The Transfiguration of our Lord, February 23, 2020 (Matthew 17:1-9)
In biblical times when events occurred on a mountain, the usual indication was that such events were significant and revelatory. We will here identify the people highlighted at such events as mountain men. Before His transfiguration Jesus is already the ultimate “mountain man”, because He had preached His famous Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5,6,7), the most significant sermon in the world.
At the transfiguration, Peter, James and John became mountain men: And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves (17:1). On this Transfiguration Mountain much about this man Jesus is revealed to them. We are also privileged to observe at this mountain-event the revelation that Jesus is God, the long awaited Christ.
When the “glory of the Lord” emanates from Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration He is revealed to be God. Though the glory of the Lord is more than a visible reality, it was nonetheless observed in the Old Testament tabernacle by a light so bright Moses could not remain in its presence: Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle (Ex. 40:34,35). On the Mount of Transfiguration, the blinding light of the glory of the Lord indicates God’s presence in the person of Jesus. God the Father also reveals His presence as His voice speaks from the cloud, audibly identifying the deity of Jesus: This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him (v. 5b). On this mountain stands the God-pleasing man who is the eternal Son of God.
As he had climbed Mt. Sinai into God’s holy presence Moses was one of the first mountain men. Though Moses’ sinfulness prevented him from seeing God, yet God humbled himself to give to Moses on that Mountain the Ten Commandments and the directives for worship. Now standing before Moses on the Mount of Transfiguration is the ultimate mountain man, Jesus. Jesus stands in front of Moses as the only man who has perfectly kept God’s commandments, and Jesus stands before Moses as the Christ, the long awaited Savior who fulfills the shadow cast by of all the Jewish worship practices.
Elijah was also a mountain man. As he fled from Jezebel God gave him miraculous food so he could reach the mountain of Moses, Sinai (also called Horeb; 1 Kings 19). Here God caused powerful events to break forth, events that most people would consider indications of God’s presence. God broke rocks with a wind, He then caused an earthquake, and finally God generated a great fire. But God was not to be found in these powerful events of nature. Then God spoke to Elijah in a “still, small voice”, and God was in the voice. Now God stands with Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration and here Elijah sees the voice made flesh, and again it is a still, small voice. This Voice came as a baby, with barely a noticeable breath. He walked as a man—not as a powerful Roman, but as a Jewish carpenter’s son who spoke not as a great Roman orator, but in the still, small voice of a countryside preacher.
Finally Jesus identifies God’s ultimate still, small voice. On another mountain called Calvary, the God-man gurgles and groans, and finally His voice becomes so still and small it is no voice at all—He is dead. But on this mountain transpires the greatest mountain-event in the history of the world, for here the Son of God dies mankind’s death, making atonement for all sins. His seemed to be a criminal’s death, a death which would forever go unnoticed. However the still, small voice of the cross continues to shake the world, making all of His followers mountain men, people of Calvary, eternal people of the cross.