Jesus Radiating Glory
1. Peter, John and James climbed a mountain with Jesus. On the mountain it wasn't going to be a typical day for them. There weren't any multitudes assembling to seek for a miracle from Jesus up there. There weren't any Pharisees or scribes of the law to debate and contest with them like usual either. It was a few moments they could break away from the daily grind. The hours they had to spend with Jesus alone must have been some real R-n-R for them.*
2. Even more, I'd say it was a very special evening for them. It was a wonderful evening. The things they saw as they rubbed their sleepy eyes were truly so spectacular beyond anything we could imagine in this world. There they saw Jesus radiating with glory but completely different from his usual state of being. His clothes shined with pure white. As they looked, there were two men with Jesus engulfed in glory there too. Somehow those men were Moses and Elijah. These two characters, who represent the Old Testament, were in a conversation with Jesus.
3. Without thinking Peter shouted, "Master, our being here is so wonderful!" It surely was. Because the wonderful scene was spread right before their eyes, an experience like nothing they have ever had before, to be touched by the glory of God so real. But, this moment would not last for long. Moses and Elijah were just about to take their leave of Jesus. Peter then added, "Let's build three booths. One's for you, one for Moses and another for Elijah."
4. In regard to Peter's blurting out like he did, the Bible explains that "Peter did not know what he was saying by himself." The proposal to build three booths out of the blue on a mountain didn't seem to stem from a rational decision. The words Peter spoke must have been given while in a dream state, while in a trance when he was touched by the divine glory. Whatever it was, we can see Peter's feelings. He wanted to keep things going like that for a little longer. [Quite possibly] he might have wanted to stay that way for good on the mountain top with Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. Peter didn't care right then about the other disciples and the crowds waiting at the foot of the mountain, or about the preaching trip that they had to keep doing. Away from it all he definitely didn't want to go back to the daily grind.
5. But, Peter's proposal was not accepted. While he was speaking a cloud appeared and covered them. Then, there was a voice from the cloud, "This is my son, the chosen one. Listen to him." Moses and Elijah were no longer there. Only Jesus alone was with them. We want to turn our thoughts on Him and to consider the meaning of it when God told Peter who was seeking to stay on the mountain top and [God told] the disciples to "Listen to him."
In Order To Go To Jerusalem
6. The reason Jesus went up the mountain was to pray. In this gospel account, it tells us of how Jesus [made a habit of] praying by going to the mountains or withdrawing to a place alone. The Lord withdrew from his daily work load and had intimate fellowship with God the Father. But, for Jesus his fellowship with the Father up on the mountain was not a place to escape and give him the chance to forget the different hardships and battles that were down the mountain. The Lord always remembered in his heart that he was walking on a path of suffering that would continue to the cross. The prayer mountain was not off course from that path, but certainly along the way to it. The Lord was discussing with Moses and Elijah about "his last stop that was to be accomplished in Jerusalem." The very reason he was spending the whole night on the mountain was not to run from having to go to Jerusalem, but in order to go there.
7. The figure of the Lord in prayer like this goes through his life to the end. Even just before Jesus was arrested he was on a mountain with his disciples. The Lord went to the Mount Of Olives with his disciples and he prayed in the garden there. The Lord prayed to his heavenly Father, "O father, if it be your will, please take this cup away from me." But, the reason that Jesus stayed there was so that he would ultimately pray, "But, please do not do according to my wishes but according to your will," 22:42).
8. The same thing might be said about the relationship of Jesus to the Bible. Moses represents the law of the Old Testament. Elijah represents the prophets of the Old Testament. These two express the entire corpus of the Old Testament scripture. Jesus wasn't in conversation for an hour on the mountain with Moses and Elijah for his own pleasure talking about things in heaven. The words that Jesus heard from the law and the prophets had to do with his own specific walk on this earth towards the cross. The words from the law and the words from the prophets for Jesus were nothing other than words to set Jesus towards Jerusalem.
In Order For Jesus To Obey
9. Jesus, we see then, though he was resplendent with glory which Peter and the others had seen on the mountain, did not think he should stay on the mountain, but rather went down the mountain, back to earth heading to Jerusalem, and was ready to start walking towards his cross. In pointing to this Jesus the heavenly Father said, "This is my son, my chosen one." When Jesus was baptized, the words spoken by God the Father were also said to his disciples. And there as well God said to them to "listen to him." "To hear him" means the same as "to obey him." The disciples shouldn't just be happy because they were with Jesus shinning with glory on a mountain top. They shouldn't try to stay there. The important thing is that they follow him in obedience. It was that they follow him to his cross.
10. Therefore, the meaning of the words in verse twenty-eight of "after he had spoken this..." seems to be connected to the preceding paragraph. Just before it, the Lord said this to his disciples, "Whoever wants to come to me, surrender yourself, carry your own cross every day and follow me," (9:23). It is a "daily" thing to obey the Lord. It is not about being in unusual circumstances, but the way it is in one's typical every day life. That hour when they had seen Jesus resplendent with glory was for the very purpose of their obeying by "carrying their own crosses daily." With the words "listen to him" the disciples must have headed to the world down the mountain below.
11. When we read this like that, we come to realize that what is written here is not some simple report about an unique event that Peter and all had experienced one certain time. Here it seems the services of the Lord's Day which generations of the church have kept and we too have kept both overlap.
12 Luke has intentionally written of the day on which these events took place as "when eight days had passed." (Mark and Matthew wrote of it as "after the sixth day.") This relates to the fact that the early church called the Lord's Day "the eighth day." Genesis states that the world was created in seven days. In the name "eighth day what we have is not a day that belongs to this world that is according to the old creation, but an emphasis on it as the day that belongs to the world that is to come according to the new creation and not on it being a world that comes by the old creation, but a world that transcends this world regarded as made in seven days. Since the risen Lord Jesus appeared on that day in the likeness of the world that is to come, the church called it not the "first day" but the "eighth day" and in remembrance of the resurrection of the Lord they took to worshipping on that day. It is believed that the reason Luke had purposefully inserted the phrase eight days was to emphasize the relationship of the narrative of the transfiguration on the mountain with the "resurrection of the Lord" or else with "the Lord's Day."
13. We assemble in this place after doing our usual day to day things. Here we have the Bible explained to us. In a place of worship, through the words of scripture the meaning of the events that took place in Jerusalem are made clear to us over and again. Moses and the prophet give witness of the events in Jerusalem. So, the crucified Christ is made plain before us. But, after the cross lying ahead is the resurrection. In this worship service we too are beholding a Christ that is shinning with the glory of the resurrection.
14. We are spending the "eighth day" together, which does not belong to the world of the old creation, but to the world that is to come. But, we are not here just to stay put. The reason we are believers is not to break from the daily grind and escape into the world of the unusual and from the ordinary. Until the end of days this world is a place the church will always have to stay come what may like it or not. On the Lord's Day, we are afforded a precious glimpse into the glory of the world to come just like the light shining forth from the cracks in a cloud. It is a little like what Peter experienced on the mountain. The important thing is the message Peter heard afterwards. We too hear the message with God the Father pointing to Jesus of "This is my son, the chosen one. Listen to him." Jesus says this to us, "Whoever wants** to come to me, surrender yourself, carry your own cross every day and follow me." In our "daily" lives we should not be the kind of people of whom the Lord said, [some are] "ashamed** of me and my words." The reason we are here is to live as people obedient to the Lord, following him.
*Rest and relaxation.
**There is a contrast between these two kinds of people in the Japanese. There are those who want to come to Jesus and those who are ashamed of Jesus.