Connecting dots

And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.” (Mt 17:2) Transfigured, metamorphoo – to change the visible appearance; I used to think that maybe Epiphany would have been a better title for what happened on the mountain top. Epiphany meaning the revealing or the unveiling. Then again, I don’t think the full glory of God was revealed; just a single layer was pealed back. Perhaps transfigured is the better word. How much more could the apostles have seen and heard – and, more importantly, to begin to comprehend? The Book of Exodus 33:20 says that if we saw God face-to-face we would not survive the encounter. It would be too much for our mortal being. So, maybe it is better that only a single layer was peeled back. Continue reading

Transfigured: a reflection

TransfigAnnemarie Reiner (of Adelaide, Australia) posted this reflection on the Transfiguration on her blog “Who Do You Say That I Am.” (August 2006)  It is a very nice reflection for this Lenten Season.

When we look at our Gospel today we can understand why daily reflection is so important. These three disciples (and the rest of them) didn’t get who Jesus was until well after his death. They didn’t understand what had happened at the transfiguration. They didn’t understand what was happening as they witnessed Jesus’ life. They didn’t understand what was happening at the crucifixion. But they kept pondering their experiences over and over – if they didn’t we simply wouldn’t have the New Testament.

So what do we learn from this? Continue reading

Transfigured: Elijah’s coming

TransfigPeter’s Response. As in 16:13-20, Peter again responds, again without a full understanding.  Consider Peter’s proposal to make three tents (skēnḗ; also “booth” or “tabernacle”). What did he intend? It has been variously understood as traveler’s hut, the “tent of meeting” where God spoke with Moses outside the camp (Exod 33:7), a more formal tent used in the Festival of Booths (cf. Lev 23:42–43; Zech 14:16ff), and even as the Jerusalem Temple tabernacle.  It is this last image that Matthew may have in mind as background – notwithstanding Peter’s intention.  It is the Temple tabernacle where the Shekinah, the fiery cloud that symbolized the continuing presence of God among the people, dwelt over the ark of the covenant.  The response to Peter’s proposal is three-fold (Boring, 364) Continue reading

Transfigured: destiny

TransfigCommentary. Matthew 17:1-13 is an instructional session for all the disciples – note that in v.10, Peter, James and John have been joined the remainder of the group. Just as the preceding scene (16:13-28) juxtapositions the divine transcendence of Peter’s confession of Jesus as Son of God based on a revelation from heaven (16:17) with Jesus’ own teaching about the suffering Son of Man, so also in this scene the confession of the heavenly voice is juxtaposed with Jesus’ self-confession as suffering Son of Man.

The description of the Transfiguration is brief—just the first three verses of Matthew 17. But the incident becomes the context for two significant incidents for the disciples. Continue reading

Transfigured: context

TransfigMatthew 17:1–9  1 After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.  2 And he was transfigured before them; his face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light.  3 And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, conversing with him.  4 Then Peter said to Jesus in reply, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”  5 While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud cast a shadow over them, then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”  6 When the disciples heard this, they fell prostrate and were very much afraid.  7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and do not be afraid.”  8 And when the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone.  9 As they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, “Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” Continue reading

Transfiguration: voices

TransfigVoice from the Cloud. 34 While he was still speaking, a cloud came and cast a shadow over them, and they became frightened when they entered the cloud. 35 Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my chosen Son; listen to him.” 36 After the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. They fell silent and did not at that time tell anyone what they had seen.

Clouds also serve in Luke and Acts as in other biblical accounts to manifest and conceal the presence of God (Exod 16:10; 19:9; 24:15–18; 33:9–11). Daniel foresees that the Son of Man will come to the Ancient of Days with the clouds of heaven (Dan 7:13). So, too, Jesus would be taken up in a cloud (Acts 1:9) and return on the clouds (Luke 21:27; cf. 1 Thess 4:17; Rev 1:7; 14:14). Continue reading

Transfiguration: prophets and apostles

TransfigMoses and Elijah. 30 And behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus that he was going to accomplish in Jerusalem.

The presence of Elijah and Moses has been much discussed by various scholars. (1) Do they represent the different kinds of life endings (burial versus being taken up to God)? (2) Is their presence an indication of endorsement by great prophets and wonderworkers of old? (3) Is Jesus the fulfillment of the law (Moses) and the prophets (Elijah) – and so listen to him? (4) Or is it that Moses points to the expected great-prophet-like Moses, while Elijah suggests the eschaton’s (end days) arrival – roles fulfilled in Jesus. Continue reading

Transfiguration: change

TransfigThe Transfiguration. 29 While he was praying his face changed in appearance and his clothing became dazzling white.

Both Matthew and Mark starkly report: “And he was transfigured (metamorphōth) before them.” The underlying Greek word means to “transform, change completely.” Luke uses the more mundane heteron (change) and limits the description to his face. All the accounts agree that the clothing became a brilliant white; Luke using the word that sometimes describes the white flash of lightning. Continue reading

Transfiguration: prayer

TransfigThe transfiguration scene is composed of the following elements: (1) Jesus’ withdrawal to the mountain to pray with the three disciples (v. 28), (2) the transfiguration (v. 29), (3) the appearance of Moses and Elijah (vv. 30–33a), (4) Peter’s response (v. 33b), (5) the voice from the cloud (vv. 34–35), and (6) the disciples’ response.

Praying on the Mountain. 28 About eight days after he said this, he took Peter, John, and James and went up the mountain to pray. Continue reading

Transfiguration: hearing rightly

transfiguration mystagogyWhat are they to hear? What are they to listen to? While “all the words from Jesus” is a general answer, a more specific answer from our context is Jesus’ teaching just before our text (8:31-38). In these verses, Jesus speaks words that the disciples (especially Peter) were unable to hear – the prediction of his Passion and death. Peter rebukes Jesus for talking about his Passion. Peter doesn’t want to listen to such words. Peter’s problem, as Jesus indicates it, “You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do” (8:33). The same problem might be evident in his desire to build three booths. Continue reading