Matthew 17:1-13 – The Transfiguration


Matthew 17:1-13


Immediately after the announcement of his imminent suffering and death and his call to take up their cross and follow him, Jesus takes three of his disciples up to a high mountain where he is transfigured gloriously in front of them. A voice from heaven matches the voice at Jesus’ baptism declaring him God’s beloved Son, while Jesus’ words interpret the vision as an anticipation of his resurrection from the dead.


A number of key themes mark this episode, coming as it does right after Jesus’ foretelling of his coming suffering, death, and resurrection, and his call for his followers to deny themselves and take up their cross and follow him. Its location on a mountain, accompanied by Jesus’ transfigured appearance and the presence of Moses and Elijah, mark this as an event of special revelation. In the voice from heaven it looks back and recalls Jesus’ baptism, reaffirming God’s delight in this beloved Son and confirming Jesus’ ministry and mission as the fulfillment of righteousness. Jesus instructs the disciples not to be afraid, and, as they descend the mountain, he invites them to look ahead in hope and interpret this vision in terms of the coming resurrection. Jesus does not say “if” but “when.” All is happening according to God’s purpose. As surely as the Elijah of promise has already come in the ministry and death of John the Baptist, so surely the coming death of the Son of Man will be the occasion of the fulfillment of God’s promises.