Mountain top experiences. They are special. Both literally. And figuratively.
Norma Jean and I enjoy the mountains. We honeymooned in the Smoky Mountains and have been to the top of Clingman’s Dome many times, where on a clear day you can see 7 states. We’ve also marveled at the majesty of the Rocky Mountains and enjoyed the view from over 11,000 ft on the Continental Divide. And we’ve been blessed to enjoy the beauty and the break-taking view from Mauna Loa on the Big Island of Hawaii.
However, all of our experiences pale in comparison to the mountain top experience of Peter, James, and John when they stood on the mountain with Jesus in Matthew 17.
The text doesn’t say which mountain, but it was a “very high mountain.” Many scholars believe it was Mount Hermon, which is close to Caesarea Philippi, which is where Jesus promised to build His church and predicted his impending death. Hermon rises 9400′ at its peak and is 11,000′ above the Jordan valley. In fact, it can be seen from the Dead Sea over 100 miles away.
Their mountain top experience, however, was more than a mere sight-seeing adventure. It was a spiritual experience. There are at least three lessons they learned, and we can learn from Mt. Hermon.
#1 The Glory of Jesus.
Imagine private time with Jesus, alone on the mountain. Enjoying the view. Engaging in conversation. Then suddenly His appearance is transfigured before your very eyes. The word rendered “transfigured” is akin to our English word “metamorphosis.” Jesus was changed on the outside by the inner glow of His Divine radiance.
Warren Wiersbe observes that Jesus’ glory was manifested in four ways. The glory of His person. The glory of His Kingdom. The glory of the cross. And the glory of submission. Each of these is suggested in the context from chapter 16.
Jesus promised they would see “the Son of man coming in His kingdom.” Furthermore, the disciples needed to learn that suffering and glory are not inseparable. Later Paul would write about the “glory of the cross” and how he gloried in physical infirmities. Our suffering is infinitesimal compared to the glory that will be revealed and is awaiting for us in heaven (Rom. 8:18).
#2 The Supremacy of Jesus
If Jesus’ astonishing transformation wasn’t enough, then appeared Moses and Elijah, the great lawgiver, and the great prophet. Both respected and revered by the Jews. Caught up in the magnificence of the occasion, Peter impulsively suggested building three tabernacles to honor Moses, Elijah, and Jesus.
While Peter thought such a historical monument was appropriate, God reminded him that Jesus was supreme, above both Moses and Elijah. God’s Son was not to be compared on an equal basis with these men, great though they were.
Scripture reminds us that Jesus embodies the fullness of Godhood (Eph. 1:22-23). That He deserves the preeminence (Col. 1:18). The supremacy. And the priority. And that He alone “is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords” (1Tim. 6:15).
Let’s not allow ourselves to elevate any man to occupy the place and position reserved for Jesus alone.
#3 The Authority of Jesus
In response to Peter’s impetuosity, God said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!”
Both Jesus’ Divine glory and His supremacy find expression in His authority. Both Moses and Elijah in the form of the law and the prophets pointed to Jesus. He was its fulfillment and consummation.
Authority to command resides in Jesus today. Following His resurrection, Jesus would appear to the apostles on another mountain and proclaim, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18).
Jesus is not “a way” to God, He is the “the way” (Jn. 14:6). The only way. There may be many roads to Rome, but there’s only one road to heaven. And that’s the way of Christ (Matt. 7:13-14).
Appealing to the edicts of religious leaders, elevating the writings of learned men, and following our own personal feelings will lead us away from Him we should be listening to.
If we’re not careful, our mountain-top spiritual experiences can sway our emotions to mistakenly draw an incorrect conclusion like Peter did. Don’t be fooled by subjective experiences.
God still says to us today. “This is my beloved Son. Hear Him.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman
3 responses to “Matthew 17:1-8”
We were just at Clingman’s Dome this morning! We are planning to worship in Sevierville this evening. ❤️🙂
Sent from my iPhone
Dear Ken, I really appreciate what you do and I very much enjoyed today’s reminders about Jesus.Blessings upon you, Ken. brotherly, Wayne Plath
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