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Coming down the mountain

Before the LORD spoke to the people from atop Mount Sinai, He told Moses, “Behold, I will come to you in a thick cloud, so that the people may hear when I speak with you and may also believe in you forever” (Exodus 19:9). The transfiguration on the high mountain accomplished the same objective with regard to Yeshua and his disciples. The LORD came in a thick cloud and spoke upon a mountain to endorse the prophet like Moses. The three frightened disciples henceforth believed in Yeshua forever.

At the sound of the terrifying voice from heaven, the disciples collapsed face down on the ground—their bodies reflexively prostrating before the Almighty. Each of the three disciples could later recount, in the words of the prophet Daniel, “No strength was left in me, for my natural color turned to a deathly pallor, and I retained no strength. But I heard the sound of his words; and as soon as I heard the sound of his words, I fell … with my face to the ground. Then behold, a hand touched me” (Daniel 10:8-10).

The Master gently shook them, saying, “Get up, and do not be afraid” (Matthew 17:7). They lifted their eyes and looked around. The brilliant, luminous cloud had dissipated. “They looked around here and there but did not see anyone else except for Yeshua alone with them” (Mark 9:8). The mysterious visitors had vanished with it. Only the Master remained. He no longer shone like the sun; His garments no longer blazing white. He seemed plain and ordinary, a dark silhouette against the first light of dawn.

Yeshua led them back down the way they had come. The disciples kept silent. For a long while, no one spoke. At length, the Master commanded them, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man has risen from the dead” (Matthew 17:9).

The disciples agreed to secrecy, but they still did not know what He meant by rising from the dead. Falling a few paces behind the Master, Simon Peter and sons of Zebedee began to furtively exchange whispered speculation.

The disciples had not heard the conversations between Yeshua and the heavenly messengers, and they were still unprepared to deal with His predictions about suffering, death, and resurrection. Surely He meant “rising from the dead” as a metaphor for some deeper, mystical revelation. Perhaps rising from the dead meant the resurrection of the Davidic monarchy? Perhaps He referred to the resurrection of the righteous which comes at the end of the age. Lost in the supposed symbolism, the disciples were prepared to accept any esoteric possibility over the literal and simple meaning of His words.

Many years later, Simon Peter recounted the incident on the high mountain. He remembered the Messiah like a lamp shining in a dark place. In his view, the experience verified the Messianic testimony of the prophets; it made the prophetic word more sure:

For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, “This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased”—and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts. (2 Peter 1:16-19)

This article originally appeared on First Fruits of Zion and reposted with permission.

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First Fruits of Zion Staff
First Fruits of Zion specializes in the study and teaching of Scripture from its historical, linguistic, and cultural context. Using the latest scholarship, ancient Jewish sources, and extra-biblical literature, we present a Messianic Jewish reading of the Bible and early Jewish-Christianity. We do this by publishing books, ebooks, magazines, journals, study programs, audio and audio-visual resources, and presenting new material through seminars, conferences, and guided Israel tours.

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