Matthew 17:1–9 ESV

1 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.
2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.
3 And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.
4 And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
5 He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”
6 When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified.
7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.”
8 And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.
9 And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.”


All you Christians, you who confess faith and belief in Christ, come now and behold the glory, glory as of the only begotten Son of God.

The apostle John who was among the three that Jesus took with him on that mountain, later recounts in his gospel account in John 1:14

John 1:14 ESV

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

“We have seen his glory”, says John. Seen it with his own eyes, beheld it not in a dream or a trance, but before his body, unsheathed the sword of God glimmered in all his beauty. We have seen his glory. This is the testament of the outcome of the transfiguration, men who proclaimed boldly and without hesitation that they were eye-witnesses to the glory that was preached and professed to them. These men were not just messengers who carried the message of truth but eye-witnesses to the power and validity of that truth.

The transfiguration of Jesus was not just one of those glorious outbursts of heavenly power. This event was the epicentre, the eye of the storm of God’s glory.

Christ is the glorious One who holds the universe by the word of his power (Hebrews 1:3). The stars shimmer like dancing celestials held in their place by the word of his power. They are nothing more than glitter in his holy palace.

O how we must understand that there is no conceivable way known to man by which we can exaggerate the excellence, majesty, power, dominion and glory of the One who sits on heaven’s throne.

This glory, said John, was one that could not be mistaken for anything other than that which emanated from the very Being of God. It was more pure than the purest thing imaginable, more powerful than the strongest thing imaginable, holier than our holiest conception, more riveting than the greatest allure, more pleasurable than the sweetest ecstasy, and more praiseworthy than the human mind is capable of capturing in word or thought.

This was he, my friends, the only Son of God. This was the inner trinitarian light that shone bright before the foundation of the world, when as yet the earth was not formed and the Spirit of God hovered over the waters of the deep (Genesis 1:2).

Hebrews 1:3 (ESV)

3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power…

This glory that John beheld was unlike any other. It was full of grace and truth. It was not some of grace and truth, but full of it in a manner that it cannot possibly be any fuller than this. This was not grace that compromised truth or truth that compromised grace. It was full of grace and full of truth.

O my beloved brothers and sisters, do you see that the scripture that is set before you today is not about you. This is not about your worries and problems and sufferings and struggles and concerns. This is not about how Jesus can lift you out of the miry pit. This is not about your comfort or peace or hope or dreams. You are too pitiable a creature O man that any of this should even be mentioned in your presence. Psalm 8:4

Psalm 8:4 ESV

4 what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?

This then is the depravity of sin, that we are talking about things more worthwhile than any of those things that consume your mind every day. Talking about this glory is more immediately necessary and infinitely more worthwhile than food or your responsibilities. Luke 10:38-42

Luke 10:38–42 ESV

38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house.
39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.
40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”
41 But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things,
42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

My friends, listen to me, this text is not about you! It is about the eternal Glory of God unravelled in all its elegance, power and beauty.

Looking upon the face of God means death for the man. But beloved, my dear church, I am going to show you today, the face of God and you will not die. You will not perish even though your garments are stained this morning with sin that you’ve failed to resist. You do not sit here without blemish for you have sinned this week and deserve the eternal judgment and wrath of a holy and righteous God.

Yet, even though you or I do not deserve to stand in his presence, though we are covered in blemish and dirt, we will see the face of God today and live!

For it was for this reason that Jesus came. John 1:18

John 1:18 ESV

18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

John 17:25–26 ESV

25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me.
26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

God stepped down from heaven to earth so that he might carry us from earth to heaven. O Christian, you are now a heavenly creature. Death is not your portion, for in Christ, eternal life has been granted to you so that you may look daily upon the face of God and live forever.

How horrible would be a unending life without unending delight and curiosity. In his short years, the wisest of our men, Solomon declared in Ecclesiastes 1:2-3

Ecclesiastes 1:2–3 ESV

2 Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.
3 What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?

Ecclesiastes 1:14 ESV

14 I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind.

O but this is not the offer of Christ, not a miserable existence in eternal vanity. Eternal bliss is to behold the face of Jesus Christ every moment for the glory that emanates from him is infinitely more pleasurable, more satisfying, more comforting, more assuring, more delightful than anything we have known in all our years.

The Gospel is not just good news or even great news, it is the gloriest news known to man. It is issued from the eternal fountain of God’s glory. The Son of God came down to us to shine the light of his glory upon our hearts.

Let it be known in Redemption Hill Church, today and forevermore, that the joys and pains of this world are not worth comparing to the revelation of the glory of Christ. The transfiguration is an earth-shattering sign of the significance of the Gospel

A man can preach twenty sermons from this passage and not exhaust any of the riches of the glorious truth revealed here.

O how I abandon any attempt on my part to be exhaustive – I give up, I am undone.

Though this is a text to be preached, it is so much more a text to be pursued and remembered all the days of our lives. The inexhaustible riches of it will satisfy our spiritual thirst till the day we die.

But I invite you now, to accompany me as we traverse this text so that we might see the face of the Almighty God.


Matthew 17:1 ESV

1 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.

• Jesus picked three men to go with him and asked the remaining to stay behind. God may choose men for specific tasks and encounters that he is not obliged to give every other man. His providential plan does not see every man in front of the pulpit or every woman prophesying. He does not hand out blessings or discipline in equal measures with everyone. Therefore, the obligation of the man is not to demand his due for there is nothing that he can warrant. His obligation is in humble submission.

So, do not be lost in this passage pondering on such frivolous questions as to why Jesus only took Peter, James and John with him. This text is not about you. Do not be so self-engrossed that you see yourself in every passage of Scripture, instead see Christ in every phrase. God apportions to each man his measure of faith, tasks, accomplishments, sorrow and suffering. He chose these three men and revealed much to them that he withheld from the others, at least for a time.

• 6 days – Matthew’s specific reference to such a precise gap between two accounts is a rare occurrence. In fact, it is a rare occurrence in any of the Gospel accounts. So there is a significance that Matthew places upon this incident as an event that is directly connected to the events that preceded it. Matthew is drawing a connection between Peter’s responses in Matthew 16 and his response here in Matthew 17.

All of these texts have a significant amount to talk about Jesus and his purposes, but they all include Peter’s responses. If in the first instance Peter did well to confess Jesus as the Son of God, in the second instance he was rebuked for being mouthpiece of Satan for opposing God’s perfect and holy plan to die for the sins of the world. And now in this encounter, with the details we have from Luke, we know that Peter did not realise what he was saying here – Luke 9:33

• He led them up a high mountain. Jesus liked the altitude and seclusion of high mountains and often went up on mountain tops to pray.

But the significance of this journey has more symbolic indicators than others. There is a mountain in the Old Testament called Mount Horeb, also known as Sinai. It is on this mountain that God first spoke to Moses in the burning bush. It is on this same mountain that God later called Moses to climb, where he gave him the ten commandments. And, it was on this same mount that Elijah went up to hear the whisper of God.

So, when Jesus climbs a high mountain this time to meet with Moses and Elijah it is not too difficult for us to draw a parallel. In fact when Moses went up on Sinai, we read in Exodus 24:15-16

Exodus 24:15–16 ESV

15 Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain.
16 The glory of the Lord dwelt on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud.

Was Jesus drawing a parallel to signify the same six days by waiting before he climbed this mountain?

We are not told this, but at the very least, we can say that Jesus intended for us to look at these signs and recognise that this climb was unlike any other. It had a deep significance of the fulfilment of Christ’s Messianic intention.

Matthew 17:2 ESV

2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.

• Where else was Matthew going to point to except the brightest object known to man, in order to draw a comparison to the shining light that emanated from Jesus’ transfigured divine body.

Who among us can stand under the sun mid-afternoon during a hot summer day and gaze upon its brightness without squinting. How long before our eyes are sore, but we are warned in Scripture by God Himself that no man can see the light of God’s face and live. When we look at God, it is not sore eyes that we must fear, or even blindness. It is death. For God told Moses who sought to see his glory, in Exodus 33:20

Exodus 33:20 ESV

20 But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.”

Now, don’t reduce your intellectual thought down to the matter of the brightness of the light. It is not so much about the intensity of the light that emanated from the face of Christ as it is about the purity of it, the originality of it.

The power of fusion (atomic collisions) produces billions of photons (particles of light) that are emitted from the sun. The number of these particles released from the surface of the sun every second is so vast that it is more than a billion billion times greater than the number of grains of sand on our planet.

And yet, the power of the sun in all its glory cannot be compared with the power that created it, sustains it, energises it and controls it. The power of the glory that emanates from the person of Christ is the holy power that exists within the Godhead. This is not a created light but the light that created the world and everything in it. Chemical reactions are not the cause of his light, this is not a magician’s trick. This is the light of a pure and holy character. It is the light of righteousness of the immutable, incorruptible, unending and inexhaustible Being of God. Revelation 21:23

Revelation 21:23 ESV

23 And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.

On a cold Sunday morning, we wait for the rising sun so that we can bask in its warmth and be comforted. On a summer afternoon, we escape its rays in haste to avoid the heat. But the light that emanates from Christ is infinitely more potent. It satisfies and sustains the weary and scorches the proud. It heals the repentant and purges the unrepentant. O you Christian, this Lamb of God is your lamp.

It is said that the light takes eight minutes to travel the 93 million miles from the sun to Earth. But the light of Christ is not eight minutes behind in its arrival but an eternity ahead of our time. It is already here and has been here before Adam took his first breath. The glory of the Lord has reached every nook and cranny of existence.

• So, when Matthew uses the sun to compare the light of Christ to, it is a basic metaphor that does not satisfy in its comparison. God cannot be properly compared to anything for he is infinitely more than anything or anyone.

His face shone – This is not like the face of Moses that only reflected the light of God’s glory. To continue using our metaphor, no one squints while looking at the moon for it only reflects the light of the sun. But beloved, people could not stand to look at the face of Moses. What power is this light then?

This was not glory reflected but glory bursting out from the source.

his clothes became white as light – The light which proceeded out of Christ was so strong that it ‘irradiated his garments’ as Spurgeon put it. His clothes became white as light. The inanimate substance (his clothes) were exceedingly more beautiful for nothing more than standing in the presence of God’s glory.

How much more then will we shine because our proximity to Christ is not that he dwells near us, but that he dwells inside of us. We are the temple of the Living God.

As I mentioned last week, the word in the original language for transfiguration is the same word from which we get metamorphism. When Jesus is transfigured, he is not becoming someone else, but rather revealing the true essence of all that he has always been and will always be.

Matthew 17:3 ESV

3 And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.

• The scripture does not bother to tell us the details of what they spoke about except Luke mentions in Luke 9:31

Luke 9:31 ESV

31 who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.

The subject of discussion was the cross, what Jesus was about to accomplish in Jerusalem.

• Moses and Elijah were the two most revered of all the prophets of old among the Jews. Moses represented the giving of the law and Elijah was the great defender of the law. When they thought of the law and the prophets, Moses and Elijah were the two most prominent figures.

• Here is Moses the herald of the law, now face to face with the incarnate law, the word of God Himself, who was about to fulfil the full requirement of the law for you and me. The finger that carved the law in tablets of stone would now be carved and scared by the stain of our sin so that the Father might write the law in our hearts once and for all.

O Moses, O Moses, this was what it was all about. Stand now and let your feet feel the sand of the promised land that you never entered and see with your own eyes the full glory of the word of God that would cover the sins of all who would believe in this Son. See the glory that would transform every land on this planet into the promised land. The ever increasing government of this Prince has no end.

• Here is Elijah, the zealous prophet of the Lord, the harbinger of revival and reform in Israel, now face to face with the One who would bring a revival and reform to the whole world, once and for all. Here is One more zealous than Elijah.

O Elijah, O Elijah, see the light of the glory that descended in fire upon the sacrifices you offered before the prophets of Baal. Here is the real sword that will cut down every lofty thought and opinion raised against the knowledge of God. Uncover your face and see the glory of God that redeems the world from sin.

• Jesus said, in Matthew 5:17

Matthew 5:17 ESV

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

Here in this encounter of the transfiguration, do you see, beloved, what is happening. At his command he bids the Law and the Prophets to come to his side. Jesus, here, is the fulfilment of both. There before Peter and James and John were the Law, the Prophets & the Grace of the New Covenant. There is no conflict between them, only full of glory and truth and perfect harmony.

Moses and Elijah are the most beloved of the prophets among the Jews, and this event tells us that there is one much greater who with his word can command both to come to his side.

Romans 8:3–4 ESV

3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,
4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Think about this my friends. Right now, at this very moment, in Heaven, Christ is seated enthroned in glory and majesty, and the Seraphim are singing in harmony and all of heaven is riveted at the sight of that Glory. But the eyes of that Lord of Glory is not constrained by time or space, and at this very moment, his gaze extends beyond the corridors of paradise, passes all the celestial glories, and sees you. He sees you right now. And his heart is full for you and his thoughts are pouring out for you. And we are told that if we come together under the name of Jesus in one accord, when we bend our knees, he will meet us here without delay or hesitation, and give us all that we would ask him according to his will.

O look and behold your Saviour who is not far but near, nearer than you could possibly know.

• And, here are three Jewish men seeing with their own eyes the chieftains of the law and the prophets appeared. This was affirmation, proof that Jesus is indeed who he says he is. Peter made the initial confession a few verses above that Jesus is the Son of the living God and Jesus told him, Matthew 16:17

Matthew 16:17 ESV

17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.

It is a blessed thing when the Father in heaven reveals to us the truth about his beloved Son. But this, this magnificent encounter, is greater revelation. Their faith has now turned for a moment into sight.

Luke tells us in Luke 9:32

Luke 9:32 ESV

32 Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him.

This is was not an hallucination of sleepy men. They were fully awake for this encounter.

Matthew 17:4 ESV

4 And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

• O Peter, O Peter! No, no, no! It was not good that you were there, it was good that you were there and not dead.

Peter spoke to Jesus? What? What made him approach the transfigured Christ and utter a single word. Why are these men alive? Where is the cleft of the rock? Why aren’t they hidden in the rocks so that they may only see the back side of God? For no man can see the face of God and live.

Why aren’t they squinting? Why aren’t they running away and hiding themselves?

What grace is this that abounds to us like the shining glory of the sun and yet we are not burnt up.

If a spacecraft were to be wrapped up in the latest kind of shielding man has invented, it would get to within 1.3 million miles of the sun. But the integrity of the shielding would be compromised well before that. So you could probably make it to that distance before become fried to death.

Yet Peter drew near to the blazing brightness of God and was not scorched.

• Luke tell us in Luke 9:33 that Peter speaks up as they were about to depart. When the meeting seemed to have reached its conclusion, Peter decided to speak up.

Mark tells us in Mark 9:6

Mark 9:6 ESV

6 For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified.

It wasn’t a lack of fear that prompted Peter to speak. They were terrified. But he would have rather remained up on that mountain, built tents for Moses, Elijah and Jesus and stayed in that terrifying state rather than return.

He wanted to raise a suitable memorial of that encounter.

Matthew 17:5 ESV

5 He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”

He was still speaking when God interrupted him. God cut him off because Peter was missing the point yet again. Look Peter, look and see.

This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased. Look Peter, see the glory and favour that the Son has from the Father. Look at the glory of God and stop being distracted with yourself so much.

It is good that we are here. This is not about you. It never was and it never will be.

• A bright cloud overshadowed them – Moses was familiar with this cloud. Invited in that moment were these men into Moses’ repeated encounter in the tent of meeting. The Father’s presence overshadows them in a bright cloud. Brightness is the theme, the glow and shimmer of righteousness.

• This is a three-fold testimony of the law, the prophets and of God himself that Jesus is the culmination of it all. Here stands the righteousness of God, the second person of the Trinity, listen to him.

Here stands the law and the prophets and the Father says listen to grace descended from heaven. Pay attention Peter. The glory of this moment is pointing you to just how exalted Christ is. Look at Christ Unveiled and submit to him. Listen to him. That is the command.

Matthew 17:6 ESV

6 When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified.

• When they heard this – I believe that it wasn’t just the sound, the thunderous voice, the holy ambience that made these men fall on their face, but the message itself that was given to them.

• There is a declaration that resounds in the presence of the inner-trinitarian glory, and that is the pleasure of the Father in the Son and the Son in the Father, and before that declaration every knee will bow.

• The realisation of the glory of that moment descended upon them suddenly and they fell on their face trembling.

Matthew 17:7–8 ESV

7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.”
8 And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.

• The touch of Christ – O Christian, this passage is not about you, it is all about Christ. And enveloped in all that glory and power, this Christ has come for you.

O Christian, this passage is all about you too, because Christ has come for you. Matthew 16:25

Matthew 16:25 ESV

25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

• have no fear – Jesus takes away my fear, not just of evil but of the judgment of righteousness

• And when they lifted their eyes at the comfort of Jesus, they saw no one but Him.

Matthew 17:9 ESV

9 And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.”

• This encounter was to be preserved for the time of the resurrection.