Matthew includes a number of parallels between Jesus and Moses in this passage:

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  • Six days (v. 1) parallel the six days that the cloud covered Mount Sinai before Moses ascended it (Exodus 24:16).
  • The high mountain (v. 1) parallels Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:12).
  • The three disciples (Peter, James and John) parallel the three men (Aaron, Nadab and Abihu) who were invited to worship with Moses (Exodus 24:1) and who were later ordained as priests (Exodus 28:1).
  • Jesus’ shining face (v. 2) parallels Moses’ shining face after his encounter with God (Exodus 34:29). This is a particularly strong parallel. Moses’ shining face was a powerful image for Israel. However, his shining face was a reflection of God’s glory, while Jesus’ shining face reflects his inner glory.
  • God speaks from a cloud (v. 5), paralleling God’s call to Moses from a cloud (Exodus 24:16). The church has, at the same time, loved this story and not known what to do with it. It is mysterious—beyond our everyday experience—difficult to understand. At its core, it is simply a revealing to the disciples (and to the church at large) of Jesus’ identity. It is God’s stamp of approval on Jesus and the path upon which he has set his feet—a path that he has just revealed to the disciples (16:21-23)—a path that will lead to the cross.