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Jesus transfigured | Bible Trek – Nazareth Series – 05

Mount Tabor is only 600 metres high, but is a significant biblical site. The Old Testament book of Judges records this location as the place where Deborah led God’s army to defeat Israel's enemies in a famous battle. It is also the place where Jesus was transfigured. His clothes shone white as he radiated the glory of God and he met with Moses and Elijah who represented the Law and the Prophets. This significant event sets up Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem to face his sacrificial death on the cross.


Quick read

Matthew 17.1–4

In a nutshell

‘And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.’ Matthew 17.2, ESV

 


A few miles east of Nazareth, Mount Tabor is less than 600 metres high; yet it stands prominently on its own in a plain – the Jezreel Valley – which can be viewed from its platform-like top. 

The Old Testament describes Mount Tabor as the border between neighbouring Jewish tribes and as a battlefield where God gave the Israelites victory over the Canaanites. Nowadays, Mount Tabor is covered in pine forest, but the first century Jewish historian Josephus mentions fortifications; in other words, in Jesus’ day, people were living there.

The Gospels describe Jesus’ sudden radiance and God audibly affirming him, as Moses and Elijah appear alongside him. Jewish readers or listeners would have been reminded of Moses climbing Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments and returning, his face radiant from his divine encounter. Elijah’s presence echoes a prophecy in the Book of Malachi, which links him with the end times. Jesus, the Son of God, outshines them both, literally and symbolically.

Jesus’ disciples struggled and doubted for most of the time he was with them. Now that’s encouraging! Jesus took three of them up Mount Tabor for a life-changing encounter.  

Two heroes of Israel’s past – Moses and Elijah – appear. Moses represents the Law and Elijah the Prophets. No wonder Peter starts hammering tent pegs into the ground! But the point of this encounter wasn’t to keep the disciples away from the world and its hostility but to send them back in with greater confidence!  

The Law of Moses points to our need of a saviour and the prophets spoke of a coming king who would restore the rule of God on earth. Jesus, shining between both of these pillars of Judaism, confirms his identity. He is the one the Scriptures were pointing to. 

Yes, culture can feel hostile today, but as followers of Jesus we can take heart. Jesus fulfilled the promises and prophecies of the Old Testament, so we need not stay where we are, but can go into the world as ambassadors of his kingdom, to be salt and light as we live boldly for him. 

Read on, to find out more about the uniqueness of Jesus: 

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