17:1 After six days [after Peter’s confession at Caesarea Philippi (Matt. 16:13-20); synoptic gospel writers do not tell us what happened during those six days] Jesus took with him [Jesus’ inner circle of disciples] Peter, James and John [nicknamed “Sons of Thunder” (Mk. 3:17)] the brother of James [first disciple to be martyred (Acts 12:2)], and led them up a high mountain [exact site not identified; possibilities include Mount Tabor, Mount Hermon, and Mount Meron] by themselves [privately].
17:2 There he [Luke 9:29 says Jesus was praying] was transfigured [Gr. metamorphoomai: to transform or to change in form, in this case an instant metamorphosis; allowed Peter, James, and John to glimpse His eternal glory] before them [this experience reinforced the truth Jesus had revealed at Caesarea Philippi (Matt. 16:21-28); Luke 9:32 says the disciples were sleepy and then became fully awake]. His face shone [to gleam] like the sun, and his clothes became as white [symbol of purity] as the light.
17:3 Just then there appeared before them Moses [represented the Law] and Elijah [represented the prophets; cf. Matt. 5:17; Heb. 1:2], talking [according to Luke 9:31, “They spoke about His departure (term means “exodus”), which He was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem.”] with Jesus.
17:4 Peter [emotional; could not restrain feelings] said [read Mk. 9:6 and Lk. 9:33] to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here [Peter wanted to prolong the experience on the mountain (but they were needed in the valley: cf. Matt. 17:14-16)]. If you wish, I will put up three shelters [temporary shelters made of branches such as the ones erected during the Feast of Tabernacles (cf. Lev. 23:42-43)] — one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
17:5 While he [Peter] was still speaking, a bright cloud [in OT often represented/signified God’s presence among His people (cf. Ex. 13:21-22; 24:15-18; 1 Kings 8:10)] enveloped them [Jesus, Moses, and Elijah], and a voice from the cloud said [God interrupted Peter; words spoken for benefit of Peter, James, and John], “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased [same message spoken at Jesus’ baptism (Matt. 3:17); cf. Ps. 2:7 and Isa. 42:1]. Listen [command; implies obedience; must stop talking in order to listen] to him!”
17:6 When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown [probably more because of fear than reverence] to the ground, terrified [literally “very much afraid”].
17:7 But Jesus came and touched [reassurance] them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t [stop action in progress] be afraid. [Jesus reassured His disciples through His touch and His words]”
17:8 When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus [Gr: “they saw no one except Jesus alone”].
17:9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen [the last of these prohibitions in Matthew (cf. 8:4; 9:30; 12:16; 16:20)], until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead [at that time the prohibition would be lifted and the disciples would be able to speak from the perspective of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection].” [Peter later wrote of what he had witnessed: 2 Pet. 1:16-18]
17:10 The disciples asked [firmly believed Jesus was the Messiah] him, “Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first? [cf. Mal. 4:5-6]”
17:11 Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things.
17:12 But I tell you, Elijah has already come [prophecy about Elijah fulfilled in ministry of John the Baptist, an Elijah-type figure (cf. Matt. 11:7-14; Lk. 1:17)], and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished [cf. Matt. 14:1-12 re: death of John the Baptist]. In the same way [like the forerunner who was rejected and executed] the Son of Man is going to suffer at their [religious and political leaders] hands.”
17:13 Then the disciples understood [to comprehend] that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.