Bible Study, Jan 25 2009, Mt. 17

Bible Study, January 25, 2009

Matthew 17:1-23

Revelation is progressive.

– Psalm 119:130. The unfolding of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple.

– John 16:12-15. I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you. [Shew=disclose, unfold, manifest, discover]

In chapter 16 we see that Peter has received a revelation from the Father concerning Jesus. However, his revelation isn’t the entire picture of Who Jesus is, as 16:21 says “from that time Jesus began to show His disciples…” Everything that happens from now on is in the shadow of the cross, and Peter’s understanding is still very limited (as evidenced by his earlier rebuke of Jesus). At the beginning of chapter 17, the revelation is expanded and grows.

Vs 1 – After six days. Six days from Peter’s confession, that is. This indicates a season of necessary time has passed. The revelation does not come before they are ready to receive it, or before the previous revelation has been worked into them. In Paul’s case, it was a period of three years:

– Galatians 1:15-18. But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.

– The disciples are led by the Lord to a set-apart place, much as Moses was led to the mountain to receive the Law:

– Exodus 24:15-18. And Moses went up into the mount, and a cloud covered the mount. And the glory of the LORD abode upon mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days: and the seventh day he called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud. And the sight of the glory of the LORD was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel. And Moses went into the midst of the cloud, and gat him up into the mount: and Moses was in the mount forty days and forty nights.

Vs 2 – He was transformed, seen in a glorious, radiant, supernatural state. They’ve recently been asking “What manner of man is this?” because of Jesus’ great humility and humiliation, because this is “Jesus of Nazareth, the carpenter’s son.” Jesus was literally “born in a barn.” Now, before the shame of the cross, they see Him revealed in great majesty.
– “His face shone like the sun.” Can you think of who else in Scripture had a shining face?

Vs 3 – Moses and Elijah. Luke tells us that Jesus was praying and the disciples were sleeping at the moment this event occurred.
– Moses symbolized the divine Law, and Jesus lived in perfect fulfillment of that law. Elijah symbolized the spoken, prophetic Word and the prophets who all pointed to Jesus. Jesus was the incarnate, living Word.
– Luke tells us they conversed about His soon-coming departure from Jerusalem–His death.

– Q: How did the disciples know it was Moses and Elijah?

Vs 4 – Peter wants to find some way to stay put and memorialize this experience. He interjects his thoughts into the heavenly conversation: “This is it! The Kingdom! The overthrowing of the Romans starts right here, right now! Let’s start a new denomination! Let’s stay up on this mountain forever! This is where we rule!”
– Luke tells us that Peter had no idea what he was saying. Mark says he was terrified.

– Q: Have you ever had a “mountaintop experience” that you never wanted to leave?

Vs 5, 6 – “While he was still speaking…” the Father interrupts Peter and says, “Listen!” Be still with all your plans and ideas, for the moment. Now is the time to listen.
– These are the same words that were spoken from above when Jesus was baptized. But this time it is followed by a command for the disciples, with Moses and Elijah (in Jewish tradition the greatest of the OT influences) bearing witness to the fact that Jesus is greater than they.
– When the disciples see the cloud and hear the voice, they’re ready to go. This encounter with God, as with many others detailed in Scripture, inspires immediate terror.
– In theological lingo, this event is a “theophany,” a divine display of God’s majesty that usually invokes fear.

– Q: What other Scriptural theophanies can you think of?
A: Adam and Eve in the Garden; Mt. Carmel (The Lord, he is God.); Mt. Sinai, where the people greatly feared.

– Peter listened, and later he admonished the church to listen, too. (2 Peter 1:16-19 – pay attention until you are transformed and shine with the light of your Father.)
– Romans 12:2. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

– Q: Why does God use so many “mountains” in the Bible to talk to people?
A: Because there are fewer distractions.

Vs 7,8 – Jesus has come to enable us to experience God as our Father. With His touch and Word, He calls them to arise to behold Him alone, with their ears still ringing with “Listen to Him!”

– Q: What did this event accomplish in the lives of the disciples? How did it impact them? A: It was preparation and encouragement for the trial to come, a promise of hope before a period of intense suffering and confusion. The disciples are, to use an old Pentecostal term, about to be “stripped.”

Vs 9 – “Coming down from the mountain…” Jesus leads them back to where they live, back down to the valleys where they will encounter unbelief, His suffering, their failure, disappointment, and taxes. Think of the things that trouble and tempt you. Jesus may lead you from the mountaintop to face those things.
– Jesus: Tell no one, because for one thing you don’t even understand what you’ve seen. Telling the other disciples would probably make them bickery and jealous. And it’s only when I’ve risen from the dead that this event will make sense and be in perspective for you, and more readily received by others.

– Discuss: Why do you think the Lord only took Peter, James, and John with Him?

Vs 10-13 – The disciples have just seen Elijah, and they have heard teaching from Malachi about Elijah’s reappearance before the coming of Messiah. Maybe they are confused about why Elijah isn’t walking down the mountain in front of them. Jesus makes reference to John the Baptist, who went before Jesus “in the spirit and power of Elijah.” (Luke 1:17)

(flip to Mark 9:14-24 – describe the suffering of the father and son)

Vs 14-16 – Their first sight after coming off the mountain is pandemonium (though not quite as bad as what Moses saw when he came down from Sinai). People are arguing and shouting and running around, but one man and his son are simply suffering.

Vs 17-21 – Jesus has just come from a time of sweet fellowship and prayer. He is conscious of the fact that He won’t be with them much longer, and He seems frustrated that they aren’t paying attention to the “basics,” which in this case is the trust in God that results from spending time with Him in prayer. They cannot just go around saying the right words and doing good works without entering into communion with the Father. If they do, they will eventually be tanked, empty. They had confidence, but their confidence was not rooted in faith.
– In Judaism, if a student did not act like his teacher it was considered a poor reflection on the teacher.
– “perverse” means obstinate, stubborn
– Vs 20 – The mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds. A mountain in Jewish literature and thinking is considered one of the most stable and immovable of all elements. Jesus is saying, “A tiny amount of faith can do the impossible. But you aren’t exercising that tiny amount of faith because you’ve been neglecting prayer and doing things in your own strength.”

Vs 22, 23 – More and more, Jesus speaks to them of the cross. Betrayal is one of the most traumatic feelings a person can experience.
– “deeply grieved…” They are not hearing all of what Jesus is saying.

How we learn trust and reliance on the Lord is the same way He reveals Himself to us: by degrees.

Q: In what ways have you learned to rely on the Lord? In what ways do you need to improve?

Q: Do you think your prayer life has a bearing on the rest of your life?


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