The teaching Peter had just given urged trust in God in ways that would be reflected in living by courageous faith. “Make every effort,” Peter wrote, “to add to your faith godly character, wisdom, and love.” And later, “make every effort to confirm your call and election.” And Peter would also “make every effort” to remind them of these bracing truths.
Peter also reminded his readers that his testimony was trustworthy.
You Can Trust This Eyewitness
For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty.2 Peter 1:16 (NRSV)
Some were claiming Jesus’ physical resurrection from the dead was untrue, that at best it was an allegory or metaphor for something spiritual, and they scoffed at the claim that Jesus was one day coming back.
But Peter countered this with his own eyewitness account of having seen Jesus’ transfiguration, resurrection, and ascension, and of actually having heard the voice of Almighty God, rolling down as thunder from heaven, approving God’s Son at Jesus’ baptism, and at Jesus’ transfiguration.
For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain.2 Peter 1:17-18 (NRSV)
Cross of the Believer
It had been a rough few weeks for Peter, at the time. He had risen to great spiritual heights in boldly declaring Jesus Messiah, but then had swiftly plummeted to the depths when he chastised Jesus for speaking of the cross. Jesus had roundly rebuked him!
They had all been confused and unsettled Jesus’ affirmation of Peter’s confession—that he was actually the Son of God, the divine Messiah—did not bring the expected promise of earthly glory, of establishing the kingdom in victory. Instead, Jesus began to tell them that certain, public rejection was coming, ending with his death and resurrection.
This made no sense to Jesus’ disciples with what they, along with all those of Jewish faith, had always believed about the Messiah. They believed in a Messiah who would right all wrongs, reestablish Israel as a world power, bring health and wealth to all Jewish people, reign in peace and prosperity.
But right after Jesus had rebuked Peter, he had turned to the crowds and begun to teach on the cross of every believer.
He [Jesus] called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.
For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life?
Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of [Humanity] will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”Jesus, to the crowds, Mark 8:34-38 (NRSV)
It was as though every word had been addressed personally to Peter.
Then, Jesus had prophesied a remarkable prophecy.
And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”Jesus, to the crowds, Mark 9:1 (NRSV)
Nobody had quite understood what Jesus meant. Especially after his teaching about the cross.
It seemed as though he were saying the New World Order was about to be ushered in, the prophesied Glorious Kingdom the prophets of old had seen in their visions and comforted the exiled people with.
So how were they to understand the cross and glory? How were they to view Jesus as the conquering Messiah, the mighty Lord and yet also as one marked for execution? It just did not make any sense.
At the time, the disciples had also still been trying to come to grips with the fact that Jesus was actually God. Those of Jewish faith had always understood God as one being, hence the Shema, “The Lord our God, Jehovah, The Lord is one.” Yet God’s most ancient name, found in the first chapters of Genesis, is Elohim. It is a plural word, connoting multiple persons yet one being—the ancients had interpreted such a name as meaning multiplied in might and majesty.
Now, Jesus was teaching his disciples to see how it was that Jehovah is also Elohim, one God yet more than one person.
Six days after he had made this astonishing prediction about God’s kingdom coming with power, Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him up a high mountain, probably Mount Hermon. When they reached the summit, Jesus began to pray, and Peter, James, and John began to notice Jesus’ appearance changing.
He was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them.(Peter’s Gospel) Mark 9:2-3 (NRSV)
Another translation says, “his garments became glittering, radiant, intensely white, like snow.”
Jesus shone with the brilliance of the sun.
μεταμορφόομαι | metamorphoomai The word translated “transfigured” is actually the word from which we get “metamorphosis,” a change on the outside that comes from the inside.
Jesus’ glory was not reflected light, he was radiating light from within himself. He was a man, yet from his inner being flowed the shekinah glory of Jehovah God.
Moses and Elijah
As the disciples continued to watch in wonderment, Moses and Elijah appeared. In fact, Peter, James, and John had been overcome with the heaviness of feeling sleepy, but this jolted them fully awake.
Moses and Elijah were unique to those of Jewish faith.
- Both men had their most intimate experiences with God on a mountain top, surrounded and hidden in God’s cloud. In fact, Moses’ face had often still glowed for a while after these encounters with God.
- Mystery surrounded the death of both men. God had buried Moses, no one knows where. Elisha had watched Elijah disappear in a chariot of fire, up into the clouds.
- Moses was the law giver. It was believed when Messiah returned Moses would be by his side.
- Elijah was the forerunner of the Messiah.
- Together, Moses and Elijah represented the whole of the Hebrew Scriptures, the Law and the Prophets. Their presence with Jesus showed all scripture points toward and is fulfilled in the Lord Jesus, the Messiah.
While Peter, James, and John watched and listened in stunned awe and trembling amazement, Moses and Elijah talked with Jesus about his coming departure from Jerusalem.
ἔξοδος | exodos The word “departure” in the Greek is “exodus,” the same word used to describe the exodus of God’s people, the Hebrews, from enslavement in Egypt, beginning with the Red Sea, through the desert, and into the promised land.
Now Jesus would fulfill the deeper, eternal meaning of the exodus by leading God’s people, all believers down through the ages, in the exodus from enslavement to corruption and death, beginning with the cross, through life on this earth, and into paradise with Jesus.
Think how this must have encouraged Jesus, to see not the humiliation and seeming defeat of the cross, but to be spurred on by these two iconic leaders, to have the joy set before him of the exodus into Paradise.
[Titian Transfiguration c1560 SanSalvador | By Titian – http://www.topofart.com, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20886044