Jesus’ Face Shinned like the Sun
Jesus promised his disciples that some of them would see him coming into his kingdom. Jesus talked often about his kingdom and told his followers that they were citizens of the kingdom of heaven. And now some of Jesus’ disciples would actually get to see Jesus being changed from his earthly body into his heavenly body (transfiguration) in the kingdom of heaven!
These are Jesus’ words to his disciples. “I tell you that there are some of you standing here who will not die until after they see the Son of Man (Jesus) coming into His kingdom.” (Matthew 16:28) Some Christians have taken these words of Jesus to mean that some of his disciples would still be alive when He comes to earth again at the end of the age! Some believe that this verse means that Jesus would come again very soon – even before all the disciples died.
But Jesus was not talking about the end times here, he was talking about his transfiguration –his earthly body changing into his heavenly body. And this transfiguration happened just few days after he told his disciples that it would happen. They didn’t have to wait long.
When we read the story in Matthew 16:28-Matthew 17:13 we see that Jesus spoke these words just a short while before Peter, James and John followed Jesus up a mountain and saw him in his glory in his kingdom! His body which had appeared in weakness and dishonor, now appears in power and glory. Scripture tells us: “After six days, Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. Jesus was transfigured before their eyes. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. And behold Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.” (Matthew 17:1-3)
Peter speaks up and says that it is so good to be there and then he suggests that they make three tabernacles, one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah. And then Scripture says: “While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!’ The disciples fell on their faces and were greatly afraid. Jesus came and touched them and said, ‘Arise, and do not be afraid.’ And when they opened their eyes they saw no one but Jesus only. “ (Matthew 17:5-8)
God speaks to the disciples out of a cloud, telling the disciples to hear or listen to His Beloved Son, Jesus. We find often in the Old Testament, that a cloud was the visible token of God’s presence. God led the Israelites through the desert in the form of a cloud by day and a fire by night. (Exodus 13:22) God spoke to the disciples out of the cloud as He did on other occasions throughout Scripture. Peter, James and John were so terrified when God spoke to them that they fell to the ground. How do you think you would feel? Scripture says that a person cannot see God’s face and live. (Exodus 33:20 and John 1:18)
This transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain happened shortly before his death. The disciple’s faith would be tested as they would soon have to watch their Savior be crucified. Even though Jesus had told them, they still would not understand why He would have to die since He was the Son of God. Perhaps Peter, James and John were given this glimpse of Jesus’ glory to help them through the difficult days ahead that they would face.
Peter, James and John now had seen Jesus the Messiah in all his glory. Jesus had been with Moses and Elijah in the kingdom. Bible scholars believe Moses and Elijah signify the Law and the Prophets. For the Jews, Moses represented the Law, since God gave Moses the Ten Commandments and many other laws to pass on to the nation of Israel. And Elijah represented the Prophets since he was one of the major Jewish prophets. The vision of Moses and Elijah with Jesus supports Jesus in his mission and was further proof for the Jewish mind that Jesus was their true Messiah.
As Jesus and Peter and James and John were hiking down the mountain Jesus asked them not to tell anyone what they had seen and heard. And then the disciples asked Jesus about Elijah because they had seen him there with Moses and Jesus in heavenly glory. They asked why their religious leaders tell them that Elijah will come back to earth. There were prophecies saying that Elijah would come before the Messiah came, so this is what they were asking Jesus.
Jesus answered that indeed Elijah has already come and that the religious leaders did not recognize him. Jesus seemed to say that Elijah was treated badly and suffered just like He would soon suffer. And then the disciples understood that Jesus was saying that Elijah was John the Baptist!
This story gives us a short peek behind the curtain over to the other side. We see Jesus’ face shinning like the sun and light shines from his glorified body. We see Moses and Elijah who though they died, they did not perish, but also have glorified bodies. We hear God in a cloud proclaiming that Jesus is His Beloved Son with whom He is well pleased. And we also hear God commanding his followers to “Hear Him” or to listen to Jesus.
This story from Scripture holds Jesus up in his beauty and holiness, shinning like the sun and talking with Moses and Elijah in his kingdom. Jesus became a man but he is also God. God the Son and part of the Trinity. The Messiah and the Savior. Emmanuel, which means God with us. The Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by Him (Jesus).
A man in our last Sunday School class insisted that the Bible never claimed that Jesus was the Son of God. Two women who recently attended a Bible study with me also insisted that Jesus was just one of many great teachers. Many who call themselves Christian do not believe in the deity of Jesus Christ and claim that intelligent folk cannot believe such myths. This unbelief is rampant in some of our churches. Have these people not read their Bibles? Where have they been?
If Jesus were not the Son of God he could not save us from our sins. This story in Matthew 17 of Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountain top with God proclaiming Him as the beloved Son is one more story from Scripture proclaiming Jesus’ deity. But then there are many other stories and proofs and prophecies. In fact, the whole Bible holds Jesus up as the Son of God and the Savior.