Behold and Become

September 18, 2022 | Jess Rainer

Passage: Matthew 17:1-13

We are all becoming like someone.  A lot of people realize it later in life when they start saying the same things as a parent.  The question we need to ask ourselves, “Who am I becoming like?”  What you behold is what you will become.  We finish our 7-week run at looking at how people around Jesus answered the question, “Who is this Man?”  We’ve seen a gamut of responses: denial, hate, curiosity, confusion, and declaration.  Two weeks ago we saw that Jesus is indeed the Son of God—the Messiah and Savior of the world.  It’s through Jesus and Jesus only that we can gain eternal life with God.  It’s through Jesus and Jesus alone that we can get rid of the curse and consequences of sin.  Today: We end on the mountain top with Jesus, literally.  We reach a passage often called the “Transfiguration.”  It’s on this mountain the Jesus reveals—ever so slightly—to 3 of His disciples who He is—specifically revealing His divinity.  We’ll see why Jesus did this, but I believe this scene was for the disciples to behold the beauty of Jesus.  The disciples would soon see so much ugliness that Jesus wanted His beauty to be what they held onto with everything they had.  Jesus wanted His disciples to get a glimpse of what they will one day see fully.  Jesus wanted His disciples to become like Him, so He wanted them to behold Him.  I want to give you three ways for how to become like Jesus—three ways to behold Jesus.

1) To become like Jesus, behold the beauty of Jesus. (vs. 1-2)  This mountain top experience is book-ended with two distinct events with the disciples.  Last week, we saw Peter get rebuked by Jesus.  He learned a valuable lesson about trying to put his personal narrative before God’s plan.  We won’t cover this passage, but immediately following this mountain top experience, we find out that while Jesus was on the mountain, the disciples tried to heal a boy and were unsuccessful.  In the middle of these two “lows,” is this incredible “high”.  Jesus knows all of this is coming.  That’s why He said what He said in verse 28:  “And I tell you the truth, some standing here right now will not die before they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom.”  There are a lot of smart people who have come to a lot of different conclusions about what Jesus meant in this verse.  As best as I can understand it, I think Jesus is talking about the passage we read today – this mountain top experience.  He’s telling the disciples that some of them are about to see the kingdom of God through Jesus.  That leads us to verse 1.  Six days later Jesus took Peter and the two brothers, James and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone.   Jesus takes 3 disciples up the mountain and leaves the other 9 behind.  Why did they go up the mountain?  Luke 9:28 tells us they were going to pray.  “About eight days later Jesus took Peter, John, and James up on a mountain to pray.”  

We’ll get back to the importance of prayer on the mountain, but look at what happened during this prayer time:  As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed so that his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light.   There is no adequate way that I can describe to you what is happening in verse 2.  In fact, words are inadequate to describe what is happening in verse 2.  I can tell you that this verse isn’t saying that Jesus washed His face and put on His Sunday best.  What those 3 disciples saw was an indescribable experience. There’s no earthly way to describe what they saw.  They saw something that they could not fully comprehend.  The only language that could articulate what these 3 disciples saw was that of an incredible light.  While we don’t have the ability to describe what this moment looked like, we do know what was happening on the mountain top.  On top of the mountain, Jesus revealed His divine glory to Peter, James, and John.  In this moment, Jesus is REVEALING His glory.  Jesus isn’t reflecting divine glory.  Jesus was revealing divine glory. 

To help understand the magnitude of this moment, I want to remind you all of something we know about Jesus from Philippians 2.  Starting in verse 6, we see that Jesus willingly took on the form of man.  Jesus set aside His divine privileges.  The King became a commoner.  The Creator became part of creation.  Now, Jesus never loses His status as God, as King, but rather, He became both fully God and fully man.  When Jesus was born through Mary by the Holy Spirit, Jesus allowed His humanity to be veiled.  Jesus’ divinity was hidden under the veil of His humanity.  What Peter, James, and John get to see is a glimpse of Jesus’ divinity.  They get a brief look behind the veil.  And it’s absolutely glorious.  With Jesus, the deeper we behold Him, the more beauty we see. 

When’s the last time you were in complete awe of Jesus?  When’s the last time you wept over the gospel?  There’s so much ugliness in this world, we must keep our eyes on beauty.  Quote: "We are exposed to so much brokenness in the city, we must constantly expose our hearts and minds to beauty." — Tim Keller.  Behold the beauty of Jesus.  Become like Jesus.  The scene doesn’t stop with Jesus revealing His glory. Something else happens in the midst of Jesus’ glory being revealed.  What unfold helps us see to become like Jesus, behold our future with Jesus.

2) To become like Jesus, behold your future with Jesus. (vs. 3-8)  Peter, James, and John are taking in the beauty of Jesus.  Now, we see Moses and Elijah appear too! Look at verse 3:  Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared and began talking with Jesus.  Can you imagine if you were on that mountain?  You are absolutely floored by Jesus’ glory and now two heroes of the faith show up.  I could see Peter reaching one hand out, grabbing and shaking James, his mouth wide open, and then pointing to the trio with his other.   There is significance to why Moses and Elijah are there.  Both men pointed to Jesus in the Old Testament.  Moses was the lawgiver.  Elijah was the prophet.  Now, standing on the mountain, both the law and prophecies were fulfilled in Jesus.  Moses reflected God’s glory.  Elijah proclaimed God’s glory.  Jesus is revealing His glory.  In this moment, Jesus clearly connects the Old Testament to the New Testament.  Quote: “The New is, in the Old, concealed; and the Old is, in the New, revealed.” – Alistair Begg. 

Peter is taking all of this in, and like we would expect from Peter, he just starts talking.  Look at how Luke recounts the scene:  33 As Moses and Elijah were starting to leave, Peter, not even knowing what he was saying, blurted out, “Master, it’s wonderful for us to be here! Let’s make three shelters as memorials—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”   Peter exclaimed, “Lord, it’s wonderful for us to be here! If you want, I’ll make three shelters as memorials—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”  Peter really has no idea what he’s saying here.  Peter is just taking all of this in, he’s lost any coherency.  “Hey Jesus! I like this mountain top. Let’s just stay here. It’s way better than all the suffering and dying stuff you were talking about. Let’s just make a little campground. We can have some holy smores. I’ll go grab Thomas and he can play his guitar. And you want need to tell me to get behind up here…”  Peter has been a rollercoaster lately.  Peter thinks he’s found that spiritual smooth air.  He wants to stay on the mountain top forever. 

It’s not bad to want to stay on the mountain top.  The problem is thinking the Christian life will always be the mountain top.  Quote[1]: “The Christian life is tortuous and chequered in its course. The royal path to glory is a divine mosaic paved with stones of diverse lines. Today, it is a depthalmost soundless; tomorrow, a height almost scaleless.” -- Octavius Winslow.  If you tried out the Christian life to change your circumstances, you were greatly disappointed.  The natural question that arises is “Should we seek to spend time with Jesus on the mountain top?”  Absolutely! Here’s why:  Those times on the mountain – those times where you are alone with God – are what fuel you to live down off the mountain.  The power to carry out the Christian life comes from time with Jesus.  That’s what it means to behold your future with Jesus.  Stop focusing on trying to find smooth air and focus on the One who controls the air and your future.  To become like Jesus, you need to spend time with Jesus. And when you spend time with Jesus, you behold your future with Jesus. 

Peter wasn’t seeing the big picture in the moment.  He’s your “speak first and think later” guy.  And God decided to jump in with Peter now.  Look at what happened in verse 5!  But even as he spoke, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him.”   As Peter spoke, God brought His voice down in a cloud.  Peter is just blabbing on.  The Father is watching His Son reveal His glory to these three men.  And Peter won’t stop talking!  I can imagine James and John trying to get him to stop.  God tells Peter to shut up from a cloud!  You can’t make this stuff up!  God tells Peter to be quiet and listen to Jesus.  This got the disciples attention.  The disciples were terrified and fell face down on the ground.  Then Jesus came over and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.”  And when they looked up, Moses and Elijah were gone, and they saw only Jesus.  Where did Moses and Elijah go?  We don’t know, but we do know who was left.  Jesus isn’t the replacement of Moses and Elijah.  Jesus is the better Moses and Elijah.  Behold Jesus. Behold His beauty. Behold your future with Jesus.  And here’s one last way to become like Jesus: Behold the mission of Jesus.

3) To become like Jesus, behold the mission of Jesus. (vs. 9-13)  We see them coming back down the mountain and Jesus tells them wait to tell others about what just happened.  As they went back down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”  We don’t have the time to unpack the question and response starting in verse 10.  In short, the disciples realize the John the Baptist was a fulfillment of prophecy.  10 Then his disciples asked him, “Why do the teachers of religious law insist that Elijah must return before the Messiah comes?”  11 Jesus replied, “Elijah is indeed coming first to get everything ready.  13 Then the disciples realized he was talking about John the Baptist.  What I do want you to see is what Jesus told them in verse 12 and also back in verse 9.  12 But I tell you, Elijah has already come, but he wasn’t recognized, and they chose to abuse him. And in the same way they will also make the Son of Man suffer.”   Jesus just put the beauty of His divinity on display and now He tells the disciples that He will suffer.  Jesus is preparing to go the cross.  Jesus is preparing to do something for every single person in this room.  Jesus is preparing to give you a way to eternal life with God.  Eternity is real. Eternity matters. It matters more than anything else on this earth.  Jesus is about to go die on a cross, so that you don’t have to.  Jesus is taking on the penalty you deserve – the penalty we all deserve – so we don’t have to.  Christ gave up His beauty for the ugliness of the cross.  But the cross wasn’t the end of the story.  Look back at verse 9. He told them to wait until when?  Until Jesus rose from the dead.  Jesus would die on a cross, but He would be resurrected from the dead – defeating sin and death for good.  If we are to become like Christ, then we are to behold Christ – we are to behold His mission on this earth so that we may life.

Do what you are created to do.  You are created to glorify God.  The best way to glorify is by becoming like Jesus.  And the best way to become like Jesus is to behold Jesus.  See His beauty. See your future with Him. See His mission for you.  Let it sink into the crevices of your heart. 


Previous Page

Series Information

Who Is This Man? The Inescapable Power of Jesus is a series that examines aspects of Jesus’s character. His character is revealed by his interactions with his disciples, with those who need healing, and even with children. In these interactions, Jesus shows that his heart is for all people, even (perhaps especially) those outside the traditional community. Through words difficult and caring, Jesus declares that his people should trust in him and participate in his work, for the sake of their neighbors.

Other sermons in the series

August 07, 2022

Don’t Miss Jesus

Matthew 14:20 And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up...

August 14, 2022

A Continuous Faith

Matthew 14:33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you...

August 21, 2022

A Heart of Holiness

Matthew 15:11 "it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a...

August 28, 2022

Everything We Need

Matthew 16:12 Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware...

September 04, 2022

Identify and Join

Matthew 16:16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the...