Matthew 17:1-2. In Matthew 16:28 Jesus tells His disciples that some who were among them at that time would not die before seeing the Son of Man in His Kingdom. Peter made his confession of faith that Jesus was the Son of God in the region of Caesarea Philipi.
Six days later Jesus takes Peter, James and Andrew to a high mountain where Jesus becomes transfigured before them. Where did this occur? In the fourth century, tradition had placed the location as Mount Tabor, which is between Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee. Archaeologists have discovered that there was a fortified city located at the top of Mt Tabor at the time of Jesus, making it most unlikely as the sight of the transfiguration.
Mount Hermon, snow capped most of the year and near Caesarea Phillipi where Peter made his confession of faith in Matthew 16, was probably the location of the “high mountain”. The word transfiguration is an allusion to the radical change of appearance that came upon Jesus. For a brief period of time the glorious kingdom of God was unveiled before their eyes and they beheld that which Moses beheld. (Exodus 33:18-24). God’s voice spoke from the midst of a bright cloud that surrounded them declaring that Jesus was His beloved Son.
Two of the foremost citizens of the Kingdom are present at that wonderful moment, Moses and Elijah. There was no doubt in the mind of Peter that the Kingdom of heaven had just been revealed. This is the reason he offers to build tabernacles. The Rabbis taught that the feast of Tabernacles would be the time that the Messiah would reveal himself and His glorious kingdom. The Feast of Tabernacles commemorated, the giving of thanks for the harvest.
To remember God’s goodness in providing the early and latter rains necessary for their plants to grow, the priests would lead Israel in an elaborate ceremony. Every day water and wine poured into different silver tubes which emptied upon the altar. On the 8th day, the Hoshanna rabba, the great day of this feasts, the priests would lead a procession around the altar, while the Levites sang from the Psalms of Assents (Psalms 110-118).
When they came to the words in the Psalm 118:26, those that were of the remnant, the true believers, would in their hearts greet the Messiah and King, to whom these words they knew applied. The Rabbis understood that this event was symbolic of two things:
1. The provision of water that God made for his children in the wilderness wanderings.
2. The promised pouring forth of God’s Spirit like waters upon the earth.
It was at this moment, That Jesus stood up, as it is quoted in John 7:37 Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. In John 7:39 we are told that Jesus was referring to the Spirit of God. Tabernacles was the only feast that consisted of 8 days. In Scripture the 7th day speaks of rest, the rabbis believed that the 8th day spoke of resurrection. They believed that in God’s timetable Tabernacles speaks of the resurrection of the world spiritually.
Matthew 17:3-9 – Some believe that Moses and Elijah appear on the Mt. because they represent two key aspects of the Older Covenant that was about to be fulfilled in Jesus. Moses brought the Law, and in many was a type of the Messiah. He learned humility on the backside of Midian. It was there that he “died” to his own plans and will and became the man God could use to represent His will to His chosen people.
He was a kind of a prophet, priest and king. Elijah was the greatest of the prophets and their joint testimony on the Mt. with Jesus had compounded the Apostles impression of the magnitude of the moment. Compound that with the voice of the Lord in the bright cloud and the impression was awesome. God had in OT times manifested Himself in the cloud. Exodus 13:21, Numbers 9:17).