Matthew 17:3
(3) Moses and Elias.--The identification of the forms which the disciples saw was, we may well believe, intuitive. If we accept the narrative as a whole, it is legitimate to assume that, in the state of consciousness to which they had been raised, they were capable of a spiritual illumination which would reveal to them who they were who were thus recognising their Master's work and doing homage to His majesty. There was, it is obvious, a singular fitness in each case. One was the great representative of the Law, which was a "school master" or "servant-tutor" (see Note on Galatians 3:24) leading men to Christ, the other of the whole goodly fellowship of the prophets. Of one it had been said that a "Prophet like unto him" should come in the latter days (Deuteronomy 18:18), to whom men should hearken; of the other, that he should come again to "turn the hearts of the fathers to the children" (Malachi 4:5). The close of the ministry of each was not after the "common death of all men." No man knew of the sepulchre of Moses (Deuteronomy 34:6), and Elijah had passed away in the chariots and horses of fire (2Kings 2:11). Both were associated in men's minds with the glory of the kingdom of the Christ. The Jerusalem Targum on Exodus 12 connects the coming of Moses with that of the Messiah. Another Jewish tradition predicts his appearance with that of Elijah. Their presence now was an attestation that their work was over, and that the Christ had come.

Talking with him.--St. Luke (Luke 9:31) adds the subject of their communing: "They spake of His decease which He should accomplish at Jerusalem." So far as the disciples then entered into the meaning of what they heard, or afterwards recalled it, it was a witness that the spirits of the lawgiver and the prophet accepted the sufferings and the death which had shaken the faith of the disciples as the necessary conditions of the Messianic kingdom. It is significant that the word for "decease" (exodos) reappears in this sense once only in the New Testament, and then in close connection with a reference to the Transfiguration (2Peter 1:15).

Verse 3. - And, behold. The exclamation, thrice repeated (ver. 5), marks the suddenness and unexpectedness of the occurrence. They who now appeared were no delusive, imaginary figures, but real personages, objectively presented to the spectators, in such bodies as appertained to their condition. Moses and Elias. St. Luke adds, "who appeared in glory," radiant with the light which always accompanies heavenly visitors. Why these two saints were chosen to be present on this momentous occasion may be explained by various considerations. Both these worthies experienced something unparalleled in their departure from this life. Elijah was taken up to heaven without dying; Moses died, indeed, but he was buried by God in an unknown grave, and his body was under the especial care of Michael the archangel (see Jude 1:9), and we know not that it saw corruption. From the unseen world these were brought to do homage to the Messiah - Moses, a type of those blessed spirits who in Paradise await the final consummation, Elijah, a type of the saints who, after the resurrection, perfect in soul and body, shall enter into glory. Here were the representatives of the Law and the prophets, the principal supporters of the old covenant, honouring him who was introducing the new covenant, which was to fulfil and supersede the previous one. Spurious, degraded Judaism rejected Christ's claims; real, orthodox Judaism acknowledged him and reverenced him as the Christ foretold and fort, shadowed, "of whom Moses and the prophets did write" (John 1:45). Now, too, it was made manifest that Jesus was not Elias or one of the prophets, as some erroneously had supposed, but different from and superior to all; that he had power over life and death, and could bring whom he would from the unseen World; that the cross and Passion were not degrading, or proofs of weakness, but glorious and triumphant accomplishments of the will or God. The question is asked - How did Peter and the rest recognize the two heavenly visitants? There may have been something conventional in their garb or appearance, which at once identified them; or the apostles may have known them by spiritual intuition or special revelation; or they may have gathered their knowledge from the conversation which they overheard. Anyhow, it was necessary that the two should be recognized, otherwise their appearance would have lost its significance, and the confirmation which they were intended to afford would fail to be given. Is there here an intimation that in heaven the blessed will know each other, though they never met in the flesh - shall know even as they have been known? Talking with him. St. Luke tells us the subject of this mysterious dialogue - they "spoke of his decease (ἔξοδον, exodus, departure) which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem." They conversed, not of the glory which was his before the world began, nor of the kingdom which he came to establish, but of his coming suffering and death, with their tremendous issues. At the very moment of this revelation of Divinity, the discourse is of humiliation and the cross. The apostles had been slow to understand the future that awaited their Master; here the great saints of the covenant bore their testimony to Christ's fulfilment of what had been prophesied and shadowed aforehand, how by the sufferings of his sacred humanity eternal glory should be won. So might the apostles be strengthened to look forward without apprehension or weak shrinking; for through the grave and gate of death lay the road to a joyful resurrection and celestial happiness.

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 behold there appeared unto them,.... The disciples:

Moses and Elias; Moses the giver of the law, and Elias one of the chief of the prophets: one of them had been dead near a thousand and five hundred years, and the other had been caught up to heaven, about nine hundred years before this. The Jews sometimes speak of these two as together. They say (c),

"that the Shekinah never descends below, but , "Moses and Elias" ascend above.''

Yea, they expect that these two will come together in future time; for so they represent (d) a God saying to Moses;

"Moses, as thou hast given thy life for them (the Israelites) in this world, so in time to come (the days of the Messiah) when I shall bring Elias the prophet, , "you two shall come together".''

Now they came. Luke says, they appeared "in glory": in glorious bodies, in a glory upon their bodies; like, though inferior, to the glorious body of Christ, now transfigured: that they appeared in their own real bodies, no doubt need be made; about the body of Elijah, or Elias, there is no difficulty; since he was carried soul and body to heaven, he died not, but was changed; and has ever since remained in a glorious body, in which he doubtless now appeared: and why this should not be the case of Moses, or why he should appear in another body, and not his own, I see not; for though he died, yet he was buried by the Lord, and no man ever knew the place of his sepulchre; and there was a dispute about his body, between Michael and the devil, all which are uncommon circumstances: so that it might be, that his body was, quickly after his death, raised and restored to him; or at this time, as a pledge of the resurrection of the dead, as Christ's transfiguration was of his glory. The Jews have a notion that Moses is not dead, but is ascended, and stands and ministers to God, in the highest heavens (e): the appearance of these two with Christ, was to show, that Christ is the end of the law and prophets; that there is an entire agreement between him and them, and that they have their full accomplishment in him; and also shows, that he was neither Elias, nor any of the prophets, as some took him to be; since he was distinct from them, and the chief and more glorious than any of them. If it should be asked; how came the disciples to know these two to be Moses and Elias, since they never saw them before, nor could have any statues or pictures of them, these being not allowed among the Jews; nor do the accounts of them in Scripture seem to be sufficient to direct them to such a thought; especially, since by their glorification, they must be greatly altered: it may be replied, they knew them, either by immediate divine revelation, or by the discourse that passed between them and Christ; for it follows,

talking with him. The Jews often speak of the appearance of Elias to their doctors, and of his conversing with them, and teaching them. Whether this is done with design to lessen the glory of this appearance, I will not say; however, they cannot reasonably object to the probability of this account, since they make it to be so frequent among themselves; though they look upon it as an high favour, and that such are holy good men, that are indulged with it, take an instance or two: thus they say (f) of a certain person,

"Lo! the pious man, whom Elias used , "to converse with".''

And elsewhere it is said (g),

"R. Phineas and R. Mari, the sons of R. Chasda, were godly men, , "and Elias was talking with them", and they were priests.''

What Moses and Elias were talking with our Lord about, is expressed by Luke; see Gill on Luke 9:31.

(c) T. Bab. Succab, fol. 5. 1.((d) Debarim Rabba, sect. 3. fol. 239. 2.((e) T. Bab. Sota, fol. 13. 2. Maimon. praefat. ad Seder Zeraim in Talmud. fol. 86. 4. (f) T. Bab. Bava Bathra, fol. 7. 2.((g) Juchasin, fol. 101. 1. Vid. fol. 79. 1. & 118. 2. & 13. 132. 1. & T. Bab. Cetubot, fol. 106. 1.

Matthew 17:2
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