Mt. Hermon: Mount of Transfiguration
March 26th, 1997 @ 12:00 PM
MT. HERMON: THE TRANSFIGURATION OF OUR LORD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
3-26-97 12:00 p.m.
Tomorrow, of the great mounts of the Bible, we have chosen the Mount of Olives: The Second Coming of Christ. And today it is Mt. Hermon: The Transfiguration of Our Lord.
Reading from the seventeenth chapter of the Book of Matthew:
And after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and brought them up into a high mountain,
And He was transfigured before them: and His face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was white as the light.
And, behold, there appeared unto [them] Moses and Elijah talking with Him.
And the Gospel of [Luke] chapter 9, verse 31, says, “Talking with Him about His death, which He was to accomplish in Jerusalem” [Luke 9:31].
Then answered Peter, and said, Lord, it is good for us to be here: let us make three tabernacles; one for Thee, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.
While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and a voice out of the cloud said, This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear Him.
And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid.
And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, be not afraid.
And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, but Jesus only.
The “transfiguration” of our Lord, that’s the translation here in the King James Version, “He was transfigured before them” [Matthew 17:2]. The Greek word is metamorphoō; and we have taken that word and spelled it out in English “metamorphosis.” And metamorphosis of course is a transfiguration: it’s a change not of nature, but of form and of fashion; from this into that. There has always been a deep, deep interest in such a metamorphosis, such a transformation; not in nature, but in form. For example, charcoal: black charcoal, under pressure and heat, turns into a glorious diamond. Unthinkable! Or, take again, water, just plain water, water to drink: freeze it and it turns to ice; heat it and it will turn to steam that can drive a locomotive; and heat it still other and it is an oh, its an incomparable force, water!
So many things are capable of being thus metamorphosized, transfigured. For example, sand: heated, it can become glass. The dirt and the soil, let a little seed fall into it, and it can turn into a flower or a tree. A caterpillar can turn into a beautiful, beautiful butterfly. And a little [shell] in a bird’s [nest] can turn into a little bird itself: nothing added, all of it in that little shell; but metamorphosized, transfigured, it can turn into a little bird. So the word is used to describe our living Lord: He was metamorphosized. He was transfigured before those apostles [Matthew 17:2].
There are three miracles here in that story. One of course is the metamorphosis of Jesus. The second miracle is the appearance of Moses and Elijah. And the third miracle is the voice of the Lord God in heaven out of a luminous cloud [Matthew 17:1-2, 3, 5]. So looking at the story, first of all we see its purpose in encouraging Christ our Lord. “They spoke to Him about His death, which He should accomplish in Jerusalem” [Luke 9:31]. So the Lord is to die an awesome death [Matthew 16:21]. For you see, all of the pressure that could be brought upon a man was brought upon Jesus not to die. Satan, for example, said to Him, “Lord, the whole earth is Thine, if only You will fall down and worship me” [Matthew 4:9]. What a temptation: the crown without the cross, the whole earth placed in His hands; just bow down and worship Satan. Or take again, Peter speaking for the apostles, said, “Lord, that You die; that be far from Thee” [Matthew 16:22]. What a temptation! I can hardly enter into it. The cross with its pain and hurt, and the whole world placed in His hands.
So this encouragement on the Mount of Hermon [Luke 9:28-31]; Moses, representing the law, Moses speaks to the Lord and said “Lord, Thy death is the reason I am here. You wrote with Your own fingers those things in Holy Scripture. This substitute for the sinner had to die, and all of those sacrifices and rituals but presented the day when You would come and Your blood be poured out for our sins [Hebrews 10:1]. Lord, the reason I’m here is because of Your suffering and Your death.
And Elijah, the other: “Lord, I’m here because of You. The voice of the prophet plainly said, ‘All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and God has laid on You the iniquity of us all’ [Isaiah 53:6]. Lord, the reason that I am here is because of You and Your death on the cross.” That’s the most remarkable thing: the fingers that wrote the law [Exodus 24:4], or the voice that raised itself in prophecy, encouraging Jesus to die in our stead [Luke 9:28-31].
Or, once again, the reason for this marvelous exhibition of the love and grace of God was not only for the encouragement of Christ, but also for the encouragement of the apostles [Luke 9:28, 35]. That scene of transfiguration on Mt. Hermon was an adumbration and a presentation of the ultimate, sublime, triumphal victory of our Lord at the end of the age. Oh dear! You see, our Lord in the days of His flesh was disowned, disavowed, destroyed. They beat Him. He was covered with stripes. They took off His raiment and mocked Him as they clothed Him with a red robe. They spit upon Him and sat down and scoffed. Then finally they took Him and drove great nails through His hands and His feet [Matthew 27:26-50], and thrust in His side a Roman spear [John 19:34]. That is our Lord, dying for us [1 Corinthians 15:3]. But oh! the triumphant future that lies before Him. He is to be raised from the dead! [Matthew 28:5-7]. He is to be honored in heaven itself [Acts 1:9]. And someday, some triumphant and glorious day He is to be received by mankind, and looked upon by the angels in heaven, and loved by the Father above for the sacrifice of His life [Philippians 2:8-10]. And all of that was in the adumbration of what He was glorified and transfigured for on Mt. Hermon [Matthew 17:1-3]. The encouragement to the apostles as they saw it: beyond His suffering and His death, this is the raised and glorified Son of God!
And as though that were not enough, there appeared to Him Moses and Elijah. In 1 Thessalonians chapter 4, verses  through , there they are representing the triumphant end of the age, when Jesus shall come, and the dead in Christ shall be raised incorruptible [1 Thessalonians 4:14-17]—that is Moses [Deuteronomy 34:5-6]; and we who are alive and remain shall be caught up with them in the air to meet the Lord in the sky [1 Thessalonians 4:17]—that is Elijah, who never died, who was [translated], who was [raptured], who was without death, without sorrow or suffering welcomed into heaven [2 Kings 2:11]. Oh, what an incomparable encouragement just to look at such a scene!
Then as though that were not enough for the encouragement of the apostles, there is the voice of our Lord Jesus, there is the voice of His heavenly Father, and there is the glorious, glorious avowal and announcement from heaven, “This is My glorious Son” [Matthew 17:5], the incarnation of God Himself.” And when the apostles heard that voice out of that luminous cloud, they fell down as one dead [Matthew 17:6]. It was beyond what a human heart could sustain. And there, fallen down as dead, the Lord Jesus touched them, touched them, “Do not be afraid” [Matthew 17:7]. The Lord Jesus touched them.
You know what that brought to my mind, every time I read it? In the first chapter of the Revelation, John sees the Lord Jesus glorified: His head and His hair are white like the snow, He shines in glory, His feet even are afire and ablaze [Revelation 1:14-15]. And John writes in that first [chapter] of the Revelation, “When I saw Him in all of His glory, I fell at His feet as dead! [Revelation 1:17]. And the Lord put His right hand upon me, and said, Fear not; I am the First and the Last, I am the Alpha and the Omega, and I, I hold the keys of Hell and of Death in My hands” [Revelation 1:17-18].
I bet you never noticed that little word: dead as though he had died, “The Lord put His right hand, put His right hand upon me” [Revelation 1:17]. I wonder how many times in the days of His flesh, facing all the providences of life, I wonder how many times Jesus did that, put His right hand upon him, put His right hand upon him? Just the touch of the Master’s hand—that’s His heart. Glorified as He is described in the first chapter of the Revelation [Revelation 1:9-20], glorified as He was on Mt. Hermon in the transfiguration [Matthew 17:1-5], He is just the same in His heart. He is my Friend, He is. He is my Savior, He is. He is my Lord and coming King, He is. And however the glory that surrounds Him and the exaltation and accord that is given to Him, He is still the same: He is my Friend. “And He laid His right hand upon me” [Revelation 1:17].
Sweet people, world without end have I prayed for the sick, “Lord, lay Thy hand of healing upon the sick.” And how many times have I prayed, “Lord, may Thy hand sustain us and keep us.” Our Savior glorified, exalted, the King of heaven and earth [Revelation 19:12], He is still the same: He is my Friend and my Savior, and yours.