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The Gospel according to MATTHEW.
17: 1 - 18: 9.
pp. 1 - 5
It is important to get the setting of the Transfiguration. It was evidently night, for
Luke tells us that the disciples were "heavy with sleep" (Luke 9: 32 and compare 9: 37).
The Lord had ascended a mountain to spend the night in communion with the Father, as
was His habit (28).
There, in the nocturnal darkness, as He prayed, a glorious transformation took place
which words cannot properly convey, and it must have been all the more overwhelming
because of the darkness all around (Luke 9: 29). The Lord's face became inexpressibly
radiant. To a lesser extent the same thing happened to Moses when he communed with
God, also on a mountain; his face reflected the glory he had seen, even after he had
descended and mingled with the people (Exod. 34: 29-35).
Not only His face, but the Lord's clothes glistened with light, so that His whole Person
was brilliantly radiant. The sight must have been overwhelmingly grand and
overpowering. We can well understand that the effect on the three disciples was almost
to bemuse them. This was a foretaste of the glory of His second Coming, as Peter has
expressed it in his second epistle.
The word "transfiguration" was Tyndale's, and from this time the word has kept its
place in the English versions. He got it from the Latin Vulgate. Others use the word
"transform", and Paul used the same word in Rom. 12: 2. It was a change in the form or
appearance of the Lord's outward Person. This glory must have been inherent in the
personality of the Saviour, for He was "God, manifested in the flesh". It was veiled by
His humanity, but here His glory came through and enveloped Him.
"Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus"
(Matthew 17: 3, N.I.V.).
These men were two great representatives of the Jewish nation and stood for the Law
and the Prophets. Luke not only informs us that they were talking, but also what they
"They spoke about His departure, which He was about to bring to fulfillment at
Jerusalem" (Luke 9: 31, N.I.V.).
The word "departure" is literally exodus. The Lord Jesus was about to accomplish a
far mightier exodus than Israel had experienced in Egypt. That was a release from
slavery, but the Lord's mighty work on the cross was the means of deliverance from sin
and death, far greater enemies than Pharaoh and the Egyptians.