Scripture: Matthew 16:24-17:9 and Peter 1:16-22
Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be transfigured before you to give you honor and glory. Amen.
Preceding today’s reading in Matthew we have some key passages recorded by the Matthian community that I hope will shed light on the dazzlingly text read today. In chapter 16:13 we find Peter asking his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” and, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter, says, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Then we have the beautiful commissioning statement Jesus makes over Peter, found no where else in the Bible, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church….”
Our Catholic and Orthodox brethren find in this illuminating passage the basis for apostolic succession, meaning a direct line of teaching of the way of Jesus Christ from the first disciples on down to the present day, despite splinterings of the Mother Church into all her diverse children found witnessing to the Way in these current times.
Following this passage we find Jesus foretelling his death and resurrection in verse 21. Again, Peter comes to the fore in this account and, leading Jesus aside, insists that this cannot be, followed by the famous outburst Jesus has against him, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” This brings us to the passage just before today’s reading:
16:24 “Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.’
Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves.”
What happens next on the Mount of Transfiguration is the crux, if you will, of today’s lesson. This instance in the Gospel is regarded as a foreshadowing of the second coming of the Lord’s Messiah.
In the second letter of Peter, we have recorded a reflection handed down from Peter himself as he looked back on this mountain top experience. Taken as a whole, a main theme of the second letter of Peter is pressing home the reality of belief in the second coming. The author reminds us that eyewitness accounts of the wonders and miracles of Jesus are only a few decades removed.
Can you imagine what that must have been like? Think of the best loved stories of your grandparents. You may remember your place in the picture and recall it from your perspective, or you may have been handed down the story from your parents. That is about the time difference from the eyewitness account of the Transfiguration to the recording of Peter’s memory of it. It is still very real and believable, it happened to someone they knew and was remembered by the community from which he wrote.
Is it any different for us today? Of course. We have a thousand years separating us from the awe and wonder of that revelation. It is extremely difficult, at least for me, to put myself in a place open enough to receive it like it was just a few years ago. For me, drowned in the reality of our contemporary era, such a miraculous happening is dulled by the distance, time, and believability of it.
But what if it were true? What if Jesus shone dazzling in white raiment too bright to look at? What if the clouds thundered and a voice was heard calling out from the heavens, veiled in mists and proclaiming Jesus to be God’s own Son? What if the ancients appeared to speak with this man who was called “Lord,” whom disciples walked daily with, learned from, left work and livelihoods to follow? Would that be life-changing?
Would we wake up, look up from the ground upon which we fell with wobbly knees just to see all of that wondrous vision gone and the Man we knew-or at least we thought we knew – walking toward us out of the fog? Would we be forever changed, or would we doubt our own senses?
Jesus speaks, “Don’t tell anyone about this vision until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.” So it was true! We did see it! But what does it mean?
Turning back to the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel, 1:1, we are told it is “an account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” We learn in verse 18 that he was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and an angel tells Joseph in verse 21 to name him Jesus because “he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew interprets these things to mean Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us.
So, Jesus is God, once enfleshed among us, no longer here in that body but coming again, to be dressed in dazzling white, with a face that shines like the sun. I don’t know about you, but despite the awesome fear it must necessarily instill in us, I would still choose to pray, “Come, Lord Jesus; come in power to cast out all sin, bring healing to all the nations and leaders of the world, that we may truly learn from one another, submitting ourselves completely to the One who lived and died and rose again for us, even Him who is the Christ. Amen? May it be so.
Question for Reflection
Why does Jesus instruct the disciples to keep quiet about what they had seen “until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead” (Matt.17:9)?
Household Prayer: Morning
As this new day dawns, may your Spirit guide my feet and reveal you to me in new ways as I walk though your world today. Amen.
Household Prayer: Evening
Thank you for the gift of this day. Whatever has happened, whatever I’ve done and left undone, help me hear the voice of Jesus tonight, telling me to go to sleep as I am and not be afraid. Amen.