be vigilant.

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Thursday, 14 June 2018

    It is interesting to compare Jesus’ transfiguration with Moses’. Jesus’ face shone as the sun, and His garment was as white as the light. This certainly exceeded what Moses experienced yet Jesus’ face did not continue to shine when He came down off of the mountain as Moses’ face did. Moses’ face reflected the glory of God, but Jesus was the glory of God. Moses put a veil over his face to conceal the glory of God so that the people would not be afraid to come near him. Jesus’ body was His veil that concealed His true glory within. During His transfiguration, He pulled back the veil of His flesh, and those with Him simply caught a glimpse of the glory that He had with the Father before the world was made. Awesome.

  • Angela Munday | Thursday, 14 June 2018

    I do like reading in Luke 2:9 when God’s beautifully bright presence and radiant glory shone around a group of ordinary working people going about their simple tasks. These folk lived on the margins of society and yet “An angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them. They were terribly afraid.” After being reassured they said “Let’s go!....” They believed in what they saw and heard; they responded. Jesus, our Saviour, is in the world....the light from God has arrived and may this truth be evident on our faces too.

  • Jack Russell | Thursday, 14 June 2018

    In answer to the question - I was speaking in public recently, sharing and commenting that there was a great response from a crowd. Someone organising said it's as if there is someone above involved - I responded "there you go". It's a privilege to be part of that - no less than it was to be present at the transfiguration.

  • Nick Easton | Thursday, 14 June 2018

    Hebrews 1v3 says "The Son is the radiance of God's glory ....." Just love that word "radiance".

  • Paul Burkimsher | Thursday, 14 June 2018

    And to think that this physical world is intersected at every point, even today, by the spiritual world revealed here. Oh, Physics - you see only half the story.

  • Lynda Spencer | Thursday, 14 June 2018

    RACHAEL, I have asked Jill Warren if my email address might be passed on to you so I can receive prayer info for Enyobi. I would very much like to support him. I had already said this to Thelma directly, as I have her email address from previous contact, but somehow it has got 'lost in translation' so I'm not yet part of Enyobi's prayer group. I hope that is OK with you, and thank you in anticipation. God bless.

  • Joanna Craigie | Thursday, 14 June 2018

    While in prayer this morning I felt God speaking to me - as I'm not attending a church at the moment it is difficult for me to discern whether I made this up or not so was hoping that you guys could weigh it up for me. History is that my husband walked away from God around 10 years ago. Here is the word - Be strong. I hear your cries, I know your pain. Turn to me daily and I will sustain you. Through me you will be saved and will flourish in your marriage. Trust in me my child and I will prevail. Love never fails, rekindle your love for mark and let me do the rest. Do not hold onto past wrongs and do not be clouded in your vision for who he is. He is my child and I will uphold him, I do not turn anyone away and will not give up on him so you mustn’t either. Be still my child, be still and take comfort from my people.

  • Peter Oliver | Thursday, 14 June 2018

    Interesting question how did the disciples know their names Some how they new the moment they saw them.a very brief spell in eternity ,it seems that the LORD was . The important message was that they should listen to HIM.

  • Peter Oliver | Thursday, 14 June 2018

    Sorry for spelling mistake.

  • Tim Berry | Thursday, 14 June 2018

    Hi JOANNA, It sounds good to me. I think it would be very difficult to make all that up. The general rule of thumb is that if it is from God, you will be at peace with it. Also it is good to simply ask Him if He said this, and to tell Him thay you are not interested in anything that is not from Him. I will be praying that you get confirmation if it is from God. May He bless you greatly as you seek Him for the truth in all this.

  • Gilvin Crisifeca | Thursday, 14 June 2018

    JOANNA, God once said to me about my husband "you love him I'll convert him" and he did 6 months later. I agree with Tim too.

  • Keith Dearden | Thursday, 14 June 2018

    Steve says... As Moses and Elijah struggled up the mountain to meet with God. There is nothing in the text to suggest this. We don't struggle when we are at 'home' with God.

  • Barbara Sabin | Thursday, 14 June 2018

    Hello JOANNA meetings with God are unmistakeable, He is Love, He is light, He is Faithfull, He provides and protects, darkness will not come to light. When you pray speak out loud that anything which is not of God be cast out to a place He directs. The way will be clear for God to speak into your heart. At God's command any other power on earth must bow down or flee. Pray for protection from deception..

  • Tim Berry | Thursday, 14 June 2018

    Hi Keith, I think the struggling referred to when Moses and Elijah were alive not at the transfiguration. So humanly speaking they would have struggled up the mountain.

  • Keith Dearden | Thursday, 14 June 2018

    Ah yes Tim, I can see that now! Many thanks!

  • Eileen Smith | Thursday, 14 June 2018

    JOANNA - I go along with Tim too adding that one way of testing is if it matches up with the teaching in the Bible

  • Peter Moore | Thursday, 14 June 2018

    What radiance in the face of Christ. Today started overcast here this morning. I was taken out this afternoon. Unexpectedly. And the sun shone. As I looked up I was reminded of that mountain. And the beloved Son. His radiance. His glory. And my day was transformed. What a Saviour. And the Father is pleased. So am I

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