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Matthew 17:1-13 – The Transfiguration


Immediately after the announcement of his imminent suffering and death and his call to take up their cross and follow him, Jesus takes three of his disciples up to a high mountain where he is transfigured gloriously in front of them. A voice from heaven matches the voice at Jesus' baptism declaring him God's beloved Son, while Jesus' words interpret the vision as an anticipation of his resurrection from the dead.


A number of key themes mark this episode, coming as it does right after Jesus' foretelling of his coming suffering, death, and resurrection, and his call for his followers to deny themselves and take up their cross and follow him. Its location on a mountain, accompanied by Jesus' transfigured appearance and the presence of Moses and Elijah, mark this as an event of special revelation. In the voice from heaven it looks back and recalls Jesus' baptism, reaffirming God's delight in this beloved Son and confirming Jesus' ministry and mission as the fulfillment of righteousness. Jesus instructs the disciples not to be afraid, and, as they descend the mountain, he invites them to look ahead in hope and interpret this vision in terms of the coming resurrection. Jesus does not say "if" but "when." All is happening according to God's purpose. As surely as the Elijah of promise has already come in the ministry and death of John the Baptist, so surely the coming death of the Son of Man will be the occasion of the fulfillment of God's promises.

Matthew 17:1-13

The Transfiguration

17Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. 2And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. 3Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I* will make three dwellings* here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ 5While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved;* with him I am well pleased; listen to him!’ 6When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. 7But Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Get up and do not be afraid.’ 8And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, ‘Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.’ 10And the disciples asked him, ‘Why, then, do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?’ 11He replied, ‘Elijah is indeed coming and will restore all things; 12but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but they did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man is about to suffer at their hands.’ 13Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them about John the Baptist.

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