A few hours had been spent on the “Mount of Transfiguration” – the name for which the place has been called – and now they were descending. Having taken place with the glory of Jesus being revealed to Peter, James and John; and they seeing Moses and Elijah with Jesus in His glory.
When Moses and Elijah depart; in verse 8; we have the words: “…they saw no man, save Jesus only”. That implies clearly that the law and the prophets declare, reveal, and glorify the Lord Jesus. It goes along with what the apostle John wrote in the Revelation 19:10 “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” The law and the prophets cannot make man righteous before God; only Jesus can.
Now, we come to the descent from the mount of Jesus with His disciples:
“And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead. And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things. But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist.” Matthew 17:9-13 (KJV)
What the three disciples had witnessed was not to be told until the resurrection of Jesus had taken place. It is almost certain that these three did not yet understand what He was even talking about – Resurrection – “Yeah! Sure!” Their thoughts were still on the idea of Jesus being their reigning King in a few days; and not crucifixion. God forbid that their King hang on a tree.
They are probably thinking of the prophet’s writing,
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” Malachi 4:5-6 (KJV)
Their thinking is needing to be set in order. They are thinking of a different day than what is going to happen. “The great and dreadful day of the LORD…” is when the Lord comes and pours His wrath out on an unbelieving and godless world. At this time God is going to pour His wrath out upon His Son for the atonement of the sins of mankind.
The disciples had partially discerned rightly concerning the prophecy of Scripture; however, it was not until Jesus gave the word, that they realized that John the Baptist was a fulfillment of the prophecy, but unrecognized by the religious leaders, and “royalty”, and they put John to death. John the Baptist came in the Spirit and power of Elijah. There is no idea of “reincarnation” given here. John the Baptist is John the Baptist, not reincarnated Elijah.
John Baptist came having the same type ministry of Elijah. A bold and fiery message of repentance; calling the people of God to prepare their hearts for the coming of the LORD.
Jesus also informed the three that the “Son of man” would suffer by the hands of those same people.
It would do the disciples of Jesus Christ in the world of 2009 to hear the message of God’s servants; preachers who preach the inerrant, infallible, literal, and living word of God; Sunday School teachers who present the word without favor or fear; Deacons who honor the word of God with their lives in witness, work and service. We dishonor our Lord when we fail to listen to God through His servants who proclaim the Word and “diminish not a word” of it.
Do we really understand the impact of the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the word proclaimed and taught without “shunning to declare the whole counsel of God”? Are we prepared, willing and able to give our lives for the preaching of the Word of God to a world who hates God? It is time to think about this and ponder it in our prayer life; and all of life.
When we are descending our “Mount” of joy, encouragement, let not forget that it is Jesus who remains with us.
-Tim A. Blankenship