How does Matthew describe the cloud that overshadowed them? Cf. Luk 11:34,36 where the same word is translated “full of light” and “illumined”. What is the significance that it was a “bright” cloud? Think: How does this cloud contrast with the cloud that came down on Sinai at the giving of the law? See Ex 19:16-19, Heb 12:18-24; cf. Psa 18:7-12.
What happened when the disciples heard the voice of God from the cloud? See Mat 17:6, cf. again Heb 12:18-21. Consider that holy Moses who was more meek and humble than any other man (Num 12:3) was full of fear and trembling when God spoke from the dark cloud of His law and justice, and even Jesus’ closest apostles fell on their faces and were much (exceedingly, extremely, deeply, from the Greek word sfo,dra) afraid, even terrified (Updated NAS, NIV), when God spoke from the bright cloud of His grace; how does this description of our relationship to God contrast with that commonly held by even most Christians? Should we envision God our heavenly Father as a sweet old grandpa and ourselves as His grandkids? When people stand before Almighty God, will there be any chummy thoughts like “God is my ‘bud’”? Cf. 1Pe 4:17-18, Gen 15:12, Psa 119:120, Pro 9:10, Ecc 5:2.
What did Jesus do for the disciples in their terror? See Mat 17:7. What does this teach us about how important it will be to have Jesus with us in the day of judgment when we stand before Almighty God? What would it be like to not have Jesus to touch and assure us and to take away our fears as our advocate and intercessor with the Father? Cf. Mar 8:38 in the context of this very episode as well as Mat 10:33, Heb 10:26-31; compare also Exo 20:18-19, Deut 5:23-27. What did John write that as Christians we must do to prepare for that day, and why? See 1Jo 2:28.
What purpose did the transfiguration serve in God’s divine plan for the disciples? Think: although they believed in Jesus as the Messiah, did they have any understanding that His greatest victory would be through death? Observe that the rest of Jesus’ ministry is to contrast the humble Christ’s true kingdom with people’s mistaken expectations; in what way would the transfiguration have been a powerful encouragement to the disciples to not lose faith in Him as the promised Messiah? See again Joh 1:14, 1Pe 2:16-19. See also Joh 9:28-29 and consider that Jesus was accused by the religious leaders as standing in opposition to the Law and the Prophets which was the foundational authority of their entire society and belief structure; in what way would the transfiguration have indelibly strengthened their faith to stand against this powerful tide of opposition they would face as His apostles? Cf. Joh 17:24. What purpose did the transfiguration have for Jesus Himself? See Luk 9:31,51, 22:43-44.
What did the disciples see after the Lord had touched them and they arose and looked around? See Mat 17:8, Mar 9:8. What did Peter’s offer to build three tabernacles indicate about his desire for the fullness of the glory of Christ’s kingdom to be established right then and there? Is that not our desire still today? While their mountain top experience was a vision and taste of the glory of Christ’s kingdom to come, was it to be established on earth and endure at that time? What had to happen first? See Luk 24:26,46, Phil 2:5-11, 1Pe 1:11. Even after Christ’s death and resurrection, was the kingdom to be fully established? Cf. Act 1:6-8. What does this teach us about our own mountain top experiences, perhaps when we first escape from the snare of the devil and come to the knowledge of the truth: although we would like for that moment of glorious joy and ecstasy to endure forever, is there not something else that has yet to be done that requires us to come down from the mountain and fulfill before we can enter into the fullness of that glory? Should we expect to enter into the fullness of the glory of Christ’s kingdom to abide there forever apart from our own suffering and mortification in the flesh? See Rom 8:17-18,29-30, 1Co 15:50, 1Pe 4:12-14. Considering that even God’s own Son had first to suffer before entering His glory, is it possible that those who remain at parousia of the Lord and do not suffer physical death but are changed in the twinkling of an eye and caught up with those who are resurrected to meet the Lord in the air—is is possible that the events on earth at that time will be so horrendous as to count as death, so that none are exempt from experiencing the “chilly Jordan waters” that lead into the land of promise, and those who hope to be “raptured” out of such trials are hoping for what cannot be? See Mat 24:19-22.