In Matthew chapter 16, the Lord Jesus makes three revelations or announcements to His twelve disciples concerning His person, His imminent sufferings (passion) and something of His coming power and glory. At the beginning of the next chapter, He takes just three of the disciples (Peter, James, and John) up the Mount of Transfiguration and endorses and enlarges on what He has already revealed to them about these three truths.
The first revelation is seen in verses 13 to 20 where something of the dignity, distinctiveness and uniqueness of the Lord’s person is seen. Peter is asked that searching question, ‘But whom say ye that I am?’ v. 15. The answer, ‘the Christ, the Son of the living God’, v. 16, is immediately attributed by the Lord to a revelation from His Father in heaven! This was not the result of natural intelligence or thought. Yet, what is He to us? Are we living day by day in the good of that confession?
The second revelation is found in verses 21 to 23. Here the Lord reveals something of His sooncoming passion, i.e., His going up to Jerusalem, suffering, being killed and rising again the third day - the reality of which would take place in possibly less than six months after this time. We notice that this revelation came after the truth of His person had been revealed! It was only because of who and what He was, that His death would be of infinite value. Previously the Lord had talked of His death in metaphorical language, Matt. 12. 40; John 2. 19-22. He now prophesies specifically about His coming death. What a blessing that we don’t know what the immediate future holds for us, yet, praise God, we know and are confident regarding our eternal future!
The third revelation concerns His coming power and glory, v. 27. This seems to refer to the future establishment of His messianic kingdom. Again, as with the second revelation, it was only because of who and what He was that He could declare these things. Only He would have the power and the ability to make it happen! While the first revelation concerning His person was about the present, the second revelation concerning His passion was clearly prophetic - near prophecy that would soon be fulfilled. The third revelation regarding the coming in power and glory is distant and, as yet, still unfulfilled prophecy.
In Matthew chapter 17 verse 1, the Lord takes Peter, James and John up the mountain and there endorses and expands on those revelations that had already been brought before them with the other disciples. In verse 1, we see three good men, Peter, James and John. In verse 3, we see two great men, Moses and Elijah. When we come to verse 8, we see only one man who stands supreme - unique. The voice from heaven was silent with regard to the disciples and to Moses and Elijah. It spoke only of Christ!
At His baptism in the river Jordan, the Lord was singled-out from the worst of men, others were ‘confessing their sins’, Mark 1. 5; here, on the mount, He is singled-out from the best of men. One man stood supreme. We should value and respect good spiritual men in our day, but certainly we shouldn’t worship them. Only one man should have supreme place in our daily lives.
Luke’s account speaks of ‘his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem’, 9. 31. To accomplish means ‘to complete a work’. Even with this revelation, it appears that the disciples didn’t really appreciate that it would or could happen. Later, in the Upper Room, just twenty-four hours before Calvary, they were still unsure of what was about to take place.
The third revelation was partially fulfilled in what the disciples witnessed on the mountain regarding the Lord’s appearance before them, but not completely fulfilled. It was only a foreshadowing of what His sovereign reign in power and glory would be in a future day. The veil was, as it were, pulled aside and something of His regal glory was seen on the mount. What a contrast from the events of Matthew chapter 27 verse 51, when the veil of the Temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom. What was the result as men looked on the inside because of the rent veil? What glories did they see? None! The glory had long departed, Ezek. 11. 22, 23 - all that was seen was the emptiness and shallowness of a defiled religion!
There are so many lessons to be learnt from this incident. The favoured three disciples, Peter, James and John, were to see something of His glory on the mount, something of His power in the raising of Jairus’ daughter, Luke 8. 51-56, and something of His suffering and sorrow in Gethsemane, Matt. 26. 37-44. They were taken up into a high mountain, apart. This was a place of elevation, separation and quietness, with no distractions from the world below. They were to appreciate and learn of Christ things that they would not have learnt if they had stayed down below. These three had this special revelation on the mount. Bible study and ministry in the assembly is scripturally correct and rewarding -indeed, it is essential. However, it is not a substitute for being alone with Christ in the quiet place, away from any distractions. What do we know of time spent alone with Christ?