Matthew 17:2
(2) And was transfigured before them.--Elsewhere in the New Testament (with the exception of the parallel, Mark 9:2) the word is used only in its spiritual sense, and is there rendered "transformed." St. Luke does not use the word, but describes the change which it implies, "the fashion of His countenance became other than it had been" (Luke 9:29). He adds the profoundly significant fact that this was while He was in the act of prayer. It was in that act of communion with His Father that the divine glory flowed out into visible brightness. Transcendent as the manifestation was, it has its lower analogies in the radiance which made the face of Stephen "as the face of an angel" (Acts 6:15); yet more in the glory which shone on the face of Moses when he came down from the mount (Exodus 34:29); in some faint measure, in what may be called the metamorphic power of prayer which invests features that have no form or comeliness with the rapture of devout ecstacy. And it is no over-bold speculation to see in the fact thus noted that which gives its meaning to the Transfiguration as a stage in the training of the disciples. Prayers like those which were offered for Peter that his "faith might not fail" (Luke 22:31-32) at least suggest something as to the intercession of the Master for His disciples, and this, we must remember, was a crisis in their spiritual history. They had risen to the highest faith; they had been offended by the announcement of His rejection, His sufferings, His death. Something was needed which might sustain their faith, on which they might look back in after years as the earnest of a future glory. It was well for them that they should, at least once in His life of lowliness, gaze on the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father (John 1:14), and feel that they were not "following cunningly-devised fables," but had been "eye-witnesses of His majesty" (2Peter 1:16). To those who believe that our Lord's human nature was in very deed, sin only excepted, like unto ours, it will not seem over-bold to suggest that for Him too this might have been a time of conflict and of trial, a renewal of the Temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 16:23), an anticipation of that of the agony of Gethsemane, and that even for Him, in his humanity, there might be in the excellent glory and in the voice from heaven the help and comfort which strengthened Him for the cross and passion. Following the narrative in its details, we may trace its several stages in some such sequence as follows:--After six days, spent apparently with their Lord in the mountain district near Caesarea Philippi, but not in the work of preaching or working miracles, the rest of the disciples are left at the foot of the mountain, and the three follow Him, as the evening closes, to its summit. There, as afterwards in Gethsemane, He withdraws from them "about a stone's throw" (Luke 22:41), and they "watch with Him." and gaze on Him, as He, standing or kneeling (the first was, we must remember, the more common attitude of prayer, Luke 18:11), intercedes for them and for Israel, and, we may add, for mankind. And then, as they gaze, form and features shine with a new glory, bright as the sun, as though the Shechinah cloud had wrapt Him round. Even His garments are "white as the light," "white as snow" (the reading in St. Mark is doubtful, but if genuine the snows of Hermon may have suggested the comparison), as St. Mark adds with his usual descriptive vividness, "so as no fuller on earth can whiten them." Nothing, however, it may be added, suggests the vision of three forms floating in the air with which Raffaelle's glorious picture has made us familiar.

Verse 2. - Was transfigured (μετεμορφώθη); Vulgate, transfiguratus est. The verb is used in classical Greek of transformation, as of a man into an animal. Here it refers to a change of countenance, which is the chief index of any change exterior or interior. St. Luke explains the matter with the words, "The fashion of his countenance was altered." The Word of God allows for a brief space his essential glory to irradiate and shine through the form of a servant which he wore. Not that he showed his Divine nature, or laid aside his human body; his bodily nature remained in its entirety, but permeating it was an effulgence which indicated the Godhead. Perhaps it might be said, as an old writer puts it, that the Transfiguration was less a new miracle than the temporary cessation of an habitual miracle; for the veiling of his glory was the real marvel, the Divine restraint which prohibited the illumination of his sacred humanity. Before them. In their presence. Jesus probably had withdrawn in order to pray in secret, but returned to the waiting three, that they might behold his glory - be "eyewitnesses of his majesty," as St. Peter says (2 Peter 1:16). These, indeed, had been heavy with sleep (Luke), but had awoke at his appearance, and beheld the vision in full possession of their senses. St. Matthew mentions specially two points in this transfiguration. His face did shine as the sun. This recalls the appearance of the Son of man in Revelation 1:16, "His countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength." And his raiment was white as the light. The light which emanated from his body shone through and glorified his very garments. The Vulgate has sicut nix, and χιὼν is read in some few manuscripts in place of φῶς: but the word is doubtless introduced here from St. Mark (where, however, it is of doubtful genuineness). If this second evangelist received his account from St. Peter, we recognize the simile in the apostle's remembrance of the snow clad peak of Hermon, in whose vicinity the event transpired. No candid reader can fail to acknowledge that it is no subjective vision that is here narrated, no merely inward impression on brain or nerve with nothing external to correspond, but a real, objective occurrence, which was beheld by mortal eyes endued with no supernatural or abnormal powers, except in so far as they were enabled to look on this partial emanation of the Divine effulgence.

17:1-13 Now the disciples beheld somewhat of Christ's glory, as of the only begotten of the Father. It was intended to support their faith, when they would have to witness his crucifixion; and would give them an idea of the glory prepared for them, when changed by his power and made like him. The apostles were overcome by the glorious sight. Peter thought that it was most desirable to continue there, and to go no more down to meet the sufferings of which he was so unwilling to hear. In this he knew not what he said. We are wrong, if we look for a heaven here upon earth. Whatever tabernacles we propose to make for ourselves in this world, we must always remember to ask Christ's leave. That sacrifice was not yet offered, without which the souls of sinful men could not have been saved; and important services were to be done by Peter and his brethren. While Peter spoke, a bright cloud overshadowed them, an emblem of the Divine presence and glory. Ever since man sinned, and heard God's voice in the garden, unusual appearances of God have been terrible to man. They fell prostrate to the earth, till Jesus encouraged them; when looking round, they beheld only their Lord as they commonly saw him. We must pass through varied experiences in our way to glory; and when we return to the world after an ordinance, it must be our care to take Christ with us, and then it may be our comfort that he is with us.And was transfigured before them,.... Peter, James, and John, before whom he was metamorphosed, or changed into another form; for not the substance of his body was changed, nor even the shape of it altered, only it received a more glorious form; that whereas before he appeared in the form of a servant, and looked mean and despicable, now he appeared in the form and majesty of God; or there was a divine glory; which from his deity showed itself in a visible manner through his flesh:

and his face did shine as the sun it had still the same appearance of an human face, but had such a dazzling glory upon it, as equalled the sun shining in its full strength:

and his raiment was white as the light: he did not put off his clothes, nor were the nature and substance, and fashion of them changed; but such rays of glory darted through his flesh, and through his clothes, as made them as bright and shining, as the light of the sun at noon day. Mark says, they became "exceeding white as snow, so as no fuller on earth can white them". The Vulgate Latin reads, "as snow", here; and so do the Ethiopic version, and Munster's Hebrew Gospel. Snow has a peculiar whiteness in it, and is therefore made use of, to express the glittering brightness of Christ's raiment; and the fuller is mentioned, who by the Jews (a) is called and means one that whitens wool, or raiment, and such an one is here designed: not that any fuller makes garments of another colour white; for though this may be done, it is not the work of fullers, but dyers: but fullers, whatever colour garments are of, if sullied and spotted, can restore them to their native colour; and if white, can bring them to their former whiteness: now Christ's garments were as white, yea, whiter, than any such men could possibly make garments, that were white at first: what colour Christ's garments were of before, is not certain; now they appeared white, to the greatest degree of whiteness. Dr. Hammond (b) has a conjecture, that in the phrase "on earth", reference is had to the earth fullers make use of in cleaning, and which is called "fullers' earth"; and that the words are to be rendered, "as no fuller, by or with earth can white them"; but if this will not bear, the sense is, that there is no fuller, nor ever was, or ever will be upon earth, that can make raiment so white as Christ's was.

(a) Maimon. in Misn. Bava Kama, c. 10. sect. 10, (b) In Mark ix. 3.

Matthew 17:1
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