This is an odd story, isn’t it? Quite different from anything else in Matthew, for sure. Three of the disciples receive a sign that should help them understand better who Jesus is.
Did it happen in actual fact, or was it a vision experienced by the group of three? Jesus calls it a vision in v. 9, but I’m not sure that precludes the event from actually occurring.
Jesus appearance changed and he was joined by Moses and Elijah for a discussion to which we are not privy. Peter’s reaction was to keep this moment alive, to keep Moses and Elijah here. Perhaps he still wants to avoid the suffering Jesus has promised.
A cloudy curtain comes down over the scene and the most important part of this experience happens: God speaks from the cloud and reiterates what he said at Jesus’ baptism, but this time for the benefit of the disciples.
And God adds a caution: listen to him.
Listen to the teachings you are blessed to hear. Listen to the plan for saving through suffering. Listen to the call to deny yourself and take up your own cross. Listen and obey.
The sight of Jesus with Moses and Elijah made the disciples giddy, but the voice of God terrified them. Throughout this gospel, people come to Jesus, but in this case Jesus goes to the three men lying on their faces in abject fear. He touches them (as in a healing) and tells them to get up.
The vision of over.
The disciples had questions about the end times just as we do. They wanted to know how Elijah fits into things. I mean, they had just seen Elijah on the mountain. Jesus confirms that little verse at the end of Malachi, but also points out that John the Baptist fulfills that role, if you have eyes to see it.
I guess it just goes to show you can’t make charts and graphs of the end times. God doesn’t always do things when or how you would think from what you read. And I guess we need to allow him that freedom, yes?
These disciples have had a foretaste of glory to come. They have seen a glorified Jesus. They have heard the stamp of God on his Son. Peter’s confession is confirmed.