Summary: The significance of the Transfiguration: Jesus is the greatest of all!
THE GREATNESS OF JESUS
Peter wanted to build three temples on the Mount of Transfiguration: one for Moses, one for Elijah, and one for Jesus. The impetuous disciple was so awestruck that he did not really know what he was saying. Just in that moment a cloud covered the little group on the mountain, and out of the cloud a voice spoke: “This is my beloved Son, hear Him.”
When the cloud of God’s presence lifted from the scene, the three disciples - Peter, James and John - could no longer see Moses and Elijah, but “Jesus only” with themselves (Mark 9:8). The Lord is turning our attention away from the law and the prophets - represented by Moses and Elijah - and is instructing us to listen to Jesus. One greater than the law and the prophets, greater than Elijah - and greater even than Moses himself - is here!
*JESUS IS GREATER THAN MOSES
The writer to the Hebrews was at pains to ensure that the eyes of his readers remained focussed on Jesus. For Hebrew Christians to go back to the law of Moses was not an option. Moses was faithful - but Jesus is counted worthy of more glory than Moses.
In the Old Testament, God spoke through dreams and visions, through type and prophecy, and through the sacrifices and ceremonies of a complex cultic ritual (Hebrews 1:1). With some, like Abraham and Moses, He spoke almost ‘face to face’ (Numbers 12:6-8) - but the fathers were walking in the shadow of the promise, and not in the fullness that we now enjoy.
When Jesus came, it was not to abolish all that had gone before, but to bring it to fulfilment (Matthew 5:17). Moses was a witness speaking of things which were still in the future. Jesus is the final word (Hebrews 1:2).
Despite his initial reluctance, Moses did everything that God commanded him (Exodus 40:16). Moses was like a faithful old retainer in a mighty house: but Jesus is the one who built the house. Moses was a servant of the house: but Jesus is the founder and head over His own house; “whose house are we…” (Hebrews 3:6).
*Imagine an “A to Z” of the New Testament names of Jesus. Under “G” we would find references to His Glory, His God-hood, and His Goodness. Then we would find several references to His Greatness: -
1. GREATER THAN ABRAHAM
In talking to some Jews in Jerusalem who had professed belief in Jesus, the Lord sought to encourage them. “If you continue in my word, then are you my disciples indeed: and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32).
This aroused the ire of His hearers: “We are Abraham’s seed, and were never in bondage to any man” (John 8:33). Had they forgotten Egypt; and Babylon, and Persia, and Greece - and Rome? Had they forgotten the Caesar who currently ruled over them with an iron fist?
Jesus did not doubt that these new would-be converts were of the seed of Abraham, but He rebuked them for having such an antipathy to His word that they even harboured murderous intentions against Him (John 8:37). If they were really Abraham’s children, surely, they would not do this (John 8:39-40)? They accused Him of being a Samaritan and having a devil - the two epithets tripped so readily together off their lips (John 8:48).
In John 8:51, when Jesus said, “If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death”, He was referring to eternal and irreversible separation from God, which is the second death (Revelation 20:14-15; 21:8). We are all born into spiritual death under Adam, from which Christian believers are made alive at conversion (Ephesians 2:4-5). Furthermore, even physical death cannot hold us as death and hell have lost their sting (1 Corinthians 15:55-57).
Our Lord’s hearers could only think of this in terms of physical death, and the reference to Abraham was too much for them. The Jews asked (John 8:53): “Are you greater than our father Abraham?” The inference is that the answer to the question is “Yes”, as Jesus affirmed in the ensuing conversation.
Abraham foresaw the day of Christ, and was glad (John 8:56). Furthermore, before Abraham was, said Jesus, “I am” (John 8:58). By this statement, Jesus was both claiming to be eternal, and to be the LORD (the great “I AM”). His opponents could not accept this, and picked up stones to slay Him…
2. GREATER THAN JACOB
A woman of Samaria came to a well to draw water, alone, “at about the sixth hour” (John 4:6). Perhaps her neighbours disapproved of her style of life, and she felt compelled to collect her water at a time separate from the other women. Whatever the reason, she was to have a one-to-one encounter with our Lord Jesus Christ which would change her life, and that of her community, forever.