Matthew 17:8
And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(8) They saw no man, save Jesus only.—The words, following as they do upon the “Be not afraid,” imply a marked contrast to Peter’s rash utterance. It was not “good” for frail men such as they were to tarry long in the immediate glory of the Presence. It was a relief to see “Jesus only” with them, as they had been wont to see Him. So in our own lives, moments of spiritual ecstasy are few and far between, and it is good for us that it should be so, and that we should be left to carry the fragrance and power of their memory into the work of our common life, and the light of our common day.

It may not be amiss to say a few words as to the credibility of a narrative which is in itself so wonderful, and has been exposed so often to the attacks of a hostile criticism. And (1) it is obvious that what is commonly known as the rationalistic method of interpretation is altogether inapplicable here. The narrative of the Evangelists cannot by any artifice be reduced to a highly-coloured version of some natural phenomenon falling under known laws. If accepted at all, it must be accepted as belonging to the region of the super natural. (2) The so-called mythical theory, which sees in such narratives the purely legendary after-growth of the dreaming fancies of a later age, is of course possible here, as it is possible wherever the arbitrary criticism which postulates the incredibility of the supernatural chooses to apply it; but it may, at least, be urged against its application in this instance that there was nothing in the Jewish expectations of the Messiah likely to suggest such a legend, and that the circumstances connected with it are such (e.g., its association with our Lord’s sufferings, and the strange, abrupt utterance of Peter) as were hardly likely to suggest themselves either to the popular imagination or to that of an individual mind. (3) The position which it occupies both in our Lord’s ministry and the spiritual training of the disciples, while, on the one hand, it raises the Transfiguration above the region of a mere marvel, is, it may be urged again, such as was not likely to occur to a simple lover of the marvellous. (4) Lastly, the language of John 1:14 and (though with less certainty, owing to the doubt which hangs over the genuineness of that Epistle) of 2Peter 1:16, may surely be allowed some evidential weight, as being of the nature of allusive reference to a fact which the writers take for granted as generally known. Over and above St. Peter’s direct reference, we note the recurrence of the words “decease,” “tabernacle,” as suggested by it (2Peter 1:13; 2Peter 1:15).

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.They fell on their face - They entered into the cloud, or the cloud enveloped them, Luke 9:34. "They were therefore afraid." They were awed at the presence of God, and prostrated themselves in solemn adoration on the ground, and their fears were removed only by the voice of their beloved Master. No man can see God and live; and it is only the glory of God, as it shines in the face of Christ (see 2 Corinthians 4:6), that mortals can bear. CHAPTER 17

Mt 17:1-13. Jesus Is Transfigured—Conversation about Elias. ( = Mr 9:2-13; Lu 9:28-36).

For the exposition, see on [1321]Lu 9:28-36.

Ver. 6-8. Mark saith no more than, And suddenly, when they had looked round about, they saw no man any more, save Jesus only with themselves. Such is the majesty and glory of God, that a cloud will not so veil it as that a man is able to behold any appearance of it without some consternation; something more than that fear of reverence, without which none ought to draw nigh unto him. Paul fell to the earth when a light from heaven shone upon him, Acts 9:3,4. The disciples here fell on their faces, and were sore afraid. This lets us see the goodness of God in hearkening to the people’s request, Exodus 20:19 Deu 5:28 18:16,17, and speaking to us by men like unto ourselves: by Moses under the Old Testament; by Christ (that Prophet mentioned Deu 18:15) under the New Testament, and such as he commissioned to declare his will, Hebrews 1:1,2.

And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid. To deliver them from the fear of a spectrum, or apparition, he toucheth them, and saith in effect, It is I; be not afraid. They look up, and see the excellent glory and the cloud was withdrawn, as also Moses and Elias, and they and their Lord were left alone; and he goeth down from the mountain with them. Whether this mountain was Tabor, or some other mountain much nearer Caesarea Philippi, is of no consequence for us to be satisfied in. And when they had lift up their eyes,.... And "looked round about", as Mark says, to see whether the same objects still continued, as Moses and Elias; and the bright cloud:

they saw no man; neither Moses nor Elias, who were both gone: signifying, that though the law and the prophets were till this time, they were now finished and completed, and the Mosaic economy was to be no more; as these men appeared no more after, nor will they till the second coming of Christ. And Mark has it, "they saw no man any more"; that is, these men any more, neither then, nor afterwards, "save Jesus only". Mark adds, "with themselves"; in the same form as before his transfiguration. Christ is the only Mediator, Saviour, and Redeemer; the only Prophet, Priest, and King; and who only is to be, and can be beheld as such; and who does, and will abide with his people; and helps, comforts, and saves them, when none else can. Luke observes, that "when the voice was past, Jesus was found alone"; which was so ordered, that it might be a clear case, that this voice was only concerning Christ, and not either Moses or Elias.

And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 17:8. nd so ends the vision.—ἐπάραντες τ. ., etc., raising their eyes they see no one but Jesus. Moses and Elias gone, and Jesus in His familiar aspect; the dazzling brightness about face and garments vanished.8. they saw no man, save Jesus only] Christ, who came to fulfil the Law and the Prophets, is left alone. To His voice alone the Church will listen.Matthew 17:8. Ἰησοῦν μόνον, Jesus alone) Hence it is evident that He is the Son, who is to be heard, not Moses, nor Elias.Verse 8. - No man, save Jesus only. Moses and Elias had vanished, Jesus was left alone, and the voice Divine said, "Hear him." When at Christ's touch and word the awestruck apostles dared once more to look around and to bethink themselves of what had passed, those were the facts of which they were conscious. The Law and the prophets, types and predictions, are fulfilled in Christ, and are so far superseded. The former were temporary, introductory to the gospel, which is to last forever. Many have seen in the Transfiguration an image and earnest of the future glory of the dead in Christ, when the vile body shall be changed into the likeness of Christ's glorious body, and they shall shine as the sun, and bear the image of the heavenly. So St. Gregory, "He is clothed with light as with a garment, because in that eternal glory he will be clothed with all the saints, to whom it is said, 'Ye are the light of the world.' Whence also it is said by the evangelist, that when the Lord was transfigured in the mountain, his raiment became as snow. In which Transfiguration what else is announced but the glory of the final resurrection? For in the mountain his raiment became as snow, because in the height of heavenly brightness all saints will be joined to him, refulgent with the light of righteousness" ('Moral.,' 32:6). Unbelief has endeavoured to throw discredit on the historical accuracy of the accounts of this great event. It was a dream, an atmospheric disturbance, an unusual play of light and shade, a myth, an allegory; the two heavenly visitants were two unknown disciples with whom Jesus conversed; the three apostles were rapt in a trance, and the vision was purely subjective; these and such like theories have been started by rationalists and enemies of the supernatural, and even by the partially orthodox, as Tertullian ('Adv. Marc., 4:22). There can be no doubt that the evangelists and the Apostle Peter regarded the event as an objective reality, upon which hung momentous truths; and we are content to let it stand or fall with the rest of the facts of the gospel narrative. There is no reason to separate it from the other items of the story. When once the stupendous miracle of the Incarnation is allowed, other wonders follow in natural sequence.
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