Matthew 17:9 (MEV): As they came down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead.”
Jesus says this to a select small group of His disciples. It was spoken after they had all been up a mountain. It is an event known as the transfiguration. Jesus’ appearance changed, and Moses and Elijah made appearances there, too.
The disciples present wanted to make places for them all to stay. But a voice from heaven startled them and the disciples fell on their faces. As Jesus beckons them to rise, they find Moses and Elijah were gone.
When I encounter the passages where Jesus talks about His resurrection, I am always wanting to be attentive to the responses of those around Him. It goes back to an Easter sermon I had the privilege to hear years ago. The resurrection was unexpected.
Even here the reaction of the disciples as recorded is rather stunning, if not embarrassing. Well, in the sense of the essential pivotal importance Paul places on that one event. Look at how it transpires with this group.
Matthew 17:10 (MEV): His disciples asked Him, “Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?”
Jesus just said He was going to rise from the dead. The three present, Peter, James and John act like they didn’t hear. They ask about Elijah. In one of the harmonized texts, we get a little more information.
Mark 9:9–10 (MEV): As they came down the mountain, He warned them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They kept that statement to themselves, questioning each other what the rising from the dead meant.
They did at least hear.
Jesus follows the question with a short lesson on how John the Baptist fulfilled that role.
Matthew 17:11–13 (MEV): Jesus answered, “Elijah truly does first come and will restore all things. But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not know him, but did to him whatever they pleased. Likewise, the Son of Man will also suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that He was speaking to them of John the Baptist.
In the short answer, there are important things for us here. These things can be applied today.
We’ve been privy to a long line of prophets in Israel. Every single one suffered at the hands of others that had some authority whether rightfully or not (read that as usurped or stolen.) The ones in-charge did to John as they pleased, as had happened to those before him.
Jesus used this opportunity to yet again prepare them for what is to come. He was going to submit Himself to others so they do whatever they pleased to Him. If you’re thinking I am telling you that is how you should act… I’m not, the text is. It is giving us the example to follow.
Our three disciples didn’t even let on that they heard Jesus was going to die.
In the text, what follows this is a brief encounter with a man and his child. The child has a demon. Jesus heals the child when the disciples could not. It becomes an opportunity for Jesus to teach on how powerful faith is.
Which takes us to another mention of the resurrection.
Matthew 17:22–23 (MEV): While they were staying in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day.” And they were extremely sorrowful.
They obviously heard about Him dying and that shortly in time. That saddened them.
But the part that says He will be raised in the third day doesn’t even provoke the slightest curiosity as recorded here. Turning to Mark’s account, there is a little more information.
Mark 9:31–32 (MEV): For He was teaching His disciples, saying, “The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. After He is killed, He will rise the third day.” But they did not understand the teaching and were afraid to ask Him.
That gives us a huge apologetic. Many of the skeptics of Christianity might offer an objection of a few goat-herders making up a new religion to replace or succeed Judaism. It is sometimes spoken of as a quest for wealth, fame or notoriety. Many of those skeptics would also deny the resurrection, stating the idea was made-up, too.
If that were true, why would the disciples use texts that embarrassed them?
I mean, really! Jesus said, twice I am going to become alive after I die. There’s no surprise. There’s no shock. There’s no response that acknowledges the idea. No question as to how.
In fact, we know the accounts of the behavior after the resurrection show clearly it wasn’t expected. They really had no clue. And it’s astoundingly evident in the text.
To reinforce the facts presented, there was a small discussion about these events. When asked what they were discussing, it wasn’t about the resurrection at all.
Mark 9:33–34 (MEV): He came to Capernaum. And being in the house, He asked them, “What was it that you disputed among yourselves on the way?” But they kept silent, for on the way they had disputed among themselves who was the greatest.