(Distribute a small index card and pen to everyone. Tell them to write something unique about themselves that most people may not know. Collect the cards, shuffle them and read them aloud. Have the group guess to which individual the fact refers.)
1. Which fact most surprised you? Why?
No matter how well we think we know others, we never really know everything because of the complexity God has placed within each of us.
This week we will look at a passage in which three of Jesus’ disciples will learn a greater truth about Jesus than they had known before through a “mountain top experience.”
2. How do we normally describe a “mountain top experience?” (A momentous experience can be life-altering or help put life into perspective.)
3. Have you ever had what you would describe a “mountain top experience” and would you like to share it with us?
Last week we learned the disciples had come to realize that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God; now there was much more to learn about Him. Today we’ll learn how Jesus continued to reveal more precisely who He really was on the mount of transfiguration.
Presence! Read Matthew 17:1-6
The Greek word translated “transfigured” appears only four times in the New Testament: Matthew 17:2; Mark 9:2; Romans 12:2; and 2 Corinthians 3:8. In Matthew and Mark it is used in relationship to what happened to Jesus on the mountain with Peter, James and John. In Romans and 2 Corinthians it is used in reference to how we as Christians are transformed into the likeness of Jesus, otherwise known as “sanctification.”
1. Why do you suppose Jesus led the disciples up on the mountain for this event?
2. How would you describe the transformation that took place in Jesus?
3. Why do you think the disciples used the sun to describe Jesus’ face and the color “white” to describe His clothes? (I believe they were at a loss for words and that was the closest they could come to what they saw. In Mark 9:2 the word “dazzling” is used.)
4. Why do you think Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus? (Moses represented the law and Elijah represented the prophets.)
5. What key role did each of these men play in God’s plan of redemption?
6. What did their presence confirm about Jesus? (Matt. 5:17 “Don’t assume that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” The Law and the Prophets had foretold Jesus’ arrival and mission.)
Luke 9:31 records that Jesus, Moses and Elijah were talking about Jesus’ impending death in Jerusalem.
7. What does Peter’s request to build three tabernacles imply about his lack of understanding? (It is almost as if Peter was saying Moses, Elijah and Jesus were all equal. It could also mean that Peter thought this experience was so wonderful that he wanted to just stay up there on the mountain. On top of the mountain is wonderful but it’s not where the work is to be done.)
Peter did not grasp the priceless value of the experience, nor did he realize that Moses and Elijah were present only to confirm the deity of Jesus Christ (nor did James or John).
God the Father stepped in to clarify by speaking from a cloud the awe-inspiring words recorded in verse 5.
8. How do we know the disciples then understood the gravity of their experience?
9. How is what God said different here from what He said at Jesus’ baptism? (He added “Listen to Him!”)
10. How does the awareness of God’s presence change our understanding or perception of a situation?
Purpose! Read Matthew 17:7-9
1. The disciples had heard directly from the Father and it gave them new perspective. How does time with the Father prepare us to face challenges? (Time with God, reading His Word, praying and seeking His guidance gives us strength, boldness, and courage for what is to come. While we are not outwardly transfigured like Jesus was, we can be inwardly transformed.)
2. What does Jesus’ response to their fears tell us about Him?
3. What was the significance of the fact that when the disciples looked up they saw that Jesus was now alone?
4. How does devoting our attention to Christ alone help us deal with our fears?
5. What would be the first thing anyone would want to do after the most overwhelming experience of a lifetime?
Jesus sensed their plans to tell others of their wonderful experience, but He called an abrupt halt to these plans by telling them not to tell anyone. The time would come to share all they knew, but the time would be after His death and resurrection. Some scholars term this idea as the “Messianic Secret.” “Jesus forced His disciples to think about the secret until they could articulate the secret.” Source—HCS Bible Dictionary.
Perspective! Read Matthew 17:10-13
Read Malachi 4:5—The scribes had taught, based on this verse, that Elijah would come ahead of the Messiah to lead His people back to a proper relationship with Him and with each other. The disciples were perplexed because they had not seen this happen.
1. How did the scribes’ teachings of what would happen differ from reality once Jesus came? (They were looking for Elijah literally, not one who would come like Elijah.)
2. What did the disciples then realize about the identity of “Elijah”? (John the Baptist had lived out the spirit and power of Elijah!)
3. What message did John the Baptist preach? (Repentance.)
4. What difference might it have made if God’s people had recognized John the Baptist as God’s messenger and had responded to his message of repentance and preparation for the Messiah’s arrival? (Even if they had accepted Jesus as the Messiah they pictured in their mind, Jesus would have been rejected and crucified because He didn’t fit their “mold”!)
5. Once again Jesus told the disciples of His impending death, yet they did not grasp what He was saying. How is it possible that they could hear Jesus speak the words and still not understand His meaning? (They did not understand why Jesus had to suffer and die. Even after Jesus’ resurrection, many people today know the truths of Scripture concerning Jesus, but they choose to ignore the message of salvation.)
6. How does Jesus change our perspective of what we have accepted as truth?
7. What attitudes do we need to adopt if we are going to continue to learn from Jesus?
Summarize and Challenge!
1. Why is it impossible to understand Jesus’ mission apart from His death, burial, and resurrection? (Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth in human form was to die in our place. His death, burial, and resurrection are the cornerstone of our salvation. He is “the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father except through Him.” John 14:6)
2. Why are reverence and fear appropriate responses to the reality of God’s glory revealed through His Son? (Reverence denotes worship, adoration, and respect. Fear acknowledges the holiness of God and the assurance that our devotion and awe are expressed in light of who He is and what He has done.)
Take time this week to evaluate how you demonstrate reverence and awe for Jesus in your personal life.
3. Does your life point others to Jesus?
4. Do you verbally share with others about the divine mission of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection?
Father as you reveal Yourself more and more to us, may we have the appropriate response of worship and awe!