Summary: The disciples did not want to listen to Jesus' message. They were not going to argue with Jesus, but they did want to avoid the subject. How many of us do the same thing?
In the 13th century B.C., God called Moses to deliver his people out of slavery in Egypt and into the Promised Land of what is now called Israel. His job included forming the descendants of Abraham into a nation, the kingdom of God. Soon after leaving Egypt, he led the people to the foot of Mt. Sinai where he received the commandments of God and established the covenant nation of Israel. Here is his description of his “mountaintop experience.”
12 The LORD said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and commands I have written for their instruction.”
13 Then Moses set out with Joshua his aide, and Moses went up on the mountain of God. 14 He said to the elders, “Wait here for us until we come back to you. Aaron and Hur are with you, and anyone involved in a dispute can go to them.”
15 When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it, 16 and the glory of the LORD settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day the LORD called to Moses from within the cloud. 17 To the Israelites the glory of the LORD looked like a consuming fire on top of the mountain. 18 Then Moses entered the cloud as he went on up the mountain. And he stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights (Exodus 24:12-18).
Four centuries later, God called Elijah to be his prophet to his people who lived in the northern branch of the then divided kingdom – Judah in the south and Israel in the north. Elijah was the first of the “pure” prophets, whose only calling was to prophesy God’s message. He tenure as prophet marked a new age, so to speak, of God’s message being delivered through prophets. Elijah was given the daunting task of challenging the wicked policies of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. His greatest triumph was at Mount Carmel where he challenged the priests of Baal to compete against him in calling down fire. It was his God Yahweh versus their god Baal. He won of course, but then had to flee for his life from Jezebel. God ordered Elijah to meet him on top of Mount Horeb for a meeting. This is the description of it.
11 The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
14 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
15 The LORD said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus... 18 Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him” (1 Kings 19:11-18).
Nine centuries later an even greater leader and prophet climbed a mountain for an encounter with God. Our passage today records that wondrous experience.
2 After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone.
This is the second time Jesus separates Peter, James and John from the rest of the disciples. The first time was at Capernaum in the synagogue ruler’s house where he allowed only those three of the disciples to enter the house of the young girl whom he would raise from death. The only other time will be in the garden of Gethsemane. It is evident that he considered them his closest companions and that he was preparing them for leadership.
There he was transfigured before them. 3 His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.
What a wondrous and fearful sight that must have been for the disciples. They have seen Jesus do some incredible things that put the fear of God into them, particularly calming the storm and walking on water. But this time they see something happen to him. Jesus himself changes; he is transfigured.